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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Cruise’

It’s all baby steps. One foot in front of the other.”
Writer/Director Sidney Lumet (The Verdict)

ScriptMag

 

A few days ago I was thrilled to find out that the Screenwriting from Iowa and Other Unlikely Places blog was named by Script Magazine as Website of the Week.  That’s pretty cool. I’m a long time fan of the magazine and appreciate the nod from Script Mag editor Jeanne Veillette Bowerman and her team. I’ll metaphorically put that on the same shelf as my 2008 Regional Emmy for this blog, the 2010 shout-out from the official blog of Tom Cruise, and most recently in 2014 named as one of Screenwriting Spark’s Top 25 Screenwriting Blogs and by the New York Film Academy’s The Best Screenwriting Blogs.

A nice pay off to six and half years of blogging more than 1850 posts. Baby steps. Anytime my outsider perspective can be mentioned in the same breath as the insider perspectives of Go Into The Story and John August’s blog I feel like I have something to add to the screenwriting and filmmaking conversation. Thanks to all the readers over the years who have provided the motivation to keep this blog going.

Still exploring ways to publish a book/ebook version of the Screenwriting from Iowa greatest hits as well as monetize the blog, but personal projects are fuel by passion. The best advice I can pass on to you in whatever creative endeavor you chose is what the artist Gary Kelley once told me about pro bono work he chooses to do—basically, if you’re doing it for free make sure it feeds the soul.

final draft script writing screenwriting software screenwriting contests filmmaking books

Being named by “Website of the Week” gives me the opportunity to highlight 10 posts where I pulled quotes from Script Mag over the years:

Normal is Not Funny (tip #28)
The Job of Writing
Writing “The Artist” (Part 3)
Writing “The Social Network” (Part 1)
Will Anyone Read Your Script?
“I can’t keep handling this…rejection.”
Screenwriting Quote #172 (Christopher Lockhart)
Writing Actor Bait (Tip #64)
Writing “Back to the Future”
The Billy Wilder Way

And as a bonus here’s a 2009 post—Screenwriting Quote #24— that’s a quote from Script Magazine that gets to the heart of this blog:
“It doesn’t matter if you didn’t go to the best schools, if you’re a kid or in your 50s. It doesn’t matter if, like me, when I moved to Los Angeles in 1981, you come at the business without friends or relatives in the business. It doesn’t even matter if you spent formative years digging carpet scraps out of dumpsters instead of going to film school. The only thing that matters is the quality of the storytelling. More than hearing about techniques, more than discussing the construction of dialogue, I think that’s the important message; that it’s possible.”
Screenwriting J. Michael Straczynski (Changeling script, Babylon 5 creator, story credit on Thor and World War z)
Script Magazine
Volume 15/ Number 1 Pages 38-39

Scott W. Smith

 

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“I think ultimately, when broadband comes. that there’s going to be a lot of entertainment that will be run through the Internet, and I think that’s going to be a big factor in the near future.”
George Lucas in April 2001
Interview with Joe Rice

Over the weekend I was preparing to pare down my film library and flipped through the book Digital Cinema: The Revolution in Cinematography, Post Production, and Distribution by Brian McKeran and found that Lucas quote.  It’s amazing what’s happened in less than ten years since that book was published in 2005.  In fact, when Lucas made that comment about entertainment running through the Internet You Tube was still a few years away from being launched, there were Blockbuster video stores all over the United States, and Netflix was still a decade away from announcing it was getting into the original content business with House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey.

Makes me wonder what what the world will look like in ten years. Just maybe it will look a little like this nugget I used in Screenwriting Outside L.A. 101:

“I think that the Internet is going to effect the most profound change on the entertainment industries combined. And we’re all gonna be tuning into the most popular Internet show in the world, which will be coming from some place in Des Moines.”
Steven Spielberg to Katie Couric on the NBC today show in 1999

We’re not there yet, but there are things happening in unlikely places all over the world. I’ve been saying for years that an unlikely place could be West Des Moines, West Africa, or just east of the Hollywood sign in West Covina. But since Spielberg mentioned Des Moines let me give you two examples of what I’ve seen happening there.

When I lived in Iowa I was DP on a short film where I worked with actor Brendan Dunphy. One of the sharpest, smartest, most talented, nicest and best looking people I’ve ever worked with. Check out his website if you looking an actor who looks like Tom Cruise did around age 30.  And if his looks and my praise don’t intrigue you, how about knowing that he’s a trained entomologist who when not acting or writing plays works with bugs at Iowa State University in Ames. (See article Acting Bug by Carole Gieseke.) You’re going to see more of Dunphy in the future either in Hollywood or on the Science Channel—if not from some Internet show in Des Moines that Steven Spielberg produces. (Never bet against a guy from a small town in Iowa, with Hollywood looks,  who’s also performed Hamlet on stage.)

Brendan Dunphy

Brendan Dunphy

Dunphy was also part of the team (along with Paul David Benedict, Scott Siepker) that produced Iowa Nice that received over a million views on You Tube. (It also helped them land gigs with ESPN producing videos with the same snarky–but less profane– humor.)

And back in 2005, a group of filmmakers in Des Moines did win in 2005 Best Film at the 48 House Film Festival for their short Mimes of the Prairie. (Second place was a film from San Francisco and third place was a film from Paris.)

P.S. Greatest missed opportunity in Internet entertainment?  “ [In 2000] We offered to sell a forty-nine-per-cent stake and take the name Blockbuster.com. We’d be their online service.”  Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix in The New Yorker article Outside the Box, Netflix and the Future of Television by Ken Auletta. At peak in 2004 Blockbuster had 9,000 stores, at the end of last year closed all but 50 franchisee owned stores (in Texas and Alaska), and shut down their mail-order service. The reason ?

“Blockbuster ran through a series of owners, investors and managers as it struggled to compete with Netflix’s mail-order DVDs, cable’s video-on-demand, Redbox’s vending machines and streaming services online. Blockbuster not only failed to reinvent itself; it also neglected its stores, which grew shabby and increasingly reliant upon sneaky late fees.”
Al Lewis, Wall Street Journal 2013 

Recommended reading at least once a year: Who Moved the Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. Especially for anyone in the film/video/photography business.

Related Posts:

The Prophet Ben Hecht
New Cinema screenwriting (part 2)
Putting the Bust in Blockbuster (written in 2010)
Screenwriting and the Little Fat Girl in Ohio (2.0) The prophet Francis Ford Coppola

Related Links:
Des Moines, where regular folks can live the rich life, NBC Today
The Best Places for Business and Careers, Forbes
(Des Moines tops the list in 2013)

Scott W. Smith

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“I found myself seeking shelter against the wind.”
Bob Seger/Against the Wind

“Run, Forrest! Run!
Jenny in Forrest Gump

Many of you weren’t even born when Bob Seger’s album Against the Wind was released in February of 1980. Some of you have never heard the title song on the album. And since this blog has a global audience, there are others who have never even heard of Bob Seger—or his Silver Bullett Band. But I don’t think there’s been a human being anywhere in the world, anytime in the history of mankind, whose heart would not resonate —to one degree or another—with the core experience of running against the wind.

If Adam and Eve heard this song—once they were banished east of Eden—they’d have been just as moved as I was when I first heard it as a high school senior the year it was released. And every decade of my life this song has taken on new meaning. And if I make it to age 80 in a retirement home, I’ll be the one in the corner listening to this song cranked up in my ear buds on my retro iPhone 14  (just like I did with those jumbo Koss headphones at age 18) and I’ll still be seeking—probably more than ever— shelter against the wind.

The kid in the inner city Chicago, the businessman in Singapore, the factory worker in China, the mother in the favilla in Rio, the president of Pakistan, the actress in Hollywood, the computer programmer in India, and the farmer in Iowa—all know what it’s like to run against the wind. It’s a universal and primal.

In fact that screenplay you’re currently writing should have a protagonist who’s running against the wind. Indiana Jones, Jason Bourne, Erin Brockovich, Luke Skywalker, Ellen Ripley, Rocky, Superman, Batman, Bambi, Nemo, Dorothy, and more recently Django all spend a lot of movie time running against the wind. No conflict, no drama.

And since this blog celebrates storytelling and regionalism, this song and Seger’s Michigan roots (Lincoln Park, Ann Arbor, Detroit) fit right in. Seger spent fifteen years on the Midwest club circuit—with limited national success—before hitting it big nationally in 1976 with the song and album Night Moves. Seger is a study in persistence. And here we are fifty years after he first hit the Detroit music scene and he’s getting ready to tour again this month performing in many of the Midwest cities where he honed his act in the early years; Toledo, Grand Rapids, Dayton, Green Bay, St. Paul, Fargo, and of course, Detroit.

Againstthewin

I saw Seger in concert the summer of ’78 at what’s now The Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. Few things were as magical and captivating in my teenage years as sitting in the dark with around 60,000 other people watching the flickering glow of lighters throughout the outdoor stadium and listening to the raspy voice of Seger.

Happy Valentine’s Day—in a melancholy sort of way.

Against the Wind
Bob Seger

Seems like yesterday
But it was long ago
Janey was lovely she was the queen of my nights
There in darkness with the radio playin low
And the secrets that we shared, mountains that we moved
Caught like a wildfire out of control
Til there was nothin left to burn and nothin left to prove
And I remember what she said to me
How she swore that it never would end
I remember how she held me oh so tight
Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then
Against the wind
We were runnin against the wind
We were young and strong we were runnin
Against the wind
And the years rolled slowly past
And I found myself alone
Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends
Found myself further and further from my home and I
Guess I lost my way
There were oh so many roads
I was livin to run and runnin to live
Never worried about payin or even how much I owe
Movin’ eight miles a minute and for months at a time
Breakin all of the rules that would bend
I began to find myself searchin
Searchin for shelter again and again
Against the wind
Little somethin against the wind
I found myself seekin shelter against the wind
Well those drifting 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 runnin against the wind
Well I’m older now but still runnin against the wind
Against the wind
Against the wind
Still runnin
Against the wind
Against the wind
Against the wind…
P.S. Against the Wind did appeared in the movies For Love of the Game and Forrest Gump. Other Seger songs have been featured in movies over the years, but one of the most iconic scenes in modern American films is when Tom Cruise slides across the floor in Risky Business and dances to Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll.
P.P.S. Against the Wind is Seger’s only number one album on the Billboard 2oo charts, and knocked Pink Floyd’s The Wall album out of the top slot after it topped the charts for 15 weeks.

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How does one become a screenwriting rock star?

Well, you only have to do two things:

1) Write a screenplay that becomes a movie starring Tom Cruise.

2) Date Jennifer Aniston.

But here’s the tricky part, you have to do them both at the same time. Yeah, I know that last stipulation is a killer for most of you. (And really makes it tough for female writers.) As far as I know there is only one person who fits the above qualifications.

Justin Theroux. Screenwriting Rock Star.

How does one go from zero to a rock star? I’m not 100% sure, but I think it has something to do with not exactly starting with zero.

Let me unpack Theroux’s journey. Hang with me, it’s quite a trip.

First the name Theroux is not foreign in the world of American literature and movies. Paul Theroux has written more than 45 books (novels, shorts stories, non-fiction travel) and a few have been made into films, the most well-known being The Mosquito Coast (1986) which starred Harrison Ford. One of Paul’s sons, Louis Theroux is a journalist turned documentary filmmaker, and another son Marcel Theroux is a British writer with four published novels. So we can agree that Paul has quite a literary family, correct?

Paul Theroux is Justin Theroux’s uncle. According to a 2001 Washington Times article, Justin’s mother was a writer for the Washington Post. In another older article Justin called his father  a good painter turned wealthy corporate lawyer in Washington D.C..  His parents divorced when he was young and he’s described his childhood as “relatively normal middle class,” with no thoughts of being a writer. At the age of 14 Justin began attending a boarding school in Massachusetts. He also started acting and discovered punk music around that time. He would go on to graduate from Bennington College in Vermont where he studied visual art and drama.

“I’m pretty easy to please artistically. I can be inspired by a rusty length of chain, or a car battery if it’s the right color.”
Justin Theroux

After Bennington he entered the British America Drama Academy where he performed Shakespeare.  He moved to New York and made a living painting everything from t-shirts to billboards. He also got involved with the Roundabout Theatre and Actor’s Playhouse and this is where things really get interesting. He performed in the revival of Chekhov’s Three Sisters. For what it’s worth, I happened to catch that show in New York. It was only a six week run because many of the cast were working in Hollywood and could only take a pay cut for so long. (Eric Stoltz said in an interview he made $1,000. a week doing the play. He told the New York Times, “Doing something like this is more enriching than doing a film. Ideally, we’d be getting $20 million to do Chekhov and people in silly movies would be getting B scale.”)

It was February of 1997 and Three Sisters was the first show I ever saw on Broadway. (It was also my first trip to NYC—one glorious weekend.) I went to see Three Sisters because it was Chekhov and the cast included Stoltz, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Lili Taylor, Amy Irving, Jerry Stiller and David Strahairn. It also included actors who would become quite famous later; Billy Crudup, Calista Flockhart, and Paul Giamatti. So Justin earned his way on the stage with some talented actors. But it was his friendship with Tripplehorn that would lead him to eventually gaining a writing credit on Rock of Ages.

Tripplehorn was dating Ben Stiller and introduced Justin to Ben beginning a long friendship. And while Justin’s had a long run as an actor (including a part in Stiller’s Zoolander) his first credit as a writer was on Tropic Thunder which Stiller directed. And, of course, that movie had a memorable character named Les Grossman played by Tom Cruise. He then earned a writing credit on Iron Man 2, and today he’ll watch a film he wrote (credited with Chris D’Arienzo and Allen Loeb) fill theaters—all with Jennifer Aniston by his side.

“The media’s always talking about overnight success. There’s no such thing. My friend Calista Flockhart [the star of tv's Ally McBeal] is a good example. She’s been doing plays for years—11 or 12 years. Nothing overnight success about her.”
Justin Theroux
2001 Interview with Sibella Giorello

Sure Justin Theroux probably had a little more coin and connections in his family than the average person, but you’ve got to think there’s a little more than average literary talent in those family genes. And there’s also the training and time to factor into the equation. From acting as a teenager, through college plays, performing Shakespeare in London, and Chekhov on Broadway, to acting in films and Tv shows—there’s more than 25 years of dramatic work that prepared Justin Theroux for this day.

He put in his 10,000 hours (of drama) before becoming a screenwriting rock star.

In getting caught up to Theroux’s recent success, it would be easy for someone to say, “Well, yeah, his uncle is a famous writer,” or “If I had a rich dad….” Which is why I wanted to show the bigger picture. All of this reminds me of a discussion that happened in an acting class I had in L.A. when I was 21 and everyone was talking about Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez getting roles because their dad was Martin Sheen. Visiting casting director Tony Shepherd said, “There are a lot of things that will get your through the door, but you have to stay in the room with your own talent.”

P.S. So does the East-coast raised Theroux have any wisdom for screenwriters living outside L.A.?
“Someone said, ‘Never fly yourself to L.A.  Always let someone else fly you there. ‘ I actually took that advice, and I was in New York a long time. But I ended up having my first ticket bought for me to Los Angeles.”
Justin Theroux
Screenwriting U Interview with Jenna Milly

In otherwords, earn your way to Hollywood. And you might find this helpful from the same interview.

“I think the ability to throw out your own material is really important. Because everyone has an opinion on what you’re going to write. From the studios, to the actors, to the directors, whatever. So you get your sandcastles kicked over a lot, you know? So if you’re going to get your feelings hurt then you should be writing novels—and even then you’ll have an editor who’s going to knock you around. I’m a believer that the more sandcastles you build the better the sandcastles you’ll eventually build.”
Justin Theroux

May we all build better sandcastles.

Update: Before there was Rock of Ages the movie there was Rock of Ages the musical written by Chris D’Arienzo. He graduated from Paw Paw High School about 15 miles from downtown Kalamazoo, Michigan. I’ll see what I can uncover and write about him next week. What’s funny is just a month ago I wrote a post called Kalamafrickin’zoo’s Talent Pool and didn’t have D’Arienzo on that list.

Related Posts:
The Secret to Being a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously)

Thanks for the Plug TomCruise.com (My respone to post on TomCruise.com called Guide for Aspiring Screenwriters Part 1: Story Matters Most When Writing a Screenplay! )

Scott W. Smith

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I showed my wife the two pictures below and asked her if I looked like Tom Cruise and after studying the pictures she said, “Well, you’re both wearing a hoodie.” I think that means yes.

Check out the movie poster from Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (which features Cruise as Ethan Hunt and opens today in the United States), and then check out the book cover for Blood Brothers which I posed for this summer. Eerie, huh? (Okay, maybe not, but enough of a coincidence to give me something to blog about today.)

Blood Brothers: A Heartland Cain and Abel was written by Scott Cawelti, and he and I completed the screenplay Shadows in the Dark this year based on the true story of a family of four that was murdered here in Iowa. As his book was being prepared for printing a couple of months ago the artist Gary Kelley asked me to pose for the cover and I was glad to do so. (The book was released just a couple of months ago and is already in it’s fourth printing.)

By the way, if you’re new to this blog check out this link to the official Tom Cruise website and blog where Screenwriting from Iowa got a nice unsolicited shout-out last year.

P.S. Back in the eighties my wife was working at the Disney Studios in Burbank when word got out that Tom Cruise was on the lot and she left her desk quick enough to get a glimpse of him as he got on his motorcycle and ride off. Judging from the video below he still causes a stir with the ladies 25 years later. 

Scott W. Smith

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“I never wanted to write a screenplay. To me, writing is this wonderful, indulgent activity where you just fill the page with words.”
Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody
Iconcinema.com

Three years ago today I created my first blog post ever (Life Beyond Hollywood). I started out with a little Diablo Cody inspiration and a modest goal to consolidated my writing notes gathered over the years from film school, books, magazines, seminars & workshops in hopes of it becoming a 50,000 word book—and perhaps helping a fellow writer or two.

Three years later I’ve written 832 posts and over 300,000 words. (With roughly 833 estimated typos, which I blame on posting daily without a copy editor. Like Jimmy Buffett I’m not aiming for perfection—just trying to “capture the magic.”) I’m now in the process of distilling those 832 posts into three books which will be much more refined.

Actually the idea of a book predates the blog. Since I had read quite a few film and video books by Michael Weise Books, and  had just read Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat at the end of ’07 (which they published, and I thought was great)  I sent them a book proposal toward the end of 2007 and got this email back from Ken Lee:

Please email me your table of contents and a sample chapter

Thanks

Ken

Ken and I traded emails a few times and I ended up sending him three or four chapters and we spoke on the phone a couple of times and he asked me to think about what I’d like to write and blog about over the next five years. At the end of the day, while there was no deal with Michael Weise Books, this blog in part was an indirect result of my communication with Ken. (If you’re looking for a theme to write about “Success out of Failure” is a great concept because everyone can identify with losing their locker like Rocky did in that first film.)

At the same time I had written those first four chapters I started to read about Diablo Cody’s story about writing the Juno screenplay in Minneapolis, her blogging, and having gone to college at the University of Iowa. Lightning struck. A couple of people showed me the ropes on how to start a blog and four days after seeing the movie Juno I launched my first post exactly three years ago today.

I even traded a few emails in January of 2008 with Blake as his blog was one of the first screenwriting blogs I ever read. In fact, I just found this email from him that ended with: “Best to you in ‘the great 2008′ and yes, I am happy to help in any way I can.” Miss ya Blake, but long live your books & influence.

Later that year, in October of 2008, the Screenwriting from Iowa blog won a Regional Emmy (Minneapolis) in the category of advanced media. A few months later Diablo Cody walked away with an Oscar for writing Juno. Fun.

“I’ve never read a screenwriting book. I’m really superstitious about it too. I don’t even want to look at them. All I did was I went and bought the shooting script of  ‘Ghost World’ at Barnes and Noble and read it just to see how it should look on the page because I like that movie.”
Diablo Cody

The day after my first post I received this email  from Scott Cawelti, an English professor and writer at the University of Northern Iowa: “Ready for a collaboration?” It took a little time, but we recently finished a spec screenplay, have done a couple re-writes, and are just now shopping it. (As a quirky sidenote, Scott was once in a band with Robert Waller who wrote The Bridges of Madison County.)

There was early support from Mystery Man on Film. For the record I think Mystery Man’s post The Raider’s Story Conference is the single best thing you’ll find on the Internet on the process of storytelling. (Make sure to follow the link to the 125 page transcript of Lucas, Spielberg and Kasden as they discuss what became Raiders of the Lost Ark.) I was also encouraged by emails from readers and fellow blogger Scott Myers at Go Into the Story.

Last year the shout out by Diablo Cody on Twitter as well as the TomCruise.com plug were bonuses and will keep me going another year. And I hope some things I write encourage you in your own quest as a writer. In the coming days I’ll have some posts based on interviews I did with UCLA screenwriting professor Richard Walter and screenwriter Dale Launer (My Cousin Vinney, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels). This blog has brought me into contact with producers and writers in LA that would be hard for me to connect with otherwise. So if you have a blog in mind, go for it.

But for now let me say thanks for stopping by, best wishes on your own writing and if you need a little inspiration today I hope this helps:

“I can actually give you a really specific bit of advice that I give to everyone. I would not be where I am, I would not be any sort of professional writer if I had not self-published. We live in a day and age where there’s so many opportunities for writers and filmmakers with YouTube to self-publish, to make their own work available without having to go through the rejection letters and the middleman and, you know, it used to be that you were, that if you wanted to share your work with other people, I mean, you had to go through so many channels and jump through so many hoops. And now, you can just put it out there. You know, the internet is a miraculous thing, so just share as much as you can self-publish blog, you know, podcast, whatever you need to do, just make sure that you are not withholding your (unintelligible) from the world because we have so many opportunities now.”

Diablo Cody
NPR transcript Feb  2009

I never would have dreamed that I’d write 823 posts in three years, but that’s what happened. The Writers Store has an article online that talks about Jerry Seinfeld’s method for success where he marks on a calender with a red “X” over everyday he writes new material. Each “X” forms a chain and his goal is to not break that chain. You want to talk a day or two off every week from writing, that’s fine (and healthy) but do your best to have at least 20 “X’s” on your calender each month.

Writers write.

Related Posts: Juno Has Another Baby (Emmy)

Screenwriting’s Biggest Flirt

The Juno—Iowa Connection

Beatles, Cody, King & 10,000 Hours

Scott W. Smith

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Last Friday I went to hear Entertainment Tonight co-anchor Mark Steines speak at his alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), here in Cedar Falls, Iowa. His basic message to a couple hundred mostly Electronic Media students was simple;

“Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? It’s as simple as that.”

I might add that it doesn’t hurt to look like Tom Cruise, as Stienes did when he was starting out, and still does today. That played a big part in some opportunities that came his way in the 80s and lead to what has turned into a 15 year stint at Entertainment Tonight.

Yesterday, I drove through Steines’ hometown of Dubuque, Iowa which sits on the Mississippi River. He was an all-state full-back in high school and got a football scholarship to the UNI where he became a tight end. After knee & back injuries, he turned his attention to electronic media and got an internship at the local TV station KWWL in Waterloo, Iowa. His goal was to be a cameraman, but the co-anchors at the time, Ron Steele and Liz Mathis encouraged him to give it a try in front of the camera. They also mentored him along the way. And the rest is history.

To make a long story short he was hired by KWWL and while covering the Republican National Convention in New Orleans in the 80s he was confused as being Tom Cruise and Entertainment Tonight did a story on Steines and that got him some good exposure and lead to three job offers, He took one in Springfield, MO where he was the sports anchor for three years. That eventually lead him to a sports reporter job in Los Angeles at KCAL where he won his first of three Emmys. Being in LA he also studied acting, worked on voice training at the Kalmenson & Kalmenson Voice Over School for Actors, and also studied improv at The Groundlings.

In 1995, seven years after the ET spotlight on him looking like Tom Cruise, he was hired by Entertainment Tonight as an entertainment correspondent and eventually became co-anchor with Mary Hart.

He comes back to Iowa from time to time to speak at UNI as a way of paying back what has turned into a long, fulfilling and prosperous career in an industry where that combination is not easy to find. It helped give clout to his words that he was on his way to London to be on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean 4. Cedar Falls one day, hanging out with Johnny Depp the next day.

Steines talked about the importance of standing out, and how that’s hard to do in Iowa. That the industry is in LA and that’s where many opportunities are—as well as the competition.  He spoke about the need to have passion, commitment as well as rock solid skills. He also said that didn’t guarantee success in Los Angeles.

Steines spoke about the changes in the business and if he were coming up today one thing he might try is being a one-man band where you knew how to shoot and edit as well as software like After Effects. Maybe produce a little segment that was of interest to yourself and send to producers and tell them you did everything and  that would get attention.

As I’ve said many times on this blog, these are good times to be a jack-of-all-trades. That was not the message preached to me when I was in college. But the majority of 20-somethings I work with today are fearless when it comes to multitasking and performing many production skills.

And lastly, Steines talked about the difficulties of juggling career and family, because when something happens to Britney or a celebrity dies then he has to rush to the set for an update. Steines comes across about as grounded and laid back as you’ll probably find in Los Angeles. He talked about the need to give back and said as much as he loves L.A. he sometimes misses his life back in Iowa. (But don’t look for him to be moving back here any time soon.)

Scott W. Smith

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“It was kind of a Cinderella night.”
Emmy-Winning Producer Cherylanne Martin
August 29, 2010

Why should you move to L.A.?—You might win an Emmy and get your picture taken with Tom Hanks. I’ll explain producer Cherylanne Martin’s journey in a moment.

Yesterday, I wrote a post titled Why You Shouldn’t Move to L.A. which was geared toward screenwriters starting out and based on a quote from an interview with the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Rain Man, Barry Morrow. And even as I wrote that post I was thinking about the opposite view, which is why you should move to L.A.

And soon after I published my post a Hollywood assistant made this comment:

I moved to LA with no money or connections and got a low-paying job which barely pays my rent (granted, I’m not waiting tables – I’m working in development for a production company). Between my job, my girlfriend, and life in general, I don’t have very much time to write.

But you know what? Being in this town and in my particular line of work has allowed me to meet agents, managers, producers, and many many friends in very high places.

The main reason to move to Hollywood is simple….that’s where the film industry is based. That’s where the majority of jobs are located.  And there will always be room in Hollywood for interns and entry-level assistants who are willing to work long hours (12-16 on regular basis) for little or no pay. And every once in a while one of those interns or assistants finds a way to turn that opportunity and those contacts into a successful career.

Enter Cherylanne Martin. Before she collected a Primetime Emmy Sunday night along with Tom Hanks for producing the HBO drama The Pacific, she grew up in Maitland, Florida about two miles from where I grew-up. She is a year older than me and we both graduated from different high schools in Winter Park, Florida. She went to Florida State and I went to film school at the University of Miami. (I believe her major was advertising and she didn’t originally have her sights set on the film industry at all.)

In the early 80s I moved to L.A. and she worked as a production assistant in Orlando on Jaws 3-D (her first IMDB credit). I forget all the details but she ended up in L.A. working on features including being a second second assistant director (no not a typo) on Rain Man. (You knew I’d work in a Tom Cruise angle, right?) She also worked as a second assistant director on Far and Away which also starred Cruise.

By pure coincidence I met Cherylanne’s father after I moved back to Central Florida. He told me he was proud of his daughter because she worked as an assistant director on Forrest Gump. I was kind of stunned by this revelation because our meeting was not an industry meeting and this was 1994 when Forrest Gump was the biggest thing around.

He gave me Cherylanne’s address and she read a script of mine and wrote a nice note back. Since that time I’ve followed her career as she’s work with an amazing group of people including Rob Reiner, Michael Douglas, Michael J. Fox, Martin Sheen, Robert Zemeckis, Jodie Foster, Robin Williams, Matthew McConaughey, Michelle Pfeiffer, and several times with Tom Hanks.  She worked her way up from production assistant, to assistant director, to unit production manager, to associate producer, and then to producer working on films like Cast Away, Road to Perdition, and Nancy Drew.

So if you are looking for a reason why you should move to L.A. Cherylanne’s story is a pretty sweet one. She’s had opportunities in L.A. that she never would have had staying in Orlando. Perhaps not the norm for PA’s, but it’s nice to read a “Once Upon a Time…” story every now and again. Congrats on her success. I’m sure her dad is more proud than ever.

But Morrow’s comments yesterday were geared for screenwriters and really a charge for writers to get five scripts written so you have a command of the craft of screenwriting before you set your sights on moving to Los Angeles. Just remember that nothing magical happens when you first arrive in California. Whatever talents you have back home or acquired where you went to school are all you have. Earlier this summer I wrote a post where I mentioned that starting out Tom Hanks got serious stage experience working for a couple years in Cleveland, Ohio and has said,  “[I have] an artistic bent, almost a philosophy, which I learned for the first time onstage in Cleveland.”

The bottom line is both Tom Hanks and Cherylanne Martin (pictured above) are talented people who came from outside L.A., worked very hard at their craft, and found great success.

P.S.— Los Angeles will always will a great place to bump into people. Heck there are around 10 million more people in L.A. than live in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Check out my posts The Bump-In FactorThe Bump-In Factor (Part 2). But with that said, the Internet these days can change how you bump into people. How else did Screenwriting from Iowa pop up a few days ago on TomCruise.com in a post titled Guide for Aspiring Screenwriters?

Related post from other blogs: WHAT DO I NEED TO MOVE TO LA? YOU TELL ME RIGHT NOW! by Geloff LaTulippe

Scott W. Smith

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In light of the blog on TomCruise.com giving a nice mention to Screenwriting from Iowa, I posted that Mark Johnson, one of the producers of the Oscar winning- best film Rain Man, graduated from the University of Iowa. Then a friend reminded me of another Iowa connection to Rain Man and that is the original story and co-writer of that Oscar-winning script was Barry Morrow, who also graduated from the University of Iowa.

That lead me to a You Tube interview with Barry Morrow where the Oscar & Emmy-winning Morrow was asked this question:

Stephen Jennings: What advise would you offer to beginning screenwriters who want to get started in the industry? Who don’t have an agent, don’t have any contacts, and maybe don’t even live in Southern California.

Barry Morrow: I would say, stay where you are. Don’t come here (Los Angeles) yet. Unless you want to be a professional waiter. I would say live with your parents, save your money, and don’t write one script—write five scripts. Then pick the best one. And never fall into the trap of believing you’re going to sell your first screenplay, you won’t. It hasn’t happened, I don’t care what you’ve read…You might have it optioned— for about a buck, over and over and over. But someday you’ll look back and say, “I wasn’t the writer I needed to be.” So just write a few more scripts and that will serve you the best. And then you won’t have to be living in an apartment paying all the money you’re earning from this waitress or waiter job you have in West Hollywood to pay for your apartment and not have the time to write the scripts from mom and dad’s basement.”

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A few months ago Diablo Cody gave Screenwriting from Iowa a shout out on her Twitter account and I thought that was pretty cool.

Today I just learned that the blog on TomCruise.com just gave a nice plug to my blog Screenwriting from Iowa. It took me about 15 minutes to be convinced that TomCruise.com/blog really was “The Official Blog” from “The Official Site” of the real Tom Cruise.  Then it took another 15 minutes to let it all sink in.

I’m not saying that Tom Cruise writes his own blog (it states there is a team), but since it is his blog, I’d like to at least think that means Cruise is a part of the team and I’m somehow in his radar. And that’s pretty amazing, considering I’m typing these posts 1816.03 miles from Hollywood. It’s up there with getting my an Emmy for the Screenwriting from Iowa blog. I definitely think it will change the dynamics a bit.

The post on Cruise’s blog (August 26, 2010) called Guide for Aspiring Screenwriters Part 1: Story Matters Most When Writing a Screenplay! is a well thought out post that talks about Syd Field, Robert McKee, Blake Snyder, Script & Creative Screenwriting magazines, the Austin Film Festival, Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, NYU, UCLA, USC, and John August’s blog. Pretty much a who’s who in screenwriting. And in there is a mention for this blog;

For a more off-beat look at writing, the Screenwriting from Iowa blog provides screenwriters with a slightly removed take from the Hollywood norm. Scott Smith blogs about how people outside of Los Angeles can have their stories told and sold for production in TinselTown. It’s inspiring for those of us around the world who aspire to Hollywood magic without having to live in Hollywood itself.

Thanks for the plug TomCruise.com.

I’m not saying I have a lunch date planned with Tom Cruise, but this could turn into the biggest thing to happen to this blog. Time will tell.

Now if I were to have lunch with Tom Cruise I would tell him about the conversation I had a couple of years ago on a video shoot with  the great college & Olympic wrestler and coach Dan Gable. Cruise, who was a wrestler in high school, has mentioned that Gable was a hero of his. Writer John Irving was/is developing a script on Gable’s life, and I told Gable that Cruise would be perfect to help them develop the project. Gable said, that it’s impossible to get through Cruise’s people.

Gable is as Iowan as Iowa gets. (He was raised just a few miles from where I’m typing this post.) And as a collegiate and Olympic champ as well as head coach of 10 National Championship teams (at the University of Iowa) he has been called the greatest player and coach in the history of sports. If Screenwriting from Iowa can help make steps in bringing Gables story to the big screen via Cruise that would make two and a half years of blogging very worthwhile.

Cruise and I graduated from high school the same year and I’d like to think we’d have a lot in common and that he’d enjoy my coming of age script. I’d joke with him that in 1983 when All the Right Moves came out (which he starred in) I was in film school at the time, studying acting, and only two years removed from 11 years of playing organized football and wondered why I wasn’t in the film.

I’d also tell him that my all-time favorite low-budget digital film is Pieces of April, starring his wife Katie Holmes. And that movie just happened to be written and directed by Iowan—turned New Yorker,  Peter Hedges.

But for now let me just thank Tom Cruise and his team for the plug. (And I think I could fit in a lunch meeting sometime in September.)

P.S. Just for the record, the other blog mentioned by TomCruise.com is by screenwriter John August who just happened to do his undergraduate work at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. And one of the producers of my favorite Tom Cruise film, Rain Man, is Mark Johnson who earned an MA in Film at the University of Iowa. Johnson won a Best Picture Oscar for his work on Rain Man. I think Tom Cruise and his team understand that talent often comes from seemingly unlikely places.

Scott W. Smith


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