Feeds:
Posts
Comments

A few minutes ago I watched the Atlanta Braves defeat the LA Dodgers to advance to the 2021 World Series. This seems like a fitting time to share a 2015 video I just saw for the first time this week. It features professional baseball player Daniel Norris and his unusual off-season practice of living out of a classic VW bus despite making millions playing MLB player.

I’m not sure how much time Norris spends these days in his VW, but this past season he made $3.5 million playing for the Detroit Tigers. (This article still has him spending time in his VW.) Last month, the 2011 second round draft pick was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. The short film Offseason was directed by Ben Moon, with Ben Sturgulewski as the director of photography, and edited by Dana Shaw.

If you dig that film check out Denali.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

If I listed all the writers who started out as actors it would be an extensive list. But here’s a short list: Sofia Coppola, David Mamet, and Aaron Sorkin. And there are others that are still known for both acting and writing; Ben Affleck, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tina Frey, Jordan Peele, Sylvester Stallone, and Emma Thompson.

Even if you don’t have a desire to act—and just the idea terrifies some introverted writers—just taking one class for say three months is still an experience that can benefit you as a writer. Here’s what sitcom writer Sheldon Bull says new writers should do after taking a writing class or joining a writers group.

l“Take an acting class. Even if you have no aspirations to be an actor, an acting class can be invaluable to a writer. Even of you just audit the class and never do any acting yourself, it’s great to see how actors work and what their problems and challenges are. Observe how the acting teacher coaches the actors. That’s how a director on a sitcom works. You’ll see how the acting teacher gives notes to an actor. Learn how to give notes that improve the actor’s performance and build his confidence. As a sitcom writer, you are writing words that are intended to be spoken by the actors. The more you understand the acting process, the better your writing will be.”
—Producer/writer Sheldon Bull (M*A*S*H, Coach, Newhart)
Elephant Bucks, An Inside Guide to Writing for TV Sitcoms

That’s timeless advice that works across the board no matter the kind of writing you want to do. Some writers act out their lines while writing. Walt Disney was said to get so excited in story meetings that he would act out scenes as his ideas were flowing. (And you really haven’t had an acting class unless you and your classmates have all acted out being animals in a zoo.) A fringe benefit is just getting to know actors and how they’re wired. Understanding their doubts and insecurities. Their strengths and weaknesses. Plus having more actor friends help do table readings of your script is a good thing.

Robert Towne was in an acting class with Jack Nicholson when they were starting out and neither knew if they were going to have careers in Hollywood. Towne wrote the script for Chinatown with Nicholson in mind for the lead role. Nicholson was nominated for an Oscar and Towne won the Oscar for his screenplay.

If you can’t take a class in person, and interesting class to watch is the Nina Foch Course for Filmmakers and Actors. (Foch was a legendary in film, Tv, and theater actress.)

On Udemy right now, the course Directing the Actor a USC Course with Nina Foch is only $14.99 (No sponsorship.) That’s worth four hours of your time. Here’s what Alex Ferrari from Indie Film Hustle says about that course.

P.S. Two opportunities I missed while living in LA back in the ’80s. Shelly Winter’s was teaching an acting class. I was in my early 20s and only knew her then from The Poseidon Adventure, but later became aware of her two Oscars in A Patch of Blue and The Diary of Anne Frank. And my favorite Winter’s film is A Place in the Sun. I would have loved to watch her teach. And Stella Adler had long been based in New York, but opened a studio in LA around 1985 and was teaching a class that somehow involved William Hurt. I could audit the class for $360, but just couldn’t part with that money at the time. If ever those kinds of things come your way—jump at the opportunity. When I lived in Iowa, I once drove 3 hours each way to hear filmmaker David Lynch speak for a couple of hours. No regrets there.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”
—Babe Ruth

While I was in film school and a couple of years after graduating, I took acting classes. They weren’t that different from the ones Michael Douglas leads in the Netflix show The Kominsky Method.

,I was told that every writer, director, and filmmaker should at least know what it’s like to walk in an actor’s shoes. So I took sensory classes, cold reading, and scene study classes. I worked with Arthur Mendoza doing scenes from Chekhov’s The Seagull and Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie (“I have tricks up my sleeves…”), studied at the Van Mar Academy, Estelle Harman’s Actors Workshop, and at Tracy Roberts Actors Studio. I learned something from all of them.

I even learned from a couple of places I didn’t study. I cold called Jeff Corey because I knew that Jack Nicholson and Robert Towne had studied with him. I told him I was interested in checking out his classes to see if I wanted to study with him. He firmly told me that first he was in Malibu and that was too from my apartment in Burbank, and secondly that I wasn’t the one doing the qualifying. Next.

Another day I dropped into what is now called The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute on Santa Monica Blvd. A lady there told me that unless I wanted to be an actor more than anything, then don’t come there to study. Because she said, it’s too hard to make it as an actor, and too hard to stay if you do make it. That the only thing that keeps you going as an actor was that when your feet hit the ground in the morning—all you want to be is an actor. That wasn’t me, so I moved on.

Tracy Roberts was where I spent the most time. She had been part of the original Actor’s Studio back in New York in the ’50s and racked up film and Tv credits through the ’70s before turning to teaching. She was the first one to turn me on to the work of Clifford Odets and liked a short story I wrote enough to give me a scholarship to a dramatic writing class they were doing at her studio.

And it was at her workshop that I got some of the best advice of my life. And while it was given in the context of acting, you can apply it to just about any area of life. But this is where my memory is a little fuzzy, and I can’t remember exactly who told it to me. But I think it was Howard Fine. Recently, I came across a sheet from a scene study class I did with Fine, who I think was teaching with Roberts’ studio back in the ’80s.

Fine now runs the Howard Fine Acting Studio in LA and has a who’s who list of actors that have worked with him. (Brad Pitt, Gal Gadot, Jered Leto, Dwayne Johnson, Salma Hayek, Kerry Washington, and Chris Pine.) I’m not 100% sure, but I think he’s the one that gave me the great advice below.

After class one night, I was discouraged about how I’d done. I think I told him I had a sports background and liked that at the end of a game you knew how you’d done. I sensed I wasn’t going to be the next great thing. Fine said, “Just because you’re not Babe Ruth doesn’t mean you can’t play the game.” That was a revelation.

For those of you unfamiliar with the analogy, Babe Ruth was arguably the greatest baseball player ever. When I visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY this summer, I learned even more what an iconic player Ruth was in his day. Even when he wasn’t playing a game, he caused a stir when he just visited a town. He wasn’t your average a baseball star, he was a rock star (long before there were rock stars).

There are layers of talent in every field. In screenwriting terms, if your goal is to be the next Paddy Chayefsky, William Goldman, or Aaron Sorkin you just might fall short. But if you do, that doesn’t mean you can’t play the game. That’s also true at every part of the entertainment and content creation industry.

So be encouraged— there are more creative opportunities in the world than ever before. There are even more ways to make a living producing, directing, writing, and editing outside of Hollywood than inside it. So when you get down just remember, “Just because you’re not Babe Ruth doesn’t mean you can’t play the game.” And Ruth’s own story from a troubled youth to baseball star found its way to the big screen in The Babe Ruth Story.

P.S. I did a little digging and did read an interview where Howard Fine said he started teaching at Tracy Roberts Actors Studio in 1985 so I at least got that part right. I would have been one of his first students in LA and the chances are slim that he’d remember me, but he might recall giving that Babe Ruth advice. I’m sure that advice comforted many an actor, because there was only one Babe Ruth–just like there was only one Marlon Brando.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

“The [MLB] draft has never been anything but a f—ing crapshoot. We take fifty guys and we celebrate if two of them make it. In what business is two for fifty a success? If you did that in the stock market, you’d go broke.”
—Billy Beane as quoted in Moneyball by Michael Lewis

“Rules are what makes art beautiful. Rules are what makes sports beautiful.”
—Aaron Sorkin

It’s Major League Baseball playoff time, so I’m going to use a little baseball inspiration to jump start getting back into blogging on a regular basis starting today.

Many years ago I was on a softball team when one night I saw the single best display of talent I’d ever seen in a softball player before or since. This guy hit three home runs batting right handed, then in his last at bat switched to hitting left handed and hit another home run. Like a mystical character he only played one game and I never saw him again. And now that I think about it, I don’t think I ever saw in professional or amateur level baseball player display such a dominant display of power.

But here’s the thing—he didn’t play professional baseball. I heard he peaked playing baseball at the University of Miami. (UM baseball teams have made 25 College World Series appearances, winning national titles four times.) Talent is funny that way. One can be at the pinnacle of success on one level and then be a bust at the next level. (Which explains why so many Heisman Trophy winners in college football have limited success in the NFL.)

The book and movie Moneyball explore the theme of how professional scouts and teams have a so-so record when it comes to knowing which athlete is going to be a star. (The first chapter of that book is titled “The Curse of Talent.”) That’s true in professional football as well—which explains why the most winning Super Bowl QB in history wasn’t drafted until the 6th round in 2000. Looking back, it’s bewildering to think that 198 players were picked ahead of Tom Brady.

But talent is tricky. And it’s funny.

Think back to Aaron Sorkin working odd jobs out of college (bartender, limo driver, singing telegrams) and being an actor in a traveling theater group doing plays for children.

“When I was twenty-one or twenty-two, I traveled the South with a touring children’s theater company called The Traveling Playhouse. When I say the South, we weren’t playing in Atlanta, we were playing Jasper, Alabama. We’d do six or seven shows in elementary school gymnasiums at about ten o’clock in the morning, then pile into a station wagon, and a van carrying the costumes and sets. We did The Wizard of OzRip Van Winkle, and Greensleeves. We were paid thirty dollars a performance.”
Aaron Sorkin
Zen and the Art of Screenwriting
Interview with William Froug
Page 31

Would you have picked that guy on your team in 1983—back when he hadn’t even tried writing. Who knew he was going to be the Tom Brady of contemporary dramatic writers? He’s excelled in theater (A Few Good Men), in TV (The West Wing), and in features (The Social Network). And, like Brady, he’s still in winning form. Sorkin wrote and directed the upcoming film Being the Richardos, which Lucille Ball’s daughter, Desi Arnaz, says is “friggin’ amazing.”

Here’s a few takeaways from Sorkin’s career.

  1. He wanted to be an actor but failed, so he pivoted to becoming one of the greatest living drama writers today.
  2. I believe “Swing with your strength” is a phrase borrowed from the world of baseball. Pete Rose was a singles hitter so he just did that and accrued more hits that anyone in MLB. Sorkin’s strength is writing snappy and memorable dialogue. Rapid banter that has a winning tradition way back to vaudeville, through I Love Lucy, right up to today’s sitcoms. While film is a visual medium, and much emphasis is made on show don’t tell, Sorkin still excels in the strength of his words.
  3. He stays in his lane of writing drama. Usually drama in the workplace. You don’t see him writing super hero movies or family sitcoms. Four of his stories have been military/government related, and four of his stories revolve around TV production, so even his workplace interests are limited.

While there is God given talent, I believe that whatever talent you have can be sharpened over time. (Heck, even Tom Brady was once the 7th string quarterback his freshman year at the University of Michigan.) So here are several Sorkin-related posts from over the years that I hope you on your own writing journey. I’ll start with one of my favorites where he talks about the need to have “intentions and obstacles” in place before he stars writing. (That concept made it into my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles.)

Aaron Sorkin on Theme, Intention & Obstacles

Screenwriting vs. Finger Painting (Aaron Sorkin on the Rules of Art)

Aaron Sorkin on ‘90% of the Battle’ in Screenwriting

Aaron Sorkin on Launching a Screenwriting Career* (*Results may vary)

Screenwriter Support with Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin on ‘Steve Jobs’ and Screenwriting vs. Journalism

Screenwriting Quote #197 Aaron Sorkin)

Dialogue as Music

Aaron Sorkin in Jasper, Alabama

The West Wing, BMWs & Iowa

Aaron Sorkin on Good vs. Great

Professor Aaron Sorkin

Sorkin on Revealing Character

Aaron Sorkin on Failure

Movie Cloning (Aaron Sorkin)

Sorkin’s Emotional Drive

And I’ll end this post with another dramatic writer who has also excelled in theater, TV, and features from a 2010 post I wrote called What is Talent?

“I am not sure what talent is. I have seen moments, and performances, of genius in folks I had dismissed as hacks. I’ve watched students of my own and of others persevere year after year when everyone but themselves knew their efforts were a pitiful waste, and have seen these people blossom into superb actors. And, time and again, I saw the Star of the Class, the Observed of all Observers, move into the greater world and lack the capacity to continue. I don’t know what talent is, and frankly I don’t care.

A common sign in a boxing gym: BOXERS ARE ORDINARY MEN WITH EXTRAORDINARY DETERMINATION. I would rather be able to consider myself in that way than to consider myself one of the ‘talented’; and—if I may—I think you would, too.”
David Mamet
True and False

P.S. I think Sorkin’s screenplay for The Social Network is the best script written in the last 20 years. And the film that I’ve returned to the most during this pandemic is Moneyball which Sorkin created as writing with Steve Zaillian based on a book by Michael Lewis. A lot of talent came together to make those two films.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse.”
—Walt Disney

One of the perks of working in production is meeting famous celebrities

Walt Disney World opened 50 years ago today. I remember going within the first few months of its opening. Because I grew up in the Orlando area when the biggest deal was the Central Florida Fair, experiencing Disney for the first time in 1971 was surreal. It was a much smaller attraction than it is today, but I had a blast. That is until my sister crushed my heart by telling me that I wasn’t really driving that Grand Prix car—that it was on a track. She didn’t even give me a spoiler alert! Long live the Grand Prix Raceway (now known as Tomorrowland Speedway).

Here are a couple of tickets I saved from the old days. A child’s admission to Disney World in 1971 was only one dollar. (Admission for a 10-year-old today is $109.) Then you’d buy tickets/coupons to go on select rides. I remember the “E” ticket (not to be confused with the electronic eTicket today) were the big deal because it allowed you to go on these rides: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jungle Cruise, and The Haunted Mansion.

The “B” Ticket got you into the lesser attractions including the Main Street Cinema. Which, if I recall correctly, always had old Steamboat Willie movies playing.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

Note: My goal at the beginning of the summer was to launch a podcast that has yet to happen. In fact, 2021 has proven to be the most difficult for me in just keeping up with writing blog posts. So for this post on talent, I’ve decided to reach back into past posts to grab some quotes to carve out a post today. I may do more of that in the coming days, weeks, and months. It’s been unusually hard to focus this month on writing because of various circumstances. At the moment, my brother in law is on week two of being in the hospital with COVID and the next day or two will be the most crucial. Who would have guessed in January 2020, the severe changes that were about to impact the world?

“I’ve never viewed myself as particularly talented. I’ve viewed myself as…slightly  above average in talent…Where I excel is with (a) ridiculous, sickening work ethic. While the other guy’s sleeping, I’m working. While the other guy’s eating, I’m working.”
Two time Oscar-nominated actor Will Smith (and 4-time Grammy winner)
60 Minutes Interview

“I am not sure what talent is. I have seen moments, and performances, of genius in folks I had dismissed as hacks. I’ve watched students of my own and of others persevere year after year when everyone but themselves knew their efforts were a pitiful waste, and have seen these people blossom into superb actors. And, time and again, I saw the Star of the Class, the Observed of all Observers, move into the greater world and lack the capacity to continue. I don’t know what talent is, and frankly I don’t care.

A common sign in a boxing gym: BOXERS ARE ORDINARY MEN WITH EXTRAORDINARY DETERMINATION. I would rather be able to consider myself in that way than to consider myself one of the ‘talented’; and—if I may—I think you would, too.”
Playwright and screenwriter David Mamet
True and False

“I graduated from Oberlin College in fifty-two, did the Army for two years, then went to graduate school at Columbia University for two years. It was then the summer of 1956. I was twenty-four, and I’d always wanted to be a writer. I’d shown no signs of talent. I got the worst grades in class.”
—William Goldman
Shoptalk by Dennis Brown
(Aaron Sorkin called Goldman “the dean of American screenwriting”)

I don’t particularly like [the writing process], but I don’t dislike it either. I can tell you that I’ve come to a somber acceptance that…my tastes as a consumer of movies and TV exceeds my talents, so all I can do is try my best to close that gap and to get as best a version of what it is in my head on the page.”
Screenwriter Eric Heisserer (Arrival)
Basic Brainheart podcast interview with Hannah Camacho

“Mastery is in the reaching, not the arriving. It’s in constantly wanting to close that gap between where you are and where you want to be. Mastery is about sacrificing for your craft and not for the sake of crafting your career.”
Sarah Lewis 

“Every time I have set out to translate the book (or story, or hopelessly long essay) that exists in such brilliant detail on the big screen of my limbic system onto a piece of paper (which, let’s face it, was once a towering tree crowned with leaves and a home to birds), I grieve for my own lack of talent and intelligence. Every. Single. Time. Were I smarter, more gifted, I could pin down a closer facsimile of the wonders I see. I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”
International best-selling author Ann PatchettThe Getaway Car (in the collection of essays book This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage)

”I’m a fast typer but I’m slow at ideas. Most of my scripts have taken probably about seven years between writing and getting made.”
—Oscar winning screenwriter Taika Waititi (JoJo Rabbit)

“If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll find one.”
Actor/Director Denzel Washington 
60 Minutes interview December 18, 2016

“For me, it was a matter of years of trying to develop my writing in the same way that some people spend years learning to play the violin.”
Writer/director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption)

“You know, when you first start writing you’re going to suck. And so it’s good to keep it to yourself, until maybe you don’t suck as much.”
David Sedaris

“It took years of struggle. Years of not having anything happen, not even getting meetings, not knowing what I was really doing…Things have turned a corner.  I was really a starving artist for lot of years.  I moved to LA nine years ago, and the first five were really difficult.”
Oscar-nominated screenwriter Luke Davies (Lion)
Combined from PopEntertainment interview & Spook Magazine article

“No one was interested in my stuff at all. What actually got me going as far as a writing career was concerned—I’d never had any success ever and finally I met a really good buddy of mine, his name is Scotty Spiegel —he wrote Evil Dead 2. He’d just sold a big script. It was a big deal. He was involved in low budget horror films and stuff, so all his friends started calling up say, hey, would you do a re-write on my stuff? And he was like, well I can’t, I’m busy. But I have a friend of mine named Quentin maybe you should give him a call.
Writer/director Quentin Tarantino
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

“There are two rules that I always adhere to. And that is to work hard and be brave. And I think the essence of hard work is one that’s pretty straightforward. You’ll never be the best looking, you’ll never be the tallest, the most talented, most capable, you’ll never have the most money—there will always be someone better at whatever you’re doing than you are. But you can always be the hardest working person in the room.”
Filmmaker Casey Neistat

“I think the most important thing you have to know is that it’s a very, very hard business, full of rejection and setbacks. If you don’t want to succeed really badly, you won’t. But, of course, if you get a movie made and it works, there’s nothing like it. Nothing.”
—Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally/Julie & Julia)
Tales from the Script
page 269

I’ll add more to this list as I find them—but this is a pretty good start.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

“We’re all told at some point and time that we can no longer play the child’s game. We just don’t know when that time will be. Some of us are told at 18. Some of us are told at 40. But we’re all told.”
—Baseball scout in Moneyball

My first experiences with organized baseball. (Front row, left of center in both photos.) Johnny Bolton was a Ford Dealership in Maitland, Florida. Looks like a casting call for the movie “The Sandlot.”

In the summer of 1970, I went to a baseball game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and it was my first live experience with Major League Baseball. The stadium was brand new and (if my memory is correct) there were about 50,000 in attendance for that summer game. I was nine years old and had never been anywhere with 50,000 people in one place. It was mesmerizing. Our seats were in left field weren’t great, but I had nothing to compare it to so I was thrilled. Watching MLB games at that point in my life were mostly starring at a 19″ black and white TV that picked up four channels with a rabbit ears antenna. Though I was raised in Central Florida, Disney World was still a year away from opening. I don’t remember anything about the game. But I have a photograph in my mind of a banner in right field that read “Rose Garden.” It was there because that’s where Pete Rose was positioned.

If you wanted to tell the story of professional baseball in one person, you couldn’t go wrong picking Pete Rose. (The short list would include Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Ty Cobb.) But with Rose you get high levels of both success and failure—highs and lows. He holds the Major League Baseball record for total hits (4256), played in 17 All Star games, was a key player on the Cincinnati Reds who won two World Series in the ’70s—and in 1989 he became the first player since 1943 banned from baseball for life.

And while his gambling on baseball games while a manager for the Reds also prevents him from being voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, there are still several Rose references in the Hall of Fame including this jersey when he was a part of what was known as The Big Red Machine.

From Little League through high school, his gung-ho style of play was what I tried to emulate the most. When I was around 12, I got to attend a baseball clinic that Rose did at Tinker Field in Orlando. I’m seated in the back next to his right knee in the photo below. (Oddly wearing a Miami Dolphin football jersey if I remember correctly.) I don’t remember anything about that day except Rose said there was a mix-up and he didn’t have his Reds uniform with him. But it was still a cool life experience to have in your past.

I
My own personal baseball hall of fame with memorabilia from my youth. Including a flip book I wrote simply called “Baseball.”

I didn’t blaze any Pete Rose-like trails in my playing days, but I did make some All-Star teams and played on two of the best teams in Lake Howell school history. My senior year we had a 14 game winning streak and won our conference. (The year after I left, Dave Martinez played at Lake Howell on his way to going pro as a player, and as a manager leading the Washington Nationals in becoming the 2019 World Series champs.)

I played my last real baseball game at age 18—and never was able to grow a proper mustache.

Baseball and baseball movies have brought me many wonderful experiences and memories over the years. Rose being banned from baseball didn’t hit me like a ton of bricks because I was a grown man and had seen plenty of the darker side of humanity by then.

My next post will look at talent as it relates to baseball, filmmaking, and screenwriting.

P.S. Unfortunately, the real story of interest to my playing days may be one of the guys I played baseball with in high school went on to be known as “Columbian Jake” where he became involved in underage sex tourism in Medellin—a bad career choice—and ended up getting busted and died allegedly by suicide in a Columbian prison in 2017. I’m sure there is a story there, but I really don’t care to know any more than what I read in a couple of articles. How in the world did this post start out talking about Little League baseball in Florida and end up with a dead gringo in a prison in Latin America? Because truth is stranger than fiction.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

Wearing baseball hats has been a staple throughout my career working in production. And the trend started way before I ever picked up a camera back when I started playing Little League baseball as a kid. (More on that tomorrow as I continue a thread of posts centered around my recent visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.)

The first baseball hat I fell in love with was the San Francisco Giants. Back in 1969-1970 the trio of Giants I enjoyed watching play were Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, and Willie Mays. Long before I developed any kind of design aesthetic, I was drawn to the simplicity of the black hat with orange “SF” letters. (The orange is RGB 241/91/40 for those keeping score.)

I was reminded of that at the Hall of Fame when I saw the 1970 Topps baseball poster of McCovey (pictured below). I had that fold out mini-poster as a kid and may still have in a file somewhere. Though I eventually became a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fan, I wore a Boston Red Sox hat to Cooperstown (photographed here with statues of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams—who both played for the Red Sox).

I wear many different hats because they remind me of teams, players, cities, friends and experiences. I did a quick scan of photos over the years where I wear a wide assortment of hats. Here’s a few of them with some snapshot stories.

At the Hall of Fame with statues of Babe Ruth and Ted Williams. (Seeing a Boston Red Sox game in Fenway Park is one of my favorite baseball memories.)
BERC hat which stood for Broadcast Equipment Rental Company. I was a driver for them in film school when they were located in Hollywood near the classic Cinerama Dome. Cool gig that first got me on studio lots when I was 21.


Film school class in LA during the Fernandomania era when the Dodger’s Fernando Valenzuela became the only player to win Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award in the same season
Cincinnati Reds hat on shoot in Chicago
Documentary shoot in Samaria, Russia

New York City shoot overlooking Hoboken, NJ (where they shot “On the Waterfront”)

Setting up LA Raiders photo shoot when they trained in El Segundo, CA. (Not far from Compton.)
Photo shoot in Pasadena, California before UCLA played in the 1984 Rose Bowl. The football scenes from classic Harold Lloyd film The Freshman (1925) were shot in the Rose Bowl.

And in the summer of ‘84 I stopped in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a cross country trip. Shane was shot in Jackson Hole.


Paramount Studios hat somewhere in Southern California with my photographer friend Alex
Rockin’ a Nikon D70 cap for a Speed Channel shoot in Iowa around 2005
Kingston, Jamaica in 2008
Directing short film at artist/filmmaker Paco Raque Rosic’s (@pacorosic) studio
Minnesota Twins hat during Disney World shoot in 2013. (I used to watch the Twins play spring training games in Orlando.) Watching Rod Carew bunt during batting practice was poetry.
I even wear a baseball hat when I’m not working
Glacier National Park in Montana (2019)
Production COVID-style in 2020. Mickey Mouse design on side of hat reminds me of the great quote by Walt Disney, “Never forget that it all started with a mouse.” Before Disney created Mickey Mouse he grew up in the small town of Marceline Missouri and had a nervous breakdown in Kansas City when his studio struggled to be profitable. Steps along the way to being the person with the most Academy Awards in history (22).

P.S. Over the years baseball hats have been staples for male and female writers and directors probably because it makes worrying about your hair one less thing to worry about. (And they comes in handy for sun protection on location shoots for those of us who have less hair than we used to.) But for me, it’s all rooted in my love of baseball.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

It took a few decades, but back in June (when there was a little lull in the COVID pandemic) I visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. I’ll unpack in tomorrow’s post why it was such a meaningful trip. But for today, I’ll just leave you my favorite photo from the day when I waited for the crowd to dissipate and the sun to shine into baseball’s most sacred hall.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

“People will come to Iowa, for reasons they can’t even fathom.”
—Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams

All eyes in the baseball world were on Iowa on Thursday night for MLB’s Field of Dreams game between the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. And Iowa did not disappoint.”
—Aaron Marner
Des Moines Register

There are a lot of grand movie entrances. Two that come to mind are Rose (Kate Winslet) and her giant hat in Titanic and the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) twirling his rifle in Stagecoach. But on some list of 100 great film entrances has to be the entrance of the baseball players emerging from a cornfield in Iowa in Field of Dreams.

Last night in Dyersville, Iowa, Kevin Costner got to make his own grand entrance emerging from an Iowa corn field—followed by the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees. As a lifestyle baseball fan, I can’t say that Major League Baseball ever fully recovered from the double black eye of the strike back in the 90s, followed by the MLB steroid scandal.

But they took steps yesterday to add to baseball folklore by having the Yankees and the White Sox play a game near where they shot Field of Dreams movies back in the 1980s. (I think it was the first MLB game ever played in Iowa.) The TV announcers keep talking about a magical vibe the place had.

I’ve visited the Field of Dreams site a couple of times when I lived in Iowa. When I started the Screenwriting from Iowa … and Other Unlikely Places in Ceder Falls, Iowa 13 years ago, the mythology of Field of Dreams (screenplay by writer/director Phil Alden Robinson from a book by W.P. Kinsella) was definitely on my mind. What may get lost in the backstory of Field of Dreams is that Kinsella had an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. A pretty good foundation for Robinson, Costner and the others to build upon.

Screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) and Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place) also graduated from Iowa and it’s been fun all these years to go back to that well from time to time. People may forget that in 2008 just the idea of screenwriting (and filmmaking) from Iowa and other unlikely places was a radical (or tongue in cheek) concept. But fast forward to 2021 in a post-COVID world and you see that it’s no longer so bizarre. Your favorite movie or streaming show is more likely to come from the state of Georgia than Los Angeles.

The cost of living and quality of life in LA is causing more than a few creatives to trade LA for Austin, Texas. Which, of course, has its own established film community. Vancouver has proven to be a film hot spot. Zoom calls have allowed established writers to retreat to states throughout the US. If I wanted to call it a day for this blog and say “my work is done” this would be a good day to do it.

But … I think I have a few more posts in me. And I still have to get on the ball and get my podcast rolling. I don’t know what the future of movies will be—or how many movie theaters will survive these odd times—or if people even will return to the movie going business as we once knew it—but I’m pretty sure people will still want to be entertained as they have throughout the history of civilization.

In recent posts, I’ve been recounting some places I visited on my vacation back in June and July. It’s fitting that my next post will be about going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY on my birthday. It was a trip I’d been planning since I was 10 years old.

For those of you who missed the game last night, here’s all the drama of the final dream ending (at least for Tim Anderson). Hollywood couldn’t have done it better.

P.S. Whoever came up with that idea to play the game in Iowa last night deserves a nice bonus.

P.P.S. Just realized after I wrote this post the Iowa-connection of two of the movies I referenced. Rose in Titanic (as a 103 woman) lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and John Wayne was born in Winterset, Iowa.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

%d bloggers like this: