Archive for November, 2015

Quitting vs. Succeeding

Here are two perspectives on writing and performing from the book Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today’s Top Comedy Writers by Mike Sacks (via Stephanie Palmer’s Good in a Room blog):

“People quit because it’s really hard. It’s hard not to have a house, hard not to have money, hard not to have insurance, hard not to be married, hard to have your parents ask you every day what you’re going to do with your life. It’s hard to wait tables while you’re doing improv shows. It’s hard to get up onstage and bomb. It’s hard to submit things that get rejected.”
Producer/Writer/Actress Amy Poehler Mean Girls, Parks and Recreation

“No one really gives my client Justin Halpern any credit. In 2009, Justin started a Twitter feed called Shitmydadsays. Shortly after that I signed him and sold the book at auction for a pretty reasonable advance. Then Justin wrote the book and it ended up selling over a million copies in one year. Which is ridiculous. But everyone seemed to focus on how lucky Justin was, and no one seemed to focus at all on the fact that Justin had been out there [writing] for years.”
Byrd Leavell – Waxman Leavell Literary Agency Agent

Related post:
How to Be a Successful Screenwriter  

Scott W. Smith


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Just in case you’ve never heard the entire 18-minute version of Alice’s Resturant, here’s Arlo Gutherie’s story about “stupidity” set around real life events that happened Thanksgiving time in Massachusetts.

Scott W. Smith

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Today my wife and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We met in an elevator in Burbank, California and married in a covered bridge in Vail, Colorado, and have experienced many of the ups and downs of any relationship that has endured 30 years.

I put together 30 pictures that symbolized the sweeping overview of our marriage and shared it with friends. I’ll spare you 30 pictures but will share a favorite one of mine that was taken in 1999 when we backpacked across Europe in our most memorable travel adventure together.

15-VeniceThis afternoon we went to a movie that is easily one of the best I’ve seen this year— Brooklyn. It also happens to be a movie about new adventures, the search for love, and the complexity of choices we face in life. (With a nice Ireland/Italian/American mix to the story.)  John Crowley directed the script written by Nick Hornsby (High Fidelity) based on the New York Times best selling  best selling novel Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. I should add that is was beautifully shot by cinematographer Yves Bélanger. (But across the board, from cast to crew, this is a finely crafted movie.)

Scott W. Smith


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What makes a hero?

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
Joseph Campbell

Related posts:
The Call to Adventure
The Hero’s Adventure
‘Star Wars’ & The Four Functions of Mythology

Scott W. Smith

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Storytelling Soul Game

“We go out and we see a great hero’s journey movie it’s that impulse within us, that seed of potential, that wants to be actualized, that’s being talked to during those movies, and being whispered to, ‘It’s time for you to do that.’ That’s the story here. That’s what it’s all about.'”
From the documentary Finding Joe
(Not sure who said this because there was no lower third graphic)

“Storytelling is typically about people learning something. You go to a place that’s dark and mysterious. You are faced with yourself. There is a relationship between facing fear and this kind of soul game. You aquire a quality, a hidden strength, a value. [There are]moments where somebody is tested, somebody moves to a place where it feels like a crisis point, and then they are restored, redeemed, made better through that trial, and we call them heroes…There’s wonderful narrative iconography for how to live life. The idea that try hard, you get’ The Little Engine that Could— I think I can I think I can, I can. This idea that we really can do better, be better. That our greatest selves are hidden and the future is the prospect of coming to terms with that self.”
Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind)
From the above doc Finding Joe written and directed by Patrick Takaya Solomon

Related posts:
The Call to Adventure
The Hero’s Adventure
‘Star Wars’ & The Four Functions of Mythology
Hope & Redemption

Scott W. Smith

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“I’m telling an old myth in a new way. That’s how you pass down the meat and potatoes of your society to the next generation.”
George Lucas on creating Star Wars

“Mythology teaches you what’s behind literature and arts, it teaches you about your own life…Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.”
Joseph Campbell

George Lucas has been open over the years about Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces influencing him in creating the Star Wars movies. (And the above video unpacks that some.)  The following quotes by Campbell are from his interview with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth.

#1—“Myth basically serves four functions. The first is the mystical function—realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder you are, and experiencing awe before this mystery.”

#2—“The Second is a cosmological dimension, the dimension with which science is concerned—showing you what the shape of the universe is, but showing it in a way that mystery again comes through.”

#3—“The third function is the sociological one—supporting and validating a certain social order.”

#4 “There is a fourth function of myth, and this is the one that I think everyone must try to relate to—and this is the pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under and circumstances.”

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

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The Call to Adventure

“The Call to Adventure sets the story rolling by disrupting the comfort of the Hero’s Ordinary World, presenting a challenge or quest that must be undertaken. The Call throws the Ordinary World off balance, and establishes the stakes involved if the challenge is rejected. Often delivered by Herald archetype, the Call to Adventure, can take a multitude of forms, including: a message or announcement (The African Queen), a sudden storm (Home Alone), the arrival of the villain (High Noon), a death (Jaws, Some Like It Hot), and abduction (Star Wars), a man’s dying words  (Citizen Kane).

“The hero may need a Succession of Calls before finally realizing that a challenge must be met, or that his only means of escape is the Special World. Many times the Hero needs to choose between two Conflicting Calls.”
Stuart Voytillia
Myth and the Movies
Page 8

That book came out in 1999—the same year that The Matrix hit theaters. So while that isn’t mentioned in that book, The Matrix has one of the most definitive and remembered “call to adventure” in modern cinema.

Scott W. Smith


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The Hero’s Adventure

“Even in popular novels, the main character is a hero or heroine who has found or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience. A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself…The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there’s something lacking in the normal experiences available or permitted to the members of his society. This person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a going and a returning.”
Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers
Chapter V, The Hero’s Adventure, page 123

Here’s nice video done by Iskander Krayenbosc, a motion designer from The Netherlands, as a graduation project for The University of Hong King (HKU). I’ve read Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces a few times and watched many interviews of him, and Krayenbosc does a great job of visually synthesizing Campbell’s views on the hero’s journey/adventure. (Complete with references to E.T. Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, Harry Potter, Batman, The Wizard of Oz, and others.)

Related posts:

Screenwriting the Pixar Way
Movie Flaws, Personality & DNA
Character Flaws
Dan Harmon’s Story Circle
George Miller Masterclass in Visual Storytelling

Scott W. Smith

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“In some way in every story, heroes face death or something like it: their greatest fears, the failure of an enterprise, the end of relationship, the death of an old personality.”
Christopher Vogler
The Writer’s Journey, page 181 (of 1st edition)

Last week I wrote posts about Dwayne Johnson (Hitting Rock Bottom with The Rock),  Sylvester Stallone (The Rocky Road to Rocky), and Chris Orwig (The Creative Fight’) who all hit life-defining rough spots in their lives that eventually led them to successes they are known for.

That is— after Johnson’s failed professional football career, after Stalllone’s rejection in college acting classes, and Orwig being hit by a car while skateboarding, each of them bounced back in their own unique way. And since Jon Acuff is speaking and doing a book signing this evening in Orlando, I thought pulling a quote from his book fit right in with recent posts.

“The crucible of brokenness has a funny way of leading to awesome lives. For some people, rock bottom is a trampoline. It springs them up from the depths, back into the light, filed by a decision never to experience that low again. Or to help make sure other people don’t end up there either.

“Is there anyone who doubts that being fired from his own company didn’t fuel Steve Jobs? Having lost his baby, having been pushed out by his own board in 1985, is there anyone who doesn’t think he licked his wounds and started planning a triumphant return? Would Apple have been Apple without Steve’s underdog moment that came back full circle when he came back to Apple in 1996? Hard to say, but his Career Bump did impact him and the company.”
Author/Speaker Jon Acuff/ @JonAcuff
Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, And Never Get Stuck
pages 83-84

P.S. Two movies that come to mind about characters who had career Do Overs are Erin Brockovich and Jerry Maguire. I’m sure with a little time one could come up with Do Overs being a movie genre of its own. Here’s a favorite “public failure in the work place” scene written by Cameron Crowe.

Related posts:
Shelter from the Storm (‘Fury’)
What’s at Stake? (David Wain)
What’s at Stake?
“Goal. Stakes. Urgency.”
Screenwriting & Slavery to Freedom

Scott W. Smith

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“The road to success isn’t paved with gold—99 percent of the time it isn’t paved at all.”
Photographer/Author/Educator Chris Orwig
The Creative Fight

Because my mom was an art teacher, I was aware of the creative fight from an early age. Before I was ten I was fascinated by Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, but perhaps more enamored that he cut part of his ear off. I’ve read plenty of theories about the madness, pain, and demons that the creative genius fought before his death at age 37.

Chris Orwig’s book The Creative Fight may not have saved Van Gogh’s life—but it may help you on your creative journey.  Encourage you as you face a world of constant noise and change. The goal of his book is to help you refocus and reframe your creative vision and life in general.

“Creativity has given us romance, recovery, culture, cuisine, music, motocross, fables, fashion, and sports. Deep creativity stirs our soul. It reminds us of something we once knew but have since forgotten. Creativity awakens life, like the taste of those cookies brings back your grandmother’s face or that one song reminds you of being 16. We not only watch and witness creativity, we take part in ourselves. And the most creative act of all is living life to the fullest degree. Without creativity by your side, it’s impossible to live a rich and meaningful life.”
Chris Orwig
The Creative Flight
Page 4

For the past few weeks I’ve been in the process of moving my still photography workflow from Apple Aperture to Adobe Lightroom, and Orwig has been helping me with the transition. Not personally, but via his tutorials on lynda.com. I’ve been a long time fan of lynda.com and have watched many of Orwig’s tutorials.

Over the years I’ve grow to realize that change—for various reasons— is just a part of the game. In shooting footage (8mm,16mm, 3/4 inch, Beta SP, DigiBeta, and several digital formats), editing (upright Moviola, Steenbeck flatbed, AVID, FCP, Adobe Premiere), and 35mm and medium format film cameras to DSLRs that shoot stills and video I’ve been through plenty of changes since graduating from film school back in the day.

And I wouldn’t say I’m the most technical person out there and there have been many fights on the technical side so I for one welcome the prolific online training available. Help with the creative fight is harder to come by. But Orwig—a photographer/adventurer— is an able guide. And throughout his book he sprinkles quotes from a wide range of people: John Muir, Mark Twain, Dr. Seuss, Mahalia Jackson, Ansel Adams, T.S. Eliot, Seth Godin, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Kelly Slater, Thomas Edison and others. (In fact, an electic group of which I have quoted from many of them on this blog over the years.)

“[Jack London] wrote and wrote on a borrowed typewriter, but still the rejection letters came. One publication sent him this rejection note: ‘Interest in Alaska has subsided in an amazing degree. I do not think it would pay us to buy your story.’ It seemed his adventures up north wouldn’t pay off after all. Little did London know, more rejection was to come. During his first five years as a writer he received an avalanche of over 500 rejection letters. After his books became a huge success, London would say, ‘You have to go after inspiration with a club.”
Chris Orwig
The Creative Fight
page 97

I bought the book last weekend because I wanted to support Orwig, but also because I’m always open to anyone who can help me in my own creative fight. Especially when one can do so visually and poetically, and who often comes to his soulful observations through is own journey of pain, suffering, and brokenness.

Here are some other videos of Orwig speaking that may help you in your creative fight.

Related Posts:
Creativity & Milking Cows
‘Creativity for Life’
lynda.com for President
Off Screen Quote #12 (Kelly Slater)
Living a Creative Life
Creativity’s Best Friend
Where Do Ideas Come From?

Scott W. Smith

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