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Archive for August, 2018

I know there is a lot of noise and distractions out there— in regard to finding filmmaking information and inspiration—but I’m enjoying producer Ted Hope’s Facebook posts recently. Here’s just a short excerpt from yesterday’s post.

“To make a great film, you generally have to make a good one first — and to make the good one, you have to make a not-so-good one even before that. Sure, the exceptions come out of the gate strong, but that is not most of us, and certainly not the ones who have to run the long distance race.”
Ted Hope,  Amazon Studios
Facebook post 8/20/18

P.S. The best example of that is Quentin Tarantino. His first feature film was not Reservoir Dogs—that was his first completed feature film. Before that he spent three to eight years (reports vary) shooting and editing  My Best Friend’s Birthday which was never completed.  Along with watching movies, Tarantino considers that his film school. It’s estimated that he spent $5,000 on My Best Friend’s Wedding—which makes for a pretty inexpensive film school.

Related posts:
‘If I ran a film school…’—Ted Hope
Start Small…But Start Somewhere
‘A new and vibrant cinema’—Ted Hope
Failure, Failure—Wild Success (Larry David’s Journey to Co-creating ‘Seinfeld’)

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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“In the initial writing I’m just trying to crack the story and make the characters as interesting as I can, and make it feel like a movie story.”
Scott Frank

If you just look at three productions—Minority Report, Marley & Me, Godless— that Scott Frank’s worked on as a writer and/or director you’d have to say he has eclectic tastes. Afterall those three projects include a futuristic sci-fi story based on a 12-page Philip K. Dick short story, a popular book and contemporary story about a dog and a family, and a limited series western on Netflix.

Frank’s involvement with Marley & Me started with his daughter reading the book and telling him the story as they walked their own dog. This is how he found he way into telling the story in screenplay form:

“Elizabeth Gabler, who runs Fox 2000, said,  ‘You know I have a draft of the movie Marley & Me and the writer is going to go off and make his own movie and we’re not done with the [script], do you think you can come take a look at it?’ And I’m like, I know Marley & Me really well—I think I’m the wrong guy. I don’t know how to write a movie like that. And she goes, ‘Yes you do, it’s just storytelling. It needs a story. Can you help me figure out what the story would be?’ I said, alright I’ll read it but I don’t think I’m your guy. And I read it and two things became readily apparent, one this is my life and two there is a giant metaphor here; the messiness of marriage told through the messiness of the dog, and how it’s all chaos. It’s really about a marriage, and my particularly boring marriage at that. And so I’m like I know how to do that—I actually do know how to do that. And so that’s how I ended up doing that. And had a ball—just had the greatest time of all working on it.”
Writer/director Scott Frank
3rd & Fairfax: The WGAW Podcast

Scott W. Smith

 

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Back in the ’70s actor Lee Majors was The Six Million Dollar Man. I don’t know what $6 million dollars in 1974 would be worth today, but Kenya Barris’ $100 million dollar deal with Netflix makes him—if not bionic (like Lee Majors character)—quite a wealthy writer/producer by any measure.

And Barris wasn’t hurting for coin. The creator of Black-ish (who also just happens to be married to a doctor) earlier this year donated $1 to his alma mater, Clark Atlanta University. 

Here’s a glimpse into his early inspiration as a writer:

“I am what I am as a writer because of Norman Lear [All in the Family, Sanford & Son] and Spike Lee. Norman Lear in particular. I feel like Norman had this amazing ability to have the foresight to talk about real things at a time when they needed to be talked about.

“For some reason, television went through this amazing hibernation of not talking about things. [The Evans family, from Good Times] in particular affected me, and it affected my family and it affected other families that didn’t look like my family. It really showed that at the core — rich or poor — family is about love and about sticking together. And I think that that is one of those specific universalities that really influenced and informed what my show does.”
Kenya Barris (Twitter: @funnyblackdude)
NPR, Fresh Air, 2016

P.S. To show you how organic writing this blog is . . . I didn’t know that I’d write about Barris today when I wrote the Spike Lee post two days ago, or the one that touched on Good Times/Jimmy Walker last week. These things tend to happen in clumps. And I may be closer to Barris that I am to Kevin Bacon. No 7 degrees here. On April I wrote a post about Cydney Kelley—a writer friend of mine from Iowa— who’d just won a Daytime Emmy. Kelley also worked alongside Barris on the TV show The Game that was shot in Atlanta.

Related posts:
The First Black Feature Filmmaker
25 Links Related to Black & Filmmaking 
How Much Do Screenwriters Make? “It’s either very lucrative and exciting, or nothing.”—Screenwriter Anthony Peckham

Scott W. Smith

 

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“I didn’t think my songs would become anthems for women. But I’m delighted. Women probably immediately feel compassion and relate to the lyrics. We can all learn a little something from each other, so whatever people can take and be inspired by where my music is concerned is great.”
Aretha Franklin (1942—2018)
Time interview

Before Aretha Franklin became the Queen of Soul—and a Grammy winning artist—she began singing at her father’s church in Detroit.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“You get tired of going to the movies and seeing stuff that you don’t want to see or not seeing the stuff you want to be dealt with. When the subject matter you love is not being done right, you have to make your own movies.”
Writer/director Spike Lee
(I don’t remember where I first read this quote, but it’s at least 15 years old. Found it in handwritten in an old notebook today. What I used to do just for myself before I had this blog. )

Spike Lee’s latest film, BlacKkKlansman has a 97% Rotten Tomato rating from all critics.  And it opened this weekend in 1,512 theaters making a respectable $10 million. Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz developed the original spec script based on the memoir of Ron Stallworth. (Read the  IndieWire interview  to see how they contacted Stallworth directly and pitched their idea to him.)

Lee and Kevin Willmott are also credited as writers on the finished film.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“When we shoot these films, I don’t move my lips very much. I keep my mouth kind of closed so that when I see the film before we finish it, I can change the dialogue and make it better.”
Marlon Brando during ADR session for The Godfather (via editor Walter Murch)

“There’s a movie you think you’re making, and there’s a movie you made. The movie’s made three times; once on paper, once on film, and once on the AVID [the edit]. And it’s only then that you know what movie you made. And you go back and you do some pickups and some reshoots and shape the dialogue. And if you don’t believe me that this happens on every movie, go home tonight and put on The Godfather and listen to it with headphones, so you can hear all the ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement] very clearly in that movie. And you realize that movie is a pile of spaghetti in the editing room—it made no sense. If you take out the ADR the movie completely falls apart. I’m not saying it’s not a great movie, but that’s how great movies are made.”
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible — Fallout)
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

Here are some videos that explain the how and why ADR is used.

Scott W. Smith

 

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I had this amazing experience of being able to go into a screening room at Fox and watch [James L. Brooks] direct Broadcast News, through his dailies. I remember watching the dailies of the scene where Holly Hunter and William Hurt are in those rolling chairs, and it’s kind of a great romantic moment where they come together, and he gets close to her. I watched Jim build this scene out of behavior and dialogue, and I was just . . . high. I realized, I really want to do this. So I began studying all the films, everything I possibly could. That experience really made Say Anything fun, the beginning of a journey. Then I made Singles, and Jim said, let’s do another. He was getting ready to do As Good as It Gets, and we went and had lunch at Delmonico’s on Pico. And that began a whole period of journalistic research, of trailing after characters, building drafts. The first draft of Jerry Maguire was this basic, long, vomit draft. I remember Jim saying, ‘I’ve never read so much story with so little plot.’ It was 140 pages, but filled with the passion of the story. Jim is all about the process. So rather than accenting the problems, he said, ‘let’s embrace structure.’ Out of that came the odd but ultimately satisfying structure of Jerry Maguire, which begins with an ‘all hope is lost’ moment that usually happens at the end of the second act or towards the end of the movie. We started with Jerry’s descent. It was really exhilarating to find that starting point.”
Writer/director Cameron Crowe
Deadline interview with Mike Fleming Jr.

P.S. Could someone close to James L. Brooks encourage him to write some kind of book or do a long-form podcast of his extensive production experiences?

Related posts:
James L. Brooks on Chayefsky
Writing Grace Notes (via James L. Brooks & Judd Apatow)
The Devil Speech by James L. Brooks
Jerry Maguire’s Mission Statement

Scott W. Smith

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