Archive for May, 2021

“I just stay away from anything that feels too popular. Too common. Too forgettable. . . . Use your environment and see things that no one else sees. That’s really where you want to be. Bringing only what you can bring to a project, because nobody has your background, your upbringing, your parents, your whole life experience. Everybody can buy the same software and do a reasonable newsletter, business card or something. But nobody can pull from who you are and use that. And I would encourage you—not only in design, but in any field— to use that.”
—Graphic designer David Carson with advice that translates well to screenwriting and filmmaking

David Carson design for sixth floor of an Amsterdam hotel

I’ve long been a fan of designer (and surfer) David Carson and his workshops. I’m digging his MasterClass presentation, but here are some free resources where you can find inspiration.

P.S. Still working on launching the first episode of my podcast. Newest deadline is trying to beat the release of The Quiet Place II this Friday.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles (A Quiet Place co-screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods wrote the introduction to the book)

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“My biggest lesson is simply this: be prepared.”
—Photographer Robert Galbraith

Photo by Robert Galbraith

When I met photographer Robert Galbraith it was around the time I graduated from film school back in the 1980s. He was a transplant from West Virginia where he’d been a newspaper photojournalist, and I was a transplant from Florida who’d worked a photojournalist with a small newspaper. We found ourselves doing freelance photography for the same group in Southern California. He was a few years older than me and totally committed to photojournalism, and his portfolio was remarkable.

Soon he was off covering the LA Dodgers and spending the day on assignment photographing Clint Eastwood. Those stringer jobs led to an AP staff photographer job in LA and Sacramento for 15 years. Then he became a senior photographer with Thomson Reuters in San Francisco.

He’s lived the great photographic adventure covering multiple Super Bowls, going into coal mines, the Corcoran State Prison, and his photo of a man clinging to the top of a van surrounded by water during Hurricane Katrina was named one of the “62 most powerful Reuters photographs ever taken.”

And here he is in 2021 still capturing stunning images in the vein of Robert Capa and Robert Frank. In a world where everyone is a version of photographer, Galbraith still captures images with his Leica that you stare for minutes rather than seconds before you swipe to the next one.

He took this photo recently in New Mexico where he’s on a self-assignment for a book and exhibit he’s been working on for a while. I reconnected with him a few years ago on Facebook and marvel at the work he’s been doing throughout the Southwest. But the photo of women in room 105 (at least that’s what I’m calling it) works for me on so many levels. The casual lean of the woman with her sunglasses, drink, and cigarette totally pulls me into the photo and makes he wonder who she is and where she’s been. The composition, lighting, and background are powerfully simple. I told Galbraith it should be the cover of his book. (But truthfully, I’ve told him that a few times.)

A few days before I saw this photo, I listened to Scriptnotes episode 499 where John August and Craig Mazin talked about how valuable it could be to base a story on a photograph you’ve seen. A way to stir the imagination. I decided to try that out with the above photography and came up with a 150 word short story. I won’t share that here, but it involved a fictitious photographer photographing a fictitious woman in a motel.

When he approaches her in my story and asks if he can take her photograph, she doesn’t change her stance, she just says, “It’s a free country.”

Yes it is. And thankfully there are still a few photojournalist roaming around providing contemporary insights into the United States of America. (In real life, Galbraith approaches people and asks to take their photo and some say and and some say no. He doesn’t pose them and usually one of the first few frames is the best and most authentic.)

And I’m all for more authenticity.

P.S. And speaking of podcasts. I have finally recorded episode one of my Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles podcast and hope to get it edited and uploaded in the next 1-7 days. Step by step.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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Edited in Prisma app with Thota Vaikuntam

I failed. They say that it’s better to have a goal that you fail to meet, rather than not have a goal at all. I think that’s because in taking steps toward your goal you’ve made progress. My goal was to get the first episode of my podcast uploaded yesterday. That didn’t happen—but I’m just going to push that back a week.

In meantime, here‘s a nice little sunset shot I took Saturday night in Pass-a-Grille on the southern end of St. Pete Beach. It’s a good example of “the best camera is the one you have with you.” Just a few minutes before I took this photo the sky was flat because the sun was buried behind the clouds. But it popped out just before it lowered itself toward the Gulf of Mexico skyline. That’s when the ordinary became extraordinary. It lit up parts of the sky in a way that I’d never seen before.

I zoomed in so far with my iPhone that the picture is pretty pixelated. So I ran it through my Prisma app to cover all the flaws and like the end result.

Perhaps the takeaway is this—More than one writer has spoken about feeling like their work is ordinary, only to stick with it and have a breakthrough toward the end of the process that make it extraordinary.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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