(Integrating Core Marketing Concepts To Fuel Creative Content)
Citizen Kane is considered by many to be "The Greatest Film Ever Made".
The Hollywood film community and Studio System effectively killed it immediately after its release in 1941. It was too good and Welles made too much trouble for all of them. But once it got resuscitated in the mid 1950's by first French New Wave film makers and critics, and then its television rights got sold and Americans could finally see it, in a relative short time it was topping every critic's "best of" list and still does to this day.
Historical Context is pretty important when looking at "Kane". In 1941, it was just clearly ahead of its time on so many different platforms it still boggles the mind. So much so that Welles never got a chance to make a film with total creative control again in his lifetime.
Much like an early episode of "Survivor" , Orson Welles' sheer genius and the value of his work framed himself as either an impudent child ass or a very real threat to the 1941 film making community. He had to be voted off the island a soon as possible, and was.
I'm not going to go into a lengthy diatribe concerning the artistic value of "Citizen Kane". Much has been written about it, and has been written much better than I ever could.
But in my quest to find a solid armature to build my own work upon, the study of "Kane" and its creators was a forgone conclusion.
With VCR remote in hand, for hours, days, and weeks I deconstructed the film, scene by scene and frame by frame. I bought a copy of the shooting script and took scrupulous notes. Every camera angle, special effect, unorthodox lighting trick, and scene transition was notated. I broke down Bernard Herrman's score bar by bar. I poured over Pauline Kael's and Peter Bogdonovich's critical essays, and fact-checked every anecdote contained within. I logged alot of public library time and still have multiple stacks of composition books written in 1991 filled with "Kane" arcana.
I was in search of a story, but I was also in search of story telling techniques, both in a literary and visual sense.
I learned much and can definitely say that "Kane" as a film was a major influence on me and on the final blueprint that I was trying to create before actually initiating the actual construction of the musical project before me.
But much more influence on me than the film was Welles the man himself.
Welles was given a "Carte Blanche" at RKO, a feat unheard of at the time. Although known as a child wunderkind dramatist and radio star, really he scored that contract on the back of the "War Of The Worlds" broadcast. They were basically expecting him to come to Hollywood and make a B grade amateur film version of it.
Welles was all about controversy and shaking up the status quo. He produced and directed Shakespeare's Macbeth with an all African American cast in a Haitian "Voodoo" context. He mounted a production of "Julius Caesar" with everyone dressed as modern day Italian Fascists in ultra modernist staging and lighting techniques.
And of course, he did a radio broadcast about a Martian Invasion, and set it in the context of an emergency bulletin, igniting a widespread national panic. Don't think he didn't know what he was doing, because even though he had issued a mea culpa apology after the fact, they were well aware of what was happening during the broadcast and Welles refused to pull the plug.
The controversy was a preconceived element and major component, woven directly into the radio play as performed and presented by The Mercury Theater. It was Orson's ticket to Hollywood, and he knew it.
This veritable child arrived in Hollywood with an unheard of two picture deal, total control over all aspects including casting and final cut, having never directed a film before in his life. A kid in a veritable candy store.
Welles basically was lost in the weeds of the Hollywood Hills when he got there. He originally came up with a treatment for Joseph Conrad's "Heart Of Darkness",which RKO refused to greenlight. Then came "Smiler With A Knife", again unable to sell George Schaeffer, the head honcho at RKO on his choice of Lucille Ball for the lead role.
The entire Mercury Theater troupe was out in La-La Land with nothing to do except play tennis all day and get drunk all night on RKO's payroll. Welles was banging starlets like Delores Del Rio and cocktail waitresses two at a time. Things were getting dicey for Orson, and the public relations pressure was mounting; much of it at the poisoned journalistic pen and sword tips of Louella Parsons, the "Perez Hilton" Hollywood gossip monger of her day.
Parsons was the handmaiden and Satanic minion of William Randolph Hearst, one of the most powerful men in America, controlling a newspaper and broadcast empire of epic proportions. She, along with Hedda Hopper (her competition) were key players in the eventual fate of "Kane" and its creator.
With the walls closing in on him, Welles started collaborating with Herman Mankiewicz, and that's when the worm finally turned.
Mankiewicz was part of the New York journalist and writers migration to the west coast when the embryonic film industry started to develop. In his day he was very successful and is credited for creating the snappy dialog patter style in comedies of the 1930's and the subsequent humor employed.
Nunnally Johnson, no slouch to screenwriting and directing himself, once said that the "two most brilliant men he has ever known were George S. Kaufman and Herman Mankiewicz, and that Mankiewicz was the more brilliant of the two. ... he spearheaded the movement of that whole Broadway style of wisecracking, fast-talking, cynical-sentimental entertainment onto the national scene."
But by this time he had de-evolved into a notorious drunk and professional liability. Just another extremely talented, lovable Hollywood loser.
They had a basic working dramatic construct of an idea: Develop a story about a famous American, told from several intersecting point of views in flashback. Aimee Semple McPherson and John Dillinger as potential central characters were kicked around as possibilities, among others.
Only when Mankiewicz handed him an old manuscript and notes of a sprawling novel based on the life of William Randolph Hearst did Welles finally approach the position of getting back on his creative rails. But even then, he wasn't quite there yet.
"Mank" purposefully had shelved the Hearst project out of fear of reprisal from the publishing magnate. Hearst could have people killed in the literal sense, and get away with it. Killing careers to Hearst was the equivalent of shooing away flies.
Mankiewicz was part of the crew that Hearst would ship up to San Simeon, and was a close friend of Marion Davies, Hearst's longtime mistress and Hearst's personal "pet project". Davies' film career was bankrolled by Hearst, and a bit of a Hollywood joke. Mank knew many intimate details of Hearst's life, due to his association with Davies.
You don't become a "Giant of American Publishing" without having a massive ego. Hearst was a Narcissist beyond compare. Welles, knowing a thing or two about over inflated egos and narcissism himself, recognized enough bitchy details in Mank's notes to assume that there just might be enough slings and arrows available to take a shot at enraging that ego as an attempt was made to deflate it.
Welles was compelled by the thought of throwing a well aimed punch at the face of real power and in so doing lighting a fire under the ass of most powerful man in American Media. He was a man that wielded a considerable amount of power over The American Film Industry and Hollywood as well.
Within this context, the controversy would be delivered woven into the actual vehicle of the art.
It was "The Sell" that sold Orson, primed his creative pump, got those juices flowing, directed and focused. Making great art to Welles was a forgone conclusion. He had done it his whole young life.
But making a huge stink and having the art the vehicle to achieve that? Not so easily done. Welles knew that "marketing" was just as important as "making" and he had discovered at a very early age that the secret always was in the alchemy of combining the two in the creative process, instead of the linear process of "making" and then trying to figure out how to sell it.
One of the dirty little factoids in Mankiewicz's notes was the euphemistic pet name that Hearst had lovingly bestowed upon a certain organ in his misstress Marion Davies' vaginal nether world. The pet name?
Rosebud. Rosebud was a code word for "The Courtesan's Clitoris"
This school boy joke became the unifying thread in the narrative of "Kane". As the word was gaspingly uttered in a death rattle, and the first line of dialog spoken, the movie became a "who dunnit" mystery aimed at answering a singular question "What exactly was "Rosebud'?"
The shadowed and almost faceless "News On The March" journalist Jerry Thompson attempts to track down the hidden "clitoral question" through the interviews and subsequent memories of characters Susan Alexander, Jed Leland. Mr. Bernstein, and through Walter Thatcher's memoirs: As Kane's life story was unfolds in flashback from these sources, "Rosebud" was the topic, the conversation starter, and the mystery of the picture.
"Rosebud" drove the action. And although in the end Rosebud signifies the last time this tragically flawed man was authentically happy, the picture ends with "Rosebud" being discarded and going up in flames.
The whole narrative story was based on a prank. One designed to function as a red hot poker, continuously rammed into the eye of one of the most powerful men in America and thus the entire power structure of the film industry, for the entire running time of "Citizen Kane".
That, my friends, is an integrated core marketing concept that informs and shapes the final product.
It is aimed at a single bullseye to achieve the desired result: a firestorm for a work of art yet to be even created, and really a large part of the formula for the fuel to ignite Orson's creative rocket ship launch.
The rest of the incendiary devices in "Kane" were aimed directly at the Marion Davies character. The "Opera" career. The puzzles on the floor. The dim bulb, knuckle-headed, low brow portrayal. The isolation in Xanadu. The alcoholism. That was just cruel variation on a theme.
The "Greatest Movie Of All Time" was going to be about a clitoris. A very specific one. That was the foundational ground work before a a script was developed or a single frame was conceptualized or shot.
Not alot of people were in on the joke, except a few Hollywood insiders. The movie certainly works for people who don't know the joke.
But for those few who did? Kane became an exercise in absolute brutality, and its agenda was very clear. The few that did know ran the show. The heat that was going to come down on all their heads would be beyond compare.
Then the little pissant upstart interloper NY intellectual had the audacity to make the best film ever seen to add insult to injury, having never made a film before in his life, exposing the mediocrity of Hollywood product of the day.
Under pressure from Hearst, the studio heads made a collective offer to RKO to buy all prints and negatives of Citizen Kane for $800,000... to burn it. The greatest movie of all time came very close to being destroyed before ever getting a chance to be seen by a general viewing public.
THAT'S how good it really was then, and that is why it's still great now.
Welles' own narcissism sealed his own doom; with the marketing device, and ultimately with his own genius.
He became one of the great tragedies of the latter half of the 20th century.
Art can imitate life. In this case, Art imitated life and life imitated art in an infinity loop of unforseen, but ultimate self-destruction.
The purpose of this series was to expose and explore "process". From a single point of view, show how I came up with what I did and why.
But before work really initiated, the core concepts had to be in place, and a rough blueprint had to be developed.
"The Celery" was where art and commerce met. The Wellesian device, the red hot poker and the secret punch in the face, integrated into the art.
There are other ways to create controversy. You can dress up outrageously. You can bite the heads of of bats, or wear meat dresses at awards shows, or have fake lesbian spit swaps with Madonna.
Welles's device was a little different, and much more integrated. It really was designed at a single target, and the very few insiders that knew the joke. His main target was still mass appeal and a mass audience. He knew he was making popular art.
He just knew how to get eyeballs on it, and he knew how to direct focus and expectations before the eyeballs actually saw it.
So in the end, this device worked for me. I would function as "Kane" as well as "The Bunny" and ultimatley the character of "Little Georgie".
It would be the fictionalized version of real life events. The tragic hero would be undone by his fatal flaw. And although there were many protaganists in the tale I was about to write, the singular one was the ultimate betrayer. The vessel of disengenuous love.
This narrative going to be my version of a classic Greek tragedy of loss, dressed and presented as a comedy. The tragic elements were only going to be revealed to those that had the ability to notice. The surface presentation and eventual narrative was just sugar coating and chocolate dip on a rotten peanut of a story of abandonment,mysticism and the dark arts, lust, sex, betrayal, lies, substance abuse, a public beheading and then delivering a head on a plate, with a surprise twist at the end with a cautionary warning to the members of the collective cosciousness that trucked in the utter banality of evil as they mundanely scorched the earth.
That coating would be able to stand alone and function quite effectively as an entertainment in and of itself, and as a shield.
In the end, a casual observer wouldn't know anything about this, and certainly wouldn't recognize anything resembling a "Rosebud". But for those few in the music community that knew the real story, or were at least privvy to all the gossip surrounding the ugly details of the last year of my marriage and the excruciating year between separation and ultimately divorce played out very publicly by my future ex-wife, it was going to be pretty obvious that "Little Georgie's Narrative" was going to follow real life very closely.
Art would imitate life.
I wasn't very good at hiding my "Rosebud" at first. A Gumbo has to cook down and the flavors have to blend. At the point of creation, ideas and concepts, and the feelings that inspire them are very raw indeed.
But in the end, as a concept, the final hidden output was going to be a twisted love letter to my ex-wife, delivered with hidden a red hot poker directly to her metaphoric eye.
Enough people knew the tale to get tongues wagging.
If I could sustain that local innuendo trading, narrative spinning and tongue wagging for three years, that would buy me enough time to slow cook the Gumbo, and get it into a finished state.
There would be an eventual business plan crafted for long term goals, but this was the point where the creative armature and the future business plan truly intersected.
Next Step For The Creative Gumbo Assembly
At this point in time, all of the foundational concepts that I could complete by myself were indentified and clearly defined. The Roux had been rendered, and "The Holy Trinity" had been identified,chosen, chopped in the right amounts, and blended into the roux. The basic armature had been pulled from theory to a loose manifestation of reality.
But ultimately, recordings, like films, are collaborative vehicles. I could be the engine, but I still needed a car to get to the final destination point.
Second only to a perfectly rendered roux, a perfect Gumbo hinges upon the stock used to prepare it for its final finishing stages: the spices and additional ingredients, the timing of their entrance into the gumbo pot, and its cooking down process to blend the flavors of all of the pot's eventual contents.
You can use water, and you can used pre-packaged stock as well, but your Gumbo will suffer accordingly if you do.
Only homemade stock will do.
As mentioned previously, at the time of ultimate creation I had very few resources available to me at the time. I was unknowingly bi-polar crazy, suicidal, and dead broke. All I had was my brain and a modicum of musical talent.
That said, I did have access to a stock; beautifully made and created outside of all of this.
If that stock and the access to it did not exist, then all of this creative armature building would have been a totally pointless exercise. The existence of the stock was the insurance policy needed to commence the mental work necessary to finding the roux and the "Holy Trinity" in the first place.
I knew that if I could get the Gumbo to the point of having the stock added and heat applied, the rest of the process would just fall into place. It was going to start to look and smell like a mighty good gumbo, one that would generate a magnetic force of gravity that would pull all the other future crucial and ultimately very special and unique ingredients into its orbit; eventually convincing those ingredients to dive into the "Hungarian Gumbo Pot" of their own volition.
That stock manifested itself in the form of three very specific people.
The next intallment of this series will take a look at those three people, for without them, "Little Georgie" or "The Shuffling Hungarians" would have been just another good idea left on the drawing board. The only reason it became realized was because of their specific contributions, ones that I will be forever grateful for.
(Stay Tuned For Installment 10)
As always, if you are following The Dose regularly, its going to be increasingly more helpful if you have a roadmap and scorecard. An updated master index is sent out weekly that includes descriptions and direct hyperlinks to each archived blog: Its a lot easier than searching for archived material for cross referencing purposes than the blogger platform. Just shoot me your email address at:
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As of this writing, The Dose has received over 19,500 legitimate page views in 63 daily injections. All I have asked of the general readership is that if you enjoyed what you just read, hit that little share button on the top right column of this site, or copy the blog address down, paste it in an email, and give a friend a taste.
The Dose's original intent and design was for it to be passed along and shared; sort of hoping that we could form a bond and a shared sense of responsibility between the content creation and its users active participation.
Unfortunately, my personal assessment is that its starting to look like a failed experiment.
It isn't without its harvestable aspects in the face of failure, and I don't regret the amount of time I spent writing 63 consecutive posts at all. I have learned so much by disciplining myself to produce quality writing to the best of my ability for 63 conescutive days. I can look myself in the mirror and honestly say that I gave my all, every little last particle of me. I did not phone it in, or take whoever might be reading The Dose for granted in anyway. I stayed true to principle.
I'm truly grateful to those of you that have read, and perhaps even been inspired by the Blog-O-Thon's content and message. I'm also especially grateful to the folks that took it upon themselves to realize their implied responsibility by enjoying the content, and then taking the time to hip their friends and family to the Blog-O-Thon.
Circumstances beyond my control have led me to a place where I can no longer devote the time to producing a quality experience for you daily.
Those circumstances were the result of broken promises made to me, and the collateral damge is that I no longer can keep my promise to you... everything, IS connected.
That isn't an excuse though. We are what we eat, and we are the choices we make. I sincerely apologize for breaking my promise, and seeming unaccountable. In the end, all you are left with is your Integrity, and mine got compromised by not recognizing the lack of it in others that I openly trusted.
Those circumstances coupled, with a rather tepid response of reader participation have led to this unfortunate resolution.
That's cool. I'm a big boy, and I can handle it. "I judge my forward progress and successes by the crushingly epic nature of my failures..."
If you are on facebook, I also started a page called "Little Georgie's Blog-O-Thon". Just search it, it will pop up. That will be the final publicly published Master Index for all of the past Dose Output, and any that might happen in the future.
The "Last Dispensary" as it were.
I love you all.
"You may shoot for the stars and end up in a back alley behind Pluto, beaten and bloodied, but at least I dare to dream, and that’s better than being Earthbound, mired in the muck of mediocrity.
I judge my forward progress and success by the crushingly epic nature of my failures.
The more epic the crash, the more I’m convinced I must be doing something right"
AS ALWAYS: PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COMMENT, SUBSCRIBE, AND SHARE THIS BLOG ADDRESS VIA COPY AND PASTE IN AN EMAIL, THROUGH THE TWITTER OR FACEBOOK "SHARE" BUTTONS,WORD OF MOUTH, FILTHY WHISPERED GOSSIP, FALSE NARRATIVE, TIN CAN AND STRING CONFIGURATIONS, PONY EXPRESS, OR CARRIER PIGEON. WITHOUT FEEDBACK OR ACTIVE "SHARING", WHAT YOU JUST READ.... DOESN'T EXIST!
COLONEL BEAUREGARD "IRON THIGHS" JEFFERSON, A.K.A. "THE MANAGEMENT"
Gary Frenay: A Testimony:
033.) "On Rhetorical Devices, Influences, and Making Art "Popular": The use of rhetoric as a velvet rope and associative strategy 1981-2011
055.) "Exploring Creative Processes: Part 1": An Introduction
056.) "Exploring Creative Processes: Part 2": What's In Your Gumbo?
057.) "Exploring Creative Processes Part 3": The Hard Wiring Of The Really Little Georgie 1960-1964
058.) "Party Time": A "Lake Boy" Tale
059.) "Exploring Creative Processes Part 4": The Test Of Time
060.) "Exploring Creative Processes Part 5": The Test Of Time
061.) "Exploring Creative Processes Part 6": Finding the Second of Three "Trinity" Components: The Green Pepper
062.) Exploring Creative Concepts Part 7: They Eat Green Bell Peppers in the Emerald City
063.) Exploring Creative Concepts Part 8: Finding The Celery: The final and third component of "The Holy Trinity"