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“Storytellers broaden our minds: engage, provoke, inspire, and ultimately connect us.”
Robert Redford, Sundance Institute President and Founder

“It seemed like an age old story made new.”
Director Jessee Moss (on not Hercules, but his doc The Overnighters)

It’s really not a fair fight. The tag team of  Hercules and Lucy will be playing today in 6,762 theaters in the United States and The Overnighters (as far as I know) will be playing in just one theater—and a small one at that. It’s actually playing at microcinema—or minima—in Pepin, Wisconsin.

Pipin’s where I wish I could be tonight or tomorrow as The Overnighters plays in a theater that holds just 40 people. The Jessee Moss documentary on Williston, North Dakota won the  U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

How’s this for a logline? “Desperate, broken men chase their dreams and run from their demons in the North Dakota oil fields. A local Pastor risks everything to help them.”

Okay, maybe not a logline that wouldn’t excite WME Story Editor Christopher (The Inside Pitch) Lockhart and result in a movie that would open in 3,000+ theaters and find an international audience, but I look forward to seeing it eventually. You do know this blog is called Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places, don’t you? Williston, North Dakota qualifies as an unlikely place to make a film.

“Jesse Moss’ verite documentary about the impact of the oil boom in Williston, North Dakota on the local job market, and the controversial priest supporting the lives of the newcomers it attracts, contains one of the most remarkable examples of layered non-fiction storytelling to come along in some time.”
Eric Kohn, Indiewire review of The Overnighters after the movies Sundance viewing

The Overnighters really isn’t competing tonight against Hercules and Lucy (and I’m sure some talented screenwriters worked on both of those movies), I just wanted to give a shout-out to the Flyway Film Festival gang and its Executive Director Rick Vaicius as they celebrate the opening of their Flyway Minima tonight in a former ice cream shop near the banks of Lake Pepin. The only thing better than being at the opening night would be eating at the Harbor View Cafe in Pepin before going to the movie.

P.S. Don’t be surprised if Lucy beats Hercules at the box office this weekend. Remember that post I wrote earlier this week (‘What it means to be a screenwriter’) and how “Young Women Are The Hottest Box Office Demographic.” Showdown—Who will win at the box office—A female driven action film or a male driven action film? What are the chances they both do well and Dwayne Johnson and Scarlet Johansson end up in a film next year?

Related posts:
Postcard #17 (Lake Pepin)
The Perfect Logline
Christopher Lockhart Q&A (Part 1)
Screenwriting Quote #172 (Christopher Lockhart) 

Scott W. Smith

 

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“Movies aren’t intellectual, they’re emotional. And this one rang a bell…Movies at their best are about moments that you never, ever forget.”
Kevin Costner on Field of Dreams

The above NBC program aired yesterday and was shot last weekend in Dyersville, Iowa. It would be wrong (and maybe un-American) to have a blog title Screenwriting from Iowa and at least not mention the reunion. I don’t know if my production buddy Jon Van Allen took his 4 ton grip truck to Dyersville last weekend, but I think those are his Eco Punch lights in the photo below. (I grabbed these shots from his Facebook page when he was working the reunion for Major League Baseball.)

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Jon Van Allen and Bob Costas

 

P.S. Jon’s based in Iowa and has added to his IMDB credits working on a variety of feature and short films as a grip, gaffer, cameraman and job operator. And if you think Field of Dreams is only thing to come out of Iowa, the Van Allen belts and the NASA Van Allen Probes were named after Jon’s uncle—James Van Allen (1914-2006).

Related posts:
40 Days of Emotions
Field of Dreams Turns 20
J.D. Salinger 1919-2010
Screenwriting, Baseball and Underdogs (2.0)
Tinker Field: A Love Letter

Scott W. Smith

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‘Ida’

“Likely to remain the best movie of the year.”
John Anderson’s Newsday review of Ida

Yes, I’m recommending a black-and-white film about a nun and a judge in Communist-era Poland.”
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

If Ingmar Bergman and Horton Foote made a film together you’d go see it, right? (If you’re not familiar with either filmmaker just nod your head yes.) You wouldn’t be put off that it was a black and white film set in 1960s Poland—heck, you’d kinda expect that. Well, Bergman and Foote are both dead but thankfully writer/director Pawel Pawlikowski is alive to bring us Ida.

Pawlikowski directed the film from a script he wrote with Rebecca Lenkiwicz. I don’t really know anything about the origins of this movie, but I will say seeing it just after seeing The Immigrant last week personally made for the best back to back movie experiences I’ve had in 2 1/2 years.  In fact, both of those films have satisfied this year’s quota for excellence in cinema.

To learn more about the lighting of the Ida check out this link:

http://www.theasc.com/asc_blog/thefilmbook/2014/05/29/4-more-scenes-from-ida/

Related Posts:

Hugo & The Artist
Horton Foote (1916—2009)
One Swedes Major Impact on Cinema (Bergman)

Scott W. Smith

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The Immigrant is one of those rare, strikingly beautiful film experiences that transport you to another world.”
Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[The Immigrant] earns its dissonances. It’s richer than anything onscreen right now.”
David Edelstein
Vulture

In light of the extravaganzas X-Men:Days of Future Past and Godzilla pulling in $120 million over the weekend, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only voice in the wilderness talking about The Immigrant which is also in theaters now. This film works on every level you can demand of cinema. Directed by James Gray from a script he wrote with Ric Menello, the film stars Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix and Jeremy Renner.

At one point I’m pretty sure Phoenix was tapping into his inner-Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) from On the Waterfront. I don’t think The Immigrant will win 8 Oscars like the Elia Kazan/ Budd Schulberg/Malcolm Johnson 1954 classic film—but I imagine you’ll see it receive a few Oscar-nominations.

May 29, 2014 Update: “James Gray’s ‘The Immigrant’ is the best movie in theatres right now, a work of nuanced writing, eruptive emotion, and vast psychological complexity.”
Richard Brody
The New Yorker

Scott W. Smith

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“Someone told me some critics are not enthused about Blended. What?!! Unbelievable! … I know I could be upset, but I’m kind of enjoying the madness… Anyway, don’t worry about me, I’m lovin every minute and every aspect. It’s all a crazy wonderful ride!!”
Clare Sera (Co-screenwriter of Blended)
Facebook post 5/23/14

Imagine you’re from some unlikely place connected to Hollywood (say, Glasgow, Scotland) and dream of being a screenwriter in the United States. You dream of being paid to have name actors say lines you wrote. You dream of driving all around Los Angeles and seeing posters of your movie everywhere–with your name on it. You dream of walking the red carpet. You dream of watching your movie with total strangers in a theater. Can you imagine that?

That’s the short version of Clare Sera’s life. Yesterday the film Blended that she co-wrote with Ivan Menchell opened across the country starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. I’ve been tracking Clare’s Facebook posts the last couple of weeks and she’s been enjoying the ride.

I met her close to 20 years ago in Orlando when she was with the SAK Comedy Lab. I’m guessing she moved to L.A. about 15 years ago and among other things picked up acting roles (including The Princess Diaries directed by Garry Marshall), was part of the creative team that produced the Doritos commercial Sling Baby that was the top ad of the 2012 Super Bowl, and she wrote and directed an award-winning short film called Pie’n Burger. She’s worked on several produced scripts over the years, but I believe Blended is the first feature credit she’s received.

Clare is funny and talented and chipped away to have this moment the way a lot of writers do–through perseverance, patience and years and years— heck, decades and decades— of writing. Clare is also a giving person and as been a long-time mentor with WriteGirl which is a group that “promotes creativity, critical thinking, leadership skills to empower teen girls.”

She’s also taken the time to read a couple of my screenplays and I’ve always appreciated her direct and honest feedback.

Congrats Clare. It’s a long way from Glasgow to Hollywood—enjoy the madness.

And while Blended may not beat X-Men or Godzilla at the box office this weekend, or find much love from the top movie critics, those that have seen the film are giving favorable responses. And this is what the LA Times had to say about the Blended;

Though the film, directed by Frank Coraci (“The Wedding Singer”) and written by Ivan Menchell and Clare Sera, contains a somewhat protracted, will-they-or-won’t-they third act (two guesses — no, make that one — how Jim and Lauren end up), the story ultimately earns its feel-good stripes.”
Gary Goldstein review of Blended in the LA Times

Related post: Writing Killer Screenplays On screenwriter Bob DeRosa—another writer with Orlando roots and about Ashton Kutcher and Kathrine Heigl starring in a film he wrote, Killers.

May 29, 2014 update: While Blended in fact did not beat X-Men:Days of Future Past or Godzilla at the box office over the Memorial Day weekend it did beat everyone else coming in third. Blended also received an A- from audiences according to CinemaScore.

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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 “I would never write about someone who is not at the end of his rope.”
Stanley Elkin

I’ll round out a couple of weeks of movie related golf posts with a scene of a not so happy Adam Sandler character at the end of his rope. The comedy Happy Gilmore was a fictional story about a former hockey player who became a game changer in the world of golf and surged the sport’s popularity. The movie came out it 1996—the same year Tiger Woods became a professional golfer, who in reality became a game changer in the world of golf and surged the sport’s popularity.

While Happy Gilmore made $41 million dollars at the box office the year it came out, according to Forbes, Woods has been the highest paid athlete for 11 of the past 12 years. In fact, he’s personally made more that $41 million each year since 2002 and four times has had total yearly earnings of over $110 million.

And as a bonus here’s a video of some real pro golfers doing their best to do their best imitation of the Happy Gilmore swing;

P.S. The only professional golfer I could find with a screenwriting connection was Britney Hayes, she’s a rookie this year and studied theater and screenwriting at Bosie State.

Scott W. Smith

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“When Sofia Coppola, the director of Lost in Translation, sent me the script, she included a photo and said, ‘This is what I have in mind.’, It was Brad Pitt in an ad for espresso in a can, and he had the same grimace: ‘I can’t believe I’m selling this can of coffee.’, That influenced me when I had to do my own shtick.”
Bill Murray

When people think of actor Bill Murray and golf I imagine 99.99% of the time the movie Caddyshack comes to mind first. But there’s actually another movie that features Murray on a golf course—Lost in Translation (2003). Written and directed by Sophia Coppola, she received an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay. (Murray was also nominated for an Oscar. )

So once again tapping into the mystical side of golfing…

Related Posts:
Postcard #74 (Bill Murray)
Harold Ramis on ‘Caddyshack’
Murray, Miller & Mass Appeal (Tip #78)

Scott W. Smith

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Epiphany: A moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way.
Merriam-Webster definition 

“Inside each and every one of us is our one, true authentic swing. Something we was born with. Something that’s ours and ours alone. Something that can’t be learned… something that’s got to be remembered.”
Bagger Vance (Will Smith)
The Legend of Bagger Vance
Screenplay by Indiana-born Jeremy Leven, from a novel by Trinidad-born Steve Pressfield

There’s a mystical side to golf where, along with various sand traps and water hazards, there are inner demons to battle. Since it’s Good Friday, I thought a scene from The Legend of Bagger Vance would be fitting*. (I think it was screenwriter Gary Ross who said Seabiscuit is not a sports film about victory but about life’s struggle. (Same could be said about Rocky and many other fine films)

In this Robert Redford directed scene, Will Smith helps golfer Matt Damon work through his inner and outer struggles.

P.S. Steve Pressfield who wrote the novel The Legend of Bagger Vance: A Novel of Golf and the Game of Life is an avid golfer and counts screenwriting guru Robert McKee (Story) as his golfing buddy. He’s quoted as saying, “I’ve stolen concepts from Bob over and over and they’ve always worked. And he’s a pretty good golfer too.” He covers some of this ground in his book The War on Art. 

P.P.S. Bagger Vance screenwriter Jeremy Leven earned a graduate degree in Child Psychology from Harvard and was a fellow at Yale medical schools.

* In the book Gita on the Green: The Mystical Tradition Behind Bagger Vance by Steve Rosen (and a forward by Steve Pressfield) writes that Bagger Vance  was loosely based not  after the Christian tradition of light, but the ancient Hindu spiritual poem Bhagavad-Gita. But Pressfield is also Jewish so maybe we can say Bagger Vance, like The Shawshank Redemption and Groundhog Day, is more ecumenical than dogmatic.

Related posts:

Writing Quote #38 (Steve Pressfield)
“More Light”
‘Groundhog Day’ And Cheap Therapy
Screenwriting Quote #171 (Garry Marshall) Audiences like to watch characters whose lives change for the better.”
Screenwriting and Slavery to Freedom

Scott W. Smith

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“I think people trying to get into the spotlight are much more interesting than people in the spotlight. That’s why I think Tin Cup is a really well conceived and executed movie, because it’s about a guy who’s trying to get there. And when he gets there, he doesn’t know how to stay there. I think stories about movie stars or great athletes are almost always boring.”
Ron Shelton
Interview with Jon Zelazny

There’s more than one golf scene in Tin Cup (1996) because the movie is about a golf pro. Also thrown into the mix is not only competition on the golf course between Kevin Costner and Don Johnson, but they compete for the affections of Rene Russo.

Directed by Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) from a script by John Norville and  Shelton.

Scott W. Smith

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“There’s kind of a sports world and a filmmaking world and there’s not too much overlap in there.”
Maclain Way 
Co-director, The Battered Bastards of Baseball

 “[Baseball is] the greatest game that’s ever been invented, period, full stop.”
Filmmaker Ken Burns
Orlando Sentinel interview by Alicia DelGallo

The Battered Bastards of Baseball documentary debuted to an enthusiastic audience at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  I haven’t see the film yet, but I believe the main character is Bing Russell, the head coach of the rouge Portland Mavericks —who was also actor Kurt Russell’s father, and the grandfather of the film’s directors Chapman and Maclain Way.

“There’s a direct correlation between what the Mavericks were and what Sundance is. The system ain’t going to finance or distribute your movie unless you’re connected to a major studio. You might make your movie, but no one’s going to see it. What Robert Redford has done is give people a place to play. And that’s exactly what my dad did with independent baseball. He gave all these outsiders the opportunity to play.”
Actor Kurt Russell (who played minor league baseball in El Paso, Texas and briefly for the Portland Mavericks)
The Guardian article by Xan Brooks7785920_orig

I couldn’t find a trailer of the movie, but I did find this Q&A with the filmmakers at Sundance.

Related post: “Don’t try to compete with Hollywood”—Ed Burns

P.S. Kurt Russell’s nephew, Matt Franco, not only played in the Major Leagues from 1995-2003, but he also played for the minor league team the Orlando Cubs— who played their games at Tinker Field. And for those of you who missed it a couple of weeks ago I featured Tinker Field in a micro doc I finished last month.

Scott W. Smith

 

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