Archive for June, 2015


One of the advantages of living in Orlando is just embracing the tourist thing from time to time. Today is my birthday so after doing a studio shoot this morning, editing this afternoon, I drove four miles from my edit bay to Portofino Bay at Universal Studios Florida. I had a wonderful dinner at Mama Della’s Restorante and then took a short boat ride into the CityWalk area.

Universal Studios Florida is now 25 years old and while not too many movies or TV programs are shot there these days, it’s still a fun place rooted in the movie & Hollywood history —with a touch of Italian and Polynesian culture thrown in to mix it all up a little. And you really haven’t lived until you hear a trained opera singer sing the Spider-Man theme song.

P.S. The also took away the Jaws ride at Universal Studios which was a little dated for this era, but last week I did go see the 40th Anniversary release of Jaws. That Universal Studios release is a timeless classic, and I loved seeing it in a full theater.

Scott W. Smith

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Keep the Candle Burning

“People who succeed in the arts most often are the people who get up again after getting knocked down. Persistence is critical…I used to write on the morning commuter train. It was sometimes no more than a paragraph a day, but it kept the candle burning.”
Author Scott Turow

“Right out of high school I started doing stand-up [comedy]. Didn’t go to college, didn’t pursue anything else professionally really. The first time I went on stage I did a minute and a half and I bombed. It was terrible. But I wanted it so bad I kept trying and I learned how to write jokes.”
Louis CK
Louis CK honors George Carlin (Where he also talks about chucking all his jokes he’d worked on over 15 years and his career finally taking-off.)

“[The Tim Ferriss Experiment] is about the struggle as much as anything else. It’s not The Tim Ferriss Highlight Reel…You see me get really injured. You see me screw-up really badly and make some really embarrassing mistakes. And it’s intended to highlight for people the fact that when you think of people you’re trying to emulate, these people make mistakes. Most of the incredible performers I know struggle—they still struggle.”
Tim Ferriss
The Moment podcast interview with Brian Koppelman

Related Posts:

Comedy, Cruelty & Chaplin
Garry Marshall—Survivor
Jerry Seinfeld (Part 1)
Mike Nichols on Comedy, Tragedy & Truth
Tasting & Smelling Comedy
Rewriting Courtroom Drama (Scott Turow)
Flaming Rejection
Beatles, Cody, King & 10,000 Hours
Aaron Sorkin on Failure

Scott W. Smith

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Emotions & Film Composing

“My job — and it’s something I discuss with [James Cameron] all the time — is to make sure at every turn of the film it’s something the audience can feel with their heart. When we lose a character, when somebody wins, when somebody loses, when someone disappears — at all times I’m keeping track, constantly, of what the heart is supposed to be feeling. That is my primary role.”
Oscar-winning composer & conductor  James Horner (Avatar, Titanic,The Karate Kid, Apollo 13)
2009 LA Times article by Geoff Boucher

After Horner’s death this week producing partners James Cameron and Jon Landau said in a joint statement; “James’s music affected the heart because his heart was so big, it infused every cue with deep emotional resonance, whether soaring in majesty through the floating mountains, or crying for the loss of nature’s innocence under bulldozer treads.” Here is the song for which Horner shared an Oscar for Best Music, Original Song:

Related posts:
40 Days of Emotions
Emotional Transportation Biz
Mind, Spirit, Emotion
It’s All About Emotions

Scott W. Smith

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“Getting a puppy, the comic Louis C.K. observed, is a ‘countdown to sorrow.'” 
What Our Dogs Teach Us About Aging by David Dudley

“When you tell a story that embodies human challenges, you create an experience that resonates with your customers.”
J-P De Clerck
Using storytelling to you strengthen brand 

Photographer Ben Moon & his dog Denali’s story was told by Felt Soul Media whose website proclaims, “We strive to cause the rare magical goose bump that occur when pictures and sound are squished together just right.” Ben Knight and Travis Runnel are the Felt Soul Media team and based in Salida and Denver, Colorado. Back in 2003 after a video shoot in Colorado Springs I drove a couple of hours west to Salida because I’d heard it was a relatively undiscovered jewel in the United States.

There I found a wonderful area tucked in the Rockies that was attracting outdoor enthusiasts, artists, and even a chef from San Francisco. There were also migrant workers and people who worked at the nearby Buena Vista Correctional Complex so there was no confusing Salida with Aspen or Telluride. But as I walked through the downtown area and skied Monarch Mountain I found myself wondering how I could live and work in Salida someday. Knight and Runnel have found a way to do that and create compelling work for the world to see.

I see branding storytelling as a growth market. Denali (wonderfully shot by Skip Armstrong) was sponsored by Pategonia and a few other adventure-related groups. It also won the Best of Festival and People’s Choice awards at the 2015 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, Colo.

Scott W. Smith 

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Happy Father’s Day

“[Good Will Hunting] is a wonderful example of a hero living an emotionally safe existence and how he gradually finds the courage to abandon that identity to achieve real fulfillment.”
Michael Hauge
Revealing Your Hero’s Wound

A few years ago I read a book where the author stated that everyone had an emotional wound—and it usually came from their father or mother. That was written in chapter four of the book and after I read that chapter whenever I’d see that wound played out in movies I used to lean over and say to move wife, “chapter four.”

But after so many films with mother and/or father issues I shortened it to just raising up four fingers to signify chapter four whenever I saw or heard a line that represents a wound. Steven Spielberg said of one of the most popular films of all-time: “E.T. was about the divorce of my parents, how I felt after my parents broke up.” That’s a wound.

And that’s one way to deal with a wound. Another film,  On Golden Pond written by Ernest Thompson is one of my favorite films that deals with a father-daughter wound.

May all of you write a script or make a film that helps heal your wounds. May you tell stories that chase the demons away and help heals the wounds of those in the audience. Sure movies and TV shows are entertaining, but at their best they do offer a form of catharsis. Has any film in history resulted in more father/son phone calls than Field of Dreams?

P.S. Here’s a shot of my father, Charles W. Smith, circa 1950s somewhere in either Youngstown or Columbus, Ohio.


Scott W. Smith

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The following is an excerpt from a Go Into The Story interview with Scott Myers and Shut In screenwriters TJ Cimfel (@TeaJaySee) and David White (@dkwite).:

DW:  I don’t want to sound like I’m saying it’s a bad idea to move [from Chicago to L.A.] because for most it’s probably the right decision. But for me specifically, I have a job here that allows me significant time to write, and that’s the most important thing. I don’t know if I could find that in LA.

TJ:  Yeah. What it comes down to is, if you’re committed to making it work, you can make it work from anywhere. You just have to be prepared that there are going to be extra obstacles if you’re not in Los Angeles. As long as you make your peace with that, and you have somebody who’s working with you and for you, who has made their peace with that, that’s a wonderful thing.

From that standpoint, it’s funny because that’s probably one of the first questions when you do the small talk when you have a general meeting with somebody is, “So… You guys are from Chicago? How’s that work for you?”

Yet, they usually wind up finishing with, “Well, I guess you can write from anywhere.” That’s the truth. At the end of the day, that’s really the number one thing. That’s the value that we’re bringing to people is through our writing, not through our proximity.

This is a drum I’ve been beating since 2008 when I was inspired by Diablo Cody’s success. She wrote her first screenplay in off work hours while living in Minneapolis—just a few years removed from graduating from the University of Iowa the Chicago native won an Academy Award for that Juno script. (And while Cody did move to LA, her best work to date was still pounded out between her home and a Starbucks in the suburbs of Minneapolis.)

Of course you can write from anywhere—but the great thing about Cody, Cimfel, and White is they show your screenplays can also get produced. And I should add that one thing I’ve learned over the years is if you’re going to write outside of New York and LA, then having some kind of greater Chicago roots doesn’t hurt.

Related posts:
Screenwriting da Chicago Way (2.0)
Why You Shouldn’t Move to L.A. 
Why You Should Move to L.A.
‘Keep Your Head Down’
Juno Has Another Baby (Emmy) “Don’t ever agonize about the hordes of other writers who are ostensibly your competition.  No one else is capable of doing what you do.”—Diablo Cody
The 99% Focus Rule

Scott W. Smith

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“Success isn’t something that just happens – success is learned, success is practiced and then it is shared.” 
Sparky Anderson

A few years ago I drove through Bridgewater, South Dakota on one of my road trips to who knows where and saw a sign that said, “Hometown of Sparky Anderson.” It was a fine moment, and his story is an echo of one of the major themes of this blog—that talent comes from everywhere (even if they were born during the Depression). What good can come from Bridgewater—population 492?

I’d put the name Sparky Anderson down as one of the greatest sounding names of the 20th century. He wasn’t a screenwriter, but a professional baseball player and manager. Despite only playing in the major leagues one season and having a poor lifetime batting average (.218) he was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. How? He found success by putting together great teams.

In fact, he is one of only two managers who won a World Series in both the National and American Leagues. He first came on my radar when I was a kid when he managed the Cincinnati Reds. The powerhouse team known as The Big Red Machine with Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and gang.

I can’t believe I’d never seen that quote until today when Namita Kabilas posted it on Twitter—@NamitaKablis. (I hate posting quotes without original sources so if you know where that quote came from let me know.) It’s a good one—and worth repeating again and again.

“Success isn’t something that just happens – success is learned, success is practiced and then it is shared.” 
Sparky Anderson

Related posts:

Tinker Field: A Love Letter (and where I saw The Big Red Machine play)
Burns, Baseball, Flawed Characters
Screenwriting, Baseball & Underdog (2.0)
Baseball, Bergman & Bull Durham
Screenwriting, Baseball and Underdogs
Postcard #84 (Spring Training)
Screenwriting & Pete Rose

Scott W. Smith

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