“There was absolutely no pressure on me because I was just sitting in Minnesota writing for my own edification.”
Diablo Cody on writing Juno
Happy 35th birthday Diablo Cody.
If you’re fairly new to this blog you may not know that a huge impetus for starting this blog back in 2008 was reading and hearing interviews with a then unknown Cody just as her first film Juno hit the theaters.
“The internet is a miraculous things. Just share as much as you can, self-publish, blog, podcast whatever you need to do. Just make sure you are not withholding your gifts from the world. Because you have so many opportunities now….We’re in a new frontier.”
Knowing that she went to school in Iowa and wrote Juno while living in Minneapolis and said various versions of the above quote propelled me to launch this blog on January 22, 2008 after I saw Juno in a theater in Cedar Falls, Iowa. That year she walked away with an Oscar in Hollywood for her script and I walked away with a Regional Emmy (Advanced Media) in Minneapolis for my blog.
I thought of Cody this week when I watched a video of screenwriter Shane Black (Lethal Weapon) and heard this comment:
“If you want to write or direct you kinda have to go to Los Angeles, I don’t really know anybody who’s done it from here.”
Shane Black giving a talk to students in Minneapolis
Now I love this whole Shane Black revival going on and think I’ll pull some quotes from him next week. But what’s ironic about that quote is it appears that talk was given around 2005 after his released of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. (The video was just uploaded last month but there is no mention of Iron Man 3.) Juno was released in 2007, meaning that around the time Black was making his comment Cody was sitting at a Starbucks in Crystal, Minnesota writing her first script.
A script that would not only get sold, get produced, make $230 million at the box office, but bring her an Oscar.
“I don’t know when I’ve heard a standing ovation so long, loud and warm.”
Roger Ebert writing about Juno after its screening at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival
Diablo Cody is a Cinderella screenwriting story if there ever was one. And, yes, she did move to Los Angeles and just finished directing her first feature Paradise. But I think it’s important to point out that she did it after establishing herself as a writer. As I’ve pointed out before, she had been writing poems, short stories and such everyday since she was 12, got her degree in Media Studies at the University of Iowa, started a blog, wrote for City Pages, and had a book published. That Oscar Award was earned on the back of 15 years worth of writing.
And Minneapolis wasn’t a one shot wonder. The next year Nick Schenk had a script he wrote in a bar called Gran Torino become Clint Eastwood’s biggest box office success. Also, in 2005, screenwriter Bill True from Minneapolis had his first feature produced.) All of this led Ken Levine to (a little tongue in cheek) write in 2008:
“Aspiring screenwriters always ask what’s the best way to break into the Hollywood? I say move to Minnesota.”
Writer Ken Levine (Frasier, MASH, Cheers)
How to sell a screenplay by drinking in a bar
So there were a few changes between 2005 and 2008. And now 2005 seems like a 100 years ago. Steven Spielberg made a prediction this week that the movie industry was ready for an ‘“implosion.” Who knows what that all means? But this blog celebrates not only where various writers come from, but what filmmakers around the world are doing today in a fast changing business. If the film business as we know it does implode, something else will rise up out of that rubble. (Just like Tony Stark and Shane Black both did in Iron Man 3.)
“I think that the Internet is going to effect the most profound change on the entertainment industries combined. And we’re all gonna be tuning into the most popular Internet show in the world, which will be coming from some place in Des Moines. We’re all gonna be on the Internet trying to find an audience.”
(Steven Spielberg in interview with Katie Couric on the NBC Today Show in 1999/ From the post Screenwriting Outside L.A. 101)
My guess is ten years from now there will still be a place called Hollywood that makes movies. Big movies. But there will also be a lot more people following the likes of Jeff Nichols in Austin, Tyler Perry in Atlanta, Billy Corben in Miami, and Edward Burns in New York—finding their own niche markets and telling stories they want to tell.
And ten years from now Shane Black and Diablo Cody will still be telling stories. They are proven talent and both proven resilient. (Both have received their share of criticism.) Think of Black as Iron Man and Cody as the Woman of Steel.