Archive for April, 2013

I was in Minneapolis Sunday and saw the debut of the documentary  Making Light In Terezin at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. It was produced and directed by Richard Krevolin who wrote the book Screenwriting from the Soul. I’ll write about his film tomorrow, but here’s a quote of his for today:

“All characters are wounded souls, and the stories we tell are merely an acting out of the healing process. They are the closing of open wounds, the scabbing-over process.”
Richard Krevolin
Screenwriting from the Soul

P.S. Making Light In Terezin tells another chapter of Jewish people during World War II. Though it’s about people who use humor and entertainment to help them survive —it’s still a film about wounded souls.

Scott W. Smith

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A few mountaintop experiences in my life include seeing one full solar eclipse in Salzburg, winning two Regional Emmy’s in Minneapolis, and scoring three touchdowns in a high school football game in Florida. That’s an eclectic mix, and there have been others of course, but those came to my mind Saturday night as I was brought up on stage after the debut of The Planets: Re-Imagined featuring the artwork of Gary Kelley, the music of Holst performed by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony and a choral group from the University of Northern Iowa. All brought together under the direction of conductor Jason Weinberger.

My role was to create the video along with Kelley which was projected in high-definition on the 30 foot wide-screen just above the orchestra at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Standing on stage and looking up at more than 1,200 people applauding something you worked on is an amazing experience by itself.

The concert was a great experience and I hope in the coming years The Planets: Re-Imagined finds its way into concert halls throughout the United States and even around the world. Jason Weinberger is not only the conductor of the WCFSO but the its artistic director and CEO as well. Raised in Santa Monica and educated at Yale and Peabody, Weinberger has quite a vision and hope for the future of symphony music and education.

It was a special night and I was thrilled to be connected with so many talented people.

Below are some photos of the concert (and a rehearsal and pre-concert talk) taken by Noah Henscheid a photographer from St. Paul, Minnesota.


planetsreimagined-1 planetsreimagined-2 planetsreimagined-3

P.S. If you’re unfamiliar with Gary Kelley’s work, there’s a good chance you’ve  at least seen his art—if you’ve ever been to a Barnes & Noble book store.  Since there’s about to be a revival of author F. Scott Fitzgerald due to the release of the movie The Great Gatsby next month, here’s a photo I took at a Barnes & Noble/Starbucks of Fitzgerald that is part of the mural of writers that Kelley painted. (Actually taken in the Twin Cities not far from where Fitzgerald was born and raised.) Kelley is repped by Richard Solomon in NYC.


Scott W. Smith

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Here’s a promotional video for a project I finished editing this week with artist Gary Kelley called The Planets—Reimagined.  The video I worked on will be part the  multi-media concert featuring the music of  Gustav Holst performed by the  Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony led by conductor Jason Weinberger. The debut is tomorrow night (April 27, 2013) and the hope is that the project will be licensed by other symphonies around the county.

It’s been a privilege to be connected with so many talented people.

Scott W. Smith

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The Use of Time

 “That thing that can write great symphonies, that can write great tragedies is this use of time.”
Branch Rickey
1956 speech in Atlanta

One of the things I learned in the movie 42 was how deliberate Branch Rickey was in integrating professional baseball when he signed Jackie Robinson to a contract—and how much time it took to pull off his “experiment” of ending segregation in baseball.

It made me wonder where Branch Rickey came from and the answer turns out to be a small town in Ohio.

Rickey was born in Stockdale, Ohio and raised on a farm and educated in a one room school house.  He was a devout Christian in the Methodist tradition with a sense of a calling. In a sermon once said that the Lord’s work called for him to bring the first black ballplayer into major league baseball.

Writer Jimmy Breslin, in his book Branch Rickey, gives this glimpse into the intellect of Rickey; “He never went to high school, but his first job was as a schoolteacher. Later he taught college freshman English, Latin, Shakespeare, and Greek drama, and read for the law in his free time.”

Rickey graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and law school at the University of Michigan. He was an officer in the Army during World War 1.

He was also a good enough baseball player himself to briefly play major league baseball (and he was also paid to play football in Ohio), but it was his role on the management side in baseball where he would make his mark. He became president of the St. Louis Cardinals when he was 36-years old and joined the Brooklyn Dodgers as president and general manager when he was 62-years-old.

When in 1945 he broke the race barrier by signing Jackie Robinson as the first black professional baseball player in the modern era Rickey was 64-years old. And according to various reports it was on his mind since seeing a racial injustice happen when he was in college. Call it the 40 year plan.

“We tend to overestimate what we can do in one year, and underestimate what we can do in ten.”
Richard Foster

The take away is you can be raised on a farm in a small town in Ohio and with a little faith, education and  persistence–and forty years of patience—you can change the world.

Related posts:

Screenwriting & the Little Fat Girl from Ohio
The Lucky Slob from Ohio
Rod Serling’s Ohio Epiphany
Great Screenplay=10 Man Years
Shoot for the Moon
Toy Story 3’s Ohio Connection
Starting Small

Scott W. Smith  

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“Soul of the Game”

In light of the movie 42 being in theaters and introducing Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey to a whole new young generation, here’s a 1996 TV movie called Soul of the Game written by  David Himmelstein (story by Gary Hoffman) and directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan that gives another dimension to that era.

Found the entire movie on You Tube:

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“I have learned that I remain a black in a white world.”
Jackie Robinson

I waited a long time for an updated movie version to come out about Jackie Robinson. Seems like 10 or 15 years ago Spike Lee was talking about doing a film on Robinson. As I watched the movie 42, I found myself wondering what the Spike Lee version of Robinson’s life would look like.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Brian Helgeland’s version of Robinson’s story—when someone asked me about the movie I said the film was a solid base hit, maybe even a double.  (A tip of the hat to Helgeland for someone finally getting a film on Robinson made.) Loved Chadwick Boseman as Robinson. Loved the cinematography. Critics have called it “competent,” “decent,” “heartfelt,” “inspirational,” “sincere,” “uplifting” —you get the picture.

Rudy, The Blind Side, The Natural, Breaking Away and Hoosiers are all films that found a wide audience and could be called competent/decent/heartfelt/inspirational/sincere/uplifting. In general those were well made films the whole family can enjoy. We need those kinds of films because they represent the world we want to live in. Not perfect, but heading in the right direction.

From a producer and studio perspective, 42 is a home run pulling in more than $50 million in its first ten days at the box office. So just about everyone is glad that 42 got made.

But I’d still like to see the Spike Lee version. The version that didn’t pull any punches. Less pop, more jazz.


I grew up playing baseball in many of the same towns (Daytona Beach, Deland, Sanford) where Jackie Robinson started his pro career–and sometimes playing in the same ballparks. In some ways I was the fruit of Jackie Robinson that is alluded to in 42, I was a white kid whose heroes were black. (I played second base and wide receiver in the ’70s after Robinson was already dead and Joe Morgan and Paul Warfield were the two athletes I most wanted to emulate.)

But I was also very aware of racial tension.  Perhaps that tension is one of the reasons it took so long for a modern telling of the Jackie Robinson story to get made. And I imagine that studios didn’t have confidence that a Spike Lee version of the Jackie Robinson story would top the box office the opening week, or bring any return on the investment.

In the movie 42 they have Jackie Robinson being asked by a sheriff in DeLand, Florida to leave the field. But here’s what Jackie Robinson (and his co-author) wrote in his book I Never Had It Made:

“When the Royals came up against Indianapolis in Sanford, the game had begun and the crowd in the ball park had surprised us all by not registering any objection to my playing second base. In fact, the fans rewarded me with a burst of enthusiastic cheers when I slid home early in the game. I was feeling just fine about that until I got back to the dugout. [Coach] Hopper came over to me and said Wright [a black teammate] and I would have to be taken out of the game. He said a policeman had insisted he had to enforce the law that said interracial athletic competition was forbidden.”

Changing the story from Sanford to Deland may seem minor. In fact, in the paragraph before that Robinson said that a game in Deland was cancelled because the lights weren’t working—even though it wasn’t a night game. (I’m not sure why the change was made in 42, because there is a scene in the movie that shows Robinson basically being run out of Sanford.)

But I don’t believe Spike Lee would have changed that little fact. Because Spike Lee would have been more than curious that 60 years after Jackie Robinson wasn’t allowed to play in a baseball game in Sanford that Sanford would make national news as the town where Trayvon Martin was shot dead. I don’t pretend to know what happened to Trayvon that night and will trust in the courts to find justice.

Some would have called it race-baiting but I believe Spike Lee would have told a truer version of the struggles that Robinson faced as he broke the color barrier in modern-day professional baseball. And in doing so he would have told the story with a contemporary context and given us a contemporary challenge. Art can sometimes inspire and sometimes it can provoke. There’s no question that Jackie Robinson’s life was inspirational, but we can’t miss the fact that his book was titled “I Never Had it Made.”

The movie 42 is the American Bandstand version of Jackie Robinson’s life. I just wish we could now watch the Soul Train version.

Related Posts: Blacks in Black & White –“We’re a great country. We’ve got great stories. And for the most part, the great stories of people of color have not been told.” Spike Lee

Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting (Tip #6)

Touch and Go (A play I saw a couple of years ago based on Sanford, Florida.)

Related Article: The Jackie Robinson biopic and me by Mike Downey (Discusses three failed attempts in past to get a film made about Jackie Robinson.)

P.S. Check out The Jackie Robinson Foundation.

P.P.S. When I was a 19-year-old photojournalist with The Sanford-Evening Herald I photographed Tim Raines in his hometown of Sanford. The great baseball player would go on to earn $35 million dollars playing professional baseball. More fruit of the partnership of Robinson and Branch Rickey.

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

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Postcard #32 (“The Planets”)

I wanted to write another post on Jackie Robinson and/or the movie 42 but was busy finishing editing a project today so I’ll push the Robinson/42 post back at least a day. The project I finished editing today is The Planets—Reimagined featuring the artwork of Gary Kelley.

Below is a photo what the project looked like today on the small screen, but Saturday night (April 27, 2013) the video with be projected in HD on a cinema-sized  screen at the Gallagher- Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls, IA with conductor Jason Weinberger leading the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony performance of Gustav Holst’s The Planets.


Scott W. Smith

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There are many layers to Jackie Robinson’s life story, but here’s a quote from him that at first doesn’t seem inspirational but I think fits this blog well:

“In those days [1941] no major football or basketball clubs hired black players. The only job offered me [after a great athletic career at UCLA] was with the Honolulu Bears, and when I reported there I got a job with a construction company headquartered near Pearl Harbor. I worked for them during the week and played football on Sundays with my first pro team, the Bears. They were not major league, but they were integrated. The football season ended in November and I wanted to get back to California. I arranged for ship passage and left Honolulu on December 5, 1941, two days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”
Jackie Robinson
I Never Had it Made 

Before Jackie Robinson went on to greatness, he is a fine example of somebody who did what he could, with what he had, where he was.

Related Posts: The First Black Feature Filmmaker
“One of the greatest tasks of my life has been to teach that the colored man can be anything,”
Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux (1884-1951)

Scott W. Smith 

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“Twenty years ago screenwriter Larry Marcus (“The Stuntman”) told me that if you have a great script it may take a week, a year, or even ten years, but if you’ve written something undeniably fantastic, someone will find it. Why? Because there simply aren’t that many great scripts out there. It’s straight-up supply and demand….This is the real key for any aspiring writer — ‘It only takes one buyer’. That’s what my first agent told me, and it’s just as true today. You can hear 1000 ‘No’s’, have a million doors slammed in your face, but just one simple ‘Yes’ validates everything. As a writer, I’ve always found strength and inspiration in that. You don’t have to conquer Hollywood, you just need to find that one buyer out there who gets it.”
Screenwriter John Jarrell (Romeo Must Die)
ScriptShadow Interview

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“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”
Steven Pressfield
The War of Art

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