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“The former Buffalo Bills QB [Jim Kelly] has endured more pain, grief and disappointment than many nations, and it’s only getting worse.”
Rick Reilly
ESPN March 4, 2014

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
Andy Defresne in The Shawshank Redemption

Jim Kelly and his daughter at the hospital

Jim Kelly and his daughter at the hospital

Jim Kelly changed my life.

Indirectly—and I’ll explain in a minute—but now that he’s facing surgery tomorrow for an aggressive form of cancer I wanted you to keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Kelly’s not a screenwriter, but once said he’d written the script for his life that included coaching his son Hunter one day. But Hunter was born with a genetic disorder and died in 2005 when he was 8-years-old. Jim and his wife Jill founded Hunter’s Hope Foundation in honor of their son.  In times like that I’m always reminded of the words of Roy Hobbs in The Natural, “My life didn’t turn out the way I expected.”

To one degree or another that’s true of every person who’s ever lived on this planet. I think that’s why stories dealing with struggle are so universal. Our culture celebrates power and strength, but it seems to be in moments of weakness where real and lasting impact takes place.

“His ability to lose, and lose big, and yet handle it, is so impressive to me. This has all made him an even better person than before, more patient even. It’s made him want to help even more people than before.”
Jill Kelly on her husband Jim who had part of his jaw removed last year due to cancer

For those of you who don’t follow football, Kelly is a member of the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame and from 1986 to 1996 was the quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.

My path crossed Kelly’s in August of 1981 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. I was a first year football walk-on and Kelly was the starting QB. I was so low on the totem pole that as practices first started I didn’t even have a “U” on my helmet. That’s the truth. But I did have “Smith” written on tape across top front of my helmet, and perhaps the only conversation I ever had with Kelly was when he said, “Hey, Smitty” and he threw me the ball to warm his arm up before practice.

For Kelly who would later be the only QB to take a team to the Super Bowl four years in a row, that moment probably doesn’t make his highlight memory reel. But if you’re a first year walk-on and you’re catching a football from the starting QB you don’t forget that moment. But that’s not how Kelly changed my life.

In high school I was an all-conference football player but lacked size, grades, and about anything else that would make a college offer me a scholarship. But I still had this desire to play major college football. I went to a community college for a year to improve my GPA and also worked at a small newspaper as a sports writer and photographer. So as I looked for a college that had a good passing program (and a solid film school) I landed on Miami as the perfect fit.

Because Miami has won more national championships in football than any other school in the last 30 years, people forget before Kelly led the Hurricanes to a Peach Bowl victory after the 1980 season—Miami hadn’t even won a bowl game since 1966. I liked the direction head coach Howard Schnellenberger was taking the team and dreamed about catching passes from Kelly who was fresh off being the offensive MVP in that Peach Bowl.

So to a certain extent I lived that dream on a very, very micro level. I often joke that I had a the shortest career of any player who ever wore a Hurricane uniform in a game. I dressed out for exactly one JV football game playing exactly zero downs—and then dislocated my shoulder in practice, had surgery, and walked-off. (Didn’t even make the team picture that was taken later in the season.) About the only other thing Kelly and I have in common is we both had shoulder surgery done by the team physician Dr. Kalback.

But if it hadn’t been for Kelly I don’t think I would have chosen the University of Miami. So that’s indirectly how he changed the course of my life. With playing football out of my system I decided to head to California to finish film school, met my wife, etc. etc, etc.

So if you’ve enjoyed any aspect of this blog over the years–know that Jim Kelly played a part in all of this. There’s a wake behind great leaders where they have a positive impact that they are totally unaware of.

Please keep he and his family in your thoughts and prayers because he’s one of the good guys. And consider donating to Hunter’s Hope as they seek to alleviate the pain children are suffering from Krabbe Disease.

P.S. When Kelly was first drafted by the Buffalo Bills he says he actually cried, because he did not want to play in a cold weather climate. And before he joined the Bills, he played in the USFL in the Astrodome for the Houston Gamblers. But as the USFL folded he reluctantly joined the Bills. Lesson there is sometimes when we go to the places we don’t want to go magical things can happen.

Related Posts:
Screenwriting Quote #19 (Kurt Warner)
Screenwriting and the Super Bowl
Screenwriitng Quote #29 (William Blinn) Screenwriter of Brian’s Song about Gale Sayers

Update 4/8/14: Doctors decided they could treat Kelly this time with radiation and so this week he begin radiation treatment five days a week for the next seven weeks for his skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma).

Scott W. Smith

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“Here’s an indication of how burdensome student loans have become: About one-third of millennials say they would have been better off working, instead of going to college and paying tuition.”
Halah Touryalai, Forbes

Calvin Johannsen of The Visual House is one of those creative hybrids who’s a producer/director/shooter/editor as well as being quite proficient in motion graphics. And to top it off he’s got a super sense of business—and he’s still a few years shy of being 30 years old. (You didn’t meet many people like that 10 years ago, but ‘welcome to the jungle’ in 2014.)

He’s also part of a team of people behind the documentary Broke, Busted, & Disgusted about the growing problem of college student loans.  They are in the process of raising funding via an Indiegogo campaign. Here’s a 10 question Q&A I did with Calvin where you’ll not only learn about his project, but he’ll give you some crowdfunding advice for your next project.

Scott W. Smith: Where did this idea of BB & D come from?

Calvin Johannsen: The idea was concepted by Adam Carroll over a couple years ago. Adam was traveling the country, speaking to college students about financial literacy. While out delivering his message, he discovered a couple common problems amongst college students. Problem #1: they had no idea how much their student loan payments would be after graduating. Problem #2: the debt load students were carrying in order to obtain an undergraduate degree.

Adam approached me with his vision of a documentary, and from our initial conversations, we begun putting plans in place.

SWS: What do you think the chief problem is with college loans these days?

CJ: I think it’s a tossup, a two-fold problem. The ease of accessibility to loans (with skyrocketing interest rates) and the unconscious decision for high-school graduates borrowing tens-of-thousands of dollars without a plan, to get a higher-education, with the dream of obtaining the good life.

What they don’t realize, is they’re often signing up to run up a mountain with a boulder on their back after graduation. They’ll spend the next 10-15 years paying back their astronomical debts. By doing so, they end up serving their debt, instead of their life’s mission.

SWS: Can you give one or two examples from your research or interviews about the increasing burden of loans on graduates?

CJ: I’ll give you something better… Here’s an entire list of articles circulating about this exact issue. So we’re not the only ones who know it’s important to talk about it: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsUP10YELY2QdEVWeU5mX2otX2xpbExNRzQ4VWN2UXc&usp=sharing

SWS: What’s your end goal with BB & D?

CJ: To create the must-see film for every soon-to-be, or current college students, that educates them about their current predicament, and create an awakening amongst them. We want all students to be making conscious decisions, instead of blindly signing on the dotted line. Having more educated and informed young professionals being in a lot less debt, is in the best interest of our nation (and economy).

We’re trying to avoid a mortgage crisis 2.0.

SWS: Tell me about your own college experience.

CJ: I went to college simply because it was the next step after high-school (unless I wanted to be stuck on the farm). I had no real plan, or goal. I didn’t even know what I wanted to be, or what I wanted to do. Honestly, I had no idea what it was costing me to partake in the experience. Year after year, with the guidance of my parents, I kept borrowing money.

It wasn’t until late in my Junior year did the fog began to clear, and I begun conceptualizing what I would like to do someday. Which was to serve the world with my ability to tell stories, and work for myself by doing so.

SWS:  So you’re not anti-college? After all if you hadn’t gone to college and  learned about production you probably wouldn’t be making this documentary.

CJ: I speak on behalf of our whole team when I say we are very pro-education, but not at the expense of your dreams. College, higher education as a whole, is very vital into developing into a professional. That’s why public universities and colleges were established in this country. However, I think education is beginning to take a backseat, while the whole system (government, lenders, institutions, etc) focus on profits instead.

Every student is a profit opportunity. At the surface, the government is raking in about $50 billion a year off interest — and we wonder why student loan debt has accumulating to be over 1.2 trillion dollars ($800 billion dollar increase in the last decade).

SWS: Why did you decide to go the crowdfunding direction to raise money?

CJ: Crowdfunding is built around being social. It’s a great avenue to share your vision and message with people. We want to build awareness around our mission, and see who else rallies behind it. It’s been a vehicle to instantly build relationships, and get feedback instantaneously about our project. A great way to get the conversation started. It’s been crucial in landing some very important conversations to move our documentary forward.  

SWS: You’ve put together a nice campaign with videos. How much time have you and others spent on this already?

CJ: An ungodly amount. Thankfully we have the pleasure to execute ideas quickly. We spent a couple months gearing up for the campaign, writing, shooting, re-writing, re-shooting the campaign video, and building the page. We’ve built an incredible team around the project. Everyday at least three more ideas are generated, while only maybe one can be executed. It’s all been very fast, challenging, and exhilarating. But at the end of the day, doing this type of work, doesn’t feel like work. We leave feeling more energized than when we begin in the mornings. When you’re serving a higher purpose, work no longer becomes work.

SWS: You’ve raised over $15,000 so far what have you learned about this process? What can you pass on to others who are attempting to raise money for their projects.

CJ: So far we’ve raised $15,849 — a bit behind our goal…but keeping our fingers crossed we’ve got some big fish and initiatives we’re attempting to reel in. My advice would be to build up commitment and awareness a month before the campaign launches, that way upon launching, you have instant momentum. We had success with chaos the first two weeks, but in order for us to reach our goal, we had to focus in tightly, gather a support team, align our vision, and work in unison. My overall advance would be to build a team that works in unison — each member working efficiently and effectively utilizing their core strengths. Delegate duties, and don’t be stepping on toes.

One other tip is to develop what I call a 100-list. That’s 100 people you can pick up the phone, tell them about your project, and request contribution (family and friends). Crowdfunding still relies on very personal relationships…so leverage them. We’ve had each team member create their own list.

SWS:  What’s the distribution plan once you complete the film?

CJ: We plan to follow in the path (and successes) of documentaries like “Indie Game”, “Sound City”, “I’m Fine, Thanks” and “#standwithme”, and begin with self distribution. We’ll build an audience, and form partnerships to get our film in front of as many people as possible. But, we’ll also aim for some festivals, with hopes of gaining recognition, and landing a traditional distribution deal.

Our primary question we’re currently asking is, “How do we get every high school kid to see this film?”. We may not have the exact answer right now, but at least we’re asking the right questions, which will hopefully lead us to the right answer(s).

And here’s a video where Calvin video interviewed realtor Mark Charter who gave $5,000 to the Broke, Busted and Disgusted documentary.

Scott W. Smith

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Here’s the micro documentary personal project I’ve been working on this month about the Tinker Field baseball park where the Minnesota Twins held spring training until 1990. It may not be the Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field—but for many people this place holds a lot of memories.

This is my memory…

Scott W. Smith

 

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Personal Project (Part 6)

So my personal project on Tinker Field in Orlando is on track to launch tomorrow. It’s been a lot of work for a 3 minute video but also very satisfying. And like most projects it’s been a combination of overcoming obstacles and a heavy dose of problem solving.

And while it was a personal project that I produced, directed, wrote, shot and edited—there was a mini team that helped me be able to make this micro documentary/ love letter to a historic baseball park where I saw my first professional baseball game.

There were people with the City of Orlando (Mayor Buddy Dyer, Cassandra Lafser and Guy A. Meyers) that paved the way and allowed me to shoot in Tinker Field that is now essentially a construction zone. There was editorial consulting with Josh McCabe in LA/Denver, and Terry Briegel did graphics and color correction.

Then there were a lot of special thanks for people who helped with everything from supplying old baseball cards to helping contact people; Kitty Cooper Kovic, Larry Kosto, John Hanvey, Daniel and Jodi Kenna, Julie Smith, Tony Williams, Mark Joseph and Jake McCready.

Musically I had Joseph Oharek play a version of Take Me Out to the Ballpark and tapped into to Moby’s site for independent filmmakers, Moby Gratis.

Scott W. Smith

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Personal Projects (Part 5)

Since my last post address some of the changes photographers specifically in newspaper and magazine publications have faced since the 2009 Presidential election, that is a nice segue into revisiting Vincent Laforet and his Reverie video.

That video was viewed by more than 2 million people in a two week period in 2008 and put Laforet in the spotlight. But in certain circles he was already quite well known.

In 2002, he was a Pulitzer Prize awarded photographer on staff with the New York Times—and he wasn’t even 30 years old yet. The future of photography in newspapers didn’t seem bright to him and he wanted to move into directing but needed a demo reel.

He found a way to get his hands on a Canon 5D before they were released and shot Reverie over the weekend. He had his demo reel, his first client, and set-off a trend of shooting with DSLRs that hasn’t slowed down since.

He wrote the post  Behind the Scenes Video on his blog.

He quit his job with the NY Times and moved to LA where he is a Director/DP.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“If you don’t like change, you going to like irrelevance worse.”
General Eric Shineski, former U.S. Army Chief of Staff

Please allow me to tell you a story about the good ole days—way back in 2008. It’s hard to believe that a mere six years ago dinosaurs walked the earth. But their sudden demise is why personal projects are so important.

In the months leading up to the 2009 Presidential election I was living in Iowa and hired to shoot video of various presidential candidates. (Including the eventual election winner, President Obama.)   It was an exciting time to be around the Iowa caucuses because not only was it the first major electoral event in picking the next President of the United States—but back in ‘o8 both the Democrats and the Republicans were choosing their party’s candidate.

After one event in Waterloo, Iowa that had heavy national press coverage I met a photographer in a restaurant bar who was picking selects and uploading them to his publication. He missed the ole days when he would fly somewhere and all he had to do was take photos and either overnight the film or drop the rolls at a lab.

The odds  are good that he doesn’t work for a magazine or a newspaper now because as high-speed internet access became widely accessible, more and more people received their news information online. That resulted in less magazines and newspapers subscriptions, which resulted in less revenue for companies, which resulted in less newspaper and magazine jobs, which meant less photographers.

(Sidenote: The Chicago Tribune just reported that the 75 year old Chicago-based “Calumet Photographic Inc. filed for bankruptcy yesterday and abruptly closed.” Last year the Chicago Sun-Times laid off their entire full time photography staff. And just last week the Orlando Sentinel announced they were replacing their staff photographers in favor of using  “mobile photojournalists” who are more “videocentric” using not DSLR but iPhones and iPads. )

And back in 2008 that particular photographer saw the storm coming because his publication wanted him to start shooting video. Today newspapers and magazines have hybrid creatives who not only shoot still photos, but shoot video and edit them as well—and who pitch stories and write articles.

Actually, living in Iowa at that time I saw hybrids years before hybrids were cool.  On my Tinker Field personal project I’m set to finish next week I produced, directed, wrote, edited, recorded audio,  shot the footage and did the photography. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a long list of special thanks, but the heavy lifting was on my shoulders.

If I could go back to 2008 I’d tell that photographer complaining about picking selects and uploading them to his publication that the world was getting ready to shift and if he wasn’t ready to retire he better get ready to adapt.

Major shifts like this happened in the movie industry in the late 20s and early 30s when silent movies gave way to sync sound, in the 50s when TV gave people less a reason to go to movies theaters, and today because of the Internet. Each transition period opens and closes opportunities.

Personal projects give you an opportunity to grow and challenge yourself. I don’t know what the result of my personal project will be but it’s been a fulfilling process. And aside from the actual production itself I’ve met some interesting people along (and reconnected with some other people as well) and I’ll talk more about that component of personal projects on Monday.

P.S.—If you’re a writer just stepping into the editing side of things—or if you’re in middle school or middle management–take a good look at FCP X. My professional tech friends say that it may not be the best editing system out there (and one I don’t use yet), but the economics of it are going to drive business to use it versus  the Adobe Premiere Cloud. Of course, if Black Magic, buys AVID then they might take over the production world.

Scott W. Smith

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“I’ve wanted to make these kinds of profiles for a long time. And I think it’s kinda the future of what I do.”
Dustin Cohen

It was a video about 91-year-old shoemaker Frank Catafumo that put Dustin Cohen  on my radar. Cohen is a commercial photographer who started his Made in Brooklyn project in 2012 with a video called THE VIOLIN MAKER followed by THE WATCH MAKER and THE JEWELRY MAKER.

I recall reading a couple of months ago on PDN (Photo District News) how Cohen created these as personal projects and they have landed him much work.

http://vimeo.com/39194241

Scott W. Smith

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