“A writer’s job is to imagine everything so personally that the fiction is as vivid as memories.” John Irving
Posts Tagged ‘John Irving’
Posted in Screenwriting Quotes, tagged Academy of Achievement, Jack Nicholson, John Irving, John Updike, Pennsylvania, Plowville, Pulizer Prize, Rabbit, Reading, Run, Shillington, The Witches of Eastwick, The World According to Garp on January 28, 2009 | 1 Comment »
There was a big spike in readers here at Screenwriting from Iowa yesterday and I think it’s because author John Updike died this week. People’s Internet search that lead them to this blog was not because I’ve written anything about Updike, but because they probably confused him with writer John Irving who I have written a little about. (And who is still alive.)
Both are known as east coast American authors around the same age whose name happens to start with John. I bet the same thing would have happened back in the day if Faulkner’s first name was Ernest. We’d confuse who wrote which book. So just so we’re on the same page, Irving wrote The World According to Garp and Updike wrote Rabbit, Run.
Updike twice received the Pulitzer Prize and also wrote The Witches of Eastwick which became a movie in 1987 starring Jack Nicholson, Cher, Michelle Pfeffer and Susan Sarandon. He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania and raised in the nearby suburbs of Shillington and Plowville where he was an avid reader.
“Sometimes writers need no training, and some of the amateur ones who just jump in do better than the ones who have the Ph.D. in creative writing. Colleges are very willing now to teach you, to give you a whole course of creative writing classes. Although I took some when I was a student, I’m a little skeptical about the value….To the young writers, I would merely say, ‘Try to develop actual work habits, and even though you have a busy life, try to reserve an hour say — or more — a day to write.’
Some very good things have been written on an hour a day. Henry Greene, one of my pets, was an industrialist actually. He was running a company, and he would come home and write for just an hour in an armchair, and wonderful books were created in this way. So, take it seriously, you know, just set a quota. Try to think of communicating with some ideal reader somewhere. Try to think of getting into print. Don’t be content just to call yourself a writer and then bitch about the crass publishing world that won’t run your stuff. We’re still a capitalist country, and writing to some degree is a capitalist enterprise, when it’s not a total sin to try to make a living and court an audience. ‘Read what excites you,’ would be advice, and even if you don’t imitate it you will learn from it. All those mystery novels I read I think did give me some lesson about keeping a plot taut, trying to move forward or make the reader feel that kind of a tension is being achieved, a string is being pulled tight.
Other than that, don’t try to get rich on the other hand. If you want to get rich, you should go into investment banking or being a certain kind of a lawyer. But, on the other hand, I would like to think that in a country this large — and a language even larger — that there ought to be a living in it for somebody who cares, and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.”
Interview in Academy of Achievement
Now if you are interested in John Irving I have a longer post about him at John Irving, Iowa & Screenwriting.
Posted in screenwriting, tagged Against the Wind, Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syr, Bob Seger, Dan Gable, Darren Aronfsky, Dusty Rhodes, entertainment, Floyd Meyweather, Frank Gotch, George "The Russian Lion" Hackenschmidt, Hollywood, Iowa, Iowa Governor Chet Culver, John Irving, Marisa Tomei, Mickey Rourke, movies, NASCAR, Orlando Citrus Bowl, Orlando Sentinel, professional wrestling, Robert Thompson, Scott W. Smith, screenwriting, Seabiscuit, Shakespeare, Snoop Dogg, Spider-Man, Teddy Roosevelt, University of Iowa Wrestling Day, Vince McMahon, Waterloo Courier, World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), WrestleMania XXIV, writing on April 7, 2008 | 1 Comment »
“There’s nothing like it in American show biz. It’s part comedy and part burlesque. It’s raw drama. It’s not Crime and Punishment. And it doesn’t pretend to be Masterpiece Theater.” Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University on professional wrestling
This past week was a big week in wrestling. You may have missed it so I thought I’d fill you in on the celebrations and the spectacle. I will preface this by saying that I haven’t really followed wrestling of any form since I was about ten and watched professional wrestling on TV.
TV Announcer: “It looks like this match is over…wait, wait…he’s pulling a foreign object out of his pants…it looks like brass knuckles.” Never once did I ask how those brass knuckles, hidden in those tight underwear-like pants, went unnoticed by the ref the entire rest of the match. I was too caught up in the play.
Other than Dusty Rhodes I don’t remember any names, but I do remember the body slams, the jumping off the ropes, the sleeper holds, and the chair over the back move. High drama for a ten year old growing up in Central Florida before video games.
Last Sunday 74,635 people (a record for the Orlando Citrus Bowl) gathered for WrestleMania XXIV. I remember going to a Super Bowl of Rock concert at the Citrus Bowl as a teenager back in the day and I gotta tell you that it was a transcendent moment looking out at a sea of flickering lighters in the summer night and hearing 60,000 people singing “Against the Wind” along with Bob Seger. I can imagine the atmosphere last Sunday.
The event last week was called ”The Biggest WrestleMania Under the Sun” and over 40,000 tickets were sold in 30 minutes. Festivities lasted for five days and Snoop Dogg was the Master of Ceremonies. Internationally the main event was also on pay-per-view for $54.99 making it was one of the largest pay-per-view events in history with over a million buys. Do the math on $54.99 times a million.
Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have tapped into a multi-billion dollar melodrama. Is it Hollywood’s competition or your future work? Someone has to write those wrestling storylines.
“To me, wrestling is just like watching a movie, or better yet a television series.” Colin Vassallo, editor of Wrestling-Online Newsletter was recently quoted as saying in an Orlando Sentinel article by Dave Darling, “It has good guys, bad guys, the women and the action. And what more would young men want to watch on television?”
Even boxing champion Floyd Mayweather got into the WrestleManna act and I read he even used good ole’ brass knuckles to knock out his opponent. Some tricks never fade away. Shakespeare had to compete with public hangings and as screenwriters and filmmakers you have to compete with professional wrestling and NASCAR. It’s good to know what you’re up against as well as what’s considered popular culture.
Back here in Iowa, Iowa Governor Chet Culver proclaimed last Thursday “University of Iowa Wrestling Day ” in the state of Iowa. It doesn’t get the same press and coverage as March Madness, but two weeks ago in St. Louis the Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling team won the school’s 21 NCAA title.
1972 Olympic champion wrestler Dan Gable once coached the University of Iowa to nine straight NCAA championships. And that’s the real deal — no brass knuckles. But still plenty of drama. In fact, writer John Irving (a former wrestler) is developing a movie on Gable’s life. Gable won every single high school and college match except for his last one.
Last Thursday was also the 100 Anniversary of Iowan Frank Gotch defeating George “The Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt for the world heavyweight wrestling championship. I had never heard of Gotch, but apparently this event in its day was a bit like Seabiscuit. According to Jim Neson of the Waterloo Courier it was front page sports news for the papers in New York and L.A. and a trip to the white house for Gotch to meet president Teddy Roosevelt.
And a play for the farmer turned wrestler toured up and down the east coast. (If anyone has a copy of this play I’d love to read it.) So wrestling and drama have gone hand in hand for a long time.
Director Darren Aronfsky (Pi, The Fountain) recently wrapped production on Robert Siegel’s script The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke as a long haired pro wrestler past his prime looking for a comeback. Marisa Tomei plays his stripper girlfriend and it’s said to feature a lot 80′s music. For some reason I’m sensing a lot of on screen perspiration. Why didn’t they just title it 9 1/2 Rounds?
Aren’t the Spider-Man movies just a glorified wrestling match with costume changes, over the top fights, and a girl thrown in the mix? This wrestling stuff is primal and probably has been side by side with storytelling since the beginning of time.
If there’s one thing every screenwriter can learn from professional wrestling it’s this: when you character is running against the wind and all seems lost, that’s the time for them to pull out their brass knuckles. It works every time.
Come to think of it, almost thirty years later, Seger lyrics still resinate:
Well those drifter days are past me now
I’ve got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out
Against the wind
I’m still runnin’ against the wind
I’m older now but still still runnin’
Against the wind
If you choose a life in the arts you will face many days when you’re runnin’ against the wind. You need lots of tenacity and determination…and it doesn’t hurt to have a pair of brass knuckles.
Posted in Screenwriters, screenwriting, Screenwriting Road Trips, tagged A Prayer for Owen Meany--(Simon Birch), Academy Awards, Ben Afflack & Matt Damon, Bobby Bowden, catharsis, Cedar Falls, Dan Gable, David Mamet, David Puttnam, Dickens., Eliot Spitzer, Florida State football coach, Forrest Gump, Gary Ross, Good Will, Hemingway, Hunting, Iowa Writers' Workshop, Jerry Maguire, John Irving, John Updike, Juno, Kurt Vonagunt, Laura Hillendrandt, Michael Caine, movies, Oscars, Powell's City of Books, Prairie Lights Bookstore, Sceeenwriting, Scott W. Smith, Seabiscuit, Tattered Book Cover, The Cider House Rules, The Hotel New Hampshire, The Verdict, The World According to Grap, Tobey Maguire, Tom Wolf, University of Iowa, wrestling, writing on March 14, 2008 | 3 Comments »
I was talking to John Irving the other day…
Posted in Most Viewed Posts, screenwriting, Screenwriting Road Trips, tagged movies, entertainment, screenwriting, Juno, Iowa, Diablo Cody, University of Iowa, Iowa Writers' Workshop, Joe Eszterhas, Oscars, Coen brothers, Des Moines, John Irving, Ellen Page, Gene Wilder, Rebel Without a Cause, Scott W. Smith, Field of Dreams, Tennessee Williams, Peacock, Cillian Murphy, Stewart Stern, Mark Johnson, Barry Kemp, The Road to Perdition, Ethan Canin, Max Allan Collins, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, Robert Penn Warren, W.P Kinsella on January 23, 2008 | 3 Comments »
Yesterday the Oscar nominations were announced and Diablo Cody and her script Juno were nominated for best original screenplay and the film was also nominated for best picture. I recently pointed out her Iowa connection as having graduated from the University of Iowa.
If you’re not familiar with the creative talent that has come out of the University of Iowa hold on for what I’m about to tell you. You’ll be hard pressed to find a university that has educated and attracted more novelist, poets, essayist, screenwriters and short story writers at such a high level of proficiency and acclaim.
The campus is located just off Interstate 80 in Iowa City. Head west on 80 from New York City and you’ll run right into it. Head east on 80 from San Francisco (or via Park City if you’re coming from Sundance) and you’ll be heading toward the promise land of creative talent. And if you happen to be in Cedar Falls where I’m typing this, it’s just a little over an hour drive south.
Its famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop is the oldest and most prestigious MFA writing program in the country. The program has produced thirteen Pulitzer Prize winners, and has had professors such as Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five), Robert Penn Warren (All the King’s Men) and Philip Roth (The Human Stain).
Its notable MFA alumni whose writings have become movies include John Irving (The World According to Garp), W.P.Kinsella (Shoeless Joe, which became the movie Field of Dreams), Leonard Schrader (screenplay, Kiss of the Spider Woman), Ethan Canin (The Palace Thief that became the movie The Emperor’s Club), Michael Cunningham (The Hours), Nicholas Meyer (Oscar-nominated The-Seven-Percent-Solution), Robert Nelson Jacobs (screenplay, Chocolat), Max Allan Collins (The Road to Perdition) and Anthony Swofford (Jarhead).
Most recently two Iowa grads have had books listed in The New York Times 10 best books of 2007; Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson and Then We Came to an End by Joshua Ferris.
Those educated at the University of Iowa though not in the writing program include Stewart Stern (Rebel Without a Cause), Barry Kemp (Coach), actor/writer Gene Wilder (Young Frankenstein), producer Mark Johnson (Rain Man), Richard Maibaum (12 James Bond films including From Russia with Love), and the great playwright Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire). I’m sure I’ve missed many people, but I think you get the point.
So Diablo Cody joins a distinguished list of honored writers from Iowa. Congratulations on her success. I’m sure her 12 years of Catholic schooling in the Chicago area also played a part in developing her talent. The list of Catholic influenced (some positive, some negative) writers is too long to address now but may be worth a future blog. (I’m neither Catholic nor did I attend the University of Iowa, but I do like to notice trends.)
But make no mistake, Cody’s quirky mix of Midwest roots (she wrote Juno while living in Minneapolis) are what make her writing original. (Ditto that for the Minneapolis raised Coen brothers who just received writing and directing Oscar nominations for No Country for Old Men.) And that originality is what makes Cody attractive to Hollywood, both as a writer and as a person. Stick to your dreams and more importantly keep writing.
And paste this quote from Ohio screenwriter Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct) above your writing area: “If you write a good, commercial script and start sending it out – someone will recognize that it is good and commercial…If they think your script will make them money, they will option or buy your script.”
May 2008 Addition: The Juno-Iowa Connection Part 2. Ellen Page the talented lead actress in Juno is in Des Moines this month shooting Peacock with Cillian Murphy.
© Copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith
Posted in screenwriting, tagged Cedar Falls, Clint Eastwood, culture, Diablo Cody, entertainment, filmmaking, fly-over country, Iowa, Iowa City, Jay Leno, John Irving, John Wayne, Johnny Carson, Julia Roberts, Juno, Kevin Bacon, Matt Hoey, Meryl Streep, movies, Scott W. Smith, screenwriting, Sleeping with the Enemy, Tennessee Williams, The Bridges of Madison County, The Tonight Show, University of Iowa, West Africa, West Covina, West Virginia, writing, Written By on January 22, 2008 | 7 Comments »
Screenwriting from Iowa, huh?
No, it’s not a joke or an oxymoron. (Doesn’t the above photo I took today look like an ideal day to write?)
Screenwriting from Iowa isn’t really just about Iowa or limited to screenwriting. But that is the starting point. And I hope this on-going blog encourages writers who feel like they live in the middle of nowhere. And if you hold on a moment you’ll learn that the hippest and hottest screenwriter in Hollywood today has some Iowa roots.
It’s ten degrees below zero and snowing as I begin this first blog compounding the barren wasteland fears people have about the state of Iowa. But I think you’ll be surprised at the creative talent growing beyond them there cornfields.
On January 3, 2008 all eyes were on Iowa (at least for a quick glance) as the first presidential caucuses took place. Jay Leno joked on The Tonight Show, “Many people don’t know this, but the word caucus is Indian for the one day anyone pays attention to Iowa.”
Iowa may not be New York or LA but where else can you see 13 presidential candidates up close within a ten-mile drive of your home as I did in the last couple months? There was plenty of drama, and enough material for a couple screenplays.
Iowa is a metaphor for any place that represents life beyond Hollywood. (That could be West Virginia, West Africa, or even West Covina.) Iowa is where I live and write and is also a state that most people in the United States would have trouble pinpointing on a map. Quintessential “fly-over country.” What good can come from Iowa? Can you get any further from Hollywood? You’d be surprised.
Forget that six degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon thing. Bacon was right here in Cedar Falls earlier this month stumping for presidential hopeful John Edwards. Cedar Falls is also where Nancy Price wrote the novel that became the Julia Roberts’ film Sleeping with the Enemy, and where Robert Waller wrote the book that became the Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep film The Bridges of Madison County.
And since this is the first blog let me also mention that entertainment icons Johnny Carson & John Wayne were both born in Iowa. This site is dedicated seeing the depth of talent that can from a remote place and will provide you with practical advise on screenwriting and digital filmmaking.
As I write this, the independent film Juno continues its strong box office run and has already won the Critics’ Choice Award for screenwriter Diablo Cody. (And I don’t think that will be the last award she wins.) Film critic Tom Long of the Detroit News wrote, “Juno’s the best movie of the year. It’s the best screenplay of the year, and it features the best actress of the year working in the best acted ensemble of the year.” Roger Ebert wrote, “The screenplay by first-timer Diablo Cody is a subtle masterpiece of construction…The Film has no wrong scenes and no extra scenes, and flows like running water.”
The 29-year-old Cody’s own life story of spending a year as a less than exotic dancer in Minneapolis is well documented, but to learn where she honed her writing skills we must go back a couple of years to when she was a college student in…you guessed it, Iowa. The University of Iowa in Iowa City has long been sacred writing grounds and home to one of the richest traditions in creative writing. Tennessee Williams and John Irving are among its alma mater.
“They have the writer’s workshop there. They have an undergraduate workshop, and I got in,” Cody said in this month’s Written By. “I focused mainly on poetry. I laugh about that now. I actually think it wound up helpful because as a poet you develop a certain efficiency with language that I think you use as a screenwriter.” (The entire article by Matt Hoey can be found at the Writer’s Guide of America’s website: www.wga.org/writtenby/writtenbysub.aspx?id=2693)
Though Cody couldn’t wait to get out of college she did earn a degree in media studies and was known for her excellent writing. And I believe that excellent writing will always be discovered wherever you live.
So over the course of this blog I will offer insights gleaned from my film school days, various workshops I attended and given, over 100 books read on writing and the creative process, as well as more than 20 years of experience as a video producer/director/writer (www.scottwsmith.com), and most importantly quotes from successful screenwriters.
© Copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith