The Godfather is one of the most quoted films. As a lot of guys do, my buddies and I will toss a few quotes around at parties or while watching football games. However, my pal Fat Head told me an interesting story about a guy he used to work with who had an annoying tendency to loudly and inappropriately blurt lines from the famous film. Fat Head said it was as if this fella kinda had a form of Godfather Tourette’s syndrome.
This fella strangely insisted on being called Vito (the Godfather’s name), yet his real name was Rupert. He would bring tube shaped cream-filled Italian pastries, hand them to random unnerved employees, and say “leave the gun, take the cannoli.” During his annual performance review, Vito would tell his boss, “Go ahead big shot, make me an offer I can’t refuse.” But the incident that made Vito “swim with the fishes” involved a confrontation with a newly hired CEO. While walking the halls pressing the flesh with employees, the CEO came across Vito, shook his hand, and asked him his name. Before co-workers could dive in front him, Vito blurted out, “You sonofabitch, do you know who I am? I’m Moe Greene! I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders.” During Vito’s exit interview, immediately following the Moe Greene incident, he asked the HR manager, “Tom, can you get me off the hook? For old time sake?” The HR manager appropriately replied, “Can’t do it, Sally“. Vito smiled, quietly walked out of the office and down the street to the bus stop for his final ride home.
Building on Each Other
We now have five anecdotes, featured in this blog and the previous two blogs, suggesting that film can be an effective instructional tool. In the first case (blog “A Truth About Film“), the use of a film clip seems to have amplified the message a corporate executive wanted to impart and helped participants, and even nonparticipants like me, retain that message (8 second clip The Truth ). In the second case (blog “The First Teacher Who Used Film… and Inspired Me“), a sixth-grade teacher filmed a parody of Robin Hood, (two minute cut from Adam Hood) featuring his students, to emphasize a moral point and have a little fun. And in this blog, we’ll feature three home made short movies that were created by a work colleague named Jeff Watts and me. All three amplified relevant messages, featured colleagues playing roles, and were parodies of popular films.
Woodbine’s Field of Dreams
The first was a “Field of Dreams” parody featuring a new site manager working in a cornfield located next to one of our company’s sites in Woodbine, Maryland. The punchline: the voice he was hearing in the cornfield was coming from employees playing a practical joke on him. This 3 1/2 minute film was used to open one of our company’s all staff meetings. The response was positive as it was the first time we used a video, and home made at that, to open a meeting. Folks appreciated the use of humor and seeing a few colleagues in the movie. Take a look at two minute cut Field of Dreams
Star Trek’s Execution
We created another film supporting the CEO’s objective to improve the company’s ability to execute. In a “Star Trek” parody, Captain Kirk emphasized to Mr. Spock, Scotty, and Uhura that the crew of the Starship Enterprise needed to execute their plans to assure a successful mission. As an homage to the CEO, the story had a comical flashback scene of the CEO as a young boy (played by an employee’s son) fooling around with electronic equipment while sneaking a cigarette in his basement. This eleven-minute film was shown during a leadership meeting. The response was positive and the CEO got a kick out of it. Here is a two minute cut Star Trek – Execute
The Godfather of Values
The most effective film, however, occurred in April 2005. I was involved with a leadership meeting in which I was to deliver a presentation reflecting our company’s corporate values: Leadership, Innovation, Integrity, Partnership, and Excellence. My presentation was scheduled as the first thing in the morning following a late night of socializing and celebrating. The roughly fifty leaders from our engineering department were groggy and could have cared less about our company’s corporate values. Most of them had not memorized more than one or two of the five values. I dimmed the lights in the room and opened the presentation with an eleven-minute surprise film that a couple of colleagues and I had produced two weeks prior to the meeting. The musical score from the film “The Godfather” filled the room. The music faded away and the film, a Godfather parody featuring five of the company’s leaders – all of whom were sitting in the room that morning — filled the large screen.
The story line was connected to our company’s five values, with each of the five leaders seeking advice from “the Godfather of Values” so they could better understand the meaning of each value. The audience loved the video, as was evidenced by laughter throughout most of the film and the extended applause after the film’s conclusion. Here is a 3 minute cut from Godfather of values. Based on the oral and written feedback, this eleven minute film turned out to be the most memorable portion of the three-day meeting. Participants’ comments included statements such as “it was the first time that I ever paid attention to the values” and “using humor to present something that is usually taken too seriously made it easy for me to watch the presentation.”
What’s the Implication?
All three videos, especially “The Godfather of Values”, were used to increase learner engagement and present information in a new way. Several scholars and practitioners of workplace learning have put forward this precise claim: that the use of film (and other forms of multimedia) enhances learning. If this is the case, workplace learning leaders — particularly given the increasing pressure for them to do more with less — should take note and consider incorporating film into their curricula if they have not already done so. However, while some have made a convincing theoretical case for the use of film to enhance learning, the evidence of film’s usefulness was far from convincing until 2012. The research showing the impact of film on learning was largely anecdotal and the empirical research that has been done has not focused on workplace learning but rather on other contexts such as language learning and the traditional college setting. My research, an extensive global study conducted in 2011 and 2012, focuses precisely on workplace learning and will be reviewed in future blogs.
Until we meet again, please blog back with examples of work or school related films that you believe had an impact on learning or engagement. And if you see Rupert/Vito, make him an offer he can’t refuse.