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Archive for August, 2010

An article by Julie Washington in The Plain Dealer says that before screenwriter 38-year-old Abdul Williams wrote the script for Lottery Ticket that the East Cleveland native was writing short stories as an eight year old. As a teenager he was in theater at Shaker Heights High School and went on to graduate from Ohio University. He eventually headed to L.A. and got work as a script reader until he was fired in 2003. He worked on writing various projects which for one reason or another fell through.

Until Lottery Ticket, which is stars Bow Wow and Ice Cube Williams, he had only had close calls in getting one of his scripts produced. The film which opened Friday is Williams’ first produced feature and he was on the project from start to finish.

“It didn’t occur to me that a kid from Cleveland could have a career in movies.”
Abdul Williams

Lottery Ticket came in fourth at the box office last weekend pulling in $10 million, but playing in only 1.973 theaters it was tops in in average per theater. A solid start for a film that only cost $17 million to make. But keep in mind that it was a 30 year journey from writing short stories to his first produced feature film.

Related posts:
Toy Story 3’s Ohio Connections
Rod Serling’s Ohio Epiphany
Screenwriting and the Little Fat Girl in Ohio

Scott W. Smith

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This past Sunday night I turned on a preseason pro football game between Minnesota and San Francisco. My first thought was, “good I’ll get my first look at the great quarterback Bret Favre, in what is likely to be his last season.” But Favre was already out of the game and I quickly lost interest and turned off the TV. That seems like a good lead into a screenwriting thought that is so old it was published in a book long before Brett Favre was even born:

“If we attempt to write interesting stories, we cannot search for interest in the story itself, but must look for qualities in the story which are more or less universally interesting.

Let us imagine you watch a football game between two teams, both of which are unknown to you. No matter how exciting the game, you will not feel interested—at least not until you know something about the teams. The very game or even a less exciting game, if played by your home team, will become intensely interesting. The interest cannot lie in the quality of the game, but in the relation which you have to the game. The interest of the story depends upon the relation which the spectator has to the facts of narration.”
Eugene Vale
The Technique of Screenplay Writing (published in 1944)
page 207

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“Writing should be an adventure, shrouded in mystery and uncertainty, blessed with amazing grace. In theory, of course”
Syd Field
The Screenwriter’s Workbook
page 43

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If you are not familiar with the name Philip Bloom it’s just a matter of time. He’s a DP and director from London who began blogging in 2006 and is known for being on the leading front of the DSLR movement in which shooters are using high quality cameras such as the Canon 5D Mark II and the like. Two years ago these cameras began turning heads because of the outstanding video images and relatively low-cost.

The TV show House even used the Canon camera in their 2010 season finale. That may not mean much to you but when a network uses a $3,000. camera to shoot an episode it’s worth paying attention to. I buy much of my equipment from EVS in Glendale, California because they have good prices and super customer service—and they have their ear close to the ground to pass on trends they are seeing in LA. And the word is many ASC cameramen who normally work with 35mm film are buying the Canon cameras.

I personally have been shooting more and more projects with the Canon 7D with results that outshoot two of my much more expensive traditional video cameras. There are limitations to these cameras and Philip Bloom has been a great resource in showing the lay of the land. And his short videos from these cameras are stunning. Here is one he shot at Skywalker Ranch.

No one knows where all this technology is heading, but despite most of us being blown away by recent advances in these small cameras—Philip Bloom in May of 2010 gave perhaps the best news regarding how quickly things are changing in regard to cameras;

“In two years everything we think is great now will suck…it’s all gonna change!”
Philip Bloom (2010)

Of course, great stories still need to be told. Compelling screenplays still need to be written. And no new technology or software is going to make that any easier. But the change in camera technology does mean that there are going to be more options for screenwriters to see their work produced on a tighter budget with higher quality. Good news for independent filmmakers in all those unlikely places.

Scott W. Smith


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“If you just define yourself as a screenwriter, and you have a bad day as a screenwriter, then that’s your whole world. You’re building your life on this very singular pylon. It’s important to remember that you’re a brother, or a father or a boyfriend, and also that you have interests and hobbies that feed you and nourish you, and bring ideas in and balance you out. If I have a bad day screenwriting, I can come out to my studio, and I can paint and connect with myself. It’s important to build a broad life that feeds you, that nourishes you, that gives you stability.”
Screenwriter  & Visual Artist Joe Forte (Firewall starring Harrison Ford)
Tales from the Script
page 285

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“Well, I don’t like to adapt, to begin with. It’s a very painful process—a big responsibility—particularly if you like something, which I usually have to do…The contribution (producer Alan Pakula) made was to say, “Now look, just stop worrying about the time frame of the novel (To Kill a Mockingbird) and try to bring it into focus in one year of seasons: fall, winter, spring, summer.” Architecturally, that was a big help. Then I felt I could compress and take away and add from that point of view.”
Horton Foote
Oscar-winning screenwriter of To Kill A Mockingbird (based on the Harper Lee novel)
Backstory 3: Interviews with Screenwriters of the 60s/Patrick McGilligan

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“When you are in love with a story, you have to take your time to follow it and to fall in love again one time. You need some time. And I need to be in love with a story because I am going to spend four years of my life inside without pleasure, without seeing anybody, you work 16 hours per day and at the weekend and I need to be in love with each detail.”
Writer/Director Jean-Pierre Junet
Oscar nominated writer,  Amelie

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