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Archive for March, 2017

“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.”
Rudyard Kipling

 

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“The Woman in the Room remains on my short list of favorite film adaptions.”
Stephen King

If you’re a filmmaker just starting out, don’t compare yourself to Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption—or his most recent work in creating The Walking Dead—look at what King was doing in his early twenties when he made the short film The Woman in the Room (based on a Stephen King short story).

Scott W. Smith

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’77 was the year young filmmakers—college students, for the most part—started writing me about the stories I’d published (first in Night Shift, later in Skeleton Crew), wanting to make short films out of them. Over the objections of my accountant, who saw all sorts of legal problems, I established a policy which still holds today. I will grant any student filmmaker the right to make a movie out of any short story I have written (not the novels, that would be ridiculous), so long as the film rights are still mine to assign. I ask them to sign a paper approval, and that they send me a videotape of the finished work. For this one-time right I ask a dollar.”
Author Stephen King
Rita Hayworth and the Darabont Redemption
Introduction to The Shooting Script

Frank Darabont did the dollar deal with King when he was 20-years-old and made a short film out of The Woman in the Room. A few years later Darabont wrote King wanting the acquire the rights to King’s novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.

I’m actually not sure if this was a dollar deal or not, but King gave him the rights because he liked what Darabont did with The Woman in the Room, but he also thought the odds of actually getting a old school prison break movie made was a longshot.

And the rest is Hollywood history.

I encourage you to read both Darabont’s shooting script for The Shawshank Redemption and King’s version found in the collection Mean Seasons.  One could teach a whole college semester class just on the Shawshank movie, screenplay, and novella. (And perhaps a second class on another story from Mean Seasons —The Body—which Rob Reiner turned into the movie Stand By Me.)

P.S. To inquire about King’s $1 rights and other questions, visit the Q&A section on his website.

Scott W. Smith

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“Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes, really. Pressure and time.”
Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) in The Shawshank Redemption

Just as my post yesterday mentioned that Jordan Peele had the idea kicking around for Get Out five years before he sat down and pounded out the script, Frank Darabont acquired the rights to the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption five years before he sat down to write the script for The Shawshank Redemption.

“So I got the rights and didn’t do anything with them for five years, for a number of reasons…I think on a certain level I was waiting for my abilities as a writer to catch up with my ambitions for the script. I don’t think I could have written it nearly as well when I first optioned it. But the day came when I felt like I was ready to try it. So I sat down and wrote it in eight weeks, and two weeks later we had a deal with Castle Rock.”
Writer Frank Darabont
Conversations with Screenwriters by Susan Bullington Katz

That big option that Darabont had forRita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption was what King called a “Dollar Baby”—where a filmmaker could option one of his stories for $1. (With a back in deal if the movie ever got made and distributed.)

While rating films is subjective, it’s worth noting that as I write this that according to a poll of IMDB users The Shawshank Redemption is ranked the #1 movie of all time.
“About everywhere you go, people say, The Shawshank Redemption—greatest movie I ever saw.”—Morgan Freeman

P.S. I’m actually not sure if the rights to Shawshank was a dollar deal or not, but it is true that Darabont started a relationship with King when he did the dollar deal for King’s short story The Woman in the Room—so one way or another $1 turned into IMBD’s #1 movie.

Scott W. Smith 

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“I’m the kind of guy who wants to know the entire movie before I write it.”
Screenwriter Jordan Peele (Get Out)
Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith podcast

P.S. Peele also said on that podcast that while he wrote the first draft of Get Out in 2 1/2—3 months, the idea had been kicking around in his head for five years. “Follow the fun,” is his bonus writing advice.

P.P.S. Just to point out how different writers are, Stephen King says that the story comes to him as he writes his novels. He’s the first reader as well as the writer. That’s the exact opposite method that Jordan Peele used. “Different strokes for different folks.”

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If you weren’t alive in 1977 this is what was popular before the internet came along:

“To me, The Gong Show was the simplest and most elegant of TV shows. The anti-game show. The anti-variety show. A hot mess of street performers and buskers and B-list celebrities who all appeared to be in on the joke. At base, they dared you to watch, and I loved it. Watching Chuck Barris on television proved to me that the best way to be funny, was to amuse yourself before all others. Those who laughed along with you, became your boss. Those who didn’t, were of no consequence. It’s the truest thing I’ve ever learned in my career.”
Mike Rowe blog post

Chuck Barris—who died last week (but isn’t to be confused with Chuck Berry, who also died last week)—had a movie produced on a book he wrote. Charlie Kaufman wrote the screenplay to Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, where Barris said he was once a hitman for the CIA.

Scott W. Smith

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“One of the lessons I took from Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner—which is one of the influences here—is that one of the reasons that film was so effective in its discussion with race is because it started with a situation that was universal. Take the race out of it, everybody can relate to the fear of meeting your potential in laws for the first time. At some point I had a revelation that was also the way to get into [Get Out]. ”
Writer/Director Jordan Peele (Get Out)
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith podcast

Scott W. Smith

 

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