Archive for September, 2012

Postcard #29 (Downtown Horses)

A friend called me today and asked if I was going to be in Minneapolis tonight for the Upper Midwest Emmy Awards, where I am up for an award for a project I shot earlier this year. Nope—I’ve been in Des Moines shooting a project since Wednesday.  It’s been a busy month and the Regional Emmy awards have been a little off my radar. Which is probably healthy. (Of course, it’d be nice to win.)

So after the phone call, I thought I’d sneak in a Saturday post and share a photo I took on Thursday when I was in downtown Des Moines shooting some beauty shots for a TV program. I’m not sure who the artist is, but I was drawn to these downtown horses and the beautiful blue sky.

P.S. Last night I had dinner in downtown Des Moines with a director from Santa Monica and the restaurant had a photograph of actress Cloris Leachman on a wall and I told the director she was from Des Moines, Iowa. He didn’t known that and said he actually ran into her at an ATM in Brentwood once. Small world, huh? BTW—Cloris Leachman has won eight Primetime Emmy Awards, which is more than any other performer—to go along with her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in The Last Picture Show. Des Moines is full of surprises.

Update 10/2/12: Didn’t win.

Scott W. Smith 

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“The biggest lesson a screenwriter can learn is how to master a rewrite of his own script, or someone else’s, and make the change a studio wants without destroying the story. It’s like a football game: If you think of writing an original screenplay as ‘offensive’ creativity, then rewriting is all about ‘defensive’ creativity.

There are some screenwriters who are great on offense while others excel only at defense. The greatest screenwriters–and the ones who are in demand—are those who can handle both kinds of creativity. The problem I’ve found is that young writers usually change too much in a rewrite and old writers often don’t change enough. What writers should remember is to read a first draft or a rewrite twice, not once but twice, before handing it in. First read it for pacing and plot, and then read it a second time to see if there are good parts for the stars, because that’s exactly how the stars are going to read it.”
Garry Marshall
Wake Me When It’s Funny (written with Lori Marshall)
pages 114-115

On the next post we’ll look at the extensive re-writing that changed a dark tale called 3,000 into the romantic comedy Pretty Woman. The film which starred Julie Roberts and Richard Gere and pulled in $463 million (in 1990 dollars) from a script that originated from screenwriter J.F. Lawton. 

(First I’ll give Garry Marshall’s account to how the script was rewritten, and follow it with Lawton’s version if I can find it.) 

Scott W. Smith

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“Just when I thought I understood how to write  a good line, Phil Foster headed me in a different direction. He was one of the first comedians to break out of the traditional one-line joke format and venture into personal narratives. He would talk about his wife, his childhood, politics—anything he could put his personal spin on. Through his tales of family and friends, Phil taught us that the best way to write comedy was to view everyday life with a comic eye. He encouraged us to abandon our sophomoric gag humor and said, ‘Look at people and pick up on their mistakes and inadequacies. Watch human behavior. Telling the truth about people will make them laugh.'”
Producer/Writer/Director Garry Marshall (Pretty Woman
Wake Me When It’s Funny (written with Lori Marshall)

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Tasting & Smelling Comedy (Tip #61)

Buddy Hackett held up a matchbook and said, ‘What jokes can you write about this?’ I pitched a few about the advertisement on the outside of a matchbook, then a few behavior jokes about trying to light a match with one hand to impress a girl.

‘That’s good,’ Hackett said, ‘but the trick is not only to think about the exterior of the subject like the cover and the matches, but also remember the interior and the lit match. See the flame burn. Part is yellow with blue around it and as it burns the tip twists, turns, tilts, and then drops to one side like a small penis. You must think not only about what matches do, but what they’re made of, too.’

I never forgot from then on to examine a comedy subject from all sides: What it looks like. What comedy smells like. What it tastes like. Years later I wrote a joke that went, ‘My wife’s cooking is like sucking a burnt match.'”
Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall
Wake Me When It’s Funny
Page 53

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“Be prepared at all times for rejection, even after you break in. One night I was backstage at Jack Silberman’s International Nightclub in New York City. I nervously handed a page of jokes I had written to a famous veteran comedian. He read my jokes without laughing or even cracking a smile, removed a silver monogrammed cigarette lighter from his coat pocket, and set my page of jokes on fire. He then very nonchalantly tossed the burning page into a small metal trash can and walked away. Unable to speak, I simply stood there staring at the can as the bright red flames turned my jokes into ashes. It was my first flaming rejection. I went home that night to my apartment feeling like quitting the business.”
Garry Marshall
Wake Me When It’s Funny (written with Lori Marshall)

Of course, Garry Marshall didn’t quit the business, though he did eventually leave New York and head to Hollywood. There he would write and produce some of the most watched TV in the decade of the 70s, including The Odd Couple, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and Happy Days. In the 80s he starred directing feature films including Pretty Women, Runaway Bride, and mostly recently New Year’s Eve.

Hang in there folks.

P.S. I found Marshall’s book at a used bookstore last week when I was in Texas for shoot and will be pulling a lot of quotes from it—good stuff from somebody with six decades of entertainment experience.

Scott W. Smith

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A Love Story in 22 Pictures

Producer Mason Novack—who discovered writer Diablo Cody and encouraged her to write her first screenplay (Juno)—finally picked up the phone and called Cedar Falls, Iowa. No, he didn’t discover the Diablo Cody/Juno-inspired blog Screenwriting from Iowa and call me. He called a photographer friend of mine Tim Dodd telling him he needed to get an agent.

Tim’s blog post Do you know my friend Taylor Morris? recounted his friendship with Taylor and how the Navy soldier was in Afghanistan when he stepped on an IED on May 3, 2012 and lost his legs, left arm, and right hand in the blast. Tim has been documenting through photography and video Taylor’s recovery over the months, and Taylor’s relationship with his high school sweetheart Danielle Kelly.

Over two months ago I wrote a blog called Taylor Morris & the Home of the Brave featuring Taylor’s story and Tim’s photos. Many others have spread Taylor’s story and Tim’s photos until last week went the story went viral after BuzzFeed published the post A Love Story in 22 Pictures. In a way that happens every now and then the exposure resulted in millions being exposed to the story and hundreds of thousands of dollars being raised for Taylor. In just the last few days the story has been featured on CNN, ABC, and on Good Morning America this morning.

Time will tell is Taylor’s story becomes a movie—it certainly has all the elements; A story packed with emotions and a strong willed character in the face of tremendous loss. But also a visual story of faith, hope and love.  Until it becomes a movie we have Tim Dodd’s excellent phootgraphy and a website you can follow www.taylormorris.org and there is a Taylor Morris channel on You Tube.

And, at least for me,  the story’s all the more better that its roots are right here in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

P.S. A few weeks ago Taylor was back in Iowa and had a cameo in an indie film honoring veterans and I said to one of the crew members that because of Tayor’s social media presence that he would be a bigger draw than a couple of the film’s name stars—Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas) and Sally Kellerman (MASH).

Scott W. Smith

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Postcard #28 (Prime Time)

I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say about the shoot today in which I was field producer on in the greater Dallas area (on behalf of Magnet Media and MWW), so I’m just going to just pull a quote & picture Prime Time tweeted @DeionSanders:
Just finished shoot with BallPark. Prime has own Burger baby! “The Prime”
Read more at http://twitter.yfrog.com/hwc4wdhj#6Vp5Ty6XDDEFCiDR.99

It’s not everyday that I get to work with a Hall of Fame football player who was also a pretty solid professional baseball player. (In fact, he’s the only athlete in history to play in a Super Bowl and a World Series.) One of the teams he played for was the Cincinnati Reds, I wore my Reds hat today. Fun shoot with a talented guy.

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Postcard #27 (A1A)

There’s something about this Sunday
It’s the most peculiar gray
Strolling down the avenue
Known as A1A
Jimmy Buffett
Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season

Last year I started this section about postcards from the road as a way to stay sane when I was traveling and still trying to keep up writing daily weekday posts. Two days ago I was driving on A1A in Ft. Lauderdale and kicking around ideas for a post and I took the above picture.

Then this afternoon after flying into Dallas—Ft. Worth from New York via Charlotte I stopped in at Half Price Books in Irvine. Turns out they not only had half price books, but also movies and music for sale. After my recent trip to Florida I had been thinking that the next time I see the Jimmy Buffett album A1A for sale I was going to buy it. There it was for $3.99. (Probably close to the original price when it was released in the mid ‘7os.)

My newly found record album in Texas on its way to become wall art in my office

I realized when I took the record out of the sleeve that I hadn’t done that simple act in a long, long time. Then I realized that many who read this blog may have never even touch a record album. But I was a teenager in the 70s so I listened to a lot of records and actually miss the physical ritual of placing the record on the record player, and placing the needle on the record, and somehow having music magically appear through speakers or headphones.

Official Coral Reefer Liner Notes
A1A is the beach access road that runs occasionally on and off U.S. 1 it can take you to some of the prettiest beaches in Florida East of Saint Augustine, right through the middle of “Wrinkle City” better known as Miami Beach and ending suddenly 90 miles north of Havana and four blocks from my house.

Peter Whorf came to Key West to talk about my ideas for the cover, after several hard skull sessions at Louie’s Backyard, we chose our name and started up A1A to Miami. So the cover was the trip and the trip was a cover, and there is also a record inside. I hope you like them both.
Jimmy Buffett
August ’74
Key West, Florida

No real movie connection here, just that the album A1A was listened to over and over by a kid who grew up on a dead-end street in Central Florida who would dream about living a great adventure and would some day write a blog called Screenwriting from Iowa…and other Unlikey Places.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to drive down A1A in Florida put it on your to do list. It’s one of America’s great roads. I have driven the entire section of it, but in chunks at a time. Because it goes through many towns—and a zillion stoplights—it would take you forever to try it on a short vacation. But here are some of my favorite sections to hit.

1) Key Largo to Key West. That’s 97.6 miles of magic. Water on both sides, but if you don’t like bridges you many want to pass this stretch. Highlights are John Pennekamp State park in Key Largo and the tradition of watching the sunset on Mallory Square in Key West. And Louie’s Backyard is still there and shouldn’t be missed.

2) St. Augustine to Daytona Beach. St. Augustine is a great little historical town that I never get tired of visiting. I love the architecture and food. As you head south from St. Augustine on  A1A there are actually some undeveloped areas, and the section between Flagler Beach and Ormond Beach reminds me of a mini Pacific Coast Highway in California. And while Daytona Beach is on the touristy side, the Chart House just west of A1A is located next to a marina and is a beautiful place to have a meal overlooking the water.

3) New Smyrna Beach to Sebastian Inlet State Park. Surf, sun, and space. (One overlooked place even by people living in Orlando is Playalinda Beach in Titusville. If you want to know what Florida looked like before condos, visit this beach. About the only modern development there is a road and some bathrooms. Playa Linda is Spanish for “pretty beach.”

4) Palm Beach to South Beach. As you get into the thick of South Florida condos and large homes tend to block a lot of your views of the ocean, and the traffic gets thicker. So there’s not much you can do but embrace it. If you’re into looking at beautiful homes, exotic cars, and interesting people than this part of A1A was built for you. A few places that give you the sense of the good ole days are The Breakers in Palm Beach and the Art Deco section of Miami Beach. (Miami Beach still attracts it’s share of retirees, but it’s a long way from “Wrinkle City” that it was back in the 70s. now it’s actually one of the most exotic places in North America.) 

P.S. I learned on this recent trip to Florida that Jimmy Buffet’s daughter, Savannah Buffett, has a website and a clothing apparel company called…A1A.

Related Posts:
Jimmy Buffett in Iowa (Part 1)
Jimmy Buffett in Iowa (Part 2)

Scott W. Smith

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Postcard #26 (Scary New Jersey)

One night I was in Newark, New Jersey back in the ’90s, but today’s post is not quite that scary.

Last night/earlier this morning ended a 21 hour work/travel day that started in Ft. Lauderdale and ended in New York City. Missed the big storm in the area as well as the President hanging out with David Letterman and later with Jay-Z at the 40/40 Club in NYC. Got four hours of sleep and headed out with a crew for a video shoot in New Jersey.

Shot and directed a project today at the home of Tony Siragusa; a guy with an interesting (and diverse) resume; NFL tackle for the Baltimore Ravens when they won the Super Bowl in 2001, sideline reporter for NFL on Fox,  co-host of the DIY Network show Man Cave, owner of several restaurants, actor on the Tv show The Sopranos and in the movie 25th Hour, and author of the newly published book Goose: The Outrageous Life and Times of a Football Guy.

After the shoot I stopped in Chatham, New Jersey for lunch and had a vision. An illusion of sorts—interesting shadows created by a Halloween display/artwork outside one of the shops on Main Street. More charming than scary.

But if you really want to hear something really scary, on the cab ride in from JFK airport I learned that you can now buy a 12 oz Kobe Steak from Japan in NYC for $350. When I told that to the cab driver he said, “For $350 I can buy a cow.” Later I learned until last month it had been illegal to buy, sell or import Japanese beef in the United States. The ban was recently lifted and the Old Homestead Steakhouse (sounds like a restaurant that should be in Iowa, right?) began offering the steaks, and quickly sold out their first batch.

P.S. I passed on the $350 steak, but did get a nice steak at one of writer Stephen King’s favorite restaurants in NYC, Palm Too. He writes about it in his book On Writing. 

Scott W. Smith

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Postcard #25 (Miami Beach)

Miami is the most exotic city in the United States. Of course, that’s debatable—and I won’t even trying to unpack what I mean. I just love the city—and I do mean the greater metro area including downtown, Coconut Grove, Key Biscayne, Coral Gables as well as some of the outer areas.

Yesterday afternoon I was fortunate to not only eat lunch at Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market in Little Havana, but I was able to drive & walk down Ocean Ave. in Miami Beach and take in the sights and sounds of the Art Deco district.

I took this photograph of the Colony Hotel Miami South Beach just after sunset and while there was still just a little bit of light in the sky.

Some of my favorite films shot in Miami are Scarface, Up Close & Personal, Absence of Malice and the doc Cocaine Cowboys.

Scott W. Smith

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