“If your journey is anything like ours, at some point you’ll hit a wall. Festivals will reject your screenplay. Agencies will pass on representing you. Executives are going to tell you no. Then maybe one day, someone will say yes to your script.”
—Screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (“A Quiet Place”)
From the forward to my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

Currently is movie theaters is the movie 65 produced by Sam Raimi and starring Adam Driver. It was written and directed by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. They have been on quite a roll since they were the original writers of A Quiet Place. When I saw 65 last week one of the trailers before the film was for The Boogeyman which will come out in June. It’s based on a Stephen King short story, and Beck and Woods are credited screenwriters (along with Mark Heyman).

Beck and Woods also recently released book Haunt: Screenplay and Filmmakers Diaries, and later this year they have plans to open a movie theater called The Last Picture Show in Davenport, Iowa— so 2023 is looking like a good year for Beck and Woods. Not even including other movie projects they are working on now. They are the poster boys for Screenwriting from Iowa…and other Unlikely Places.

Back in 2007, Beck and Woods were students at the University of Iowa and I had a video production company in Cedar Falls, Iowa our paths kinda of first crossed Saturday April 14, 2007 at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival in Marion, Iowa. They had a long form student film showing in the afternoon called The Bride Wore Blood: A Contemporary Western, and a short film I made called Elephant Dreams played later that night.

A lot has happened in the 15 years since that film festival. I started this blog in 2008 and won a Upper Midwest Regional later that year. Beck and Woods graduated from Iowa and then cranked out screenplay after screenplay, made a few more films, and then had breakout success with A Quiet Place in 2018. I was told by a crew member we had both worked with in Iowa that Beck and Woods had read my blog and so I asked them to write the forward to the book that flowed out of the blog and they were kind enough to do so. While I can’t take any credit for their success, it is cool to look back and have a couple of touch points. And they should give any filmmaker out there a glimmer of hope that if you are from an unlikely place —with talent and hard work sometimes it all comes together in an amazing career.

My short film Elephant Dreams was about an artist from Bosnia who struggled to pay his rent, but he kept on painting until he ultimately found success. And I made up this Bosnian proverb, “Dream big dreams, dream elephant dreams.” Beck and Woods took it up a notch and dreamed tyrannosaurus dreams—and accomplished them!

“For the longest time growing up in Iowa, it felt like it was impossible to figure out. ‘How do you get into the career of your dreams?’ It took a lot of failure and stumbling. We had one foot in Iowa doing industrial videos and one foot in Los Angeles working on graphic design and anything to pay the rent. And in the meantime, writing scripts. We probably wrote five to six [spec] screenplays over a two-or three year period.”
—Scott Beck
Des Moines Register article by Jay Stahl

Cheers to all the elephant dreams out there. We all won’t find the off the chart success of Beck and Woods, but you can find great joy accomplishing antelope or even chipmunk-sized success. As the saying goes, “Start where you are, with what you have.” Then see where it takes you. There are storytellers and content creators needed all around the world.

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

“Everybody pays their dues to become successful. . . .I joined the WGA (Writers Guild of America) in 1969 and I came to Hollywood in 1956.”
—Lew Hunter

The Nebraska-to-Hollywood pipeline did not start or end with Lew Hunter. Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and Johnny Carson presided Lew Hunter before he became an Emmy-nominated writer and co-founder of the MFA in screenwriting program at UCLA. And one of his students Alexander Payne (who not only was from Omaha, but directed the movie Nebraska) followed him. Lew Hunter died earlier this year and I wanted to share an interview I did with him for in his home in Superior, Nebraska over fifteen years ago.

Back in the early 2000s, Hunter had a yearly screenwriting workshop he held in a Victorian home in Superior, Nebraska. I was never able to attend one of those, but I did send him an email when I lived in Cedar Falls, Iowa. I told him I had a video shoot in Colorado Springs for a Chicago book publisher and would love to drop by and meet him along the way. He not only agreed to meet me, but offered to allow me to stay in that home he held the workshop in. It was a wonderful experience.

The population of Superior at that time was under 2,000, but there I was talking to a man with decades of experiences in Hollywood. A man who used to welcome writers into his Burbank home for discussions. (I lived in Burbank back in the ’80s but that was off my radar.) I did attend a UCLA extension one day workshop where Hunter was a speaker. All I remember was he said that unless you’d written three screenplays, he wouldn’t read yours. I’m sure that was his way of weeding out the many requests.

My journey itself to Superior (that bills itself as “The Victorian Capital of Nebraska”) was one of the most unusual of my life. One that I rank up there with seeing a full solar eclipse in Salzburg, Austria in 1999. Somewhere along heading west on Interstate 80 I saw more birds than I’d ever seen in my life. I’m not even sure what kind of birds they were. I even forget what time of year it was but probably late fall or spring. From the Audubon Society of Omaha website it sounds like it might have been Great White-Fronted Geese.

It was like a dark tornado in the sky. I’d never seen anything like it before or anything like it since. Nebraska is full of surprises like that. Birders head to Platte River in Nebraska to see the hundreds of thousands of sandhill cranes migrate through Nebraska each year.

After an extended conversation with Lew and his wife, I had the writing retreat house to myself. The big surprise there was not the many scripts that were there, but a collection of video tapes from Hunter’s UCLA classes. One in particular that I remember watching was when UCLA grad Francis Ford Coppola dropped by for a Q&A with students. Think of that scene—I’m essentially in the middle of nowhere watching a video on Coppola talk to students about working on The Godfather movies. (I’d like to think that those videos are on YouTube somewhere, or will be someday. If someone comes across them, I’d be glad to give them a wider audience on YouTube.)

And there was Hunter himself telling me about mother having some connection to University of Nebraska—Lincoln graduate and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Willa Cather. Hunter wrote the book based on his UCLA class, Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434. And here’s the interview I wrote on him for Create Magazine.

P.S. To show what a small and odd world it is. The video interview I shot in Colorado Springs was with New York Times Bestseller Jerry Jenkins. His son Dallas Jenkins is the creator (director and co-writer) of the popular show The Chosen which can be seen on Amazon Prime. A show that recently got unusual praise from none other than Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader.

Related links: The Nebraska Mafia in L.A.

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

“Think about someone you know who is skilled in the growth mindset—someone who understands that important qualities can be cultivated. Think about the ways they confront obstacles. Think about the things they do to stretch themselves. What are some ways you might like to change or stretch yourself?”
Carol Dweck, Stanford psychology professor

Last week, Pro Football Hall of Famer Jason Taylor was named the defensive line coach for the Miami Hurricanes football team. The photo above is from a video shoot I did in Taylor’s South Florida home back in 2012. This post is actually a good follow-up to my last one on Andrew Huberman, the brain and dopamine.

Taylor’s already packed a full life of accomplishments in his 48 years. He was an All American linebacker in college and inducted into the University of Akron Ring of Honor. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins where he was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and in 2006 was named the NFL Defensive player of the year. In 2017, he was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And if that isn’t enough, he and his dance partner were runner ups in season six of Dancing with the Stars.

So why does a multimillionaire take on being an assistant coach? Going back to Huberman’s YouTube video on dopamine , I think the answer to Taylor’s new job is a “growth mindset.” As a professional player, Taylor reached the top of the mountain. But like NFL great turned college coach Deion Sanders, there are other mountains to climb. There’s satisfaction in helping others climb mountains. There is the process, and satisfaction in individual growth.

Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman once said he rarely went back and watched his movies because he only saw ways he could improve his performance. One way to sum up Newman’s seven decade career could be also be called a growth mindset. I’ve been non-linear editing for almost 30 years and learned how to do something new today in Adobe Premiere. Growth mindset. There is great satisfaction is getting a little bit better everyday.

All of this reminds me of an article I wrote in 2002 called “A Hurricane in Nebraska” that was published in the Orlando Sentinel. It’s about the only former college football head coach I know that won back to back National Championships and has a Ph.D. And after coaching he became an elected politician. Growth mindset.

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

“How does dopamine work and what does it do? Well, first of all it’s not just responsible for pleasure. It’s responsible for motivation and drive primarily—at the psychological level. Also for craving. Those three things are sort of the same; motivation, drive and craving. It also controls time perception.”
—Andrew Huberman
Huberman Lab Podcast #39

“Everything we do, every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find.”
—Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse

Because of so much information pumped out on YouTube everyday it is hard for much to stand out. I’d never heard of Andrew Huberman until two weeks ago. Then suddenly he’s everywhere. What’s crazy is that in age of TikTok videos (that make the case for Neil Postman’s 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death), Hurberman is a neuroscientist and associate professor at Stanford University. In 2021 he started a podcast and YouTube channel that are gathering a large following.

Just when you thought the dumbing down of culture was a permanent change, a guy with a PhD starts talking about biology and nerotransmitters and starts racking up millions of views. Case in point is his video Dopamine Mindset & Drive that as I type this has almost 5 million views alone. Some of his videos are 2 and 3 hours in length.

For at least 20 years I’ve done a lot of casual reading and studying on how the brain works. Perhaps it’s just a fascination of trying to wrap my head around creativity behind the standard left brain, right brain conversation. There’s been quite a lot written in the past about athletes and artists getting in a flow state resulting in peak focus and performance. But it’s often from the outward response to being in a flow state.

Huberman comes at things from more of inward view. What is going on in your brain? While he can get deep in the weeds talking about things like neurotransmitters, he has a gift of taking technical research and addressing everyday problems people face such as anxiety, lack of sleep, and addictions.

I think in the past two weeks I think I’ve heard the word dopamine more than I have in the last 20 combined. It’s why I’m calling dopamine the screenwriting word of the year. (I actually think dopamine explains why I’ve written this blog for the past 15 years. There is a simple pleasure in writing these posts.) And to help you wrap your head around its importance, here’s an extended outtake from the 2 hour and 16 minute video above.

“I’m excited to teach you about dopamine, because dopamine has everything to do with how you feel right now as you’re listening to this. It has everything how you’ll feel an hour from now. Has everything to do with your level of motivation and your level of desire and your willingness to push through effort. If ever you’ve interacted with somebody who just doesn’t seem to have any drive, they’ve given up, or if you’ve interacted with someone who seems to have endless drive and energy, what you’re looking at in those two circumstances is without question a difference in the levels of dopamine circulating in their system. There will be other factors, too. But the level of dopamine is the primary determinate of how motivated we are, of how excited we are, how outward facing we are, and how willing we are to lean into life and pursue things.”
—Andrew Huberman
Huberman Lab Podcast #39

If you want an 11-minute version with visuals, check out the video below about dopamine. And if you want to read my feeble attempt to unpack dopamine in limited layman terms for creatives I’ll write that below this video.

In March of 2020, as COVID was shutting down the world, I bought a Hobie kayak. I took advantage of being able to work mostly at home and not having a two hour daily commute. Since I live in Florida and near a 440-acre lake, I was able to kayak often and for about an hour each time. At the start it was magical. Your body naturally releases dopamine into your system at peak levels when you are doing something you enjoy. It could be walking on the beach or in the mountains, being in a new relationship, eating a good meal, or performing an athletic feat, or doing a creative endeavor well.

But that natural high doesn’t last. Your body only can produce so much dopamine. But there are ways that people try to recreate and maximize pleasure that is often destructive. Smoking, alcohol, cocaine, meth, gambling, and pornography are some of the common means that lead to crashes sometimes resulting in addictions that bring anything but pleasure. Addictions that can lead to depression and even suicide. I think it’s why so many musicians die from drug overdoses. They’re trying to reproduce the incredible but fleeting high of performing concerts before tens of thousands of cheering fans who appreciate their music.

The first year I kayaked 125 times. The water, trees, and wildlife (gators, herons, egrets, eagles, and a variety of fish) put me in a happy place. I mostly editing at home and doing occasional video shoots. Even my commute time when needed was cut in half because less people were on the road. It was a rare calm work/life balance.

Because I was working a full time job, I quickly realized the ideal time to go out was at sunrise and sunset. And when the temperature was between 68-72 degrees, it was sunny with a few white puffy clouds in the sky, and a gentle breeze. And for peak calm there were little or no other boats on the lake, no drones flying overhead, and no jet skis buzzing around. The more I kayaked the less those conditions were met all at the same time. My second year of kayaking I went out 50 times, and in year three I only went out just 25 times. The law of diminishing returns. My schedule was totally different in year three, but kayaking wasn’t bringing the same pleasures as it did in the first year. Sometimes it even felt like work. I contemplated selling my kayak.

I think that’s why people often jump from new sport or hobby to another sport to hobby over and over again. Jump from relationship to relationship. The newness wears off. The pleasure diminishes. Andrew Huberman says that your dopamine is at peak levels just before you get the thing you were seeking. The anticipation. If you tell kids you’re going to get ice cream, they’re all excited as you drive to the ice cream place, you stand in line deciding what kind of ice cream you’re going to get, and when you finally get your ice and just before you take that first lick is the peak. At least that’s what neuroscientist studying brain patterns tell us.

And it makes sense. That dress or shirt you were so excited to buy at the store often doesn’t bring the same joy sitting in your closest. The newness of that new car wears off. That trip you planned to take for years doesn’t bring you the joy you had just planning the trip.

Huberman says the answer is to moderate your dopamine. To not try to artificially stimulate a dopamine peak. An illustration from the world of screenwriting that comes to mind comes from an interview I saw with Christopher McQuarrie. He was working as a security guard on LA when he was writing a screenplay that he thought had great potential. It turned out to be The Usual Suspects for which he won an Oscar Award for writing. He said if given the choice to go back in time and either relive the night he won the Oscar or when he was doing and day job and writing s spec screenplay, he would take writing the screenplay because there many personal conflicts in his life at the time he won the Oscar. (Robin Williams once said winning an Oscar changes your life—for about a week.)

For McQuarrie there was joy in the writing process and the anticipation that it could make a good movie. And that’s why I’m calling dopamine the screenwriting word of the year. Understanding how dopamine works in your body is key to understanding your creative flow. And it also might just save your life.

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

For someone who grew up on a dead end street, I’ve had my share of Forrest Gump-like experiences. I was reminded of one during the Super Bowl LVII pre-game ceremonies. Just before the game started, Doug Williams was on the sidelines holding the Lombardi Trophy to make the connection to his being the first black NFL quarterback to start in a Super Bowl (which also lead to him begin the first black QB to be a Super Bowl MVP) with Sunday’s game being the first Super Bowl featuring two black starting QBs (Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts).

Super Bowl LVII was back in 1987 when the Williams-led Washington Redskins beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl played in Pasadena, California. Since I lived in nearby Burbank at time—and my wife was from Denver—we drove to the Rose Bowl Stadium to walk around with the tailgaters. (Oddly remember seeing baseball player Dwight Gooden signing autographs.) Then we went home and watched the game because I couldn’t afford tickets.

But just six years before that, I interviewed Doug Williams. I was a 19-year-old photojournalist and sports reporter for the Sanford Evening Herald. Back then Williams was the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers so it was a pretty big deal for a rookie reporter just a year out of high school. He was playing an off-season basketball game made up of Bucs players in Sanford, Florida.

Back in November, I drove over to Tampa to see Tom Brady play against the LA Rams because I thought it could be my best chance to see the great QB play before he retired. (That turned out to be true.) Soon after I sat down in my seat I saw Doug Williams name in the stadium as part of the Bucs’ Ring of Honor, which consists of just nine players, four coaches, and one owner in the team’s 48 year history.

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

“You don’t learn bull riding except by getting on the bull.”
—David Mamet

Remember the good ole days when people used to ask, “Should I go to film school?” Welcome to 2023, where the Kane Parson version of that question is “Should I finish high school?”

“[T]he 17-year-old creator of The Backrooms YouTube series has been tapped by A24, Chernin Entertainment, 21 Laps Entertainment, and Atomic Monster to direct a feature-length adaptation of the series.
—Christian Ziko, IndieWire

Just six days ago I started what I said was going to be a string of YouTube-centered posts and wondered if I’d lose readers. But I really did sense this groundswell coming. A new way of finding talent and cutting deals. The Kane Pixels “about” page on the @kanepixels YouTube channel has April 12, 2015 as a joining date. (The same year that Casey Neistat began his daily tear on YouTube). That means Parson’s started the channel when he was 10-years-old. He has 2 million subscribers and his videos have received 172,622,065 views. That’s 172+ million views!

The video below is the first one of Parson’s I’ve seen but it’s hard not to see a connection to The Blair Witch Project. Not only does it state that it’s found footage, but the YouTube page states “September 23, 1996” which is just a few weeks from when the filmmakers of Blair Witch began shooting their film. There’s also a hint of A Quiet Place. The original screenwriters of A Quiet Place, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, met in middle school and started making short films together. By high school, they put together their first feature and showed it to friends at a theater in Iowa.

The Backrooms alone has more than 44 million views—and attention from Hollywood. According Ziko’s article, “The Backrooms movie will be the latest film in the rapidly-growing niche of film adaptations of scary viral Internet stories.”

Playwright and screenwriter David Mamet has often said the only way to learning writing is to put your work in front of an audience and see if people respond. YouTube is just an updated version of finding an audience. Seeing what engages people.

I bet Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (who are credited screenwriters on the upcoming The Boogeyman, adapted from a Stephen King short story) are loving Parson’s directing deal. They also might be thinking, “Man, if we were 17-years-old today we could have been spared a 15-year journey.”

I don’t know where Parson’s lives—but I hope it’s in an unlikely place. That would keep the spirit of this blog. And I don’t know if he’ll graduate from high school this May or June, but I think it’s safe to say that he”lol be getting a film school education this summer when they’ve schedule to shoot. And instead of going into massive debt, he’s going to be getting paid. Win-win.

And another thing that I’ll unpack in the coming weeks is —with 2 million subscribers he’s already making money on YouTube. Even if his first film isn’t a success the press alone will elevate his channel and bring awareness to his work. More followers, more views, more money.

Once upon a time, moms and dads used to be worried that their kids wanted to go to film school. Moms and dads reading about Parson’s success are telling their creative high schoolers (and probably middle schoolers), “Do you need a new camera? Let me help you with that business plan and on your branding deals.” Puts a new spin on the phrase “Invest in your kids.”

Of course, so little is known about (NorCal) Kane Parson that this news could all be a snow job, and how George Lucas is choosing to spend his later years. Even better. I think it was producer Ted Hope who said there has to be a story behind your story.

P.S. A couple of the Blair Witch guys studied under film professor Ralph Clemente. I studied with Clemente down in Miami and he loved those conspiracy shows about the Bermuda Triangle. Those shows were popular in the ’70s, The Blair Witch Project changed the way that Hollywood viewed the internet in the late ’90s, the Paranormal Activity franchise starting in 2007 launching Oren Peli’s career. What’s old is new again.

Related posts:
The Perfect Ending (The day one of Clemente’s former students—David Nutter— won an Emmy for directing Game of Thrones)

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

Today is February 1, 2023 and I’m going to start a string of post on YouTubing. Where does one start? Hard to go wrong with YouTuber and filmmaker Casey Neistat. Last May I took his online class on YouTube and throughly enjoyed it. I produced two videos in a few weeks. (I haven’t posted them yet, but aiming for a March launch.) There are a lot of parallels to movies, screenwriting, and storytelling in general so don’t touch that dial.

Here’s the essence of Casey’s success in just a single word: Interestingness. Here’s the man himself using the word in a sentence in his course:

”Seek out interestingness.”
—Casey Neistat

You’ve probably heard it said that “Ideas are king,” but Neistat thinks ideas are overrated—but they at least push you off the cliff. He’s all about execution. And the focus of his execution is interestingness. Why does he ride his boosted board on busy NYC streets in so many of his videos? Interestingness. Why does he jump cut mid-sentence? Interestingness. What made one of his YouTube videos amass 78 million views? You know.

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

“Everything needs to be edited…. My entire career is I cut it down to a little less than you really wanted. When was the last time you saw a movie and thought, ‘Gee, I wish it was a little longer’? Never.”
—Jerry Seinfeld
Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard podcast

Related posts:
Jerry Seinfeld’s System that Will Help Almost Anyone Learn How to Write

The ‘Famous School for Comedians’ that Jerry Seinfeld Failed to Attend

Jerry Seinfeld & Marc Maron on the Essential Element of Comedy

Jerry Seinfeld on What Drives Comedy

The Serious Lesson Jerry Seinfeld Learned from George Burns and Then Laughed All the way to the Bank

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

This bed is too hard.
This bed is too soft.
This bed is just right.

The End. There you have it—the essence of screenwriting boiled down to just 15 words. (Yes, shorter than the title of this post.) Inspired by words uttered by my wife when she was the lead in a children’s play based on Goldilocks and the Three Bears performed years ago at the James Best Theatre. (The original title of the fairy tale was The Three Bears until Goldliocks apparently not only invaded their home but highjacked the title.)

No need for film school, screenwriting workshops, or screenwriting books. Just a nice three-act structure in 15 words. But if you want it fleshed out a little more there are over 3,000 blog posts you can find on this site. And if you want that in a nicely condensed 250 page book, I recommend my Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles book.

I recently completed a revision of the book. For those of you new to this blog, I started this blog on January 22, 2008 soon after seeing Juno written by Diablo Cody. The fact that she wrote the script in the suburbs of Minneapolis intrigued me. I was living in Cedar Falls, Iowa at the time and I knew she’d graduated from the University of Iowa. Part of her origin story I was drawn to was she first got noticed in Hollywood because of her blog. (Not sure anyone ever followed Cody’s exact path, but this blog did win a Regional Emmy award in 2008. I collected award in Minneapolis and the next day drove to the Starbucks in Crystal, MN where Cody wrote some of Juno.)

Starting a blog was still a novelty in 2008. And it seemed like a great place to curate notes I’d started collecting since I went to film school back in the ’80s. A to it reading (and highlighting) over 200 books on production, seminars (UCLA extension, AFI, Robert McKee—back when it was a once a week class in LA), DVD commentaries, magazines, podcasts, etc. My original plan was to try blogging for a year and hopefully blog a book in that time. It took well over a decade to complete. It needed to be more than a quote book. To make it stand alone as a book it also needed cohesiveness. It needed structure and I landed on ten chapters all beginning with the letter C.

Climax and Conclusions
Controlling Idea
Careers and Cows

I hoped the book & blog would be helpful to others—especially those living far from New York or LA. What I didn’t know in 2008 is Scott Beck and Bryan Woods were students at the University of Iowa. After their breakthrough success writing A Quiet Place (2017), I was told by a mutal production friend we’d both worked with they were familiar with my blog. While I can’t take any credit for their success, the were kind enough to write the forward to my book.

And over the years I’ve been surprise at the shutouts I’ve gotten. Including a mention on the TomCruise.com when his team had blog, filmmaker Edward Burns and producer Ted Hope with mentions on Facebook, and Diablo Cody herself when she was on Twitter. Anyone in the industry who would like to give me a usable quote about my blog or book please email me at info@scottwsmith.com.

After 15 years, it’s finally time I take the next step and launch a podcast and YouTube channel. Starting in February, I’ll start blogging about that process since I’ve spent about six months doing online workshops trying to wrap my head around how some YouTubers create solid content on a weekly basis. (Spoiler alert: To paraphrase what legendary graphic artist said about art, “YouTubing weekly is work.”

When I told a friend about condensing all of screenwriting down to 15 words he said, what about the not so happy ending. I thought for a second and recited the classic Mother Goose nursery rhyme:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Of course, the original Goldilocks story ends with her being awakened by the bears whose home she invaded and her jumping out the window. The actual ending was opened-ended with the writer saying it was not known if Goldilocks broke her neck, got lost in the woods, or made it home and got whipped. I forgot that darker part of that story. Which is maybe why I just stuck with those 15 words about finding a “just right” bed.

But let’s say that Goldilocks learned her lesson and lived happily ever after, as opposed to Humpty Dumpty who had a fatal fall. It’s an echo of Order and Chaos. Yin and Yang. Purpose and Nihilism. Blessings and Curses.

In what way is the abridged version of Goldilocks finding the right bed the essence of life? It’s that aspiration part of human nature that is looking for peace and contentment. On one level it’s our car is running, our bills are paid, our relationships are healthy, our work is fulfilling, and the bad guys get caught. It’s been said that even the person attempting to commit suicide is looking for peace. It is why I think most movies end with what writer/director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) called an uptick.

It’s why when a friend said he felt like my book needed to end with a benediction I thought of the ancient text embraced by multiple faiths:

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.

Number 6:24-26

Peace be with you.

P.S. Stephen King once suggested somewhere trying to write 1,000 words a day. That was an early inspiration when I started this blog. It’s why it was not unheard of to have posts that ran between 1,000-2,000 words. My original goal was a 65,000 word book. When I last checked I’d written over a million words on this blog. The first book came in around 70,000 words. Two more in the works will probably land around 50,000.

And speaking of Stephen King, here’s the just dropped trailer for The Boogeyman based on a short story by King—and a screenplay by Scott Beck & Bryan Woods and Mark Heyman. Warning: It doesn’t start out too peaceful.

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

Well, 2023 hasn’t started out like I thought it would. I’m tempted to just skip ahead to 2024, but since I have no power to do so I’ll forge on. Besides, I wouldn’t want to miss my 15th anniversary in two days of writing this blog.

And to keep moving onward, I’m going to tap into a photo I took at the end of 2022 in Raton, New Mexico near the Colorado border. It’s of the wonderful castle-like building of the El Raton Theatre. It first opened in 1930 which is that era just as talking pictures were replacing silent movies. The website says it’s closed now but adds, “See you in 2023! Thank you for your patience while we restore El Raton Theatre to its original glory!” That’s petty cool.

I have a fantasy some day of living in a small Main Street town and owning a movie theater. My version of Cicely, Alaska from the classic TV show Northern Exposure. (A show that I actually think played a part in my living in Cedar Falls, Iowa for a decade.)
But instead of KBHR (and Chris in the Morning) being the philosophical voice of the town, my movie theater would be a place for open discussions.

Someone said a few years ago (screenwriter Paul Schrader?) that we’d only have four kinds of movies in the future. I think they were Superhero movies, kid movies, horror movies, and experimental. Everything else is streamed. Something like that. Of that group, the experimental movie interests me the most. That’s the kind of movie that would play in my theater. And it would also be accompanied by a Q&A with the filmmaker.

At nearby Rollins Collins college, on different nights, I’ve heard filmmakers Sean Baker (The Florida Project) and Ken Burns (The Civil War) give talks about their films and creative process. I love those kinds of experiences. Now that we’re coming up on the third year mark of when COVID shifted the way we live our life, I’m not hopeful that the movie theater experience is ever going to have the kind of cultural relevance that it had from 1970 to 2020.

Sure TV in the 1950s and VHS machines on the 1980s impacted people going to movie theaters, but I think both of those actually enhanced movies. It was a way to see great films from the past. Or to rewatch great current films. Streaming is different. The emphasis is on free (if you pirate a password or within a monthly fee). I thought of this last night when I went on the Amazon app and flip through some movies. It’s like we have an unlimited meal plan to McDonalds.

My solution last night was to go over to the PBS app and start watching Burns’ documentary on The U.S. and the Holocaust. Which actually reminds me, two years ago I did drive through the small town in New Hampshire when Burns makes his films and has a restaurant. That dude figured out how to live Northern Exposure-style even before there was a show called Northern Exposure. He figured out just out of college that if he went to New York City and sought out production work that before he’d no it he’d 50 and have never got around to making the kind of films he wanted to make.

Burns moved to a small town where he could live inexpensively and worked on his doc Brooklyn Bridge which launched his career. He said he thought he was taking a vow of poverty to work on documentaries, but instead it’s made him wealthy. And put him at ground central for a world now in love with documentaries.

Who knows, maybe there’s a filmmaker living in Raton, New Mexico today working on a film today that will make him the Ken Burns of tomorrow. According to the El Raton website, the grand opening for 520 seat theatre was April 20, 1930. “The inaugural movie was a Warner Brothers sound picture in natural color; Song of the West starring John Boles and Joe E. Brown.”

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

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