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Posts Tagged ‘Field of Dreams’

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

In light of quoting Secretariat screenwriter Mike Rich this week (Screenwriting Quote #145Mike Rick & Hobby Screenwriting) it would be hard to look at the list of films he’s written and not see that there is a thread of hope and redemption in all of them.

“It’s very, very hard to get a movie made. Quadruple or quintuple that degree of difficulty when your movie is about endless grim horribleness. If there is no spiritual uplift at the end , the reader is going to heave the script into the fireplace and cackle as it burns. Why should the audience suffer along with the character only for it to have been in vain?…Let the reader end on a note of hope or redemption.”
William M. Akers
Your Screenplay Sucks
page 15

The themes of hope and/or redemption aren’t limited to Disney films or more overtly spiritual films. Here is a short list in a mix of genres and old and new films that I’d put in the category;

The Shawshank Redemption
Casablanca
On the Waterfront
Seabiscuit
Juno

The African Queen
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Toy Story

Jaws
Tender Mercies
Field of Dreams
Erin Brockovich
Rocky

Rain Man
The Natural
Tootsie
Saving Private Ryan
An Officer & a Gentleman
Jerry Maguire
Pieces of April

It’s an easy list to come up with because those are some of my favorite films. It’s also a list shows that themes of hope & redemption are often popular with audiences, the Academy and critics. Sure getting a film made is hard, but what are the odds that your film resonates with audiences, the Academy and critics?(There are reasons universal themes are called universal.)

And on one level every screenwriter hopes the script they are working on will be produced and find an audience and will redeem the time spent working on their craft. (Even the edgy, indie, non-mainstream screenwriter working on the most nihilistic script ever written shares the same desire.) May hope & redemption fill your writing career and your life.

Scott W. Smith

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Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
I say, trouble right here in River City.
Ya Got Trouble. lyrics from The Music Man

There’s an Iowa kind of special
Chip-on-the-shoulder attitude.
Iowa Stubborn, lyrics from The Music Man

This weekend I went to see the Cedar Falls Community Theatre production of The Music Man. I had watched the movie before but had never seen the play. It was an overall great experience.

The story takes place in fictitious River City, Iowa which was inspired by Mason City, Iowa where the author of The Music Man, Meredith Willson, was raised. The Music Man first opened on Broadway in 1957 and won five Tony Awards and went on to be performed 1,375 times on its first Broadway run. (There have been two revivals of the play on Broadway, 1980 & 2000.) The film premiered in Mason City and today if you go there you can tour Willson’s boyhood home and visit The Music Man Square museum which celebrates Mason City’s musical tradition.

(As a sidenote, Mason City had a part in what Don McLean called “the day the music died.” In 1959, Buddy Holly and three others took off from the Mason City airport and shortly afterwards during a snow storm their plane crashed in a field eight miles away killing all four.)

Willson was actually nominated for two Oscar awards in his career, though neither were for his work on The Music Man, but rather for The Little Foxes (Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic Picture) and the classic Chaplin film, The Great Dictator (Best Music, Original Score.) In 1958, the music from The Music Man beat out West Side Story to win a Grammy  Award (Best Original Cast Album).

The original play The Music Man starred Robert Preston as con man Professor Harold Hill. He won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical and also starred in the 1962 movie. The local production here starred Gary Kroeger who was a writer/performer on Saturday Night Live between 1982-1985. I agree with the people who saw the play and know Kroeger (who lives here now)— it was a role made for him. Some people even remember when he had the lead in the same play back when he went to high school here. His co-star in the play is Kristin Teig Torres, who can be seen on the demo reel at RiverRun.tv from a project we shot a couple years ago.

And while I’ve been to plays in large theaters in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles there is something special to walking eight blocks from your home to downtown Cedar Falls to have dinner, and then watch a play in a restored 100 year old theatre. It’s nice to sit close enough to see the faces of actors you know who are performing words and songs written by someone who was raised an hour and a half away, knowing that that play has been performed and entertained people all over the world for more than 50 years.

So before the Field of Dreams, The Bridges of Madison Country, and Sleeping with the Enemy there was The Music Man to pave the way for future stories set in the quintessential heartland.

By the way, Nancy Price, who wrote the novel Sleeping with the Enemy, was at the performance Friday night which added a little extra reminder that every once in a while something other than corn comes out of the state of Iowa.

So wherever you live check out the community theater in your area. There’s magic and talent in community theaters all over this country. (I hear even Charlie Sheen is getting into the community theatre spirit by volunteering his time to work with a quaint small town in Colorado.) I think as films become less and less expensive to make you will not only see a growing regional film movement, but one that is the equivalent of community theater. Keep in mind that our local community theater raised $1.2 million to renovate a historic theater a few years ago, so there are people and businesses ready and willing to invest in the local arts community.

Oh, and speaking of The Music Man, remember a little kid named Ronny who played Winthrop Paroo in the 1962 movie? Hard to forget him singing, “O the wells Fargo wagon is a’comin’ down the road, O please let be for me.” He went on to act in a few more productions such as The Andy Griffith Show, American Graffiti and Happy Days. These days that young Oklahoma-born actor  is more well-known as the director Ron Howard.

On Saturday in Chicago he’ll be honored for a Career Achievement Award at the Chicago International Film Festival. And what a career it’s been—Apollo 13, Cocoon, Parenthood,  Splash, Frost/Nixon (Oscar Nomination), and two-Oscars wins for A Beautiful Mind (Best Director, Best Picture).

* The Music Man photo taken by Bill Sikula. More shots at www.facebook.com/osterregent

Scott W. Smith


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“There’s something magical about this place.”
Field of Dreams Visitor

If you’re in the market for a traditional Iowa farmhouse with a white picket fence, 193 acres, a two car garage and one baseball field used in the movie Field of Dreams—you’re in luck. Yesterday, it was announced that the field of dreams is for sale for $5.4 million.

The real estate bust in parts of the country like Las Vegas, Southern California and Arizona is pretty bad. I’ve read that 40% of homeowners in Florida owe more on their homes than they are worth. Foreclosures continue to climb. But Iowa has been spared from much of those problems because they never experienced a bubble in the first place. Growth here is like corn—slow and steady.

I live in Cedar Falls, Iowa about an hour and a half away from the field of dreams so I don’t really know the housing market there, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that $5.4 million is the most well-known and expensive house & property on the market in Dyersville, Iowa.

But while it is listed as a one-of-a kind property, I have to admit the annual 65,000 tourists that are attracted to the field of dreams pales in comparison to Graceland. (And, of course, those visitors do buy t-shirts and artwork which provides a nice income stream to keep your John Deere tractors running.)

Here’s my dream, that some wealthy benefactor (and longtime Screenwriting from Iowa reader) would buy the property and donate the house to serve as the iconic global headquarters for Screenwriting from Iowa. I’m not real interested in maintaining the ball field or farming the land. But I am open to hosting writing and acting workshops with Diablo Cody and Kevin Costner in the machine shed by the corn bib.

(For new readers, the Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter, Diablo Cody, went to college at the University of Iowa. Same school, by the way, that W.P. Kinsella (who wrote the novel that became the movie Field of Dreams) happened to attend. Check out the post The Juno-Iowa Connection. And keep an eye open for a change of address.)

Scott W. Smith

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“My philosophy is that if you do something good, it’s got a shot. If you want to do something that’s down the middle, the line forms on the right.”
T Bone Burnett

In a Los Angeles Times article titled The true saga behind ‘Crazy Heart,’, Randy Lewis writes about the relationship between T Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton who both provided original music on the film Crazy Heart.

Burnett toured with Bob Dylan in the 70s and is a 10-time Grammy winner including his work on the soundtrack for the Coen brothers film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? The L.A. Times article mentions how both Burnett and Bruton spent time on the road as musicians often do. Part of what is said to give authenticity to the singer Jeff Bridges plays in Crazy Heart is the music that Bruton and Burnett bring to the soundtrack. Burnett recounts a memory from life on the road:

“I was in a motel once called, I think, the Blackhawk Inn, somewhere in Iowa, and it turned out it was the motel that Cary Grant had died in. It was like, wait a minute — Cary Grant didn’t die in this motel, there’s no possible way he ever even saw this motel. Nevertheless, apparently that’s what happened. . . .”

That did in fact happen. And that some place is in Davenport, Iowa. The Hotel Blackhawk closed in 2006 after a fire, but I have read that the hotel built in 1915 is currently being restored.  Film legend Cary Grant was far removed from his starring roles in movies like North by Northwest (1959) and Penny Serenade (1941) and Bringing Up Baby (1938) when the 82-year-old died of a heart attack in Davenport on November 29, 1986. (Though technically, according to the Quad City Times, Grant was taken from the hotel and died at St. Luke’s Hospital.)

So with John Wayne & Johnny Carson being born in Iowa and  Cary Grant & Buddy Holly dying in Iowa those are pretty good icons to have as bookends to this interesting state where seemingly nothing happens related to the entertainment industry. Mix that with the enduring love for Field of Dreams, the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, screenwriter Diablo Cody going to college in Iowa City, and the fictitious Captain Kirk being from Iowa and you know why I’ve been able to write about this middle-of-nowhere place for the past two years.

Obviously, Grant’s death here left a mark on Burnett. And my guess is that experience had an impact on Crazy Heart or he wouldn’t still be talking about it. If you follow the trajectory of older (or dead) actors, musicians, writers, etc.  you usually find an arc where their popularity peaked at a certain point in time. After that peak is fertile ground to explore. There’s a great line in the movie Tender Mercies where the once popular country & western singer is asked , “Didn’t you used to be Max Sledge?”

Check out T Bone Burnett’s website and see how his creative journey has unfolded over the years. Born in St.. Louis and raised in Texas on his way to working with the likes of B.B. King, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Sam Sheperd, John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello, Tony Bennett as well as on the films Cold Mountain and Walk the Line.

“I always wanted whatever I was doing to be art, so I was always fighting for those records to measure up to a standard of how I felt when I heard The Kinks for the first time or Ray Charles for the first time. From an early age, I knew I wasn’t as good as the other things I was hearing, but I was always trying to get there. David Hidalgo [of Los Lobos] is incredibly talented, and I thought, ‘David Hidalgo can get to that point; he can be as good in his own way as Miles Davis or Ray Charles.’ So what I was willing to do was wait until the record sounded as good to me in its own way as the first time I heard ‘Lonely Avenue’ by Ray Charles. I would try to be true to that feeling — the effect that music had on me.”
T Bone Burnett
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Mix Magazine article by Blair Jackson

I’m fond of mentioning Iowa artist Grant Wood’s call for regionalism in painting. Burnett is as good as anyone touching on the grassroots of music in this country. Below is the Robert Plant & Alison Krauss version of the John Prine song Killing the Blues. Burnett produced the song on the 2009 Grammy winning album of the year, Raising Sand.

Scott W. Smith




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So last weekend for The 48 Hour Film Project/ Des Moines our team drew “Ghost Story” as the genre in which we had to make a short film.  We quickly started connecting the dots and Ghost was the first movie we tossed out as fitting the genre. That lead to jokes about getting a pottery wheel. 

Other movies with ghosts were mentioned; Field of Dreams, A Christmas Carol, and of course, Ghostbusters. We had discussions about the difference between angels and ghosts. We agreed in general (right or wrong) that in pop culture that angels helped other people while ghosts tend to resolve issues they have before they can move on.

We again pointed to the movie Ghost as having bad ghosts that went to the bad place while Pat Swazye’s got to go upward. We pounded out a story concept in about 5 hours and then shot for 12 hours on Saturday, turned in the finished film on Sunday, and it screened tonight in Des Moines. I’ll post a link of our efforts for this Sunday.

So it seemed fitting to find a quote today from Ghost screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin who won an Oscar for writing the 1990 film. 

“As a writer, I’m trying to promote some alternatives to nihilism. Art, I think, has a larger purpose than just diversion. Art is a transcendent view of the mundane, So much of what we look at has no transcendence in it. The brackets are in the wrong place. It doesn’t leave us complete. It doesn’t leave us with a vision that allows us to see life from another angle…the end of the film (Ghost) was was about spirit, about the fact that our lives are embued with spirit. It’s really about trying to affirm that spirit in man—though in  very quiet way. I said something about that when I accepted my Oscar, and I could hear everybody laughing in the auditorium, like, Oh, come on, this is just entertainment. I think one of the reasons the film enjoyed such acceptance was because it addressed this issue that somehow there is a higher aspect to man.”
                                                          Bruce Joel Rubin
                                                          Screenwriters on Screenwriting 

 

Scott W. Smith


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When I came up with the title Screenwriting from Iowa in 2006 it was meant to be ironic. That is Iowa is one of the last places that people think of when they think of screenwriting and movie making. Of course, it was a set-up of sorts because right here in Cedar Falls, Iowa is where the seeds were planted for the box-office hits Sleeping with the Enemy and The Bridges of Madison County as it’s where writers Nancy Price & Robert Waller wrote their novels. 

And then there is the entertainment history of Iowa being the birthplace of Johnny Carson, John Wayne and Meredith Wilson (Music Man). Then there’s The Field of Dreams, The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, blah, blah, blah. Ground I’ve covered a zillion times on this blog. Then University of Iowa grad Diablo Cody hits the scene and Ellen Page comes to Iowa to make a film (Peacock) this summer and suddenly Screenwriting from Iowa doesn’t seem that ironic.

And then news hit me today that the secret is really out on the creative happenings in Iowa. Movie Maker magazine Winter ’09 recently came out with its list of 25 hot places to call yourself a moviemaker. Can you guess what state made the list? First in their words:

Each year MM surveys the country to find the areas you’ll be happiest to call home if you call yourself a moviemaker. This time we’re doing things a little differently—first, by opening up the playing field to 25 cities instead of 10 and, second, by focusing on those places that offer the perfect combination of employment opportunities, reasonable costs of living, strong quality of life, affordable home prices and, of course, financial incentives.
              
Movie Maker Staff
              Best Places to Live in 2009
               

…and coming in at #25 is Des Moines, Iowa.

But the whole title of this blog is Screenwriting from Iowa…or wherever you live outside L.A., and with that in mind here is the whole Movie Maker list of The 25 best best cities in the U.S. to ride it out as an independent moviemaker this year :

1. Chicago, IL 
2. Atlanta, GA 
3. New York, NY 
4. Shreveport, LA 
5. Albuquerque, NM 
6. Boston, MA 
7. Stamford, CT 
8. Memphis, TN 
9. Milwaukee, WI 
10. Austin, TX 
11. Detroit, MI 
12. Miami, FL 
13. Seattle, WA 
14. Portland, OR 
15. Philadelphia, PA 
16. Sedona, AZ 
17. Salt Lake City, UT 
18. Wilmington, NC 
19. Boise, ID 
20. Denver, CO 
21. Bozeman, MT 
22. Wichita, KS 
23. San Diego, CA 
24. Richmond, VA 
25. Des Moines, IA

Maybe it wasn’t so crazy for me to move from L.A. and Orlando to Iowa.

Related post (and my very first post):  Life Beyond Hollywood

 

Scott W. Smith

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