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Archive for March, 2013

“Winning takes care of everything.”
Tiger Woods quote and now controversial Nike ad

“It took me time to realize plot, characters and all that were important, but it really had to be about something.”
Carl Foreman

“I read a lot of comedy screenplays and the disappointing thing—the reason most of them don’t work is because they’re not about anything. If your story isn’t about anything—or your character just wants a pretty girl and a bag of money then it’s not going to add up to anything. It may be funny—but most comedies are funny in the first act, they’re funny in the second act, and then they either get sappy and sentimental in the third act or they just fall apart. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted Little Miss Sunshine to have a climax at the end. One of thing things that was an impetus to write the script is I remember reading this interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger where he was talking to a group of high school students—high school students—and he said, ‘If there’s one thing in this world that I hate it’s losers. I despise them.’ And I thought there is just something so wrong with that attitude. That there is something so demeaning and insulting about referring about anyone as a loser. I wanted to attack that idea that in life you’re either going up or you’re going down, you know, it’s all about status and impressing other people… It’s this winner take all society where one person is going to get the million dollars and everyone else is a loser, and I just despise that mentality. And so I wanted to just totally attack it….And to a degree a child’s beauty pageant is the epitome of the ultimate, meaningless competition that people put themselves through.”
Screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3)
2007 talk at Cody’s Books 

Related posts:
Writing from Theme (Tip #20)
Sidney Lumet on Theme
Eric Roth on Theme and Loneliness
William Froug on Theme
Aaron Sorkin on Theme, Intention & Obstacles
Diane Frolov & The Theme Zone
Coppola Vs. Serling

Scott W. Smith

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“You always want to start your story with the characters doing what’s essential to them. The most important thing to them.”
Michael Arndt
Little Miss Sunshine DVD Commentary

Examples of this are Rocky opens with Rocky boxing and  Arndt’s story Little Miss Sunshine opening shot of Olive being enthralled watching a beauty pageant on TV. What are some of your favorite and/or most effective scenes of introductions to characters from movies? (If there’s a You Tube link shoot it my way as I’d like to include a few of them in this post.)

Related Post: Starting Your Screenplay (Tip #6) Includes this quote: “Who is your hero, what does he want, and what stands in his way?”—Paddy Chayefsky (Network), Three-time Oscar winner

Scott W. Smith

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“One of my favorite films is LATE SPRING by Yasujiro Ozu. To me, it represents film as art.”
Michael Arndt
Interview with Writer Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3)

Related post: Screenwriting from Japan

Scott W. Smith

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“A number of people who know my story have been quick to seize upon it as a rewards-of-virtue narrative–all that effort and persistence, they tell me, was bound to pay off. In this view of the world, character is destiny and success is the logical–almost inevitable–consequence of hard work, patience, and a shrewdly applied intelligence.

That is not how I see things.

From my perspective, the difference between success and failure was razor-thin and depended–to a terrifying degree–upon chance, serendipity, and all manner of things beyond my control. A thousand things could have gone wrong in the five years it took to turn Little Miss Sunshine into a movie, any one of which could have destroyed the project.

Yet at every turn the script was met with good fortune; every setback was revealed to be a blessing in disguise. I was lucky to stumble upon the right agents, who got it to the right producers, who chose the right directors, who cast (perfectly) the right actor and hired the right crew. A single misstep in this concatenation and the film would have been made badly or, more likely, not at all.

Which brings me–in a roundabout way–to Richard Hoover, Winning and Losing, and the underlying concerns of Little Miss Sunshine.

All of us lead two lives–our public lives, which are visible to others, and our private lives, which are not. Richard is obsessed with the values of public life–status, rank, ‘success.’ His view of the world, divided into Winners and Losers, judges everyone–including himself–accordingly. These values have become seemingly inescapable–including himself–accordingly. These values have become seemingly inescapable in our media-saturated culture–from American Idol, to professional sports, to the weekend box office reports. Everything, it seems, has become a contest.

The problem with this worldview is that it neglects and devalues the realm of the private–family, friendship, romance, childhood, pleasure, imagination, and the concerns of the spirit. Our private lives–invisible to the outside world–tend to be far richer and more gratifying than the rewards of public life. We would do well, as poets and philosophers have long advised, to turn away from the bustle of the world and cultivate the gardens of our souls.”
Michael Arndt
Little Miss Sunshine: The Shooting Script (Newmarket Shooting Script)
From the Introduction Winning, Losing and Little Miss Sunshine

Somebody say amen.

Related Post: Rod Serling and the Corrupting Influence of Success

Scott W. Smith

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“In many ways, though, my life has remained much as it was in 2000. I still rent the same one-bedroom walk-up in Brooklyn, and I still spend my days sitting in a chair and staring at a computer (though the chair is more comfortable and the computer is nicer). The main difference is I don’t worry about having to get a day job. (Not yet, anyway).”
Screenwriter Michael Ardnt
(Writing in 2006 soon after the release of Little Miss Sunshine)

Chaplin, Charlie (Modern Times

“I live in New York, I still rent an apartment in New York, and I taught myself to write living in New York. There is a tiny, tiny little industry there where I can be reading scripts there, but the idea of going to Los Angeles and being a struggling screenwriter in Los Angeles—I just couldn’t do it. It was just too much for me to take. And in a way, I don’t think I would have written Little Miss Sunshine if I’d been living in Los Angeles, just because it’s such a factory town, you know. I hesitated for a long time to write this movie just because I knew it’s such an odd and idiosyncratic movie—and so low budget, and so small scale—that it didn’t seem like anybody was going to be interested in making it. And I think you just internalize the values of that environment. I’m going to move back to New York after I finish with Pixar [writing Toy Story 3] and I hope I stay there. 
Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine)
2007 talk at Cody’s Books (Before he won his Oscar and before Toy Story 3 was released)

Related Post:

Hollywood Hacks & Shipwrecks
The Outsider Advantage
One Benefit of Being Outside of Hollywood
Why You Shouldn’t Move to L.A.
What’s it Like to Be a Struggling Writer in L.A.

Scott W. Smith

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“I’m a huge believer that your story is all about your ending. So I would never write a story without knowing exactly, on a moment by moment basis, what’s going to happen at the climax of your story. I would never do that to myself. (You don’t want to be grasping for an ending after having written a hundred pages.)  And then you reverse engineer your story from there. Because usually your character, like Olive [in Little Miss Sunshine], is going to have to make a big decisive action that’s going to lead to a climax. And you’ve got to know what’s at stake in that decisive action in terms of the external stakes, the internal stakes, and the philosophical stakes of the story.”
Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3)
2007 talk at Cody’s Books 

Related posts:
Insanely Great Endings (“An ending has to wrap not only the narrative logic of the story —it also has to be emotionally fulfilling.” Michael Arndt)
What’s at Stake? (Tip #9) 

Scott W. Smith

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“Hopefully you enjoy what you’re doing [writing screenplays]. I’d written nine scripts and nothing had happened with them. I’m sitting down to write my tenth script—and I’ll confess it’s a silent slapstick comedy—and I’m like, ‘Why the hell am I doing this? This is completely insane to do this.’ But it’s just like— ‘Well, the story is in my head and I want to write it.’ You have to be doing it just for the pleasure of doing it.  And in terms of any sort of perceived payoff just be realistic that probably the best case scenario is a 80 to 90 percent failure rate. And that’s the best case scenario. And then you can be happy because you’re not expecting every script that you write to be produced. That’s just not realistic.”
Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3)
2007 talk at Cody’s Books 

Related Post:

Commitment in the Face of Failure

How to Be a Successful Screenwriter (Tip #41) Michael Arndt’s personal journey

Scott W. Smith

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