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Archive for February, 2020

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Today I completed a five-day workshop on Writing and Developing The Documentary at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport. It was led by former Time magazine reporter Emmy Jack McDonald, whose writing and directing credits include working with Discovery, National Geographic, and PBS.

I watched and discussed more documentaries than I have in any single week of my life—probably more than in most months, and some years. I can’t breakdown what I learned from watching all or part of 15+ documentaries, or the many proposals we looked at, but I can share with you the core of the class in one photo. (It’s no surprise there is much crossover in structuring a documentary, and structuring a narrative story. And both are deceptively hard to do well.)

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Scott W. Smith

 

 

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Postcard #185 (Salem, MA)

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Just your average blue sky day in Salem, Massachusetts where a guy on single wheel electric skateboard carrying a dog on his hip, outnumber witches.

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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While in Gloucester, Massachusetts a couple of days ago I stopped by the Crow’s Nest and had a beer and remembered the six man crew of the Andrea Gale died at sea in what was called the perfect storm in 1991. 

Sebastian Junger wrote the book The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea, which was turned into the movie The Perfect Storm from a script by Bill Wittliff. 

P.S. The have a scrapbook at the Crow’s Nest that includes various cast and crew who came to Gloucester to shoot the film. George Clooney played Captain Billy Tyne.

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Scott W. Smith

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In my travels throughout the United States there are pockets that I’ve missed. One of those, Gloucester, MA, I was able to visit Sunday. It’s less than an hour north east of Boston, but an area I just couldn’t fit into my previous trips to New England.

I took the above photo of Gloucester’s Fisherman Memorial with an iPhone. The eight-foot sculpture was designed by Leonard F. Craske and overlooks Gloucester Harbor.  Craske won the artistic competition to design the memorial to commemorate Gloucester’s 300 anniversary, the town’s link to the sea, and remember those who have died in various storms while plying their trade.

Over the years, various movies, documentaries and reality shows have done a good job of making us aware of where our food comes from and some of the dangers involved in the process. Tomorrow I’ll look at one of those.

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Scott W. Smith 

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“I believe science might offer the answer to the Curse of the Bambino.”
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt)
Moneyball

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Babe Ruth when he played for the Boston Red Sox

My love for traveling is rooted in not traveling much until I was 19-years-old, and following baseball as a kid. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Boston were linked in my mind to baseball teams. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to go to baseball games in all of those cities.

On a flight to Boston yesterday, I starting reading the novel Shoeless Joe which the movie  Field of Dreams is based on. It didn’t occur to me until then that two of my top ten sports movies have scenes in Boston’s Fenway Park.

Field of Dreams came out in 1989 and Moneyball in 2011, and though I’ve watched them both many times over the years I just never aligned them like I did on my flight to Boston. I’ll give an asset to The Rewatchables podcast for putting them on my radar again.

If you don’t know either film, the following scenes will be out of context. But both scenes at Fenway Park play an important role in the stories they are telling.

And as a Fenway Park bonus track—from a non-sports movie—here’s Sean (Robin Williams) talking about his Red Sox memory in Good Will Hunting.

P.S. Aaron Sorkin who co-wrote the screenplay for Moneyball says that he is drawn to stories about key times of transition and Moneyball qualifies. Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane embraced Sabermetrics based on the work of statistician Bill James.  A new way of mining data on ball players to evaluate talent and productivity. It’s credited with helping the Boston Red Sox winning four World Series titles since 2004. “The curse of Bambino” was what some called the effect of the Boston Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to New York Yankee back in the day.

Scott W. Smith 

 

 

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“If Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson were in the same lineup, who would bat cleanup?”
David Bauder
CBS News, A Musical Field of Dreams 

Both Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan are baseball fans. Back in 2004 they toured minor league baseball fields performing concerts, including a stop at Principle Park in Des Moines, Iowa where the Iowa Cubs play. (Both also played at the first Farm Aid Benefit concert in 1985.)

They had plans to perform on the field where they filmed Field of Dreams, but there were some technical and logestic issues. I’m going to see the Willie Nelson & Family concert tonight here in Orlando, and I wondered if I could find a baseball related angle and found this:

That video is a response to the Cubs winning the 2016 World Series after a 108 year drought from their last World Series title. Here’s what that victory from a few other perspectives.

Steve Goodman wrote and performed the song A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request, but is more well-known for the classic City of New Orleans which Willie Nelson recorded and became a Grammy winning, number one song. (Below is a lesser seen version of City of New Orleans with Nelson and Sheryl Crow.)

Scott W. Smith

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“People will come to Iowa, for reasons they can’t even fathom.”
Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams

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Even before I lived in Iowa between 2003 and 2013, I’d made a pilgrimage to the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. If it’s on your bucket list of places to visit, then this summer is the ideal time to go.

The first ever MLB game game in Iowa will be played on August 13, 2020. The New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox will play in a field (and a temporary 8,000 seat stadium) adjacent to field where they shot the movie Field of Dreams.  

Today, the Des Moines Register gave a run down of activities that will be happening in August, including a showing of Field of Dreams. 

If you can’t make that game check the website for info on Field of Dream seasonal tours and opportunities to stay the night in the Field of Dreams home.

Back on the 25th anniversary of the movie Bob Costas and Kevin Costner were on hand to try to put into words why that movie continues to touch people.

“They’ll watch the game, and it will be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”
Terence Mann
Field of Dreams

Has there been a time in Major League Baseball since the steroid era to look forward to a baseball game in a cornfield in Iowa? Last month it was revealed that the Houston Astros were cheating by sign-stealing when they won the World Series in 2017.  Some coaches were fired, some players apologized, and some have called for the Astros to be stripped of their World Series title.

MLB is not as popular as it was back in 1989 and it doesn’t need another scandal. But here we are.  Time will tell what measures MLB will take. In the meantime, I offer the smoothing voice of actor Jame Earl Jones, saying the words of written by screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson), via the character  Terence Mann.

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Page 102 of the “Field of Dreams” screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson

“It’s a crazy speech to watch knowing how many times baseball has let us down over the last 25 years. There was a real innocence about how people loved baseball [back when Field of Dreams was made], and it was the American pastime. . . . In 1989, there was no struggle. People were like; I love baseball, period.”
Bill Simmons
The Rewatchables podcast , April 19, 2019

“This Field of Dreams-style of thinking about baseball peaks with Sosa and McGwire, and then gets completely destroyed when that turns out to be horseshit.”
Chris Ryan (on the home run chase of ’98, followed by the steroids scandal)
The Rewatchables 

“Ultimately, the message about baseball is not about the purity of the game as a creation. It’s about how the game allows you to unlock something in your life.”
Mallory Rubin
The Rewatchables 

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“Baseball means what those of us hold it in our heart need it to mean. It can be a game, a past time, or it can be something by which we measure the seasons of our lives. Or it can be something that serves metaphorically for the battles, the wars, the triumphs, and the tragedies of any form of human conflict.”
Baseball: A Film by Ken BurnsEpisode 9 (Currently available on Amazon Prime)

In other Field of Dreams news, there will be a reading of the script this weekend in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town and will miss it. But if you’re in Orlando on Sunday (2/23/2020) and would like to see professional actors reading the script, check out their Facebook page. It will also be live streamed on YouTube.

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Today I wasn’t able to track down old photos from my visit to the Field of Dreams ballpark in Iowa, but I was able to come up with a photo from a video shoot I did at Tinker Field in Orlando shortly before they tore it down. When I was growing up there were no major league baseball teams based in Florida, but we did have spring training. The Minnesota Twins Twins used to hold their spring training games at Tinker Field and that’s where I saw the Cincinnati Reds play every chance I could. When I was a youth I attended to a one-day camp that Pete Rose held on that field, and a few years later went to an open tryout at Tinker for the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Not because I was that good of a player, but I knew it would be a unique experience.)

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The perfectly cracked and faded left field fence at Tinker Field in 2014, shortly before it was removed and the stadium torn down.

When I was 19-years-old, I worked as a sports reporter and photojournalist for the Sanford Evening Herald. Here are some of my favorite baseball shots.

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Tim Raines’ plan in 1981 was to give pro baseball a try, and if it didn’t workout to walk-on to the University of Florida football team. He ended up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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My dream at 19 was to work my way up to being a Sports Illustrated photographer. I could of had a 30 year career and not taken a better shot than this one.

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I played baseball from Little League  through high school with and against Bob Parker. He ended up playing college ball at Mississippi St. and in the minor leagues with the Houston Astros organization.

P.S. And since Field of Dreams came out in 1989, I just connected it to the Orlando Magic playing their first game in 1989. I was at that game and go this nice memento. I was in Orlando when the Magic picked up Shaq, then  “Penny” Hardaway, and finally Horace Grant and before you know it they were in the 1995 NBA finals. It was Magical.

If I recall correctly, they were the quickest franchise in NBA history to go from new franchise to the finals.  They got swept by the Houston Rockets, but a championship was in sight. Then Michael Jordan un-retired, Shaq joined the L.A. Lakers, and there was no joy in O-town. (Total titles in 31 years—0.)

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Related posts:
The Moment in the Script That Made an A-list Actor Say Yes to Making a Now Classic Movie 
What’s More American Than Apple Pie?

Scott W. Smith 

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