Archive for May, 2018


“The whole thing is a mystery to me. It’s like I go to work and I sit around taking a nap and read a couple of books and curse myself for being a lazy swine. And at some point a work of some description shows up and I say how did that get there?…What I’m trying to do—I’ve written a lot of books [on acting and writing]—is understand a mysterious process. Try to get closer to a mysterious process.”
David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Verdict)
WTP with Marc Maron podcast interview 

Trying to understand the mysterious process of writing pretty much describes what I’ve been trying to do on this blog for the past decade. It’s why I’ve quoted over 700 sources of writers, filmmakers, artists, and others talking about the creative process. And if you’ve been reading this blog for long you’ll have read that many quiet successful people have had contrary views on the topic.

And if I was limited to listing just a couple of things that set people apart I’d go with talent and hard work (get stuff written/produced). But there’s a lot of mystery involved in the process. And while I agree that it’s a little tricky to dissect the creative process, I do think there’s a lot of wisdom the following advice:

“Story is about principles, not rules. A rule says, ‘you must do it this way.’ A principle says, ‘This works…and has through all remembered time.’ The difference is crucial. Your work needn’t be modeled after the ‘well-made’ play; rather, it must be well made within the principles that shape our art.”
Robert McKee

Every once in a while you hear a writer say they’ve never read a book on writing, or taken a class on writing. But what they have done is read a lot of books/screenplays, watched a lot of movies, and/or gone to a lot of plays and in the process learned basic principles (conflict, character, plot devices, etc.) that are common in Greek plays, Shakespeare, Dickens, Flannery O’Connor, Arthur Miller, Lorraine Hansberry, Billy Wilder, Nora Ephron, Ang Lee, Sam Shepard, Aaron Sorkin, Jordan Peele, etc., etc.. etc.

P.S. David Mamet’s newest book, Chicago, is set in the 1920s.

Scott W. Smith




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My advice is always that your path to success is to do the things that you’re the best at. And I think a lot of time the things that you’re the best at are the things that you have the most passion for. And I think those are the two areas I would always recommend people focus on. I think that it’s more likely that a fantastic amazing stunt coordinator is going to get hired to direct a big movie than someone who has made another big movie really badly. Like I just don’t think that – it’s an industry where you get over-rewarded for things that you do really well. And I think that those are the things that you need to focus on.

I think it was Guillermo del Toro said that all of the things that are flaws about you when you start doing well just become your voice. And when you’re not doing well they’re all the things people point out as problems.
Indie Producer Keith Calder
Interview with John August on Scriptnotes. Ep. 343

P.S. On a similar note writer/director Francis Ford Coppola said the things that they criticize you for early in your career are what you get honors for later in your career.

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Screenwriter/playwright David Mamet began working in show business at seven or eight years old portraying Jewish children on a 6:30am radio/television programs, then as a kid in community theater in Chicago. At 16, he began working as a busboy in the early days of Second City watching actors like Peter Boyle, Fred Willard, Judy Graubart, and David Steinberg work their improv magic.

“So I was exposed to the whole idea of a seven-minute scene with a payoff. Which was extraordinarily influential in me because that’s what every scene’s got to be. If you look at what passes as improv comedy now some of it’s pretty funny but it doesn’t have a punchline. Like sketch comedy like Saturday Night Live they just dial it out. But what Second City said was they had to have an out. You gotta get off stage. So that really taught me a lot about drama because if the scene doesn’t have an ending there’s no reason to go on to the next scene. The reason to go on to the next scene in the play is because the first scene didn’t work. Somebody found out something that made them go on to the next scene.”
David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Verdict)
WTP with Marc Maron podcast interview 

Related posts:
Every Scene Must Be Dramatic—David Mamet
Mission: Rip Off David Mamet
What Happens Next?—Mamet

Scott W. Smith

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“There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.”
Rev. Michael B. Curry

I went to see A Quiet Place a second time this weekend. Actually, on the same day of the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Merkle and I think there’s a connection between the two.

There is an iconic moment in the movie A Quiet Place that centers around the concept of love. In a cryptic spoiler alert, you could even say that the theme of A Quiet Place is rooted in what Jesus called a “greater love.” Yes, A Quiet Place lives squarely in the space of horror/thriller movies—but it also a love story.

And it’s the love story element that I believe made the movie about something, and helped propel it to both a critic and audience global success. I don’t know if the love story part was in the original script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, or added in later in the pass done by director/actor John Krasinski. But it is weaved into the story seamlessly.

I didn’t watch the Royal Wedding live, but since the sermon was talked about more than the dress I thought I’d at least watch that part. That sermon may be the first ever sermon that’s ever been run in entirety on BuzzFeed.

It’s also turned into the first sermon in a long time that’s been debated about in the open public as to the meaning behind the meaning. But here’s the opening lines you can just read at face value and connect it to the family in A Quiet Place that faces a new world:

And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

From the Song of Solomon in the Bible: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.

The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.’

There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love.
Rev. Michael B. Curry
Saturday, May 19, 2018

Scott W. Smith



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Many know of Gainesville, Florida simple because it’s the home to the Florida Gators football team. Lesser known is the name at the top of the University of Florida football stadium that reads Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.* Griffin was a former UF  who became an orange grove baron in Frostproof, Fla. with an estate worth an estimated hundreds of millions when he died in 1990. He and his family have been significant donors to the school over the years.

Years ago I once produced a video for his extended family and came across footage of an old interview with Griffin that’s always been one of my favorites. Since he started with just 10-acres of oranges he was asked what was the secret of his immense financial success. He smiled and said, “Now I don’t know if I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded, it’s just that my successes have outshone my failures.”

I imagine any honest biography would echo that thought. And may it be true of us as well.

In the bottom left corner of the photo I took yesterday are three top Gator players (Danny Wuerffel, Steve Spurrier, and Tim Tebow) who each had their share of successes and failures, but are best known for being Heisman Trophy quarterbacks who also were on national championship teams as a player or coach at Florida.


*The full name of football stadium is now “Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.” But that’s a mouthful so many just call it by its nickname—”The Swamp.”

Scott W. Smith

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Well it was kinda cold that night
She stood alone on her balcony
Yeah, she could hear the cars roll by
Out on 441 like waves crashin’ on the beach
American Girl/Tom Petty


This sign for The Florida Motel is the kind of timeless Florida tourism that I love photographing—as I did today.  This weathered sign is located on Highway 441 in Gainesville, Florida not far from the University of Florida campus.

In ten years this sign will probably end up in a Manhatten museum— or a bar in Brooklyn.

Scott W. Smith

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Hippy House_7005.jpg

It’s not a hippy hill now—it’s actually a nice bed and breakfast area in Gainesville, Florida. But back in the ’60s and ’70s it got the nickname of the hippy hill because hippies lived in mass quantities in the then run-down Victorian homes on 7th Street.

In the home I photographed above upwards of 30 hippies called this home at one time. Legend has it that Tom Petty lived (crashed?) here for a while in the early days of his musical career when he made his living playing in the college town that’s home to the University of Florida.

Tonight I’m actually staying in a cottage next door that’s part of a different bed and breakfast and that’s where I first heard about Petty’s connection. Two doors down from this B&B is The Magnolia Plantation (photograph below) which before it was restored in 1990 their literature says, “Hippies and college students had inhabited it for 30 years. It was more like Animal House than a Victorian mansion.” They pulled out 20 mattresses and seven couches from this house before the restoration began.


I don’t know if any former hippies own any of these bed and breakfasts in 2018, but that would make for a pretty interesting story.



Related article: Gainesville: Where Tom Petty’s Dreams Began by Marty Jourard

Scott W. Smith

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I took this photo in an alley (complete with trash bins) while in St. Petersburg, Florida this week. There are dozens of large murals on buildings throughout the greater downtown area. This one by Derek Donnelly is located in the Northside Alley in the 500 Block of Central Ave. Here’s an interactive map showing where all of the murals are located and the artists who painted them.

Scott W. Smith

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Postcard #159 (Dali Museum)

“The only difference between me and a madman is that I’m not mad.”
Salvador Dali


Quick day trip to St. Petersburg, Florida today where I visited The Dali Museum. Because my mom was a middle school art teacher I grew up looking at Salvador Dali’s work in books. Trust me, looking at his Persistence of Memory as a young child will mess you up.  And if that doesn’t, seeing his film Un Chien Andalou (as I did in film school) will. What I didn’t know until today is Dali had a pre and post-surrealist period body of work.

His work was a mix of philosophy, science, and religion that’s mystified me my entire life. I’ve always said if I ever worked on a Ph.D. dissertation I’d want to do it on the brain and creativity. And I imagine that’s rooted in being exposed to the life and work of Dali and Van Gogh before I was 10-years-old.

P.S. Another thing you can’t get from books is the large size of some of Dali’s paintings.


Scott W. Smith

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“Evelyn is nine months pregnant, because A Quiet Place wasn’t stressful enough with labor and the threat of a screaming newborn.”
Jordan Crucchiola
Let’s Talk About the NAil Scene in A Quiet Place

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 8.58.23 AM.png

I know it’s only May, but Evelyn (Emily Blunt) in A Quiet Place gets my movie character mother of the year vote. If you’ve seen any of the promotional material it’s not really a  spoiler to say that in the photo above Blunt’s character is eight months pregnant,  there’s a monster in the house, and she can’t make a sound or she’ll die. Yeah, movie character mother of the year.

P.S. When people think back to movies in 2018 I wouldn’t be surprised if the iconic image if from the bathtub scene. It’s hard enough to get a movie made, much less get one that both critic like and finds a huge audience—but to toss in something iconic is off the charts amazing.

Scott W. Smith


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