Davis' desk: Competing against Orson Welles

Austin M.
Austin M. Davis
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I was under a lot of self-inflicted pressure as a 23-year-old.

As a journalism student ending my last semester of university, I made the decision to learn more about Citizen Kane.

The film was released in 1941 and is arguably still the greatest film ever made. It also focuses on the life and legacy of an American newspaper mogul, a topic I’m very interested in.

I watched a documentary called The Battle Over Citizen Kane that detailed the clash between Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst.

Welles was the young writer, director, producer and star of the film. His contract on his first film entitled him to the unusual clause of having total control over the final cut.

Hearst was the newspaper mogul the fictional Charles Foster Kane was based on. Hearst failed in his attempt to purchase the footage and destroy it. When the film was released, he prohibited Citizen Kane from being mentioned in any of his newspapers.

The battle between Welles and Hearst would essentially ruin both men’s careers.

It’s an amazing story, and for a young, aspiring rabble-rouser, there was nothing more inspiring than Welles’ talent and determination.

I was also under the impression Welles was 23 when he wrote, directed and starred in the film.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around it — and rightly so — but until Tuesday I believed that he was my age when he created one of the best films ever.

That was a lot to aspire to. Not that I had a desire to write Citizen Kane, or even be involved in a movie at all. But whatever my Citizen Kane was going to be, I figured I only had 12 months to do it.

I’ve written many stories I’m proud of. Probably none of them will have the longevity of Welles’ film. I’ve come to terms with that. But I have always strived to be better than I was the day before and to dig deeply into stories that matter to the community of Moose Jaw. In the least pretentious way possible, I try to approach every story like it’s my Citizen Kane. I care about the value of my name and the value of my work.

But I was still bothered by the fact that Welles had accomplished such an amazing task at such a young age.

On Tuesday, my 24th birthday, I revisited this fact that had loomed over me for 12 months.

I discovered Welles was 25 when the screenplay was written and 26 when the film was released. So my competition continues with an immensely talented and famous dead man who never knew I existed.

Welles was, however, 23 when he directed and starred in the famous radio drama The War of the Worlds.

As a man with an appreciation for complex hoaxes, I can happily say I did not produce content better than faking an alien invasion and having people believe it.

As much as I would like to be remembered for better accomplishments than Orson Welles, I know life is not a competition against other people.

Life is a competition against yourself, and it’s a fun race to run.

Follow Austin on Twitter @theaustinx.


Geographic location: Moose Jaw

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