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Archive for August, 2014

Just a few days ago Breaking Bad in its final season won its second Emmy for best drama. The AMC show averaged over nine Emmy nominations per year in its five-year run. And who knows how many ‘water cooler moments’? Here’s one from the season four episode Problem Dog written and directed by Peter Gould.

“One thing I like about our series [Breaking Bad], one thing we strive for is to create ‘water cooler moments.’ That’s certainly not an expression we created, but the way we define a water cooler moment is: Is it a plot development or is it a scene in which people can gather around the water cooler at the office and discuss what the scene meant? Not simply get them talking about it, but have them discuss it and argue over what the scene meant, what it forebodes, perhaps, for the future. And all of this to say that I personally have no particular political or social axe to grind, because I think that stories that set out to do that become kind of didactic or polemic. Stories about characters are always more interesting to me, personally. There is no deeper social indictment at work here, at least not consciously. However, when I speak of water cooler moments, I like for the audience to have the ability to perhaps argue that there are [social or political prerogatives]. I like for people watching our show to have different viewpoints on what exactly the show means. And Walt’s behavior—I like folks being able to argue over his behavior. Is he completely wrong, or is there some rightness to his cause?”
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan
2010 Slant interview by J.C. Frenan

P.S. The last part of that reminds me of the quote by the playwright Ibsen who said it was enough to ask questions. The wrestling with those questions is what people think about after watching a movie, play or Tv show. And if you’re fortunate to strike a nerve it leads to people standing around the water cooler talking it. I don’t know if they had water coolers back Shakespeare day, but I’m pretty sure they had some kind of version of water cooler moments even back in ancient Greece.

Scott W. Smith

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“I am not in danger, Skyler—I am the danger.”
Walt (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad

“In the early days, especially writing the [Breaking Bad] pilot, I worried so much that Walt wouldn’t be likeable. It’s funny, I bent over backwards to give the audience reasons to sympathize with him. I was nervous – anxiety-ridden, as I typically am – that what I was saying in that script was interesting enough for the audience. Watching that first episode, I probably overdid that a bit. In hindsight, I’ve learned the audience will go along with a character like Walt so long as he remains interesting and active, and is capable about his business. People like competency. What is it people like about Darth Vader?  Is it that he’s so evil, or that he’s so good at his job? I think it might be the latter. All the fears I had – ‘Boy, no one’s gonna sympathize with this guy’– turned out to be unfounded, which was a very interesting revelation.”
Two-time Emmy winning producer/writer and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan
Rolling Stone article by Rob Tannenbaum

Related bonus quote: “Television is really good at protecting the franchise. It’s good at keeping the Korean War going for 11 seasons, like M*A*S*H. It’s good at keeping Marshal Dillon policing his little town for 20 years. By their very nature TV shows are open-ended. So I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to have a show that takes the protagonist and transforms him into the antagonist?”
Vince Gilligan on creating Breaking Bad
The Dark Art of Breaking Bad by David Segal
2011 New York Times 

Related posts:
Simple Stories/Complex Characters (Tip #95)
David O. Russell on Characters & Theme “I always look for amazing characters who I find are fascinating, charming, flawed, romantic and in trouble.”
Protagonist= Struggle
Movie Flaws, Personality & DNA “Scorsese is often called ‘America’s greatest director’ on the strength of a body of work in which all the characters in his movies are various degrees of wicked and miserable people.”—William Froug
Martin Luther King & Screenwriting (Tip #7) “Strong characters hold our interest in life and on the screen.” —Andrew Horton, Writing the Character-Centered Screenplay

Scott W. Smith

 

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“This is a business that’s based on rejection and the anticipation of rejection. It’s tough. You have to be like one of those mechanical toys that, when you knock it down, it pops back up again.”
95-year old Oscar-nominated screenwriter Walter Bernstein (The Front)
Variety article by Scott Foundas (@foundasonfilm)
H/T Christopher Lockhart, The Inside Pitch Facebook group

Related posts:
Screenwriting Quote #141 (Melissa Rosenburg) “Don’t give up. You’re going to get kicked in the teeth. A lot. Learn to take a hit, then pick yourself up off the floor. Resilience is the true key to success.”—Rosenburg
Jailbait, Rejection& Screenwriter Mark Boal “You have to be willing to get your teeth kicked in continually before you achieve even a modicum of success. And once you achieve that you have to be willing to put up with a bunch of rejection before you can get anywhere.”—Two-time Oscar-winner Mark Boal
Perseverance (Werner Herzog) “Perseverance has kept me going over the years. Things rarely happen overnight. Filmmakers should be prepared for many years of hard work.”—Herzog

Scott W. Smith

 

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“Perseverance has kept me going over the years. Things rarely happen overnight. Filmmakers should be prepared for many years of hard work. The sheer toil can be healthy and exhilarating. Although for many years I lived hand to mouth — sometimes in semi-poverty — I have lived like a rich man ever since I started making films. Throughout my life I have been able to do what I truly love, which is more valuable than any cash you could throw at me. At a time when friends were establishing themselves by getting university degrees, going into business, building careers and buying houses, I was making films, investing everything back into my work. Money lost, film gained.”
Filmmaker Werner Herzog (who was a welder in a steel mill before making films)
Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed
Conversations with Paul Cronin
via Maria Popova at Brain Pickings

P.S. If you want to see perseverance in action watch Fitzcarraldo (1982) written, directed and co-produced by Herzog. Then follow that viewing with the Les Blank documentary Burden of Dreams on the making of Fitzcarraldo.

Related posts:
Filmmaker Les Blank (1935-2013)
Orson Welles at USC in 1981 (Part 3) “Anybody who goes into film has to be a little crazy. And has to be ready for every kind of disappointment and defeat.”—Welles
Bob DeRosa’s “Shortcuts” — “There are no shortcuts. There is only hard work. Perseverance….”—DeRosa
Iowa Kutcher on Jobs/Work “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”—Steve Jobs

Scott W. Smith

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“Enchantment lies in different things for each of us. For me, it is in this: to step out of the bright sunlight into the shade of orange trees; to walk under the arched canopy of their jadelike leaves; to see the long aisles of lichened trunks stretch ahead in a geometric rhythm; to feel the mystery of a seclusion that yet has shafts of light striking through it. This is the essence of an ancient and secret magic. It goes back, perhaps, to the fairy tales of childhood, to Hansel and Gretel, to Babes in the Wood, to Alice in Wonderland, to all half-luminous places that pleased the imagination as a child. It may go back still farther, to racial Druid memories, to an atavistic sense of safety and delight in an open forest. And after long years of spiritual homelessness, of nostalgia, here is that mystic loveliness of childhood again. Here is home. An old thread, long tangled, comes straight again.”
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek

 

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“It seems to me that the earth may be borrowed, but not bought. It may be used, but not owned. It gives itself in response to love and tending, offers its sesonal flowering and fruiting. But we are tenants and not possessors, lovers, and not masters.”
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek

LakeHowell

Since my last post had a shout-out to Lake Howell High School I thought it fitting to show Lake Howell the lake. The lake actually sits just 100 yards off one of the busiest roads in Central Florida (State Road 436). In fact, if you cross eight lanes of traffic from where this picture was taken you’ll be at the parking lot of a Super Wall Mart.

But as you watch a sunrise though the Spanish moss hanging on the trees, the Wall Mart seems not only 100 miles away, but 100 years away. A remnant of old Florida that was captured so well in the The Yearling, the 1939 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. In 1939 the book was actually the best selling novel in the United States.

The 1946 film version of The Yearling won two Oscars (Cinematography and Art Direction) and a Best Motion Picture Actor Golden Globe for Gregory Peck.

“Every man wants life to be a fine thing, and easy. And it tis fine, son, powerful fine— but t’aint easy.”
Penny Baxter (Gregory Peck) in The Yearling

But the movie I prefer more based on Rawlings’ work is Cross Creek (1983) starring  Mary SteenburgenRip TornPeter Coyote , directed by Martin Ritt, and screenplay by Dalene Young.

“In the late 1920s, it took a lot of guts for a woman to pack up her typewriter and move off to the wilds of Florida like that. This is the story of a woman finding herself.”
Director Martin Ritt on Rawlings 

P.S. The Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home in Florida is now part of the Florida State Parks system and can be toured at various times of the year. Though Rawlings is connected to Florida through he life and writings in the state, she was born in Washington, D.C., received an English degree from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, worked as a reporter in Louisville, Kentucky and was living in New York when she received an inheritance from her mother and decided to move to rural Florida.Later she would move to Crescent Beach, Florida and died in nearby St. Augustine in 1953.

Scott W. Smith

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” I wanted to minimize the locations and there are really only four locations in the movie so we designed the production to allow us to go from one location to the next.”
Writer/director Jamie Linden (10 Years)
Variety
article by Stuart OldhamBride and Groom 2

There’s nothing quite like high school friends.

Yesterday I missed writing a post on a weekday for the first time in a long time. But it was just one of those crazy 15 hour shooting days. I’m working on a video version of the Mike and the Mechanics song The Living Years that will be used in symphony concert settings.  The budget’s tight so I had to reach out to some friends for some assistance with props and people.

The video is an arc of life concept shot in silhouettes and I needed a bride and groom and just put it out there on Facebook and a friend from high school said his nephew got married earlier this year and thought they’d be game to help. So Chris and Danielle were kind enough to drop by yesterday and allow me to shoot the above shot. (The finished shot will be more stylized, but I do like the simplicity of this shot.)

Turns out that Chris went to the same high school I did (many years after, of course) and two of his classmates just happened to be actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) and screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall). Small world, huh?  A few years ago Linden and Porter returned to Florida for their 10-year reunion of Lake Howell High School.

“I went to [my high school reunion] with my friend, Scott Porter, who is an actor.  We grew up in Orlando, Florida, as far away from this business as you could be.  I have a couple other friends who live here in L.A. that went to high school with us, and we went back as a group ‘cause we don’t get a lot of chances to go home and definitely not together, so it was an excuse.  And I don’t think I was disappointed by it, but just was underwhelmed by it all.  But, I found it interesting, just purely on a sociological and anthropological level.”
Jamie Linden
Writer/director of  10 Years
Collider
article by Christina Radish

That experience was the beginning of Linden writing and directing the feature 10 Years.  If you didn’t see (or even hear of) the 2011 film that’s because it was a small indie film. But the ensemble cast included Channing Tatum (who both Porter and Linden worked with on Dear John),  Rosario Dawson and Chris Pratt.

Two days ago Variety reported that Linden, “will write the screenplay of Lionsgate’s franchise starter Chaos Walking: The Knife of Never Letting Go.” George Clooney and Jodie Foster are set to co-star and Robert Zemeckis attached to direct. Porter plays George Tucker on the TV program Hart of Dixie. Linden and Porter are kind of the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck of Orlando.

And speaking of Lake Howell High School, last week I dropped off two boxes of my screenwriting and filmmaking books at the school in hopes that they would inspire the next crop of Scott Porter’s and Jamie Linden’s. Go Silver Hawks.

photo

P.S. Yesterday’s shoot was the first time I’ve done a 4K shoot. Used the little Lumex GH4 which for the price may end up being the hottest camera to come along since the Canon 5D. Here’s Philip Bloom’s review of the camera.

Related post:
Remembering the Friday Night Lights
The 10 Film Commandments of Edward Burns Low-budget indie film tips
Screenwriting from High School (Back in 2008 I went back to my old high school to give a talk.)

Scott W. Smith

 

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