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“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening—and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”
Arnold Palmer

“Golf is a bond that has drawn us all together and created a special fraternity among celebrities of show business, sports and politics.”
Bob Hope

Palmer

 

When I stopped by the Golf Channel headquarters today it was hard to miss the empty spot up front dedicated for Arnold Palmer. The 84-year-old golfing legend was busy with his duties up in Augusta, Georgia where The Masters Tournament is being held.

Last month The Hollywood Reporter wrote about a three-part documentary on the life and career of Arnold Palmer that is the first project by Golf Channel Films. (The doc begins airing Sunday night 4/13/14.)

“The Palmer documentary has been over a year in the making and will include more than 100 interviews with Palmer’s friends, peers and fans including President Clinton, Kurt Russell, Herm Edwards, Bob Costas, Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus. The film is produced by veteran NBC Sports and Olympics producer Israel DeHerrera and written by 18-time Emmy winner Aaron Cohen.”
Marisa Guthrie
The Hollywood Reporter 3/5/14

Part of what’s made Palmer so iconic over the years is he helped grow the game via television and his entertainment connections. Aside from  televised tournaments where he battled Jack Nicklaus, he also appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson numerous times and also in the Bob Hope movie Call Be Bwana (1963). Hope was an avid golfer—he once said he told jokes to pay for his greens s fee—and he was a long time friend of Palmer.

Here’s another side of Palmer that you may not know about. Here’s a 3-minute video for The Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children made by Jon Strong that tied for Best In Show at this year’s Addy Awards in Orlando.

Scott W. Smith

 

“Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion.”
Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) in Caddyshack

Bill Murray

Since today is the first day of the 2014 Masters Tournament  in Augusta, Georgia I’ll use that to jump ship from blogging about baseball to blogging about golf (all connected to movies and filmmaking in one way or another).

Today I visited the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida and  a couple hundred yards away in World Golf Village is where I I took the above photo (of a photo cutout of actor Bill Murray) at Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurant. (Bill Murray opened the restaurant in 2001 with his five brothers.)

“[The movie Caddyshack] is really a gripping tale of the Murray brothers’ first experiment with employment. It suited us. You didn’t have to punch a clock; that failure would come later.  No dress code; you could work barefoot. No age limit, no income tax. I want this job now.”
Actor Bill Murray
Cinderella Story; My Life in Golf

Related Post: Harold Ramis on ‘Caddyshack’

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 “If I were given a thousand years to live, I wouldn’t run out of topics in American history.”
Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns

“In the country of baseball, men rise to glory in their twenties and their early thirties—a garland briefer than a girl’s, or at least briefer than a young woman’s—with an abrupt rise, like scaling a cliff, and then the long meadow slopes downward.”
Dock Ellis in the Country of Baseball by Donald Hall with Dock Ellis

When I heard filmmaker Ken Burns speak Monday night at Rollins College he used a phrase I’d never heard before—”emotional archaeology.” He said that’s what he aims for in his work which includes the documentaries The Civil War, Jazz, and Baseball.

Burns added that “Who are we?” and “Where are we going?”are key questions he tries to answer in his work. Others words that he said his work often addresses is “race,”  “space,” and the shared experience of life as a struggle.

And just when you thought I wasn’t going to write about baseball anymore I have at least one more baseball-themed post to sneak in—the new documentary No, No: A Dockumentary (2014) on Major League pitcher Dock Ellis who in 1970 threw a no-hitter while on LSD.

Jeff Radice directed the film and I hope to catch it tomorrow night (4/10/14) at the Florida Film Festival. Judging from the trailer the doc seems to cover race, space, and life as a struggle. You know, emotional archaeology.

Related post: 40 Days of Emotions 

Scott W. Smith 

“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

 

“In the United States words are medicine.”
Filmmaker Ken Burns

“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of American had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game and do it by watching first some high-school or small town teams.”
French-born American historian Jacques Barzun

Tonight I’m going to go hear filmmaker Ken Burns speak at Rollins College. So while I’m on a string of  writing about baseball and filmmaking this seems like a good time to touch on the PBS doc Baseball; A Film by Ken Burns (1994), and his 2010 follow-up with Lynn Novick, Baseball; The Tenth Inning.

One of the things that’s addressed in those docs is baseball heroes and their flaws. Gambling and drug use being two of the the flaws that haunt some of baseball’s greatest legends.

“Loving contradictions is saying you love life. All our heroes have dark sides. Only in modern media culture would heroism mean perfection. The Greeks have told us heroism is a negotiation between strength and weakness. That defines heroism.”
Ken Burns
Orlando Sentinel article by Hal Boedekker

P.S. While I’ve read that the patron saint(s) of baseball are Saint Sebastian and/or Saint Rita, I think Robert Clemente could be considered the modern-day saint of baseball. He was an National League, MVP and the first Latino baseball player inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. He died in 1972—just a year after being voted World Series MVP—when a plane he was in taking that was taking relief aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua crashed. Each year Major League Baseball picks a winner of the Roberto Clemente Award to the player “who demonstrates the values Clemente displayed in his commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others.”

Related posts:
Character Flaws 101 (Tip #30)
Ken Burns on 1+1=3
Filmmaking Quote #33 (Ken Burns)

Scott W. Smith

Here’s a baseball themed repost I wrote back in 2008 that seems fitting for this baseball themed run of posts connected to screenwriting:

“I’d wake up at night with the smell of the ball park in my nose, the cool of the grass on my feet… The thrill of the grass.”
Field of Dreams
Shoeless Joe Jackson

Yesterday I wandered over the Iowa state line into Omaha, Nebraska to watch the final game of the 2008 College World Series. The Georgia Bulldogs played the Fresno State Bulldogs.

That’s the first time in my life I’ve ever seen two teams play that have the same mascot. What are the odds?Probably a little worse than getting a script you’ve written made. Since every screenwriter is an underdog there are a few things every screenwriter can learn from the game of baseball.

In the end the Bulldogs from California won the school’s first ever baseball national championship. One sports announcer proclaimed it “one of the greatest stories in sports history.” I don’t know about that but those Fresno St. ‘dawgs were true underdogs. They lost 12 of their first 20 games and finished the regular season only 32-27 but somehow won when they needed to and ended up in the College World Series where they were ranked dead last.

No team had ever come from the last ranked team to win a national championship…until last night. As I said about this year’s Super Bowl, if it had of been a movie you would have said it was full of clichés. But everyone has a dream.

Before we get to screenwriting I want to go back to 2003 where Chris Moneymaker changed the face of poker playing when playing in his first tournament he began as an unknown and turned $39 into a $2.5 million winning purse.

“I got lucky along the way. I also bluffed a lot during this tournament, but somehow I got away with it.” 
Chris Moneymaker

The screenwriting equivalent may be Diablo Cody who won an Oscar for her first film script Juno. These are rare cases, and it is important to have a real understanding of how difficult it is to have a screenwriting career or even get one of your scripts made. But it’s also important to know that Hollywood needs good scripts because the Hollywood system needs good movies.

I found this little nugget of information in Joe Eszterhas’ The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood:
Director Phillip Noyce: “I realized that the Hollywood system–based as it is on the employment of branch offices all over the world promoting and selling movies–is totally dependent on a continual flow of product, and it’s been set up to promote that product into the hearts and minds of people all over the world. In essence, movies represent marketing opportunities for Hollywood.” 

That should encourage you in your writing. And keep in mind:

“The only essential requirement to launch a successful screenwriting career is a terrific script.”
Cynthia Whitcomb

The Fresno St. baseball team, Chris Moneymaker, and Diablo Cody are a group of talented people who were all considered underachivers before their breakthroughs. And what do you do until that breakthrough? You keep dreaming and you write scripts and continue to find key people to read your scripts.

When former baseball players Logan Miller and Noah Miller dream to play professional baseball failed they turned their attention to screenwriting and filmmaking. Once they wrote their first script they cornered actor Ed Harris at a film festival where he was receiving an award and he agreed to read the script. Last year that film, Touching Home (which they also directed and star in) was completed with Ed Harris playing the Logan brothers father.

Editor Walter Murch said this about the film:  “With its crisp photography, concise editing and excellent use of sound, I found Touching Home to be a thoughtful and emotional exploration of the forgotten corners of the American Dream.”

Driving back home today I made a slight detour to Winterset, Iowa which is where The Bridges of Madison County was shot and where John Wayne was born in a house not far from where Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep did scenes together in downtown Winterset.

And if that’s not enough, George Washington Carver lived in Winterset for a while where the former slave was encouraged to attend college which he did, both Simpson College and Iowa State Agricultural College where in 1891 he became their first black student and would go one to earn a Master’s degree before going on with many agricultural discoveries.

George Washington Carver and John Wayne are two more examples of coming from a small town before finding global success.

P.S. I noticed on TV’s at the stadium that Orel Hershiser was calling the game on ESPN. In my Cedar Falls office I have a signed baseball from Hershiser for a project I helped produce for his retirement celebration. It’s also worth noting, before Hershiser became a World Series MVP he played minor league ball in Clinton, Iowa and when he played for the LA Dodgers manger Tommy Lasorda gave him the nickname “Bulldog.”

I really don’t make this stuff up, you know?

Scott W. Smith

“The voicemail [saying I'd won the Nicholl Fellowship] was in between like 15 missed called from debt collectors.”
Screenwriter Stephanie Shannon

Once upon a time—way back in November 2012 (less than a year and a half ago)—a woman in her twenties decided it was time to write her first feature length script. That script (Queen of Hearts) written by Stephanie Shannon was just one of five scripts chosen by the 2013 Academy Fellowship in Screenwriting competition (out of the  7,241 scripts submitted) to win a $35,000 prize. Later in 2013, the script made The Black List. She’s now repped by CAA. And the script sold this year.

Home run. First script.

You know, I’ve often talked about the 10,000 hour rule and how it can take a screenwriter ten years to get any traction in their careers. Is Shannon an anomaly? Ah, no.

In Scott Myers’ excellent six part interview at Go Into The Story we learn that Shannon’s creative journey to success didn’t take 10 years—it took 15+ years.  And keep in mind, that as of right now she doesn’t have any features in theaters…or even shot yet.

But she’s still a great screenwriting success story–just not an overnight sensation that ever new screenwriter hopes they can emulate. So while it was Shannon’s first feature script here’s the behind the scene journey in bullet points and a few quotes:

* Shannon was an only child growing up in Dallas and would watch VHS  movies until the tape would wear out. In seventh grade she watches Schindler’s List and decides she want to be a director. (Let’s call it 13 years old.)

* In high school she not only took video production classes and shot games in such for community access stations, but in her junior and senior years of high school she got involved in a vocational career center where she “used to stay all night in the editing suites there, editing little movies for hours on end.” One of those movies, in a Texas statewide student competition, won Best of Show.

* She went to film school at NYU where she made several 16mm short films, editing them old school with “razors and tape” and Steenbeck flatbed editing machines.

* At NYU she did a study abroad in Prague where she made a 35mm short about Lewis Carroll who wrote Alice in Wonderland (and is also the subject of her Nicholl winning script).

*When she graduated from NYU she had just completed an education in what is considered historically considered one of the finest film programs in the world. And what that prepared her to do I’ll leave it up to her words to explain:

*After I graduated, I stayed in New York for five more years just doing any job I could find. When you graduate film school you’re like ‘What? They didn’t hand out Oscars at graduation? I guess I need to get a real job’. I did a lot of PAing on film sets: everything from commercials to indies to reality TV to big studio movies.”

* She spent two years working as an assistant at Brillstein Entertainment Partners that she considers her grad school education. She learned about the business side of the industry and read scripts (and thought she could write better scripts  than the ones she was reading).

* At 28 years old she moved to L.A. where she was able to work as an assistant with Brillstein in California, and friends put her in contact with working writers her own age who gave her advice and confidence that she could have a career as a writer.

* She began writing her first screenplay in that first year in L.A. in the morning, evenings, and on weekends away from her assisting job.

*When Myers ask any advice she had for aspiring writers Shannon said, “I think it’s important to just sit down and to do it. That was my biggest obstacle I had to overcome, was that it took me years to actually have the courage to sit down and believe that I could actually do it, and to put pen to paper.”

And that’s how Stephanie Shannon hit a home run. She’ll be 30 this October. It takes a little time sometimes. Actually, most of the time.

P.S. Shannon’s 15 year journey has similarities to Diablo Cody’s journey. Cody had been writing everyday since she was 12 and her Juno script sold when she was around 28.

Related Posts:
Beatles, Cody, King & 10,000 Hours
First Screenplay, Oscar—Precious

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

 

 

 

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