Archive for October, 2016

“All of the individual contributions from all the different departments add up to a total far greater than their individual parts. Moviemaking works very much like an orchestra: the addition of various harmonies can change, enlarge, and clarify the nature of the theme.”
Director Sidney Lumet (The Verdict)

My last post was a quote by Sidney Lumet about how all of the film departments ideally come together to make something greater “than their individual parts.” So I thought I’d take some time in the coming days to find some excellent examples that show what various department on film & Tv sets bring to the production world.

Here’s a video by Soundworks Collection of sound mixer Nick Allen whose credits as a boom operator turned sound mixer include The Insider, West Wing, Parenthood, and Chicago Med:

Scott W. Smith


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The following comments are from five time Oscar-nominated writer/director Sidney Lumet (The Verdict, Dog Day Afternoon, Prince of the City,  12 Angry Men, Network):

“When I first meet with the screenwriter, I never tell him anything, even if I feel there’s a lot to be done. Instead I ask him the same question I’ve asked myself: What is the story about? What did you see? What was your intention? Ideally, if we do this well, what do you hope the audience will feel, think, sense? In what mood do you want them to leave the theater? 

“We are two different people trying to combine our talents, so it’s critical that we agree on the intention of the screenplay. Under the best circumstances, what will emerge is a third intention, which neither of us saw at the beginning….[Arthur Miller] said that he loved seeing what his work evoked in others. The result could contain revelations, feelings, and ideas that he never knew existed when he wrote the play. It’s what we all hope for.

“…Of course, the original intent is present. But all of the individual contributions from all the different departments add up to a total far greater than their individual parts. Moviemaking works very much like an orchestra: the addition of various harmonies can change, enlarge, and clarify the nature of the theme.”
Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)
Making Movies 
Pages 29-30, 46

Related post:
Where Do Ideas Come From? (A+B=C)
Sidney Lumet on Theme
Arthur Miller on Writing
Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)

Scott W. Smith

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Writing Quote #62 (Mamet)

“All plays are about lies. A misimagined or misdescribed situation is presented to the hero, and he must either uncover the lie that engendered it (Hamlet) or strive to create those lies he thinks will extract him from the situation (All My Sons). When the lie is revealed, the play is over.”
David Mamet
Theatre, page 61

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Hurricane Poetry

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
King Lear, Act III, Scene II
William Shakespeare

As the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew passed through Central Florida today I thought I’d share an image I captured that’s less clichéd than the zillions of palm fond shots favored by news organizations. I guess there’s a place for sensationalism, but wind blowing through a 100+foot oak tree draped in Spanish moss can show the etherial and beautiful side of nature.

Then again I have seen Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi (shot by director of photography Ron Fricke) a time or two, and am drawn to these kinds of images. Especially in the  Internet-saturated world we live in today I think the 1982 “life out of balance” film holds up real well. Check it out if you’ve never seen it. (And there are big screen viewings of Koyaanisqatsi from time to time in various cities.)

P.S. Of course, the destructive side of nature is sad and tragic as we learned of not only the damage to buildings and coastlines, but the loss of lives in Haitai, Cuba, the Bahamas, and the southeastern parts of the United States.

Scott W. Smith

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Squalls out on the gulf stream
Big storm commin’ soon
Jimmy Buffett/Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season


From all reports it appears that Hurricane Matthew will be the worst storm to hit Central Florida in the past 50 years. They’re expecting a category 4 storm (winds range from 131 to 155 mph, and possibly a category 5) by the time it heads up the east coast of Florida (West Palm Beach, Vero Beach, Melbourne Beach, Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach).

Even here in Orlando where the airport is only 50 miles from Cape Canaveral the sustained winds are expected to be 50-70 mph. I hope there are no more serious injuries or loss of lives due to Hurricane Matthew, but unfortunately the odds are quite good that this will disrupt lives for days or weeks, and possible alter the landscape forever.

One more reminder that there are things way beyond our control.

And because this is a screenwriting blog there are a few takeaways. There’s conflict, visual conflictstakes, urgency,  a good bad guy (Hurricane Matthew) who threatens lives and well being, a dilemma, a ticking clock,  and a central dramatic question—what’s going to happen in about 12 hours from now?

One of the best Hurricane-related movies is the 1948 classic  Key Largo (which is actually set during an impending hurricane hitting Florida) written by Richard Brooks and John Huston, based on a play by Maxwell Anderson:

Gangster: Hey Curly, what all happens in a hurricane?
Curly: The wind blow so hard the ocean gets up on its hind legs and walks right across the land.  

And today I found this Lux Radio version of Key Largo starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Edward G. Robinson:

And here’s a fitting Jimmy Buffett song (from one of my all time favorite albums, A1A) to close this blog post:

To watch live feed of Florida beaches during Hurricane Matthew check out Surfline.


Related posts:

Postcard #27 (A1A)
Shelter from the Storm (Dylan)
Havana Daydreamin’
Postcard #21 (Hurricane Issac)
Postcard #22 (Kelly Slater Statue)
Postcard #90 (Second Light)
Writer Jim Harrison (Part 2)
Jim Harrison 1937-2016 (part 4)
The Weather Started Getting Rough
Jimmy Buffett in Iowa (Part 2) A little Steve Goodman, a little Pat Conroy
Writing Quote #31 (Hemingway)

Scott W. Smith

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“Once there is sufficient volume of air involved in this phenomenon, it can sometimes begin, quite slowly at first, to turn in a counterclockwise direction, an effect of the drag of the earth’s rotation, the way a speeding truck will create whirling dust devils along the dry shoulder of a highway.”
John D. MacDonald


Unless someone at NASA is working on their Photoshop skills, the above photo is what Hurricane Matthew looks like as it heads toward Florida. An image worthy of a Hollywood Horror film. And brings back memories of Heath Ledger as The Joker.


Maybe it’s time for someone to remake John D. MacDonald’s book Condominium (about a Hurricane heading toward Floridainto a new movie. (It was made as a TV movie back in 1980.)

P.S. The new trailer for next Pirates of the Caribbean movie Dead Men Tell No Tales dropped two days ago so maybe this whole thing is just a huge Disney PR stunt.


Scott W. Smith

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Camilo José Vergara

The work of photographer and documentarian Camilo José Vergara  reflects a sense of time and place. Often a place heading toward a state of decay. Places like Detroit, Harlem, Newark, Los Angeles, Chicago and Gary, Indiana. Check out the evocative photos on his website.

There’s something about his photos that tell a deep story and stir the soul.

Scott W. Smith

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