Feeds:
Posts
Comments

#LongLiveLongmire

“In terms of its wide-open, rural Wyoming setting and characters, Longmire marks a rare and welcome departure from the tired New York, DC, and LA locales where far too many such series are both set and filmed. It’s a big country out there with interesting people in it. It’s nice to see their lives portrayed once in a while, and that’s something else Longmire accomplishes.”
Terry Ponick
Communities Digital News

Part of this blog is about a sense of place. For the past three season the Wyoming-centered (New Mexico shot) TV program  Longmire has posted solid numbers from its loyal fan base. But despite it being called “A&E Network’s most-watched original dramaseries of all time,” the show was cancelled last month.

One of the actors on the show, Lou Diamond Phillips (yes, the Lou Diamond Phillips of La Bamaba, Courage Under Fire, Stand and Deliver) is part of a push called #LongLiveLongmire to help Longmire find life via another outlet. Another cable station or perhaps Twitter or Amazon.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how the Wyoming-based writer of the novels (Craig Johnson) for which the show is based ended up seeing his characters on a Sunset Blvd. billboard in LA.

Scott W. Smith

Turn Out the Lights…

Turn out the lights, the party’s over
They say that all good things must end…
The Party’s Over/Willie Nelson

Over the weekend Disney World closed its Studio Backlot Tour. It was a tram ride through the backlot and into a studio where tourists could be given a glimpse into the world of filmmaking—and if they were lucky they might even see animators working and a feature film being shot.

Back when Disney’s Hollywood Studios (then called Disney MGM) opened in 1989 it was kind of the first part of a bookend to Universal Studios Florida (that opened in 1990) for what was touted as a part of  “Hollywood East.” And while there was actually about a ten-year run of films and  TV programs being shot in the Orlando area— Passenger 57 with Wesley Snipes and The New Mickey Mouse Club both shot on the Disney sound stages, and Nickelodeon Studios and Parenthood with Steve Martin shot at Universal— “Hollywood East” it wasn’t.

Nickelodeon Studios ended its partnership with Universal Studios Florida in 2005.  For a variety of reasons, including a lack of film incentives, neither Disney or Universal in Florida lived up to the hype in terms of  feature film and TV production.

“The whole romance of seeing where movies are made really began to die as people got the ability to make movies themselves. The only movie production that’s happening in there are people holding up their iPhones and uploading to YouTube.”
Robert Niles, editor of the Theme Park Insider website
Orlando Sentinel article by Dewayne Bevel

The side benefit for local crews that worked on projects like From the Earth to the Moon is they got valuable experience that eventually led some of them to greater opportunities in LA, New York City, Atlanta, and Louisiana. (Certainly true of some of the Mickey Mouse cast; Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.)

I actually moved back to Orlando from Los Angeles partly with the hopes of getting on the ground floor of Hollywood East. And while I didn’t work on the features or TV programs shot here, it did lead me to working for a non-profit educational group were I gained valuable experience producing multi-camera productions and learning non-linear video editing  (AVID/Final Cut).

Experience that when coupled with my film school background eventually led to video productions I’ve done from Aspen, to Berlin, to Cape Town.

Disney hasn’t announced plans yet with what they’re going to do with the studio tram ride. But I imagine it will be something like when Universal got rid of the JAWS ride in favor of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  So even though they’re turning out the lights on the Disney backlot ride, I don’t think the party’s over. There are still plenty of films to be made in Florida, but no one here really uses the term “Hollywood East” anymore.

Related post: Screenwriting from Florida

Scott W. Smith

 

 

“Don’t go through the system. Do it yourself. Do something you believe in.”
Oscar-nominated  writer/director John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood)
2013 Filmmaker Magazine article by Allan Tong

Some of you weren’t even born in 1991 when John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood hit the theaters. It’s a different kind of coming of age story than Boyhood that I wrote about yesterday. Singleton was fresh out of USC film school when at the age of 23 he directed his first featured from his screenplay and received two Oscar-nominations.

P.S. Singleton’s quote is reminiscent of the Edwards Burns quote, “Don’t try and compete with Hollywood.”

Related posts:
25 Links Related to Blacks and Filmmaking
The First Black Feature Filmmaker

Scott W. Smith

 

‘Boyhood’

“Whenever I despair I think, OK, somebody out there somewhere, while we’re sitting right here, somebody out there somewhere is making something cool that we’re going to love, and that keeps me going. “
Steve Soderbergh on April 27,2013
Conclusion to his State of Cinema talk
San Francisco International Film Festival

For the last month I’ve tried to find an angle to write about Richard Linklater’s film Boyhood. After writing the last two posts about Steven Soderbergh I decided that Soderbergh’s State of Cinema  talk last year was my anchor. I don’t know if Soderbergh loved Boyhood, but I think it fits his criteria from last year that “somebody out there somewhere is making something cool.”

Linklater shot the Boyhood over 12 years with the same actors in Austin, Texas. That’s pretty cool just by itself. Linklater said that he’d been compelled to make a film about childhood, but was having trouble finding the moment he wanted to explore so he’d given up on the idea of a feature film on the topic. But he sat down to write something and that’s where he captured the magic.

“I was just going to write an experimental novel or something, and the hands go to hit the keyboard and this idea comes fully formed. Like, ‘What if you filmed a little bit every year? And the kids just grew up, and everyone just aged—why can’t you make a move like that?’ So that’s the fun part. The tough part was it’s such an impractical crazy idea—the mechanics of it. Not to mentioned getting it financed.”
Writer/director Richard Linklater (Boyhood)
Flim4video interview

And even if Soderbergh didn’t love (or even see) Boyhood, plenty of people did. It received 100% from the top critic on Rottentomatos.com.  On boxofficemojo.com they have the $4 million film making over $37 million worldwide since its July release.

Boyhood wraps up today a more than a month-long run (often to sold out crowds) at the Enzian Theater here in Orlando, so obviously the film struck a chord beyond the art house crowd.

There’s an Amy Hempel quote I read in an article by Blake Butler a while back that sums up part of what I think fascinates viewers of Boyhood, “The more literal you are, the more metaphorical people will think you are being.”

P.S. I was producing and shooting a video project after I saw Boyhood that required using a young talent hitting a baseball off a tee and blowing out birthday candles and decided to take a still photo of the talent that captured the spirit of boyhood and what it means to be seven years old.

DSC_8685web

© 2014 Scott W. Smith

Related posts:

Screenwriting from Texas
The Day the Field of Dreams Burned
Difficult + Changing Times = Whiplash

Scott W. Smith

 

 

The Theater of Surgery

“We now live in a time of endless possibility. More has been learned about the treatment of the human body in the last five years than was learned in the previous five hundred.”
Dr. John W. Thackery (Clive Owen) referencing the year 1900
The Knick, The Eulogy from episode 1

“I think it’s not so much about the format of the stories that we’re going to tell, as filmmakers — it’s about the way it’s going to be consumed. That’s what’s going to be changed.”
Michael Sugar of Anonymous Content and Steven Soderbergh’s manager
IndieWire interview by Anne Thompson

The Knick

When Steven Soderbergh announced his retirement a while back it was just from making feature films that were theatrically released—and maybe paint a little bit. Last month Cinemax began airing The Knick directed by Soderbergh who is also one of the executive producers.

Set in New York City in 1900, The Knick stars Clive Owen and is a look at the early (dramatic and bloody) days of modern medicine. Soderbergh was going for anti-nostagic in tone. (Keep in mind that human life expectancy back then was 47 years.

“At no point do you look at this and go, ‘Wow, it must have been really great to live in 1900.'”
Steven Soderbergh
Wall Street Journal interview by John Jurgensen

Jack Amiel and Michael Begler wrote the wrote the initial episode (and are the show’s main writers) that pulled Soderbergh away from his painting to jump back in the directing chair.

Related post:
‘State of Cinema’ (Soderbergh)

Scott W. Smith

“I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this.”
Steven Soderbergh (on going Jack Sparrow with a Spielberg classic) 

IndianaB&W

Can you spot what’s different about Indiana Jones?

I know it’s now officially Fall, but the Screenwriting Summer School is still in session on this blog. Today’s class with be led by Professor (producer, writer, director) Steven Soderbergh (whose dad really was a professor at LSU in Baton Rouge). And now Soderbergh can add pirate (for “educational purposes only”) to his resume—and the results are fabulous.

In fact, I’ll go as far as saying what Soderbergh did is my favorite film related article/video I’ve seen all year.

Yesterday on his website Extension 765 he posted an edit of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) where he shifting the color to black and white (it looks great) and replaced the sound with a music track, rumor has it, done by Trent Reznor.

Now why would Soderbergh go to all the trouble? Why would Soderbergh mess with a classic? Why nix the John Williams Oscar-nominated score?

Simply to explore the old film school truism (at least that’s where I learned it many years ago) that you should be able to watch a film without the sound and still know what’s going on simply by the visual storytelling.

Visual conflict & key light via hot poker pulled from a fire.

Visual conflict & key light via a hot poker pulled from a fire.

According to Soderbergh the new score “is designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect.” Worked for me. I watched the whole new Raiders version by the other Steven S. last night from 10PM to midnight and think it’s an instant classic. (And I’m guessing will be instantly abhorred by others.)

Raiders does hold up well without dialogue, but then again I’ve seen it a few times so I’m not the best judge.

Speaking of judges… It’s a little ironic Soderbergh just lifted an entire Paramount film since on his website under Privacy and Terms it states; “Unauthorized use of the Contents is expressly prohibited by law, and may result in severe civil and criminal penalties. You might want to look up the word SEVERE, if you’re thinking about screwing with us.”

I’ve wondered if Tony Zhou’s excellent Vimeo account would be taken down because he makes his filmmaking points using many movie clips. I’m not a copyright lawyer, but my understanding is You Tube and Vimeo is a little beyond the means of educational purposes in a classroom. Often times I link to movie scenes found on You Tube that hit on points I’m trying to make, only to find out later that they’ve been pulled because of a copyright violation. I welcome any lawyers to clarify this area, because it is a direction I’d like to head for this blog in 2015.  Regardless, better catch Soderbergh’s Raiders ASAP in case Paramount makes him take it down soon.

Related posts:
‘Story Telling Without Dialogue’ (Tip #82) “IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.”—David Mamet
Show, Don’t Tell (Tip #46)
Writing “The Artist” (Part 1) “I thought making a silent film would be a magnificent challenge.”
Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 7) “The reaction to the action is critical.”—Blake Edwards via Marshall
Directing Tips from Peter Bogdanovich  “Silent looks between people—to me, that’s what movies are about.”—Peter Bogdanovich

Soderbergh Related Posts:
Steven Soderbergh is Platformagnostic
Fast & Furious—Steven Soderbergh
“State of Cinema” —Soderbergh
Sex, Lies, & Mr. Bill (Screenwriting from Louisiana) 

Raiders Related Posts:
Movie Cloning (“Raiders”)
Raiders Revisited (part 1)
Raiders Revisited (part 2)
Raiders Revisited (part 3)
Raiders Revisited (part 4)
Scriptnotes’ 100th Podcast

P.S. I’ve been getting a few hits from a Malibu Screenwriting group that’s having a meet-up tonight (9/23/14) in Westlake Village. The were following a link to my 2008 post Screenwriting & Exposition. For what it’s worth, Indiana Jones saying, “I hate snakes” at the start of Raiders is exposition. Plus a nice set-up that will have a bigger payoff later in the movie. For that group here’s another post you may find useful, “Exposition is BORING unless…”

Scott W. Smith

“I haven’t seen too many films since Blade Runner (1982) to be honest with you.”
Director William Friedkin in a 2012 interview

William Friedkin tells of something he did on the road to becoming an Oscar-winning director (The French Connection) that I imagine a small percentage of people who want to be filmmakers have ever done—watch one movie five times in a single day. That one film changed his life. But before I tell you which film that is, let me give you a quick recap of the skills he acquired before he directed his first feature film in his early thirties.

Friedkin was the son of Russian immigrants and grew up in a one-room apartment in the north side of Chicago, but “didn’t know we were poor until I left high school.” He left high school without a degree, and got a job in the mail room at a local television station. He made his way into production and worked on 2,000 local tv programs. His Tv work included even thing from kids programs to the documentary The People vs. Paul Crump (1962).

Citizen Kane is the film that made me want to become a filmmaker. I saw it when I was 20-years-old. I had no idea what I wanted to do. And somebody told me there was this really interesting old film playing at the Surf Theatre in Chicago on Dearborn and Division. And I trusted this guy’s opinion so I went there on a Saturday at noon, and I left the theater at midnight. I saw it five straight times. Whatever that was, that was what I wanted to do. To me it’s the greatest film ever made, because it synthesizes everything that was found in the past, and it points the way to the future.”
William Friedkin
Fade In/William Friedkin’s Favorite Films of all Time

P.S. While I don’t know how many times Friedkin has seen Citizen Kane, I imagine it’s over 50 times. I saw a list recently where he talked about 10 of his favorite films—all of which he’d seen at least 50 times each. Oscar-winning director Mike Nichols (The Graduate) once commented that anyone wanting to be a film director should watch the George Stevens’ classic A Place in the Sun 50 times.

Related posts:

Orson Welles at USC in 1981 (part 1)
Study the old masters.’—Martin Scorsese
Orphan Characters (Tip #31)
‘Stagecoach’ Revisited  “[Citizen Kane director Orson] Welles not only watched the film 40 times, but when once asked who his favorite three film directors where said, ‘John Ford, John Ford, John Ford.'”
Screenwriting Quote #38 (Orson Welles) And the early roots of Welles who also had a connection to the greater Chicago area.
Screenwriting da Chicago Way (2.0)

Scott W. Smith

%d bloggers like this: