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Archive for October, 2018

Sears

SEARS

Last week I went to a mall that I’ve been going to since I was a teenager and I noticed there was a major change. One of the anchor stores that had been there from the start was blocked off from the interior mall entrance. There was no familiar Sears sign.

On Monday, I heard on NPR that Sears had filed for bankruptcy and was trying to keep some stores open. The news wasn’t a total surprise as I’ve watched many iconic brands fade or disappear in the age of Walmart and Amazon.

Once upon a time, Sears was one of those iconic brands that symbolized American success. Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck started the first version of the company in the late 1800s as a mail ordering catalog company based in Chicago. Especially for rural people who were a long way from stores, and transportation limited, Sears catalogs were a way of life. It was like the Internet 100 years ago where you could order clothes and household items and have them shipped to your house. Heck, at one time you could even order a house.

The first Sears & Roebuck store opened in Evansville, Indiana in 1925. The stores spread throughout Main Street America and then eventually grew into malls when those became the new thing. Sears became the largest retailer in the U.S. with thousands of stores and hundreds of thousands of employees.

Perhaps the symbolic pinnacle of the success for Sears is when the Sears Tower was completed in 1974. At that time, the 110-story building was the tallest in the world. And it was their headquarters. Now, like Kodak, it’s fighting to keep a foothold in the world.

One more not so subtle reminder that one day you can be on top of the world, and the next day the world is on top of you.

SURFING

Surfing is not a sport on the decline. It’s going to be an Olympic sport in 2020. And I don’t think it’s a bold prediction to say someday there’s going to be a champion surfer from Oklahoma, Minnesota, or another unlikely place in the world someday. Right now I’m sure there are some solid young surfers out there in the middle of the U.S. who’ve never even seen an ocean. How?

Wave pools. Like this one.

While artificial wave pools will have their share of critics from purists it’s going to open up surfing opportunities for people who’ve never had the opportunity to surf. That will add to a larger global surf industry as a whole and eventually foster a champion who grew up far from the ocean but was able to hone their skills on wave machines.

Surfer Today lists several places where wave pools have been built or are being built including one in Waco, Texas. Like any new business venture finding the right business plan that makes wave pools financially feasible is the only thing limiting their growth.

But my guess is that within ten years wave pools will be sprinkled throughout the country. Definitely ones in Las Vegas, Dallas, Atlanta and Orlando, and probably even an indoor one in Minneapolis eventually.

And all those kids that used to play tackle football and spend hours doing gymnastics—look for their moms taking them to the wave pools. And that’s where the future champions are going to be coming from.

STORYTELLING

“While everyone was busy complaining about slow sales at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, something remarkable happened: The festival saw its first major VR acquisition.”
Kim Voynar, Virtual Reality Finally Sold Big at Sundance

That same day I saw the Sears store shuttered, I noticed Barnes and Noble was doing something with their DVD/CD section. I’m not sure what yet, but it looked less like a reorganization and more like a plan to get rid of the DVD area. Time will tell. But it’s no secret that DVD/Blu-Ray sales are down and not coming back. Barnes and Noble itself is trying not to go the way of Border Books—or Sears.

But storytelling is alive and well. And it’s evolving. Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and AI are the new frontiers. The 2018 Sundance Film Festival showcased some experimental media.   Indiewire reported that seven-figure deals were made for virtual reality films at Sundance so there are going to be opportunities there that weren’t even a dream for filmmakers and storytellers of the past.

Here’s a glimpse into the future; Spheres is a short film/high concept CGI project written and directed by Eliza McNitt. It was one of the films that found success at Sundance and “was the first and only virtual reality to screen at the Telluride Film Festival this year.” (Darren Aronofsky is the executive producer.)

“Science is a form of storytelling. Instead of a narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end, you have a hypothesis, a process, and a conclusion.”
Eliza McNitt

Back in the ’80s when EPCOT first opened in Orlando I remember a ride they had (and may still have) where it simulated being on an airboat in the everglades. I remember clearing feeling like I was zipping through the water at a high speed and looking down at the ground as we were moving at a walking pace. I believe that was my first virtual reality experience. Now virtual reality rides are common at theme parks.

Here’s deeper look at virtual reality from a Ted Talk by Chris Milk.

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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“I will never forget one day [Lucille Ball] sort of walked out of the studio and then came back, and came up to me and said, ‘you’re very good,’ and then walked on. That was the greatest gift I ever received in this business. I don’t think I have another moment that compares with the impact of those words.”
Mary Tyler Moore
Archive of American Television interview in 1997

Since Oct 15 is National I Love Lucy Day, I thought I would round up some Lucille Ball interviews, shows, and tributes for the occasion.

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As I type this, Hurricane Michael is hours from landfall in the Florida Panhandle. Early this morning it became a category 4, and the National Hurricane Center said a category 4 hurricane has never hit the panhandle (at least since they’ve been keeping records since 1851).

Living in Orlando, Florida (and actually far from the storm) I find it interesting that I didn’t see any local or national press on this storm until Saturday afternoon. Then Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday the coverage grew.

But I did know about this storm at the middle of last week from an outlier. Because my wife was flying out of town last Friday and supposed to return today she wanted to know if there were storms on the horizon that would impede her travels.  So days before the press was covering Hurricane Michael—even before it was a hurricane—she was telling me about storm via Mike’s Weather Page on Facebook (also the website www.spaghettimodels.com).

Mike is an amateur weather guy from Tampa, Florida who has a large following and a knack for guessing weather patterns of storms. He acquired the nickname Drunk Donkey from a professional meteorologist who basically was said people shouldn’t be listening to this guy.

I don’t know what his track record is against the big meteorologist, but he has been consistent since I’ve been following him since Hurricane Irma last year. And from what I saw in the past week,  he was days ahead of the national press (and government) in his concerns about Hurricane Michael.

If you’ve ever seen the pilot episode of The Newsroom written by Aaron Sorkin you get a glimpse of how the national press works. It has to make choices on what it’s going to put the spotlight on. Last week it was all about Brett Kavanaugh and the issues over his confirmation or not to the supreme court. The attentional was understandable since it was of national importance.

That and college football filled the news cycle until later Saturday afternoon. Hurricane Michael was still a tropical storm then and Sunday TV viewing is centered around pro football. I wouldn’t say there was much of a concern until Monday or Tuesday.

On NPR this morning they reported about a hurricane party last at a bar just two miles from the beach near where the storm is supposed to make landfall. Now I’m reading that the storm is approaching wind speeds of Hurricane Andrew in 1992—the last category 5 hurricane to hit the continental United States.

I’m also hearing the experts say how this one snuck up on them. But I’m remembering Mike’s concerns a week ago when this storm’s speeds were just 50 mph but potentially heading this way. Just some guy with a passion for tracking hurricanes and reading of the computer data.

This storm certainly gives great street cred (storm cred?) to Mike’s Weather Page. Perhaps we need to listen to the Drunk Donkey more often. I hope after this Mike’s new nickname becomes Hurricane Mike.

It would almost be funny—if lives weren’t at stake.

8:10 PM Update:

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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“On the wall behind [Vince] Gilligan was a large corkboard. Across the top were pinned 13 index cards representing the 13 episodes of the season. . . . Under 413, the final episode of the season, there was only one single, fluttering card. It read in bold, matter-of-fact Magic Marker ink, “BOOM.”
Inside the Breaking Bad writers’ room: How Vince Gilligan Runs the show

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“Sometimes bad ideas lead to good ideas.”
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan on the need to crank out ideas in the writer’s room

Yesterday The New York Times had an article titled ‘Better Call Saul‘ Season 4 Finale Recap: Suckers! which includes an embedded video How T Write the Perfect Con. It’s a look inside the Better Call Saul writer’s room and its a solid example of multimedia storytelling, as well as a glimpse into how they create storylines for Saul Goodman.

It also made we want to look around and see what I could find on Breaking Bad— the show that ran from 2008-2013 and spawned Better Call Saul. Here’s what I found:

Additional Links:
Photos inside the Breaking Bad Writers’ room (and what one could call mood boards)
Take a Look Inside the Writers’ Room of AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad’

Scott W. Smith

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Allow me a slight detour today on my screenwriting blog to say the Miami vs. Florida State football rivalry is alive and well in 2018. Once upon a time that game decided to who would be playing for a national championship. (Miami has won five championships and Florida State three.)

A shot at the national championship wasn’t at stake Saturday but it was another worthy chapter to add to the book.  (My sister went to FSU and I went to Miami so the rivalry is alive and well in our family.) Miami had to fight back from being down 27-7 to win 28-27.

A couple fights—brawls?—almost broke out in the game. It was a battle. Games like that remind me that there are parallels between football and movies.

”Are you not entertained?”
Maximus (Russell Crowe) in Gladiator

But the battles these days between schools are don’t just happen on the field—they happen in social media. The Canes Football tweet above is a great example of creativity, simplicity,  and meaning. It’s Miami’s symbolic turnover chain wrapped around FSU’s (symbolic?) backpack.

If you’re in film school or in some kind of media studies looking to work in production, don’t overlook how college and pro teams are using social media and digital storytelling. Colleges know that next year’s recruits are tracking teams and school on Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, etc. There are jobs there writing, producing, shooting, and editing content.

Here’s a video put together by Clemson Univesity that captures where things are heading in the sporting world.

“We go into so many high schools for the first time and the head coach will tell us, ‘Man, y’all put out the best videos, the best social media.’ When that’s your first meeting with a coach and he already knows that much about you, your staff and your program, that shows where it’s paying off. It absolutely makes a difference.” 
Jeff Scott, Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator
How Clemson Became the Champions of Social Media

Here’s a video showing Clemson University’s transformation in social media how it engaged their fan base, recruiting, and also helped in fundraising.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“Miami’s turnover chain for 2018 is somehow even gaudier than last year’s”
USA Today headline

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The Miami Hurricanes football team plays Florida State University today. While the game may not be as big as it was back in the day, it’s still a strong rivalry. And while Miami is still a top 20 team, they are arguably number one in the props department with their turnover chain.

The player that gets an interception or recovers a fumble gets to wear the turnover chain. It’s a symbolic gesture meant to fire the team up. It’s a thick Cuban chain holding an image of Ibis (the team’s mascot) made of 4,000 thousand orange, green and white stones. It weighs 6.6 pounds and it fits Miami’s culture100% . It’s even making waves in Germany…

There’s been solid talent that’s flowed to Hollywood from both the University of Miami and FSU. Here’s a list off the top of my head:

Florida State: Burt Reynolds (Deliverance), Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall), editor Joi McMillion (the first African American editor to ever be nominated for an Oscar), Oscar-winning producer Adele Romanski (Moonlight), Producer Cherylanne Ann Martin (Westworld), Oscar-winning screenwriter Alan Ball (American Beauty), Oscar-winning actress Faye Dunaway (Network)

Miami: Sylvester Stallone (Rocky), Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), Dwayne Johnson (Ballers), Emmy-winning director David Nutter (Game of Thrones), Emmy-nominated producer/actor Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm), screenwriter Max Landis (Bright), filmmaker Billy Corban (Cocaine Cowboys), singer/actress Gloria Estefan

P.S. Am I the first one to ever dream about hearing Barry Jenkins do a director’s commentary on Smokey and the Bandit? Call it A Night with Burt & Barry—could be a big fundraiser for the FSU Film School (one of the top-rated in the world). Though Jenkins commenting on Rocky would make more sense. Jenkins has Miami roots as well so maybe he can do a fundraiser for the UM film school as well. (Where my early love of movies began to flourish long ago.)

10/9/18 update: Despite Miami not beating FSU at home in 14 years, and the fact that they were behind Saturday 27-7 late in the third quarter, they found a way to win 28-27. And they beat FSU in social media, too. (Miami’s turnover chain vs. the FSU’s turn over backpack.)

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Related article:
“Meet the College Friends Who Helped Make Moonlight”

Related posts:
Postcard #24 (Coral Gables)
Hurricane Mark, the Turnover Chain, and ‘The Other Florida Project’
Postcard #25 (Miami Beach) 
Oscar Winner Barry Jenkins Before ‘Moonlight’

Scott W. Smith

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Audrey Wells wrote the screenplay for The Hate U Give which hit theaters today. Unfortunately, Wells died last night after what The Wrap called “a long and private battle with cancer.”

She may be best known for writing and directing Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) which starred Diane Lane. But in her 20+ year career, she also wrote films that featured some of Hollywood’s biggest named actors; Richard Gere, Uma Thurman, Susan Sarandon, Dwayne Johnson, Dennis Quaid, and Bruce Willis.

My favorite Wells film is The Kid (2000) in which Willis plays an image consultant who’s lost his way. It touches themes that can be found in Jerry Maguire and Rod Serling’s classic Twilight Zone episode Walking Distance.

“Martin Sloan, age thirty-six. Occupation: vice-president, ad agency, in charge of media. This is not just a Sunday drive for Martin Sloan. He perhaps doesn’t know it at the time, but it’s an exodus. Somewhere up the road he’s looking for sanity. And somewhere up the road, he’ll find something else.”
Rod Serling intro to Walking Distance

Martin Sloan, though successful in business,  has a sense of disillusionment of who he’d become.  The’s an echo of Sloan in the successful sports agent Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) who has a breakdown and asks himself, “Who had I become?”

The Willis character doesn’t have to rely on memory or nostalgia to be confronted with his personal life situation, he actually is confronted via movie magic by his younger self who tells him, “I grow up to be a loser.”

There are some tender scenes in The Kid, but before Willis goes through a transformation, Wells had to show how untender the Willis character could be.

Here’s a quote I posted back in 2010 that featured a quote by Wells on her screenwriting process.

“I always work backwards from theme. I know some people are driven by story first, or by character first, I’m driven by theme first. Every movie is about something. So once I know what that theme is about then I percolate on different ways to illustrate the theme. And every scene in the movie will be in service to supporting the theme…Under the Tuscan Sun was supposed to be about what happens between the day you wish you were dead and the day you’re glad you’re alive again. And everything I put in the movie was supposed to illustrate that journey and build towards that moment of being glad you’re alive again.”
Screenwriter Audrey Wells
Guest speaker at Anatomy of a Script

Earlier this week I posted part 2 and part 3  of a Q&A I did with screenwriter Clare Sera. On Sunday, a film she co-wrote (Smallfoot) was number one at the box office. But Clare pointed out that having a film come out and get press is great—but it’s just a blip. It’s not her life. She added, “it is my relationships that are my actual life, that is what my life is.”

It sounds like that was Audrey’s life as well. Her husband said in a statement I read via The Hollywood Reporter:

“Even during her fight, she never stopped living, working or traveling, and she never lost her joy, wonder and optimism. She was, simply, the most incredible wife and partner imaginable, and she knew always that she was loved by [our daughter] Tatiana, me and the friends who were her chosen family.”She said just recently, ‘We’re so lucky, honey. We got to live a love story. Who gets to do that?’” 
Brian Larky

Scott W. Smith

 

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