Screenwriting from Iowa, huh?
That’s how I started my first blog two years ago today. The first time I had ever posted anything anywhere. I started out in 2008 writing two or three times a week with posts between 1,000-2,000 words. Really, mini essays. In 2009 I shifted over to daily post usually under 500 words and sometimes just a quote.
The results of the shorter daily post were a double number of views. Now for 2010 how can I fine tune it a little to be more helpful? I welcome any suggestions, but on Monday I’m planning at least one new twist.
Looking back on the last two years there have been a lot of changes. Just in the original 2008 post I see where I quote Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. He left that gig, but is now on his way back. I mentioned Kevin Bacon & John Edwards who have both had significant reversal. Bacon losing a sizable amount of money in the Madoff scam, and Edwards–who was a presidential candidate in ’08–has since fathered a baby with a woman who is not his wife.
And for a couple years there was actually a relative boom in features being made in Iowa due to Film Incentives which were recently discontinued because of mismanagement and accusations of fraud by recipients. The economy has gone into a deeper recession and the US is still in Iraq (and now back in Afghanistan). The Internet continues to change the life in general, and the media specifically. Most noticeably the decline of newspapers and magazines as readers look elsewhere for their news and information.
And just has Hollywood box office seemed in decline, James Cameron lead the charge for ’09 to be the best ever dollar intake in movie history. But from a production side, perhaps the biggest change in the past two years is the rise of people everywhere making films and videos. Fifteen years ago secretaries became graphic designers as Photoshop became a common tool. Now Final Cut Pro, digital cameras, and You Tube have opened the door for the production pyramid to be much bigger.
But there is still a pyramid with the best talent at the top and the beginners at the bottom. There are still fine films being made and a larger crop of junk being produced. All in all, it’s an exciting time to be in production. One thing I’m sure about more than when I started this blog two years ago is more and more people outside of the L.A. and the Hollywood system with continue to find ways to make better and better films and will continue to find distribution means to get people to watch there films (and hopefully recoup their funds and ideally make a little money to keep the train moving forward).
In the meantime, keep writing, networking and learning–because once the economy kicks back in there are going to be some crazy opportunities out there. Thanks for stopping by the blog. As the views continue to grow that is an encouragement to me to keep encouraging you in your creative journey. And just for nostalgia here is the very first post for “Screenwriting from Iowa…or wherever you live outside L.A,”
Life Beyond Hollywood (Original post on January 22, 2008)
Screenwriting from Iowa, huh?
No, it’s not a joke or an oxymoron.
Screenwriting from Iowa isn’t really just about Iowa or limited to screenwriting. But that is the starting point. And I hope this on-going blog encourages writers who feel like they live in the middle of nowhere. And if you hold on a moment you’ll learn that the hippest and hottest screenwriter in Hollywood today has some Iowa roots.
It’s ten degrees below zero and snowing as I begin this first blog compounding the barren wasteland fears people have about the state of Iowa. But I think you’ll be surprised at the creative talent growing beyond them there cornfields.
On January 3, 2008 all eyes were on Iowa (at least for a quick glance) as the first presidential caucuses took place. Jay Leno joked on The Tonight Show, “Many people don’t know this, but the word caucus is Indian for the one day anyone pays attention to Iowa.”
Iowa may not be New York or LA but where else can you see 13 presidential candidates up close within a ten-mile drive of your home as I did in the last couple months? There was plenty of drama, and enough material for a couple screenplays.
Iowa is a metaphor for any place that represents life beyond Hollywood. (That could be West Virginia, West Africa, or even West Covina.) Iowa is where I live and write and is also a state that most people in the United States would have trouble pinpointing on a map. Quintessential “fly-over country.” What good can come from Iowa? Can you get any further from Hollywood? You’d be surprised.
Forget that six degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon thing. Bacon was right here in Cedar Falls earlier this month stumping for presidential hopeful John Edwards. Cedar Falls is also where Nancy Price wrote the novel that became the Julia Roberts’ film Sleeping with the Enemy, and where Robert Waller wrote the book that became the Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep film The Bridges of Madison County.
And since this is the first blog let me also mention that entertainment icons Johnny Carson & John Wayne were both born in Iowa. This site is dedicated seeing the depth of talent that can from a remote place and will provide you with practical advice on screenwriting and digital filmmaking.
As I write this, the independent film Juno continues its strong box office run and has already won the Critics’ Choice Award for screenwriter Diablo Cody. (And I don’t think that will be the last award she wins.) Film critic Tom Long of the Detroit News wrote, “Juno’s the best movie of the year. It’s the best screenplay of the year, and it features the best actress of the year working in the best acted ensemble of the year.” Roger Ebert wrote, “The screenplay by first-timer Diablo Cody is a subtle masterpiece of construction…The Film has no wrong scenes and no extra scenes, and flows like running water.”
The 29-year-old Cody’s own life story of spending a year as a less than exotic dance in Minneapolis is well documented, bit to learn where she honed her writing skills we must go back a couple years to when she was a college student in…you guessed it, Iowa. The University of Iowa in Iowa City has long been sacred writing grounds and home to one of the richest traditions in creative writing. Tennessee Williams and John Irving are among its alma mater.
“They have the writer’s workshop there. They have an undergraduate workshop, and I got in,” Cody said in this month’s Written By. “I focused mainly on poetry. I laugh about that now. I actually think it wound up helpful because as a poet you develop a certain efficiency with language that I think you use as a screenwriter.” (The entire article by Matt Hoey can be found at the Writer’s Guide of America’s website: www.wga.org/writtenby/writtenbysub.aspx?id=2693)
Though Cody couldn’t wait to get out of college she did earn a degree in media studies and was known for her excellent writing. And I believe that excellent writing will always be discovered wherever you live.
So over the course of this blog I will offer insights gleaned from my film school days, various workshops I attended and given, over 100 books read on writing and the creative process, as well as more than 20 years of experience as a video producer/director/writer (www.scottwsmith.com), and most importantly quotes from successful screenwriters.
Scott W. Smith
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