Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Harrison Ford’

“The main thing is for him to be a super hero in the best sense of the word, which is John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery tradition of a man who we can look up to and say, ‘Now there’s somebody who really knows his job…'”
George Lucas in 1978 Raiders story conference discussing the character that became Indiana Jones

“I have read from cover to cover, books like Leonard Maltin Movie Guide, which contains thousands of plot, character, and movie ideas. I encourage my brain to try to mix these themes together in the hope that my mind will meld a new form. This process is called ‘bi-association.’ the joining together of two forms to create a new one.

Jaws in Outer Space? This is bi-association that could be called Alien? Dinosaurs in modern America? You could call this Jurassic Park. Star Wars is akin to Robin Hood in the future.  What about Casablanca on Mars?

The story of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves started in my idea files as ‘Robin Hood—Raider’s Style.’ It was there for some time before the concept of framing the story around a Muslim hero and a Christian Robin Hood working together against an evil force solidified my creative direction.”
Writer/Director Pen Densham (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)
Riding the Alligator

And since we’re talking about cloning and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) we must make a point of mentioning King Solomon’s Mines. Though that was a 1985 movie, it was based on a very pre-Raiders book by H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925). Haggard is said to be the founder of the “Lost World” literary genre and you can download his books at Project Gutenberg. In fact, King Solomon’s Mine was first made into a movie in 1950 with a script by Helen Deutsch, and perhaps a movie little Stevie (born 1946) or George (born 1944) watched on TV  growing up.

In 1975 (around the time Raiders was first being developed)  the old 30s & 40s pulp book adventure hero Doc Savage came to life in a TV movie called Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.

“Remember the movie Soldier of Fortune with Clark Gable? There was a good deal of Rhett Butler in the character. The devil-may-care kind of guy who can handle situations.”
Steven Spielberg
1978 Raiders story conference

If you want a Michael Douglas/Indiana Jones check out Romancing the Stone—1984. Tom Selleck—High Road to China. If you want a female version of Indiana Jones watch Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Just to name a few, of course.

And though there are reports that Harrison Ford wants to kill off Indiana Jones, apparently Shane Black is developing a new script on Doc Savage.

Related Post: Movie Cloning (Part 1)

Raiders Revisited (Part 1)

Raiders Revisited (Part 2)

Raiders Revisited (Part 3)

Raiders Revisited (Part 4)

Scott W. Smith


Read Full Post »

“If you just define yourself as a screenwriter, and you have a bad day as a screenwriter, then that’s your whole world. You’re building your life on this very singular pylon. It’s important to remember that you’re a brother, or a father or a boyfriend, and also that you have interests and hobbies that feed you and nourish you, and bring ideas in and balance you out. If I have a bad day screenwriting, I can come out to my studio, and I can paint and connect with myself. It’s important to build a broad life that feeds you, that nourishes you, that gives you stability.”
Screenwriter  & Visual Artist Joe Forte (Firewall starring Harrison Ford)
Tales from the Script
page 285

Read Full Post »

The 1985 film Witness is one of those movie that pops up again and again in screenwriting books as a fine example of writing. But like Rain Man there are a lot of reasons why the film works and it is an example of a collaboration at it’s best. It was a perfect storm of talent and it resulted in an Oscar award for writers Earl Wallace, William Wallace and Pamela Wallace.

Helping the film become a classic was the direction of Peter Weir, the acting and personna of Harrison Ford, and a wonderful crew that helped the tone of the film set largely in Amish country. Many were nominated for their work on the film, John Seale (Best Cinematography), Maurice Jarre (Best Music, Orginal Score) and Stan Jolly and John H. Anderson (Best Art Direction-Set Direction). And Thom Noble picked up the Oscar for Best Film Editing.

But according to David S. Cohen’s book Screen Plays it all started with a simple story idea from Pamela; “A contemporary cop falls in love with an Amish women.” Earl and William who had written for the old TV show Gunsmoke fleshed the story out and after 16 versions had a well tuned script. Neither had ever written with a partner before and neither had ever had a feature film produced.

There were creative battles fought during the making of the film but at the end of the day it all came together and they made a film that resonated with audiences and the Academy. No small feat. Then the storm was gone. Cohen writes that, yes they won an Academy Award, “Yet the writing team of Wallace and Kelly got no career boost from the success of Witness.” In fact, they had a fall out of sorts and went their separate ways.

The creative process is odd and messy and it’s nice to get a glimpse behind the scene of a script that not only found the light, but that still shines bright almost 25 years later.  Cohen writes, “The film was nosed out for best picture by Out of Africa—the film that gave Kurt Luedtke his Oscar. But Kelly and Wallace won, and from the podium Wallace got off one of the more memorable lines in Oscar acceptance speech history: ‘I have the uneasy feeling my career just peaked.'”

Your career has to peak somewhere — it might as well be at the Academy Awards.

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
Emily Dickinson

So last week I was sitting down at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas waiting for the Los Angeles Final Cut Pro User Group (LAFCPUG) to start their Super Meet and started a conversation with a man next to me who turned out to be a Hemingway-like character.

Dirck Halstead started his career in photojournalism at the age of 17. He was the youngest combat photographer for LIFE magazine, a roving photographer in the U.S. Army, spent 15 years as photographer for UPI covering stories around the world including winning the Robert Capa Gold Medal for his images of  the fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War. And I’m just getting warmed up.

Let me just defer to an online bio: “Halstead accepted an independent contract with TIME magazine in 1972. Covering the White House for the next 29 years, he was one of only six photographers asked to accompany Richard Nixon on his historic trip to China in that same year. His photographs have appeared on 47 TIME covers. During this period he was also a “Special Photographer” on many films, producing ad material used by major Hollywood studios.”

Have you ever heard the song The Last Mango in Paris by Jimmy Buffett?

                    He said I ate the last mango in Paris
Took the last plane out of Saigon
I took the first fast boat to China
And Jimmy there’s still so much to be done 

Halstead is that kind of guy (if not literally that guy). And after his adventures with LIFE, UPI, and TIME there was still so much to be done. Back in the early 90s he was a pioneer in helping still photojournalist make the transition into shooting video. Now in his 70s Halstead is the editor and publisher for The Digital Journalist  and a senior fellow in photojournalism at The Center for American History at the University of Texas in Austin. In 2007 he was honored by The University of Missouri with the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism.

And I bet he’d still say, “There’s still so much to be done.”

All that to say there is power in the bump in factor. While I was at NAB Show last week I also bumped into a producer friend from Michigan, a cameraman from Des Moines who owns a RED camera, and a editor friend from Orlando. How does this all apply to screenwriting?

Your talent and skill will keep you in the room once you get there but sometimes you need a little help from the bump in factor to open the door. I once landed a gig writing 12 radio dramas because I was editing a project at a post house and bumped into a producer who had an immediate need for a writer. Here’s what Melissa Mathison (who was once married to Harrison Ford) told Susan Bullington Katz in Conversations with Screenwriters:

“I was with Harrison on Raiders of the Lost Ark, and halfway through the shoot, we were all in Tunisia, and Steven Spielberg asked me if I would be interested in writing a children’s movie about a man from outer space. And I thought that sounded like a really wonderful idea.”

The screenplay she wrote was E.T.:The Extra-Terrestrial.

Granted being married to Harrison Ford improves the prospects of who you can bump into but you never know who’s next to you while you wait in line. Which leads me back to Halstead. If you’re interested in improving you visual storytelling Halstead is hosting The Platypus Workshops this year in Oregon and Maine.

Related Post: The Bump In Factor (Take 2)

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“I adore Chicago. It is the pulse of America.”
Sarah Bernhardt

“You’re Abe Froman… the sausage king of Chicago?”
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

“I give you Chicago. It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail.
H. L. Mencken

“They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get Capone!”
The Untouchables

Last week a 5.4 earthquake hit Illinois and was felt in Indiana and as far away as Iowa. Just one more way the Midwest is following those California trends. You know, I’m doing my part to export screenwriting from the Midwest and other unlikely places where people are writing so it makes sense to make another road trip and head over the Iowa state line to the east and travel into Illinois.

The epicenter of last week’s earthquake was West Salem, but from a screenwriting and filmmaking perspective the epicenter for the Midwest is Chicago. It’s the third largest city in the United States and sits with a commanding view of Lake Michigan and can rightly be called The Third Coast.

Everyone should have the opportunity once in their life to have their own version of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the windy city. Here’s my perfect Chicago day: The Art Institute in the morning, a walk and lunch at the Navy Pier, see the Cubs play at Wrigley Field, ride an architectural boat tour, a sunset dinner at the Signature Room high atop the John Hancock Center , a play at one of the zillions of theater options, a carriage ride around the Chicago Water Tower downtown and a nice room at The Drake Hotel on the Magnificent Mile with a room overlooking the Gold Coast (and where they welcome my golden retriever).

And if you have the weekend you can fit in a concert at Millennium Park and a list that just gets longer and longer. Chicago is a great city. And it alone has produced a wealth of creative talent that shines as bright as a city. (Maybe that’s why Dan Quayle once said, “It is wonderful to be in the great state of Chicago…”)  Here’s a list of writers from Illinois though I’m sure to leave out many people. (Feel free to email me additional writers with connections there.)

Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Sam Shepard (True West)
David Mamet (The Verdict)
Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)
Preston Sturges (Sullivan’s Travels)
Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan)
Ernest Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea)
Mark Brown (Barbershop)
John Hughes (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)
Andy and Larry Wachowski (The Matrix)
Harold Ramis  (Groundhog Day)
Bill Murray (The Razor’s Edge)
Greg Glienna (Meet the Parents)
Steve Conrad (The Pursuit of Happyness)
John Logan (Gladiator)
Jon Favreau (Swingers)
Tina Fey (Mean Girls)
Michael Mann (The Insider)
Phil Vischer (VeggieTales movies)
Roger Rueff (The Big Kahuna)
Robert Zemeckis,  (Back to the Future)
Edward Zwick, (The Last Samurai)
Diablo Cody (Juno)
John Logan (Hugo
Garry Marshall (The Odd Couple-TV)

From the odd connections category, Evangelist Billy Graham (who used to have a film studio in Burbank) and horror specialist Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street) both graduated from Wheaton College about 30 miles from downtown Chicago. Blues Brother, and writer/actor John Belushi graduated from Wheaton High School.

Film critic and produced screenwriter Roger Ebert (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) and screenwriter/Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee (Eat Drink Man Woman) are both are both graduates of the University of Illinois system.

Filmmaker and book publisher Michael Wiese is originally from Illinois. I have at least a dozen production books that Michael Wiese Productions has produced. If you’re not familiar with their books three to check out are Save the Cat (Blake Snyder) , Shot by Shot (Steven D. Katz) and The Hero’s Journey (Christopher Vogler).

A special mention must be made to two pillars of writing from Chicago: Pulitzer Prize winner Saul Bellow (Humboldt’s Gift) and Studs Terkel (Hard Times).

The list of well-known actors with Chicago ties is too long to list but here are a few;  Harrison Ford, Vince Vaugh, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, John and Joan Cusack, Virgina Madsen, Kim Novak, Bill Murray, Terrance Howard, Red Foxx, Bonnie Hunt, Patricia Arquette, Karl Malden and Gary Sinise.

Chicago is the kind of place where probably every night of the week you could attend a film related function between the various school, colleges and professional groups. There are plenty of ways to avoid writing if you live in the Chicago area.

But, of course, your goal is probably to write while living outside L.A., get sold and get produced. (I’ve said before you could live in West Africa or West Covina and feel like you’re far from the Hollywood system.)

Let me tell you about a fellow I just found out about via the DVXuser.com forum. Kyle is a radiologists living in the suburbs of Chicago. He owns a DV camera package and writes screenplays. In other words he was like every other writer with a dream…until a couple weeks ago.

He wrote a screenplay called The Lemon Tree and had a lawyer he met in Chicago rep him in L.A. and earlier this month sold the script for $300,000 against $600,000. He has no plans to quit his job and move to L.A. The next step is seeing if the film gets made and then if it finds an audience. But as far as a writer outside the system Kyle has hit the jackpot, and proves it can be done.

(You can read the entire thread and download a well-informed screenwriting document Kyle has put together at DVXuser.com. Look under filmmaking–screenplay/writing/Sold it! The DVXuser forum is a wealth of info for the independent filmmaker and a supportive community. Here’s a little poser shot of me with my DVX camera back in ’06 when I was shooting a documentary in Chicago.)

If you want further proof that screenplays can be sold by screenwriters outside L.A. here is a quote that screenwriter and author of Save the Cat! Blake Snyder sent me when I asked him about writers living outside L.A. selling their work:

“I have said often that geography is no longer an impediment to a career in screenwriting. I know of one woman who decided to be a screenwriter in Chicago, wrote 5 scripts, sold 2 and got an agent and manager, all while never leaving the confines of her condo.  It starts with a great concept! You have a great idea and a great poster, if you execute that well, you will get phone calls — and deals.  The key is: the great script!  And that starts with the step by step process I outline in Cat!  Go get ‘em!”

On the footsteps of The Dark Knight (Batman) being filmed last summer in Illinois, the current big movie being shot there is Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant starting Matt Damon with a funky mustache. The story takes place in Decatur and is based on Kurt Eichenwald’s book about a scandal at Archer Daniels Midland’s Company (ADM) that involved the FBI. Ultimately ADM was fined $100 million for a conspiracy involving replacing sugar with high fructose corn syrup. Shades of Soderbergh’s other film about corporate greed,Erin Brockovich?

Other helpful sites about the filmmaking scene in Illinois here are a few recommended sites:

Reel Chicago

Chicago Script Works

Midwest FIlm

Chicago Screenwriters

Illinois Film Biz


So come on, if Abraham Lincoln can go from a one room log cabin to become the 16th President of the United States (via Illinois) certainly that should give you some motivation to overcome a few obstacles in your life to get your scripts written and sold. Or maybe to buy a camera and make your own films. Even if you live in Springfield or Kankakee.

Speaking of Kankakee, if Screenwriting from Iowa had a theme song it might be Chicago native Stevie Goodman’s City of New Orleans because it captures a flavor of a life beyond Hollywood:

Riding on the City of New Orleans
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail
All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
Rolls along past houses, farms and fields
Passin’ towns that have no names
Freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobiles

Chorus
Good morning, America, how are you
Don’t you know me, I’m your native son
I’m the train they call The City of New Orleans
I’ll be gone five hundred miles when the day is done

And if I can pick a B-side song I’ll go with, Jim Croce’s tribute to the South Side of ‘ole Chicago — Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

Photographs & Text Copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: