Thursday, January 05, 2006

Screenplay Movie: Citizen Kane (1941) Deconstructed

From our deconstruction of hundreds of Hollywood blockbusters....
The Hero's Journey is the template upon which the vast majority of successful stories and Hollywood blockbusters are based upon. In fact, ALL of the Hollywood movies we have deconstructed are based on this template.
Understanding this template is a priority for story or screenwriters.
The Hero's Journey:
a) Attempts to tap into unconscious expectations the audience has regarding what a story is and how it should be told.
b) Gives the writer more structural elements than simply three or four acts, plot points, mid point and so on.
c) Interpreted metaphorically, laterally and symbolically, allows an infinite number of varied stories to be created.
and more...
Sample Movie Deconstructed: Citizen Kane (1941)
FADE IN: Context: a coming attraction; some people on the Journey and reference to the Hero.
Hero's Status and Reputation [referenced by others]: talking about Mr Kane.
Hero's Inner Challenge: Rosebud.
Hero's Ordinary World: Xanadu.
Hero's Backstory: the newsreel.
Call to Adventure: what is Rosebud?
Refusal: she won't talk, the 2 nd Mrs Kane.
Threshold Guardian: the librarian.
Meeting the Mentor: Walter Thatcher wants to take the kid away.
Resistance to the Journey: Kane's Father doesn't want him sent away; Kane [as a child] resists.
Forced to the Journey: it's Kane's mother that decides; "where you can't get at him"
Magical Gift from the Mentor: Kane gets the newspaper from Thatcher.
Meeting the Hero: Kane in his office.
Foreshadow of the Journey: what would you have liked to have been?
Goodbye to the Old Self: leaving the library.
Guided by the Mentor: Bernstein suggests talking to Leland.
Viewing the First Threshold from afar / Meeting the Shape Shifter: Leland and Kane in the cab outside the Inquirer building.
Entering the World of the First Threshold: entering the Inquirer building.
Meeting Allies and Enemies: Carter, Bernstein etc in the building.
First Threshold Trial 1: goodbye Mr Carter.
First Threshold Inner Challenge: the Declaration of Principles.
Inner Cave: taking the competition from competitors; becoming the best paper; around the dinner table.
Foreshadow of the Physical Separation: "I'm going away"
Celebration of the passing of the First Threshold: the dancers.
Warning of the Transformation: "these guys believed in the Chronicles' principles yesterday and today they believe in ours?"
Physical Separation: Kane returns from Europe; more interested in marriage than the newspaper.
Foreshadow of the Trials: Bernstein discusses the marriage breakdowns; Reference to the Inner Challenge: maybe Rosebud is something Kane lost.
Guided through the Trials by a Mentor / Shape Shifter: old man Leland talks about Kane and the 1 st marriage.
Trial 1: the 1 st marriage.
Guided through the Trials by a Mentor / Shape Shifter: Foreshadow of Trial 2.
Pushed toward Trial 2: meeting Susan Alexander; the toothache and the singing.
Trial 2: Gettys blackmails Kane and he loses the election.
Trial 3: Falling out with Leland; Leland wants to go to Chicago; Kane marries Susan; Kane fires Leland.
Goodbye to the Mentor / Shape Shifter: the nurses take Leland away.
Seizing the Sword: Susan becomes an opera singer.
Near Death: Susan overdoses.
Atonement with the Father: trying not to be alone; the house; dissatisfied Susan; she leaves him.
Inner Challenge: tearing apart the house; the snowflakes in the toy.
Resolution: possessions up in flames.
FADE OUT: loop back to the FADE IN technique.
Learn more
The Complete 188 stage Heros Journey and other story structure templates can be found at
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Kal Bishop, MBA
You are free to reproduce this article as long as no changes are made and the author's name and site URL are retained.
Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. His specialities include Knowledge Management and Creativity and Innovation Management. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached at

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