Roger Ebert is one of my idols, and I follow him on Twitter religously. Ebert knows more about filmmaking than just about anyone, so when he tweets something like this, I pay attention:
“The best video about filmmaking I tweet this year. Gregg Toland rehearsing ‘Citizen Kane.’ Incredible.”
He links to a mini-documentary on cinematographer Gregg Toland, Orson Welles, and the making of Citizen Kane. I was blown away by how much there is for a startup team to learn from just that seven minutes.
Toland was one of the top cinematographers in the world at the time, having just won an Oscar for “Wuthering Heights.” Welles was a Hollywood newcomer who had never worked on a film. Yet Greg sought Welles out. From the documentary:
Toland: “Mr. Welles, I want to shoot your picture.“
Welles: “Mr Toland, you are the finest cinematographer in Hollywood, why would you want to work with a stumbling neophyte like me?“
Toland: “The only way to learn anything new is to work with someone who doesn’t know a damn thing.“
This kicked off one of the most productive collaborations in Hollywood history.
The documentary focuses on one of most significant scenes of the movie, a low-angle shot of Kane and his best friend Jebediah Leland arguing after Kane decisively loses the New York gubernatorial election. A fictionalized account of the making of the scene follows, as Welles and Toland attempt to place the camera as low as possible: