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Archive for January, 2015

“I grew up in the Compton/Lynwood area of Los Angeles. My family has no connection with the entertainment industry at all except that I had a very beloved aunt named Denise who was a lover of the arts, of film and music and theater and literature. She gifted me with an appreciation for it all. But she was truly a ferocious movie watcher and fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of film. How she got it is really just through the atmosphere, because there was no one ahead of her to introduce her to the arts, but luckily she was there for me. I spent many an afternoon, getting picked up from school going straight to a movie. Long conversations about film and books and art. It was really all a gift from my aunt to me.”
Director Ava DuVernay (Selma)
Interview with Scott Myers/Go Into The Story

P.S. I’ve said before that you can live not far from the Hollywood sign in West Covina, California and feel like you’re in West Des Moines, Iowa. The Compton/Lynwood area only about 20 miles south of the Hollywood sign would be low on the list for places in Los Angeles County where you’d bet on someone rising to a filmmaking career in Hollywood. (Though an abundance of rappers and professional athletes are from the area. NWA/Straight Outta Compton.  NFL great Richard Sherman playing for Seattle in the Super Bowl this Sunday was born in Compton.)  I spent some time in and around Compton/Lynwood in the early 80s while working as a photographer in nearby Cerritos. Gritty would be a word to describe it then. At least back then—and when DuVernay was in high school— the area was known for it’s heavy presence of African-American and Hispanic gangs.

I’m guessing the area was different in the 1940-50s from what I saw in the 1980s, because actor/director Kevin Costner was born in Lynwood in 1955 and future Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush lived in Compton briefly in 1949.

I hope Ava DuVernay’s (@AVAETCfilmmaking success is an inspiration to all of you who come from or live in “unlikely places.” But make sure you read the full interview at the Go Into the Story blog  (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) to see the many steps she took to write and direct movies.

Related posts:
Postcard #82 (Selma)
25 Links Related to Blacks & Filmmaking
Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting 

Related LA Times Article: WME talent agents go from A-List to ABCs in Compton mentors program. Very cool.

Scott W. Smith

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“To tell you the truth, I try not to get analytical in the writing process. I really try not to do that. I try to just kind of keep the flow from my brain to my hand as far as the pen is concerned and, as I’ve said, go with the moment and go with my guts. It’s different than when you’re playing games or trying to be clever. To me, truth is the big thing. Constantly you’re writing something and you get to a place where your characters could go this way or that and I just can’t lie. The characters have gotta be true to themselves. And that’s something I don’t see in a lot of Hollywood movies. I see characters lying all the time. They can’t do this because it would affect the movie this way or that or this demographic might not like it. To me a character can’t do anything good or bad, they can only do something that’s true or not.”
Two-time Oscar winning screenwriter Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained)
Creative Screenwriting Magazine interview by Erik Bauer

Related Posts:
Mike Nichols on Comedy, Tragedy & Truth
The Shocking Truth (Tip #84)
Hunting for Truth
Telling the Truth=Humor

Scott W. Smith

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7 Years & 2,000 Posts

“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.”
Playwright Eugene O’Neill
From his play The Great God Brown

“I broke my hand, my shoulder, my elbow and my face but the real injury this year was to my Irish pride as it was discovered that under my tracksuit I was wearing yellow and black Lycra cycling shorts. Yes, LYCRA. This is not very rock ‘n’ roll. 

Recovery has been more difficult than I thought… As I write this, it is not clear that I will ever play guitar again. The band have reminded me that neither they nor Western civilization are depending on this.”
Bono on his bicycle accident in NYC
U2 News: Little Book of a Big Year, January 2015

Cancer changes everything. Towards the end of 2014 I started to think of how I could do something special for the seventh anniversary and 2,000 post on this blog—which happens to be today. But life happens. About the same time last November when Bono was having a five-hour surgery for his bike accident I started six weeks of chemo and radiation.

Shortly before my treatment ended the first week of January ESPN’s Stewart Scott died after a long fight with cancer. News of he and others with cancer hits a little closer to home with me these days.

Hopefully, I’ll find out in a couple of weeks that I cancer free—but having cancer has a way of changing your perspective. I am aware that Western civilization doesn’t depend on me doing something special for my 2,000th post. And the world won’t stop if I don’t write post number 2,001.

So I don’t have any big fanfare today except to say thank you for joining me on this extended personal project that’s gone on a lot longer than I ever thought it would. And there will be a 2,001st post plus some, they just may not come as regularly as they have in the past. I would like to do one short video essay a month just to bring a new dimension to the blog.

As a way to begin a new chapter in my own life I started a new video producer position with a local college last week and it’s been nice to get back into the studio after almost three months of downtime. I hope 2015 has some moments of grace and creativity for You, Bono and myself.

Cheers—

P.S. Here’s the nice note from WordPress after I hit publish on this post:

2000

Scott W. Smith

 

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“If you’re going to play music or do any art form, just as a hobby or as purely a source of enjoyment, then yeah, you should enjoy it. But I do believe in pushing yourself. If you actually take the idea of practice seriously—to me, practice should not be about enjoyment. Some people think of practice as ‘You do what you’re good at, and that’s naturally fun.’ True practice is actually about just doing what you’re bad at, and working on it, and that’s not fun. Practice is about beating your head against the wall. So if you’re actually serious about getting better at something, there’s always going to be an aspect of it that’s not fun, or not enjoyable. If every single thing is enjoyable, then you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.”
29-year-old Oscar-nominated screenwriter Damien Chazell (Whiplash)
Dissolve interview with Tasha Robinson

P.S. This is my second post of the day to set-up my 2,000th post tomorrow—on the seventh anniversary of this blog. Don’t know if it’ll be as epic as I wanted it to be, but I at least wanted to stay on track.

Scott W. Smith

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“What I like is that the secret to the mystery that [Jack Nicholson’s character J.J. Gettes is] eventually going to uncover is right in front of his eyes almost at the very beginning. And like Oedipus you have the mystery in front of you. (He was the killer and he didn’t know it.) In a sense all detective movies are surrogate retellings of the Oedipus tale. That from the very beginning you know the hands that you look at all the time are a reminder of the killer, but he doesn’t realize it until the end.”
Screenwriter Robert Towne on the Chinatown commentary with David Fincher
26:30 mark

The above comment is a little cryptic if you aren’t familiar with both Chinatown and Greek mythology. But since Robert Towne won an Oscar (Best screenplay, Original Screenplay) for writing Chinatown I thought it was worth posting since the quote “all detective movies are surrogate retellings of the Oedipus tale” was something I’d never heard anyone say, and a reminder—as Arthur Miller was fond of saying—that there is gold to draw from in the theater of ancient Greece.

Related post: Writing ‘Chinatown’

Scott W. Smith

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Here’s a “recently revised” guideline that The Academy Nicholl Committee uses in judging screenplays for  Nicholl Fellowships. I found it on the January 14, 2014 Facebook page for the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.

NichollFellowshipRelated posts:
The Magical Power of Stories
Enchantment
Making Dramatic Writing Dynamic ( Tip #98)
‘The Twilight Zone’ Secrets (2.0) Find an interesting character, or a group, at a moment of crisis in life, and get there quickly; then lay on some magic.
Theme=Story’s Heart & Soul

Scott W. Smith

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 “Last Sunday, more than eight thousand of us started on a mighty walk from Selma, Alabama…”
Martin Luther King Jr.
March 25, 1965 address at the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery march

selma-scottwsmith

Back in 2006 after a video shoot in Jackson, Mississippi I made a point on my way to Atlanta to drive through Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. I took the above photo as I crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I especially thought of that trip today because it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the movie Selma is currently in theaters fresh off a Best Picture Oscar Nomination.

Related Posts:

25 Links Related to Blacks & Filmmaking (From the Screenwriting from Iowa blog)
The First Black Feature Filmmaker
Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting (Tip #7)
Martin Luther King Day Special (2012)

Scott W. Smith

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