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Archive for June, 2018

The photo that’s been at the top of this blog all these years is a quintessential farm shot I took one morning outside of Decorah, Iowa where I was shooting a short film.  The anchor in the shot is the barn and silo in the left part of the photo.

That’s classic Iowa. And I hadn’t thought about that photo in years until today when I read this quote about the silo used in A Quiet Place. 

“Where we grew up [in Iowa] was a healthy mixture of city life and farm life. We lived in the city, but you would hear about grain silos being one of the most dangerous things you can fall into. It’s basically like drowning, but in dry grain. It was terrifying to drive by them on country roads. Early in the writing process we said, ‘That has to be part of the setpieces.’”
Screenwriter Scott Beck (A Quiet Place)
Filmmaker Magazine interview with Matt Mulcahey 

Here’s a clip where the young actors Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jope discuss shooting that scene inside a silo surrounded by corn.

Here’s what part of that scene looked like on the page of the original screenplay.

Screen Shot 2018-06-14 at 11.49.08 PM.png

That silo scene reminds me a little of the Mt. Rushmore scene in Hitchcock’s North By Northwest. 

P.S. You want to know an odd connection between North By Northwest and A Quiet Place. Cary Grant, who starred in North By Northwest, died in Davenport, Iowa.  Where did A Quiet Place screenwriters  (Beck and Bryan Woods) grow up and begin making movies? Davenport/Bettendorf, Iowa. (Part of what’s known as the Quad Cities.) Check out my 2010 post Cary Grant and T. Bone…”somewhere in Iowa.” I don’t just make this stuff up. Check out Cary Grant’s IMDB page and see where he died. Then look up Bryan Woods IMDB page and see where he was born.

It’s a small, small world.

Scott W. Smith

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“Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.”
Anthony Bourdain

Gulfport_7411

Saturday night I had an enjoyable meal at Isabelle’s located at The Historic Peninsula Inn in Gulfport, Florida. I took this photo the next morning because I knew it’d be bathed in the early morning light. (The blue sky was a bonus.)

Gulfport_7695

I thought a lot about Anthony Bourdain over the last few days since hearing about this death. I enjoyed his shows and how he balanced talking about food, travel, movies, and culture. While I have traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and overseas on various productions, my entire career probably looks like a slow year for Bourdain. One article I read said he was sometimes on the road 250 days a year.

No need for me to read into his death, but I’ll miss seeing him explore far (and near) places. His work continued a thread in my life that started when I grew up listening to Jimmy Buffett’s music. A desire to see the far side of the world. And sometimes just the far side of the United States that are sometimes in our own backyards.

So when I pulled into the small art town of Gulfport (next to St. Petersburg) there was a spirit of discovery there that just made my short trip enjoyable.

Related posts;

Parts Unknown Part 1

Parts Unknown Part 2

Parts Unknown Part 3

Parts Unknown Part 4

Parts Unknown Part 5

Parts Unknown Part 6

Parts Unknown Part 7

Parts Unknown Part 8

Parts Unknown Part 9

Parts Unknown Part 10

Scott W. Smith

 

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Yesterday I finished listening to The Wright Brothers by David McCullough on Audible and I couldn’t help make the connection between the two brothers from Dayton, Ohio who pulled off the first powered and controlled flights of an airplane and filmmakers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods who wrote the original drafts A Quiet Place screenplays.

On one level not Hollywood hit movie can compete with the efforts of performing a feat that had never been done before—and that many thought never could be done. But the portrayal of the Wright brothers by McCullough is one of two hard-working Midwestern men who ran a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio and worked diligently on designing and testing the first powered and controlled aircraft until they found wild success in their 30s.

Scott and Bryan made films for 20 years without breakout success until A Quiet Place when the film received critical and financial success in April. (To date it’s made over $300 million worldwide and two month’s after its release it’s still playing in 1,000 theater in the U.S.)

They haven’t started building a wing at the Smithsonian for Scott and Bryan quite yet, but I’m sure they’re hometown heroes back in Davenport, Iowa where the two met in sixth grade and began making their first films.

McCullough wrote that the Wright brothers remained unchanged by the international fame they received for their rock star status (long before there were rock stars). In the spirit of the Midwest, they rolled up their sleeves and kept working and making longer and longer flights.

And that appears essentially what Scott and Bryan are doing. They are already in post-production on Haunt they the co-wrote and co-directed. And to show just how level-headed they appear to be, read these words they wrote just days before A Quiet Place hit theaters:

“But very soon, as the Hollywood fairydust settles, we will go back into the silence of writing the next project, an idea we’re dying to make that may be perceived as too weird, too silly, or too adventurous.  Perhaps we’ll have to return to Iowa to make the movie for a fraction of the catering budget on ‘A Quiet Place.’ But for now, we’ll appreciate our moment with Michael Bay, and encourage everyone to follow their strange cinematic ideas, never knowing just where they might lead.”
Scott Beck and Bryan Woods
IndieWire, April 2, 2018
‘A Quiet Place: How Two Indie Filmmakers Accidently Wrote a Studio Film for Emily Blunt and John Krasinski

P.S. When I started writing this blog in Cedar Falls, Iowa I had this famous picture of the Wright brothers on my office wall.

Screen Shot 2018-06-08 at 4.16.15 PM.png

Related posts:

Art is Work—Milton Glaser 
Screenwriter’s Work Ethic
What could be made on a farm in Iowa for $50K? (That would be a movie people want to see.)—‘A Quiet Place’

Scott W. Smith

 

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“When you open the script and realize that it’s 67 pages with drawings and a map. There were only three or four pages of dialogue in the whole movie. I started reading it the day we got it.”
Producer Andrew Form on reading the initial script for A Quiet Place  by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods
Hollywood Reporter 

How unorthodox a script was the initial draft of A Quiet Place by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck? Well, I haven’t come close to reading the 50,000+ screenplays that WME Story Editor Christopher Lockheart’s read—but I’ve read a few. And I’d never seen a screenplay that had a single word on the page until I read  A Quiet Place.

Here’s an example:

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 8.09.18 PM

Sure out of context it’s anti-climatic. But in a world where a single noise can be deadly that “snap” holds its own on the page. And it’s followed by this more traditional action:

John looks down in horror.
A BROKEN TWIG under his foot.
The creature whips around. Rears up.
JOHN RUNS FOR IT — THE MONSTER SCREAMS

But that single word on the page isn’t the only thing unorthodox in the script. Check this out:

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 8.42.26 PM.png

They made the font size “a little smaller now—a little bit smaller now.” I can’t say that I recall ever seeing that in a script before. Here are three more examples of things you don’t find in most screenplays.

Graphics:

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 8.59.40 PM

 

Gradient fonts (Something I’ve seen in Photoshop, but never in a screenplay) :

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 9.03.19 PM.png

 

Handwriting:

Screen Shot 2018-06-06 at 8.48.27 PM.png

And don’t forget that the first version shopped around came in at 67 pages which is far below that average script count. In various interviews, Beck and Woods commented on worrying that this unorthodoxy might be seen as gimmicky—but they also had the confidence to go with it. And they were rewarded for it. They win the Shane Black Award for 2018.

Related post:
Shane Black’s Writing Style
Rules, Breaking Rules, No Rules
“There are no rules” (Tip #92)
There are no rules, but…
‘Let’s screw all the rules of screenwriting’—Scott Beck

Scott W. Smith

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“The perfect movie doesn’t have any dialogue. So you should always be striving to make a silent movie.”
David Mamet
On Film Directing 

“It’s good not to follow the herd. Go the other way.”
Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez
From the post Are You an Anomaly?

Over the weekend I went to see A Quiet Place in theaters for the third time. I’ve only seen a few films three times in theaters in my life. They include this eclectic mix:

Tender Mercies
Jean de Florette
Hoop Dreams
Grand Canyon
Seabiscuit

The Artist 
Ida

The only connection I can make to that list and A Quiet Place is there is a strand of contemplativeness in all of them. (That and Ida is a Polish film and A Quiet Place director/actor/co-writer John Krasinski has Polish roots.)

But since the other screenwriters of A Quiet Place (Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) have Iowa roots I thought it would be fun to go back over the past decade of posts here at Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places and find some things that resonate between this blog and A Quiet Place.

(I realized after writing this post that it essentially curates a greatest hits shortlist of sorts from posts over the years gleaned from various sources— books, DVD commentaries, interviews, etc.— where writers and filmmakers talked about some of the most common visual storytelling principles.)

CONFLICT
Conflict-Conflict-Conflict
The Key is Conflict
Protagonist = Struggle 
The Key Thing I Learned in Film School (Tip #1)
Don’t Bore the Audience!
What is Drama?—According to Alfred Hitchcock

CONCEPT
Concept-Concept-Concept

“The conceit behind A Quiet Place is simple: if you make a sound, you die.”
Bryan Woods and Scott Beck
IndieWire

STAKES
What’s at Stake (Tip #9)
“Goals.Stakes. Urgency.” (Tip #60)
To Live or Die?

EXPOSITION
Screenwriting and Exposition (Tip #10)
Exposition is BORING Unless…
10 Exposition Examples
Cody on Exposition 
Show Don’t Tell (Tip #46)
Show Don’t Tell (Part 2)
(One of the many great things about A Quiet Place is lack of exposition.)

THEME
Writing from Theme (Tip #20)
More Thoughts on Theme
Obligatory Scene= Story’s Theme
John Carpenter on Theme
Diablo Cody on Theme 
Theme=What Your Movie is Really About
Theme= Story’s Heart & Soul 

EMOTION
Emotion-Emotion-Emotion
Emotion Transportation Biz (Tip #68)
No Emotion? Your Screenplay Sucks
40 Days of Emotion
Emotionally Silent Dialogue 

HORROR (MONSTER IN THE HOUSE)/SUSPENCE
Horror: A Universal Language
Fear of the Unknown
The Creature from…
Jordan Peele’s ‘Favorite Scares’ List
Nick Kazan’s ‘Chainsaw’ Inspiration
Shooting a Feature Film in a Coffin
Storytelling is Just Suspense & Every Movie’s a Thriller 
Stephen Susco Q&A at Full Sail —Think primal. Fear and personal loss are the foundations of many fine films.

CHARACTER
Writing Good Bad Guys (Tip #85)
Character Flaws 101

STRUCTURE
Starting Your Screenplay
The Central or Dramatic Question
Pity, Fear, Catharsis
Screenwriting the Pixar Way
Insanely Great Endings
Earn Your Ending

HARD WORK
The Secret to Being a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously)/John Logan
Screenwriter’s Work Ethic
Writing Quote #66 (Frank Darabont)
10 Quotes on Paying Your Dues
Bob DeRosa’s Shortcuts
Beatles, Cody, King & 10,000 Hours
Honing Your Craft
The 99% Rule
The 12th Script was the Deal Breaker for Eric Heisserer (Sort of)
How to Become a Successful Screenwriter (Michael Arndt)

“For me, it was a matter of years of trying to develop my writing in the same way that some people spend years learning to play the violin.”
Writer/director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption)

SILENT MOVIES
Mr. Silent Films
Writing ‘The Artist’ (Part 1)
Writing ‘The Artist’ (Part 2) 
‘A Quiet Place’–It all started with Charlie Chaplin… and Jacques Tati
Storytelling Without Dialogue (Tip #82)
The Four Functions of Dialogue 

IOWA
Sneaky Long Screenwriting 
Sam Shepard on a Farm in Iowa
Lena Dunham, Sundance & Iowa 
Postcard #55 (Iowa Writers’ Workshop Library)
Iowa Kutcher on Jobs/Work
A ‘Giant’ Iowa Connection
Iowa’s Oscar Winning Native
James T. Kirk, Iowa & the Future
The Day the Music Died in Iowa
A Surprise in the Top 10 U.S. Bookstore List
Sundance, Sugar, and the Strange Land of Iowa
Sleeping with the Enemy
David Lynch in Iowa 

“I’m telling you Iowa is incredible. We should all move to Iowa and start the revolution.”
Hannah (Lena Dunham) in Girls, Season 4 episode 2

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA
The Juno—Iowa Connection
Straight Outta Iowa
John Irving, Iowa & Writing
Writing Quote #61 (Cheever/Stegner)
Hawkeye Gene Wilder (1933-2016)
Everybody’s got a story—Ethan Canin
Diablo Cody Day
Writer David Morrell
John Gardner on Original Style
(Yawn)…Another Pulitzer Prize
Writing ‘Rebel Without a Cause’
Screenwriting Quote of the Day #95 (Nicholas Meyer)
On The Road Screenwriting 
Tennessee Williams’ Start 

SCOTT BECK & BRYAN WOODS
A 20 Year Journey to ‘A Quiet Place’
A Quiet Place…in Iowa

What could be made on a farm in Iowa for $50k? (That would be a movie people want to see)—‘A Quiet Place’

‘Let’s screw all the rules of screenwriting’—Scott Beck
Writing the Opening Scene of ‘A Quiet Place’
The Best Film School
Why You Shouldn’t Move to L.A. 
Why You Should Move to L.A.
They Will Find You

A QUIET PLACE
‘A Quiet Place’: A Western/Family Film—with Critters
‘A Quiet Place’ Mother’s Day Special
‘A Quiet Place’—A Love Story
John Krasinski—Notes on a Scene from ‘A Quiet Place’

VISUAL STORYTELLING
George Miller Masterclass in Visual Storytelling
Visual Conflict 

STARTING SMALL
Start Small…But Start Somewhere
Aaron Sorkin in Jasper, Alabama
Aiming for Small Scale Success First 
Go Big or Go…Small
Starting Small
Telling Smaller Stories
Writing ‘Buried’
The Rise of Regional Cinema

This isn’t even an exhaustive list, but all that I had time to track down today.

P.S. While the dvd/Blu-ray of A Quiet Place comes out July 10, 2018 this really is a movie that ideally you’ll first see in theaters with an audience.

Scott W. Smith

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