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Posts Tagged ‘River Run Productions’

Reading departures signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I’ve been…
Jimmy Buffett
Changes in Lattitudes, Changes in Attitudes 

If you ever wonder why you ride the carousel,
You do it for the stories you can tell…
Jimmy Buffett
Stories You Can Tell 

Jimmy Buffett has said when he was a youth in Mobile, Alabama he once saw a live performance of the musical South Pacific and started to dream about far away lands. He learned how to play the guitar and tell stories and that was his ticket to far away places. Somewhere in my youth I picked up Jimmy Buffett’s albums and started to dream about far away lands. I learned how to use a camera and tell stories and that’s been my ticket.

Last night I listened to the Buffett concert in Des Moines over the live feed on Radio Margaritaville. Brought back a few memories from the far side of the world. Whenever I speak at colleges I show various shot from my adventures, I always tell them that when I graduated from high school I had only been to three states in my life—only if you count the Atlanta airport on my way from Florida to visit my grandma in Dayton, Ohio.

And Buffett himself has a line in one of his songs that goes, “Never been west of New Orleans, or east of Pensacola. My only contact with the outside world was an RCA Victorla.” So if you have a drop of wanderlust in your blood, and haven’t traveled as much as you’d like, memorize one of my favorite quotes:

“We tend to over estimate what we can do in one year, and underestimate what we can do in ten.”
Richard Foster

And if you need some musical inspiration for your dream, here’s Buffett’s song Some Day I Will.

Thanks to Jimmy Buffett for giving me a jump start to dream of far away places. And thanks to God for providing opportunities to work in this great big beautiful and mixed up world. BTW—If you have some stories you need to tell, contact me at RiverRun.tv (Have camera, will travel).

Best wishes on your own adventures—and send me a postcard. Here are some of mine from over the years:

Samaria, Russia

Samaria, Russia

Kindston, Jamacia

Kingston, Jamacia

Berlin, Germany

Berlin, Germany

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Denali National Park, Alaska

Sea Plane in Brazil

Sea Plane in Brazil

 Scott W. Smith

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Yesterday I noticed that WordPress added a nice little feature that shows me global stats to this blog Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places. They show me where views to this blog come from. The big three are no surprise; United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. But there’s also Malaysia, Serbia, Bangladesh, Iceland, Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, Qatar, Montenego, Trinidad and Tobago.

Actually, in the past four years there have been views from a total of more than 60 countries. Some of the countries I couldn’t tell you where they are, and others I’ve never even heard of. Gives new meaning to screenwriting in unlikely places. So let me give a shout out to people in all of those countries including Mauritus, Estoria, and Azerbajan. (And even though there 1.3 billion people in China, for some reason I’ve yet to get a single view from there.)

It all reminds me of that opening line from ABC’s Wide World of Sports that I watched growing up as a kid–”Spanning the Globe…” which ran between 1961 and 1998. (Also the same opening where Jim McKay said, “the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat.”) Great memories.

So from this blog’s small beginnings in 2008 from my home in Cedar Falls, Iowa it’s exciting to see those stats and the map of the places around the world where this blog has reached. My passport has not quite reached 20 countries and I hope before I leave this rock I get a few more stamps. Bu in the meantime it’s nice to go there in spirit and word. If you’re reading this in some far away country, drop me a note and tell me what’s going on in production in your part of the world. (Include some pictures if you can and I’ll start an “Unlikely places” scrapbook.)

And for what it’s worth I’d like to share with you a short promotional video I just produced (via my company River Run Productions) for the Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber . In under two mintues you’ll see part of what makes the Cedar Falls-Waterloo Iowa area a great palce to live and work…and blog.

P.S. For those interested in the production aspects of that video. It was shot mostly with the Panasonic AF100 (with Nikon primes and Lumex lens), but also some shots are from the Panasonic HPX 170, Go Pro camera, and Nikon still photos.)

Scott W. Smith

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Tonight the film, The Masks We Wear, which I produced, shot, and co-directed (with Josh McCabe) for River Run Productions will be one of films shown tonight at  The Best of the City screening in Des Moines as part of The 48 Hour Film Project. But there is a little more real life drama happening in Iowa right now.

Tuesday night I was returning from a trip to Florida and my connecting flight from Minneapolis to Des Moines was delayed in taking off because of lightning. We were told that all flights were delayed from taking off until lightning had not been spotted for 15 minutes. Eventually we took off and were told the ride made take a little longer than 45 minutes as they were trying to fly around a big storm. Somewhere over Iowa around 9PM the sun was setting and casting a golden glow on the storm clouds below us.

For about 15 minutes the view from seat 16A was the one of the most glorious views I’ve ever had in all my years of flying. (I took the above picture with my iPhone with a slight enhancement using the Chase Jarvis iPhone app The Best Camera.) By the time I landed, got to my vehicle, and made a Starbucks stop to prepare for my two-hour drive to Cedar Falls it was 10 PM. I was about 15 miles north of Des Moines and about 15 minutes south of Ames on I-35 when I saw a storm in front of me that looked like the kind you see in the end of the world movies. A dark and foreboding wall with a lot of lightning.  As the rain started to fall I actually made the decision to re-route my trip and turned around, back-tracked where I just came from and headed  east on I-80.

The storm eventually caught up with me and I had to pull over twice because visibility was so limited. It made a two-hour trip take three and a half hours. It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon and this morning when I saw how bad the damage was in Ames and Des Moines. Currently I-35 (the major trucking road between Minneapolis and Des Moines) is closed, Ames is experiencing one of their worse flooding ever —leaving residents without drinking water, and tragically a 16-year old girl was killed outside Des Moines when her car was sweep away by flood waters just a mile away from I-80.

Kinda of puts things in perspective. While I was in Florida I showed a video I produced for my high school reunion. Among the fun songs and pictures I had a segment where I used Don Henley’s song The End of the Innocence (co-written by Bruce Hornsby) to recap things that had happened since we had graduated. It’s a bittersweet song that has always been one of my favorites. And the perfect song to evoke emotions for a group of people who had collectively witnessed the Challenger exploding and events surrounding 911.

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneth a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin’ by
But “happily ever after” fails
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell in small details
Since daddy had to fly

So tonight when I’m walking the red carpet Hollywood-style in Des Moines I’ll enjoy the moment. But I’ll also be aware of the people suffering nearby from the recent storms and my prayers go out to the friends and family of the 16-year-old who was killed.

Keep in mind while you’re writing that death and suffering are never far from your door. May you create stories that that not only entertain, but those that engage and enlighten the world we live in. (Aren’t those the kinds that last through the years?) To borrow writer Flannery O’Connor’s phrase, we need a few “prophetic poets.” They help us through the storms of life.

P.S. And if you happen to be at the screening tonight or the Des Moines Social Club afterwards stop by and say hello. I’ll be the one in a tux jacket, jeans, and black Converse high-tops.

Scott W. Smith


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Starting tonight at 7:30 River Run Productions will be working taking part in the 48 Hour Film Project. That’s were you have 48 hours to write, shoot and edit a 4-7 minute film. This will be the fifth year I will lead a team to compete in the film project. It’s an opprtunity to work on a narrative project with actors, editors, cameramen, and other production people I’ve worked on other projects in the past and also a few people I’ve never worked with before.

There are 90 cities that do this throughout the year in the US and we will be competing in Des Moines, Iowa. Each of the past four years we’ve made it to what’s called The Best of the Cities which are the top dozen or so films. This year in Des Moines there will be 49-50 teams competing. Making a film in 48 hours is not hard. Making a good film in 48 hours is very hard. And just to make things interesting we’ve actually signed up to make two films this weekend. I can’t imagine we’re the first to ever try this, but I thought it would be an interesting challenge.

In the next several days I’ll document the process concluding with posting the final films on Monday.

About the only thing you are allowed to do is pick cast, crew, locations, and secure equipment.

We have a committed cast of six people and several others on standby. We have several locations on standby as well:
1) An updated motel room that has a retro 50s feel
2) A working artist’s studio
3) An office conference room
4) A hip bar
5) An old barn

There are a few others we could use, but those are our main choices. Just like a feature film moving cast & crew to locations takes time so we hope to just use one location. Though we could shoot at one tonight and one on Saturday which wouldn’t be too much trouble.

As far as equipment we have various cameras (Panasonic HVX 200, HPX 170, Canon 7D, and a couple Nikon cameras and lens), lights, tripods, dollys, etc., we have two Final Cut Pro edit bays, and a wide selection of library music & sound effects.

So equipment, talent and crew-wise we are in good shape. So everything is dependent on the script. Isn’t that usually the situation? Hollywood films are full of talented crews, actors using top-notch equipment all dependent on a good script.

For the 48 Hour Film Project you make a blind selection of genres. Since we are two hours away from Des Moines we’ll have two people at the selection kick off event.

The main genres:

  • Buddy Film
  • Comedy
  • Drama
  • Fantasy
  • Film de Femme
  • Film Noir
  • Horror
  • Mockumentary
  • Musical or Western
  • Road Movie
  • Romance
  • Sci Fi
  • Silent Film
  • Thriller/Suspense

If you reject your first selection they give you one of the Wild Card Genres:

  • Adventure Serial
  • Dark Comedy
  • Foreign Film (only used in the United States)
  • Heist
  • Historical Fiction/Period Piece
  • Mystery
  • Surprise Ending
  • Time Travel Movie or Doppelganger Movie

So at 7:30 tonight we’ll find the direction we’ll head. I’ll kick ideas around with cast and crew and then write the script(s). In the past I have actually started shooting without a storyline to take advantage of the soft lighting between 7:30-9:00. It’s basically been raining for the past 24 hours so I’m not sure we’ll be doing any exterior shots tonight.

If this is something you’d like to do check out the article by John Hansen, How to make a film in 48 hours. Back in 2005 Hansen’s team, Team Last to Enter, not only won Best of the Cities (Des Moines) with their film Mimes of the Prairie, but won the national competition that year.

Should be interesting.

Making Two Films in 48 Hours (Part 2)

Scott W. Smith

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There is something I’ve learned about photography over the years that translates well to writing screenplays.

Last Thursday my company (River Run Productions) and its sister web design company Spinutech pulled down nine awards* at the 2010 AAF-Cedar Valley ADDY Awards. Two of the awards were for photos I had taken including the above photo which won a Gold Addy.

That photo was taken to promote an active retirement community here in Iowa and features a women in her 70s coming off a water slide. (May we all be as active when we’re in our 70s.) Photography has paid a lot of bills for me over the years, and every now and then you really know when you’ve nailed a shot. It’s a good feeling. And that photo was one of those times.

When I take photos I’m always asking myself, “How can I make this unusual?” It can be subtle or drastic, but something has to make your work stand out. Common ways that photographers make their work uncommon include:

  1. Lighting
  2. Composition
  3. Camera
  4. Aperture
  5. Shutter Speed
  6. ISO
  7. Angle
  8. Environment
  9. Expression (if a portrait)
  10. Post-production

“How can I make this unusual?” That’s a good question to ask about the screenplay you are writing. What sets it apart from the stack of screenplays on a readers or producers desk? Is there something different and out of the ordinary about your screenplay? Common ways that screenwriters make their work uncommon include:

  1. Unusual plot
  2. Unusual character(s)
  3. Unusual setting
  4. Unusual dialogue
  5. Unusual point of view
  6. Unusual ending
  7. Unusual conflict
  8. Unusual jobs
  9. Unusual situations
  10. _____________

I’m sure you can add to the list. But there must be something usual about your screenplay to get producers passionate about spending time and money getting your screenplay made, to get actors exciting about being in the film, and to get audiences interested in watching the finished movie. Look at your favorite film list and ask what makes them unusual. Then look at the screenplay you are writing (or want to write) and ask what makes it unusual.

A couple examples of #8 Unusual jobs would be found in The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air. Unusual usually means original. What are some of your favorite unusual movie elements?

*Here’s a shot of our awards from last week. (They’re not x-rated, it just happens to be the thirtieth anniversary of the local ADDY group.)

Scott W. Smith

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“Trouble, oh we got trouble, Right here in River City!”
                                                  Music Man, written by Iowa native Meredith Willson

How high’s the water, mama? 
Five feet high and risin’ 
                                                   Johnny Cash
                                                   Five Feet High and Risin’ 

 

I was supposed to get my haircut today…that didn’t happen.

When the morning begins with a segment of the NBC Today Show in Cedar Falls, Iowa you know there’s trouble in River City. Just two blocks from my office the Cedar River flows. In fact, we chose the name River Run Productions for our company because we saw the river as a metaphor that runs though Iowa and eventually into the Mississippi which eventually runs into the Gulf of Mexico and around the world.

Little did we know when we launched in January of ‘07 that just four months later I would be doing a shoot in Brazil including flying in a seaplane over the meeting of the waters where the Amazon and Rio Negro Rivers meet. 

But back in Cedar Falls today it was a long day of partaking along with hundreds (thousands?) of volunteers (including my partner who lost his home in the Parkersburg tornado two weeks ago) filling and placing sandbags trying to keep the river at bay. So far it’s been working to protect the downtown area, though many people in the low lying areas have evacuated and much of their homes underwater.  And the river is not supposed to crest until sometime tomorrow. 

 

Somewhere between moving boxes of photographs and memories to the basement Saturday night due to a tornado warning and taking the same boxes upstairs this morning in case of flooding, one can’t help but examine what you really need in your life.

I took all of these photos today and will give updates in coming days and then bring it full circle in regard to screenwriting and life.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday June 11, 2008 Update

The sandbagging on Tuesday paid off in Cedar Falls as the river crested at 2 AM with the downtown being spared from any flooding despite a record level of 102 feet. I drove over to Waterloo to help artist & friend Paco Rosic with his battle to hold back the flooding there from his restaurant/studio. Without much sleep in the last two night he and his father are winning the battle when most have given up.  Here are some shots of the front, inside (the multiple cords going to several water pumps), and view from the back of Galleria De Paco (voted this year as the #1 attraction in Iowa).

 

Thursday June 12, 2008 Update

Where’d all the good people go?
I’ve been changin’ channels
I don’t see them on the tv shows
Where’d all the good people go?
                                                                                                 Jack Johnson
                                                                                                 Good People

The secret’s out, Jack. A lot of those good people are in Iowa. They’re even on tv. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams showed some of them in last night’s broadcast, including a nurse who volunteered in the morning after working an all-night shift in an intensive care unit. All told, I heard 5,000 people and 250,000 sandbags filled and placed on the levee helped keep the river back in downtown Cedar Falls. (Not that I put myself in the good people category, but I did make a brief cameo on the NBC segment in a non-speaking role as “Volunteer passing sandbag in white long sleeve t-shirt and camera strap around front.”)

It appears the worst is over in Cedar Falls but problems continue to mount in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, and Iowa City and in other cites across Iowa and the Midwest. All of this reminds me of a quote from Steve Brown who I produced a video for in Nashville a couple years ago:

“The one thing I’ve learned is every day the world rolls over on top of someone who was just sitting on top of it yesterday.”

I don’t think a week goes by when I don’t think of that quote. I used to keep a list I called the roll over club. It contained names like John Kennedy Jr., Princess Diana, Mike Tyson, Kenneth Lay (Enron), Michael Vick, Britney Spears, Barry Bonds…you get the picture.

The point is things change quickly when your sitting on top of the world. I’m fond of pointing to Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air where after reaching the peak of Mount Everest exhausted he took a few pictures and then began his decent. Krakauer writes, “All told, I’d spent less than five minutes on the roof of the world.”

Over the years I’ve seen many people who were at the top of the world before it began to roll: Muhammad Ali, Christopher Reeves, and Michael J. Fox come to mind. Ali continually reminded us that he was “the greatest” though he had to recant that later, when Reeves died due to complications from a horse riding accident that had left him paralyzed one headline read, “Superman Dies,” and Fox had an amazing dream year in his early 20′s when he was the star of the top rated TV program that he shot in the day and then went to his night job shooting “Back to the Future” that would become a #1 box office hit long before his career and life took a blow as he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.

And in 1990 The New York Times  ran an article on The Man Who Own Prime Time about Brandon Tartikoff who had become the youngest person ever to be chosen the head programmer of a network at 31 and rose to become president of NBC Entertainment. Under his leadership NBC flourished with a string of successes including Cheers, The Cosby Show, LA Law, Family Ties and Seinfeld and for one incredible five year run NBC was the No. 1 Network for five consecutive seasons. Seven years after that article appeared Tartiloff died at age 48 from Hodgkin’s disease. 

Despite human’s great accomplishments, the above stories and this recent flood are reminders of how fragile we are. 

Whatever mountain top you are reaching for know that if you are one of the fortunate ones who gets to the summit you don’t get to stay up there very long. An acting teaching once told me “When your feet hit the ground in the morning if you don’t want to be an actor more than anything then don’t pursue it because it’s too hard to make it and too hard to stay if you do make it. So unless you love acting it’s not worth it.” That’s great advise for the screenwriter as well.  

In the June 5 issues of Time magazine there is an article called “How to Live Live With Just 100 Things.” Lisa Mclaughlin writes, ‘Excess consumption is practically an American religion. But as anyone with a filled-to-the-gills closet knows, the things we accumulate can become oppressive.” Dave Bruno started what he calls “the 100 Thing Challenge,  a grass-roots movement in which otherwise seemingly normal folks are pledging to whittle down their possessions to a mere 100 items.”

Maybe trading in your multiple piece spoon, fork and knife set for a spork won’t bring the Jewish concept of Shalom or peace (what Cornelius Plantinga Jr. calls “universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…Shalom, in other words is the way things ought to be.”)  But maybe it’s a step in the direction of that happy ending we all seek.

I think that is the single greatest reasons why movie audiences yearn for (in some cases demand) a happy ending. Because one of the deepest longings in life is to find shalom. Look at many of the films people return to again and again (The Shawshank Redemption, Titanic, The Princess Bride, Star Wars, Finding Nemo, Rocky, The Wizard of Oz) and you will find this concept over and over again. Most (all?) films at least show a small corner of shalom or it’s opposite, a world lived outside the garden.

Who doesn’t want to have that moment of clarity that Tom Cruise as Jerry Maguire has as he writes his mission statement and says, “It was the me I’d always wanted to be”? 

Often it takes an event like a flood, 9-11 or a death in the family, or a personal illness to get our attention. Out of difficult times we need to have hope that there is a purpose and meaning to our suffering. Let’s not forget those who have lost greatly in the recent tornadoes and floods and pitch in where we can. And in time we’ll hear stories from this flood about how good things came out of the calamity.

Just like the Johnny Cash song Five Feet High and Risin’:

My mama always taught me that good things come from adversity if we put our faith in the Lord.
We couldn’t see much good in the flood waters when they were causing us to have to leave home, 
But when the water went down, we found that it had washed a load of rich black bottom dirt across our land. The following year we had the best cotton crop we’d ever had.

Sunday June 15, 2008 Update

This morning’s early morning lightening storm was kind of an exclamation point to two weeks of strange weather for the area.

And all the flooding in Iowa proves one thing: Jay Leno was wrong. Back in the first week January just before the Iowa caucuses he said that the word caucus was an Indian word meaning the only day of the year anyone pays attention to Iowa.

From two weeks ago when Parkersburg and other towns where hit by a tornado to the flooding of last week has provided the national press with lots of dramatic images.

Things began to return back to normal in Cedar Falls on Friday when the downtown ban was lifted and the national guard moved on. By Friday night hundreds of people had gathered in Overman Park to watch a movie in the park. Late Saturday afternoon I rode my bike downtown and saw Cup ‘O Joe was open on Main St. and the distinct sound of a Bob Marley song was being performed live at The Hub: 

Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.
Singin’: “Don’t worry about a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!

                                            Bob Marley
                                            Three Little Birds

 

 

Wednesday June 18, 2008 Update

It’s tough out there
High Water Everywhere
                                                                              
Bob Dylan   
                                                                               High Water (For Charlie Patton)
 

It’s hard to believe that is less than a week that flooding in Iowa alone as displaced tens of thousands of people and caused over $1.5 billion in damage. It’s a classic man vs. nature battle that will also have long a term economic impact.

Just about a month ago I did a couple days location scouting for Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It in the very areas being hit by flood waters; Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Vinton and Cedar Rapids. Probably a good choice by Mandate Pictures to shoot their roller derby film later this summer in other states. 

But those areas will rebound because that’s what good Midwestern people do. And I thought I’d share with you some photos from this part of Iowa that I hope will be a refreshing break from the images you are seeing on the TV day after day. 

Vinton, Iowa Library

Vinton, Iowa Courthouse

 Cedar Rapids, Iowa 

Cedar Rapids Historic Theater

 

 

Photos and text copyright ©2008 Scott W. Smith

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“When you drink from the well, remember the well-digger.”
Chinese proverb

Last Sunday one of my partners at River Run Productions had 15 seconds to make it into his basement with his wife and dog before an EF 5 rated tornado ripped through his Parkersburg, Iowa home.

In less than a minute his house was gone and both cars totaled. But he, his wife and dog were safe. A total of seven people were killed in the storm and over 200 homes were destroyed and another 400 damaged.

Iowa is no stranger to tornadoes, but this one was the most powerful to hit the state in over 30 years. It’s one more reminder that things can change in a New York minute—or even an Iowa minute.

Friday I went to Parkersburg to shoot footage of the destruction and interviews for an insurance company.  I have been through a hurricane in Florida and a major earthquake in California and I have never personally seen the devastation that I saw as the result of that tornado.

From where I took the above photo, every direction I looked basically looked the same. It’s amazing that more people weren’t killed. Human beings tend to have short memories so this is one more thing to help remind us how fragile life is.

I’ve written a lot about writing on this blog but not much about keeping life in perspective with a creative career. The fact is most of us have difficulty balancing our lives.

I’ve collected some of my favorite quotes over the years that are a little random, but I hope there’s something in here that you can hang your hat on—or at least cause you to smile or reflect on your life and dreams. But mainly I want you to understand that whatever creative dreams you have there’s more to life than chasing that rainbow.

“My biggest disappointment so far is that having a career has not made me happy.”
                                                                        Shane Black
Was paid $1.7m for The Last Boy Scout 

“It’s an accepted fact that all writers are crazy, even the normal ones are weird.
William Goldman
                                                                         Adventures in the Screen Trade                                                                  

 “I don’t dress until 5 p.m. I have a bathrobe that can stand…Yes, I am divorced. One writes because one literally couldn’t get another job or has no choice.”
Akiva Goldsman
 A Beautiful Mind
 

“I got into screenwriting for the best of all reasons: I got into it for self-therapy.”
                                                                                      Paul Schrader
                                                                                      Taxi Driver

“For the first couple of years that I wrote screenplays, I was so nervous about what I was doing that I threw up before I began writing each morning. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s much better than reading what you’ve written at the end of the day and throwing up.”
Joe Eszterhas

“I’m not very good at writing. If I succeed, it’s by fluke.”
Shane Black
Lethal Weapon

“If you get rejected, you have to persist. Don’t give up. It was the best advice I ever got.”
Anna Hamilton Phelan
                                                                                      Mask

“The myth about me is that I sold my first screenplay and it’s true. But I had also worked very hard as a fiction writer for ten years and that’s how I learned the craft of telling stories.”
Akiva Goldman
                                                                                       A Beautiful Mind
                                                                                       (He also has a masters
in fiction from NYU)

“I spent 18 years doing stand up comedy. Ten years learning, four years refining, and four years of wild success.” (It’s worth noting that Martin was on top when he walked away from stand up comedy and never performed as a comedian again.)
Steve Martin
                                                                                         Born Standing Up
           

“Starting in 2002, I knew for a fact that I had to get out of this business. It was too hard. It wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough, it was that it was too hard. What kept me in it was laziness and fear. It would be nice to say it was passion and I’m a struggling artist who didn’t give up on his craft. All of that sounds good, but the truth is it was laziness and fear.”
Alan Loeb
Things We Lost in the Fire

“Like the career of any athlete, an artist’s life will have its injuries. These go with the game. The trick is to survive them, to learn how to let yourself heal.”
                                                                                        Julia Cameron
The Artist’s Way
Dee: “Jane, do you ever feel like you’re just this far from being completely hysterical 24 hours a day?”
Jane: “Half the people I know feel that way. The lucky ones feel that way. The rest of the people are hysterical 24 hours a day.”

                                                                                       from Lawrence Kasden’s
                                                                                       Grand Canyon


“We’re constantly buying crap we don’t need and devoting ourselves to endeavors which, perhaps on reflection, with a little bit of distance, would reveal themselves to be contrary to our own best interest.”
                                                               David Mamet      

Everything in this town (L.A.) plays into the easy buttons that get pushed and take people off their path; greed, power, glamour, sex, fame.”
                                                                                       Ed Solomon
  Men in Black

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who read your work, and enriching your own life, as well.
Stephen King

So life in general is hard, and being a writer or in the creative arts is a double helping of difficulty.

Several years ago Stephen King was hit by a van when he was on a walk. One leg was broken in nine places and his knee was reduced to “so many marbles in a sock,” his spine was chipped in eight places, four ribs were broken, and a laceration to his scalp required 30 stitches. It was as if his characters Annie Wilkes (Misery) and Cujo had ganged up on him.

But he had learned a thing or two about adversity after an earlier bout with drugs and alcohol that he eventually won. One of thing things he learned was to not to get a massive desk and put it in the center of the room like he did early in his career. That is, writing shouldn’t be the most important thing in your life.

“Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room.  Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
Stephen King

Two years ago I produced a DVD based on the book Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. The concept was to shoot a Koyaanisqatsi-style video that that showed the arc of life from birth to death. I shot footage from New York City to Denver. I shot footage of a one day old baby in a hospital, people walking into an office building in Cleveland, snow failing in a cemetery and the like.  One of the shots for that video was in Parkersburg, Iowa.

It was a traditional Friday night high school football game at Aplington-Parkersburg High School. (What makes this school unique is though the town only has a population of 2,000 it currently has 4 active graduates playing in the NFL.)  That high school building is a total loss because of the tornado. Here’s a photo of the scoreboard sign that was blown down during the storm.

There will always be the storms of life. And as I’ve written before, movies can help us endure those storms and even inspire us. (“Throughout most of the Depression, Americans went assiduously, devotedly, almost compulsively, to the movies.”-Carlos Stevens) So work on your craft because we need great stories that give us a sense of direction, but don’t waste your life just writing screenplays.

words & photos copyright ©2008  Scott W. Smith

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