Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

“Let both sides seek to involve the wonders of science…let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage arts and commerce.”
President John F. Kennedy
Inaugural Address on January 16, 1961

Apollo 11 Liftoff July 16,1969

Apollo 11 Liftoff
July 16, 1969

I have news to announce—the Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places countdown. Countdown to what? I’m not 100% sure. But the clock is ticking. (Rumor has it that an ebook may be involved.)

Back in the 1960s the United States had a clear goal—to be the first country to put men on the moon. The Soviet Union had hard landed the unmanned Luna spacecraft in 1959 and the space race was in full swing. (With brilliant Germans working on both sides—but that’s another post.)

The one thing I have in common with Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, George Clooney, and President Obama is I’m a tail-end boomer. Boomers that were too young to know where they were when JFK was shot. But I was old enough on July 20, 1969 to understand how cool it was that Kennedy’s eight year old prediction was fulfilled on that day as men landed on the moon.

“This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”
President Kennedy on May 25, 1961

My father got me the front page of the New York Times with its headline MEN WALK ON MOON. (Which I still have to this day.) Following the return of the Apollo 11 astronauts there was a ticker-tape parade in New York City. It was kind of a big deal.

Admittedly, my countdown news is not quite as big a deal. I’m not expecting any front page headlines or ticker-tape parades. (Though I’m open to both.) And I don’t know what exactly is going to happen at the end of the countdown, but I know the countdown officially starts today and ends on January 22, 2015. Mark your calendars now. Something’s going to happen.

In the next 20 posts spread out over the next two months I will lead up to my 2000th post. Again, not man on the moon stuff, but worth celebrating. That will also coincide with my seventh anniversary of this blog. I had some modest goals when I started this blog—none included writing 2,000 posts over seven years.

But let me thank you ahead of time, because without people reading this blog there’s no way I would have sustained this blog all these years. The Regional Emmy, the TomCruise.com mention, the Script Mag screenwriting website of the week, and various other shout-outs have been nice—but it’s people reading this blog that have been the fuel to keep going.

My goals all along has been simple—to improve my own writing and understanding of screenwriting/filmmaking with hopes that it would also help other people with their own writing and understanding of screenwriting/filmmaking.

Cheers—

P.S. Any ebook gurus who read this blog and can offer a handle on Amazon, Gumroad, Shopify, and the like shoot me an email at info@scottwsmith.com .

Related Posts:
Screenwriting from Space (Star Trek)
Postcard #46 (Huntsville) “Dr. von Braun Says Rocket Flights Possible to Moon”—1950 Headline
Creating ‘I Dream of Jeannie’
Shoot for the Moon
The Story of Men on the Moon Remember where you’re standing when the spotlight goes off, you’ll have to find your own way off the stage.” — Down to earth advice from Apollo 13 astronaut James Lovell
Life Beyond Hollywood My very first post on January 22, 2008

Scott W. Smith

 

Read Full Post »

Since this is the last day of spring 2014, I thought I’d do a little spring cleaning and doing something I don’t often do–write two posts in one day. (There may even be a third one later.) But in light of yesterday’s post (Susannah Grant on Failure) by the screenwriter of Erin Brockovich, I thought I’d sneak in this quote I read in last Sunday’s NY Times that was part of a graduation speech at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Failure is going to be a part of the process. You’re all here because you’re good at not failing, right? This is the culmination of doing a great job at not failing. There are no G.P.A.s after this. There’s going to be lots of setbacks. There’s going to be lots of failures. No one introduces me as the founder of My Mobile Menu, also known as Mmm, because that was the company we started before Reddit, Steve [Huffman] and I started that, and for a year and a half worked on something that went nowhere. But that’s O.K. Failure is an option.”
Alexis Ohanian
The 31-year-old co-founder of Reddit (one of the 50 biggest websites in the United States)
New York Times
Sunday June 15, 2014

P.S. Just to tie in a great filmmaker born in Kenosha, WI—who knew both success and failure in his career —read the post Screenwriting Quote #38 (Orson Welles).

Related post:
The Shakespeare of Hollywood spent part of his childhood not far from Kenosha in Racine, WI.
J.K. Rowling on the Benefits of Failure

Scott W. Smith

 

Read Full Post »

“When I decided to stop writing about five years ago I did, as you say, sit down to reread the 31 books I’d published between 1959 and 2010. I wanted to see whether I’d wasted my time. You never can be sure, you know. My conclusion, after I’d finished, echoes the words spoken by an American boxing hero of mine, Joe Louis. He was world heavyweight champion from the time I was 4 until I was 16. He had been born in the Deep South, an impoverished black kid with no education to speak of, and even during the glory of the undefeated 12 years, when he defended his championship an astonishing 26 times, he stood aloof from language. So when he was asked upon his retirement about his long career, Joe sweetly summed it up in just 10 words. ‘I did the best I could with what I had.'”
Philip Roth
My Life as a Writer
2014 New York Times interview by Daniel Sandstrom 

 

Read Full Post »

“The idea for The Glass Menagerie came very slowly, much more slowly than Streetcar, for example. I think I worked on Menagerie longer than any other play. I didn’t think it’d ever be produced. I wasn’t writing it for that purpose. I wrote it first as a short story called ‘Portrait of a Girl in Glass,’ which is, I believe, one of my best stories. I guess Menagerie grew out of the intense emotions I felt seeing my sister’s mind begin to go.”
Tennessee Williams
The Paris Review interview 

Watching actors perform Tennessee Williams’ words on stage, TV, and in movies—or even on the Internet—may not make you a better writer, but I believe they can make you more human.  If you’re tired of, or need a break from special effect extravaganzas or high-concept schlock that, to borrow Shakespeare’s phrase, are “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” get a copy of The Glass Menagerie and read it slowly.

When I was driving through Mississippi last month I picked up a used copy of the printed play The Glass Menagerie for under five dollars at Square Books in Oxford. The pages had fallen out of my old original copy of the book and there was something poetic about buying the play again by the Mississippi born Tennessee Williams in the town square where Mississippi born William Faulkner used to wander. (And for what it’s worth Faulkner wrote a book titled The Sound and the Fury.)

The Glass Menagerie, a four character play, premiered in Chicago in 1944 and it debuted on Broadway the following year where it won the  New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play of that year. Critics championed the play from the very beginning. Even today when critics question a revival performance it tends to be in casting choices and stage direction.  I recall one reviewer who once wrote something to the effect that poorly performed Williams was better than no Williams at all.

One of the greatest creative opportunities of my life was doing a three month acting workshop with Arthur Mendoza working on The Glass Menagerie. This was back in the ’80s in Los Angeles shortly after Williams died and just before the Paul Newman directed version was released in 1987.  Mendoza had studied with Stella Adler for ten years before turning to teaching himself, and embraced the view that it was worth it for the actor to study the playwright as well as the play. (Some acting teachers stress importance only on the written word.)

Believe it or not we only worked on the opening monologue of Tom. Three months of working on a long monologue which begins:

“Yes, I have tricks in my pocket, I have things up my sleeve. But I am the opposite of a magician. He gives you illusion that has the appearance of truth. I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion.”

I didn’t know much about acting, writing—or life—back then, but I knew that both Tennessee Williams and The Glass Menagerie were special. Beyond Williams’ poetic style of writing is a primal story. A story of loss and broken dreams. It’s an emotional story full of external and internal conflict that touches on basic human relationships between mother and son,  father and son, mother and daughter, husband and wife, brother and sister—can you get any more universal? Mix in themes of love, hope, and dreams and it’s no surprise that the play still has life today.

In fact, just two months ago The Glass Menagerie once again opened on Broadway (for a limited run through February) and the reviews have been outstanding.

“This production makes clear that ‘The Glass Menagerie’ belongs on the same exclusive shelf as ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night,’ ‘Death of a Salesman’ and Williams’s own ‘Streetcar Named Desire.’ It is not a lovely little memory play; it’s a great memory tragedy.”
Wounded by Broken Memories
NY Times, September 26, 2013

Below are some links to past productions of The Glass Menagerie, including the full 1973 version starring Katharine Hepburn.  Another thing that keeps The Glass Menagerie in circulation is there is never a lack of great actors who would like their shot at playing one of the four roles.

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“Most parts in comedy, they’re not written for men. They’re written for, like, boy-men. So it’s cool to play a man-man. They don’t make adult movies anymore. Go to a multiplex. If Sydney Pollack was around today, he’d be directing episodes of True Blood.
Chris Rock on the film 2 Days in New York
New York Times Q & A with Dave Itzkoff
August 5, 2012

If you’d like to emulate  Sydney Pollack (Out of Africa, Absence of Malice) , Sidney Lumet (The Verdict, 12 Angry Men) , or even Sydney Greenstreet (Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon)—those kinds of “adult movies”— and you’re not an A-list screenwriter or director getting ofters to write or direct movies like Moneyball then small independent films is your haven—or cable TV.

Related Posts:
Writing and Directing “Out of Africa”
Screenwriting Quote #162 (Billy Ray)

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“Unless you’re trapped on an airplane or enjoying movie night at the penitentiary, you have no excuse for watching Killers.”
Jeanette Catsoulis
New York Times

Reading the reviews of the new Ashton Kutcher/Kathrine Heigl film Killers is a little like watching a boxing match where one boxer is delivering one punishing blow after another and you just want the defenseless boxer to drop and end the bloodbath. I’m sure Killers is not the first film on Rotten Tomatoes to get a 0% from top critics…but it’s the first I’ve ever seen.

No need to rehash the reviews except to say they all generally agree with the New York Times evaluation; “A brain-deadening collision of high concept and low standards. The Consensus: “Dull, formulaic, and chemistry-free, Killers is an action/comedy that’s largely bereft of thrills or laughs.”

Here’s the good news for screenwriters—it got made. And it got made with two name actors. I know that may not be inspirational to you at first glance, but trust me it is good news. And it’s good news for a few reasons.(Beyond the salaries that were covered in the $75 million budget.)

#1) Everyone knows how the statistics are stacked against screenwriters. There are upwards of 50,000 scripts written every year and only about 500 feature films produced. (And keep in mind that means that there are 49,500 scripts rolling over into the slush pile every year.) So the screenwriting gurus tell you that your film has to be perfect to get made. No it doesn’t. It just needs to be as good as Killers.

Sure, everyone wants to write the next Chinatown. Sure, it’s good to study Chinatown. But the gold is in Killers. That’s the poster you should have above your computer where you write. That’s the film that should give you hope for the screenplay you are currently writing. Killers is the film that should take your mind off of oil currently pumping into the Gulf of Mexico, it’s the film that keeps you up late writing your script–and makes you wake up early to continue writing.

Because Killers is the film that makes you scream, “Dammit, I can do better than that!”

#2) Killers is also an example of a screenwriter who just keeps plugging away. The original story and script was written by Bob DeRosa who comes from my old stomping grounds in Florida. I’ve never met DeRosa but he comes from Orlando and is one of the survivors of Hollywood East back in the 90s. He wrote his first short story when he was 6, made videos and wrote scripts as a student at the University of Florida. He spent ten years working with an improv group, worked on commercials and corporate projects, and as an assistant programmer for the Florida Film Festival (during The Blair Witch Project glory days).  All the while writing scripts, watching films, meeting people and learning the business.

When he was 31 he moved to L.A. and basically started over with the help of manager/producer Christopher S. Pratt (also from Orlando).

“There were some pretty lean times. There were those big gaps between the jobs, and I was floating myself on credit cards. Then I’d get the next job, but I’d be scared to pay off the credit cards because I needed the money to live for the next eight months. It was a very precarious six years.”
Bob DeRosa
Interview with Jim Cirile

DeRosa ended up landing some studio writing gigs based on some spec scripts and eventually had the script The Air I Breath produced (written along with director Jieho Lee). In 2006, he wrote the script Five Killers and with the help of Pratt landed a big studio deal just before the writer’s strike. Credit cards finally paid off.

DeRosa was stoked when Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat came out and made some revisions based on it.  A top comic director (Robert Luketic/Legally Blonde) was attached to the script, and a top screenwriter (Ted Griffin/Oceans 11) was brought in to amp up the movie that became Killers. And yet here we are staring down the barrel of a big fat 0%.

At least, DeRosa can say (not that he has) “they took me off the picture and ruined my script.” (But that wouldn’t be the first time or last time that happens to a writer.) I will vote DeRosa’s title Five Killers is more intriguing than Killers. (And even with that 0% it still came in third this weekend at the box office pulling in almost $16 million. It doesn’t hurt that the Iowa born and raised Kutcher has over 5 million Twitter followers. But that film still has a long way to go to recoup its costs.)

All that to say that DeRosa’s long and winding road to paying off his bills and getting a studio script made should be of inspiration to you. On his blog he has a post written back in January of ’09 called How I Write a Spec Screenplay that’s a good read. And just to keep this all in perspective, despite the reviews, DeRosa is living the dream.

#3) Lastly, maybe, just maybe, Killers will be the film that makes some Hollywood studio executive reflect on the kind of films studios are making. Just long enough for him or her to walk over to a window in their office, open it and, in the tradition of Howard Beale in Network, yell out— “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

And, just maybe, we’ll all look back as that being the day that changed the kind of movies that got made. Don’t hold your breath. But do keep writing that killer screenplay you’ve been working on.

Related posts:
Screenwriter’s Work Ethic
Screenwriting from Florida
Jack Kerouac in Orlando
St. Pete Screenwriter (Michael France)
Screenwriting & Florida Surfing

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“The truth is – our way of doing things – not only the way we gather our content, but also the way we package, deliver and the way we expect to be remunerated for that work – is being shattered by a variety of internal and external forces that simply aren’t going to go away.”
Photographer/Filmmaker  Vincent Laforet

If you’ve never heard the name Vincent Laforet—welcome to the future. Three years ago Laforet walked away from a staff photographer position at the New York Times. He says that, “One colleague actually called me ‘stupid.'” But he walked away because he saw the writing on the wall. The newspaper and magazine business was being forever changed. As newspapers began to fold and downsize jobs, Laforet decided the answer was to diversify.

“There is ABSOLUTELY no doubt that every photographer out there should be actively developing their video shooting and editing skills today and learning it at their schools/universities.”
Vincent Laforet

Laforet continued to do contract work with the New York times, but was also able to begin doing commercial work. With one advertising agency he was working with as a photographer, he wanted to be considered for some interactive content they were producing, but he had no film or video demo reel. Having connections at Canon he was able to borrow a prototypes of the Canon 5D Mark II for a weekend in hopes of creating a demo reel. He had 12 hours to shoot what became Reverie. (What he later called, “a bad cologne commercial.” )

He posted the Reverie video online and within 3 days passed the million view mark and by the end of the first week it had passed the 2 million mark. He not only got his demo reel, but it spun his whole career into a new direction.

PDN magazine said, “Seven hours after he posted Reverie, a representative from photo sharing site SmugMug offered to sponsor his next video. Two days later the manager for surfer Jamie O’Brien contacted Lafort about shooting a project together.” Calls from Disney, Industrial Light & Magic, and other big names followed.

In the coming days, I’ll unpack what this means to writers and filmmakers. The video to Reverie is linked below, but the important thing to remember here is this video was made on a 35 mm digital camera that shoots still photos as well as HD video. It was shot in less than a day by a photographer who was hoping to build a video demo reel. (To watch an HD version of the video check out Vincent Laforet’s website. You can also connect to his blog there.)


Scott W. Smith


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: