Archive for December, 2021

Postcard #207 (Westways Court)

Pulling north out of Ouray, Colorado I came upon an retro motel sign for the Westways Court in Delta. It’s hard for me to pass these signs up when the lighting is good and they’re in such fine shape.

My next post will be about an Oscar-winning screenwriter who was born less than half an hour from the location of the Westways Court.

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

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John Madden (1936-2021)


Here’s a reworking of a post I wrote back in 2016 when ESPN Films premired doc The 85 Bears celebrating the Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX winning football team coached by John Madden. With Madden’s passing yesterday, I thought I’d post a photo I took of he and the QB of ’85 Bears, Jim McMahon. Madden (former player, a coach who never had a losing season, a top broadcaster, and perhaps now best known as the name behind EA Sports video game Madden NFL).

In the photo above the two were gathered with many other professional football players for a celebrity golf tournament in San Luis Obispo, California. I was working back then as a photographer for Yary Photo which was co-owned by Wayne Yary and his brother Ron Yary—who was a Pro Football Hall-of-Fame offensive lineman with the Minnesota Vikings. (Ron also played in four Super Bowls.)

It made me think of some other shoots I did with some football greats and they include a video shoot in Dallas with Deion Sanders, a 16mm film shoot in Calabasas, California with Eric Dickerson, and Reggie White in Tampa, Florida. All Pro Football Hall of Fame members. And back when I was a 19-year-old small town journalist, I interviewed Doug Williams who went on to become the Super Bowl XXII MVP.

Good Memories. Looking forward to the Super Bowl 50 game today.

Related post:
Screenwriting & the Super Bowl

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

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Postcard #206 (Ouray/Ridgeway)

It’s almost impossible to drive through parts of western Colorado and not feel like you’re on an expanded set for a old western. I took these photos a few days ago in the neighboring towns of Our and Ridgeway where True Grit (1969) with John Wayne was filmed.

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

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To say that I was in Telluride, Colorado for Christmas this year would be both true and misleading. I was there—but only for about enough time to take this picture. Long story short, I had to get to Quray by sundown. Parts of many classic movies have been shot in Telluride, Quray, and the surrounding San Juan Mountains, including True Grit with John Wayne and Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.

Christmas Day in Telluride

The historic ski town has also been hosting the Telluride Film Festival since 1974. So I dug around YouTube looking for something from the film festival that would be of interest and found this interview that Robert Ebert did with actor Glenn Ford and writer Elmore Leonard on the film 3:10 to Yuma (1957).

The screenplay for 3:10 to Yuma was written by Halsted Welles (based on a short story by Leonard) and directed by Delmer Daves.

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

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This December has been unusually crazy for me this year resulting in I think the fewest posts in a single month since I began blogging back in 2008. But here are three photos that sum up thus crazy Christmas season.

I took the photo of the old movie theater this week in Tucumcari, New Mexico, just off Route 66.

The second photo was taken Christmas eve in Durango, Colorado just after the bookstore closed and the trailer used for gift wrapping was hauled away.

The third photo was taken today somewhere near Lizard Head Pass near Telluride, Colorado. It was a blue sky day, but one the scariest drives of my life. (Ice and snow patches, lots of twists and turns on a mountain road that peaks at 10,000 feet.) And also one of the most beautiful drives of my life.

Wishing you much peace and grace during this holiday season.

Merry Christmas


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“In many of the films now being made, there is very little cinema: they are mostly what I call ‘photographs of people talking.’ When we tell a story in cinema we should resort to dialogue only when it’s impossible to do otherwise. I always try to tell a story in the cinematic way, through a succession of shots and bits of film in between.” 
—Alfred Hitchcock

Nothing quite ushers in the holidays like the films of Alfred Hitchcock. I’m a big fan of The Criterion Channel and this month they are running 21 Hitchcock movies. While this includes some classics (Vertigo, Rope, Lifeboat) it also includes some of his lesser known silent film work (The Lodger, Downhill).

It’s easy to look at a masterpiece like North by Northwest (1959) and miss that Hitchcock was 60 when that film was released. Like everyone else had to learn to be a filmmaker. If you look back on his early 20s you begin to see how he evolved as a filmmaker. He loved watching movies as a kid, but being a filmmaker wasn’t on his radar. He studied engineering and through his skills as a draftsman, started doing some side work title design work and art directing on two reeler silent movies.

It was while working with the Famous Players—Lasky in London where he says he learned screenwriting from ”some middle-aged ladies.” Mix that with his appreciation of the silent films by Chaplin, Keaton, and D.W. Griffith and he was prepared to start directing himself. Perhaps the real take away for the young filmmaker/content creator today watching Hitchcock’s British-era films is to see how he engineered his shot selection. Working with film and lower budgets in his early days forced him to think though where he was going to place the camera for maximum impact.

Oscar-winning writer/ director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) was greatly influenced by Hitchcock and only started his featuring film directing career after a three year study of the films by the master of suspense. Here’s what he had to say about The Man Who Knew Too Much (which is also available on The Criterion Channel this month).

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

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