In his quest to become the biggest movie star in the world, Will Smith studied hard. Smith and his manager read hundreds of screenplays, from movies made and rejected, looking for the formula for blockbuster movies. After initially refusing the starring role in Men In Black, Smith was convinced by the project’s Executive Producer, Steven Spielberg, that he should take the role and eager to learn from the master filmmaker, Smith spent time interrogating Spielberg on his process and experience. During these discussions Spielberg introduced Smith to a book by Joseph Campbell called The Hero with A Thousand Faces
Campbell identifies the key narrative elements as Universal Struggle, Transformation and Rebirth to one’s Greater Self. It is the central idea of the heroes ‘transformation’ that makes education such a hotbed of engaging stories. The whole purpose of education is transformation. From student to graduate and more importantly from helpless child to a happy and productive member of society.
Some people’s transformations are more dramatic than others, perhaps encompassing more struggle and similarly the rebirth and personal development can vary considerably. As education marketers, the key is to have this framework in mind when seeking out and evaluating the stories we choose to tell as part of our communications. Furthermore, while we would never advocate a purely formulaic approach, this framework provides a perfect starting point for finding our heroes and shaping our stories.
Our universities are also transformative in another way. Their research is transforming society through insights and innovations. Behind each of these breakthroughs are important characters, some might say heroes, whose stories we can tell. Finding and sharing these stories gives schools, colleges and universities the opportunity to inspire, demonstrate their impact and ultimately grow.
To this day, Smith uses Campbell’s ideas to help select his projects. It’s a practice that led him to achieve his goal to become the biggest movie star in the world, with a string of global hits from the late 90’s to the early 2010’s. He’s now being tipped for further success with his latest project King Richard playing the father of Venus and Serena Williams.