Archive for June, 2022

Tony Siragusa (1967-2022)

“Life is short
Even in its longest days”

—John Mellencamp/Longest Days

Ten year ago I was hired to field produce and shoot a spot with Super Bowl winner and on-air personality Tony Siragusa. When we were setting up in his New Jersey home, he came into the kitchen and joked, “What are all these people doing in my house?” Big personality, very enjoyable to work with, and instantly likable. Last night when I heard that he died at age 55, I thought that though he had a relatively short life, he seemed to have a zeal for life you don’t often see. Along with his Super Bowl XXXV ring with the Baltimore Ravens, he also had on his resume: NFL on Fox reporter, host of the TV show Man Cave (2007-2016), and parts in Spike Lee’s 25th Hour and David Chase’s The Sopranos. 

Enjoy each moment you can.

P.S. On that shoot with me was the talented Sara Kinney (standing to Tony’s left), who is now an LA based cinematographer. She has an MFA from AFI and her credits include The World According to Jeff Goldblum.

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

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“I believe in the three-act structure, I’ve just never succeeded in doing one. Terminator is five acts, with a coda. Aliens is four acts. None of my stuff ever fits the three-act structure. I think thinking in acts is good up to a point. . . . If you think in terms of act breaks you‘ll create transitions that are interesting. . . . There are plenty of book on screenwriting. Read the books. Know the rules. And then just break them.”
— Oscar and Emmy winning producer/director/writer/editor James Cameron whose work includes Titanic and Avatar

P.S. One of the things I’ve done over the years on this blog is to curate how a wide variety of screenwriters and filmmakers development their stories. Even the great ones contradict each other.

Related posts:
‘Drama has rules…’—David Mamet

Rules, Breaking Rules, No Rules

‘There are no rules‘

‘Rules are what makes art beautiful.’ —Aaron Sorkin

Screenwriting’s One Unbreakable Rule

There Are No Rules, But..

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


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”I don’t know of a more noble, a bigger deal as a filmmaker than to be a YouTube filmmaker.”
—Casey Neistat

”[MrBeast’s] giving a lot of kids a new path to take, to teach these young kids on how to be entrepreneurial, not just to get a lot of views or become famous.”
—Josh Richards, 19-year-old TikTok creator
2021 NY Times article by Taylor Lorenz

This isn’t really a fair competition since Tom Cruise/Maverick is a real person/movie character and Casey Neistat/MrBeast are a real person/real person—YouTube persona, but I think I can make a point here (especially to young people) about where we’ve been and where we’re heading.

As of today (June 9, 2022), Top Gun: Maverick has made over $300 million at the domestic box office and is pushing $600 globally. And it’s only been out two weeks today. It’s on track to be the most financially successful movie of Cruise’s long and distingushed career. When he turns 60 next month he’s got to be grateful of the run he’s had.

But, I do wonder if he were 19 years old and starting out today, would Cruise head to Hollywood to build his empire or would he head to YouTube? This is where Neistat and MrBeast come in. A 19 year old today would have been born in 2003. Two years after 911, and the same year when Neistat’s first viral video (iPod’s Dirty Secret,) gained attention. They were 2 when YouTube officially launched in 2005. And 11 or 12 when Neistat launch his YouTube channel in 2015. Casey went on a two year daily tear and racking up as many as 77 million views per video on his channel. It made him a very wealthy man, and he earned the nickname the Vlogfather.

Are you with me so far? Here’s the crazy thing,

In 2015, MrBeast (Jimmy Donaldson) hadn’t even graduated from high school. We’re only talking seven years ago! But what MrBeast had done was obsess with his friends about YouTube and what makes videos go viral. And with the threat of his mom ready to kick him out of the house unless he went to college or got a job, Donaldson cracked the code and MrBeast was born. His first branding deal in 2017 was for $10,000. At the age of 23 he is said to now have built a $54 million empire as a content creator. (Or was that just his salary last year? Hard to keep up with these numbers.) His main YouTube channel has 96.7 million subscribers. His studio in Greenville, NC, is one of the largest on the east coast. When Cruise was 24 Top Gun hadn’t hit theaters yet, and MrBeast owns a dang production studio and and is employing I don’t even know how many producers, directors, cameramen, editors, designers, etc., etc.

This is one more perspective, Mr.Beast/Donaldson’s philanthropic out reach has given away more money than most actors and filmmakers will make in their lifetime. He’s the most popular YouTuber in the U.S. (maybe the world) and many of you are thinking—“I’ve never even heard of this guy.” There have been major shifts in production over the years—sync sound in the 20s/30s, TV in the 50s, cable in the 70s/80s, the internet in the 90s/00s—but this shift toward streaming/YouTube/social media in 10s/20s is making this the greatest era in history to be a content creator—and especially for those outside of New York and LA. (MrBeast is based in Raleigh, North Carolina.)

This may be a sweeping generalization, but I think the rock stars of this young generation are the content creators. Young people want to be YouTubers more than they want to be the next Mick Jagger, Meryl Streep, or Spike Lee. And here’s the good news for them—that YouTuber dream is much more attainable. I didn’t say easy, I said obtainable. Lilly Singh talks about working 13 hour days creating content, Neistat when he was doing his daily vlog had a 6 AM to midnight (18 hours) schedule. And MrBreast said forget the 10,000 hour rule, he estimates he has already put 30,000-40,000 hours into his career. (He started obsessing about YouTube before he was a teenager.)

And to that point, this week I finished Casey Neistat’s Filmmaking and Storytelling course. There were 17 people in my group and only four people completed their two films within the 30 day period. Some people didn’t even start the first one. I made a five minute short video in 10 days that I think I worked on harder than any production I’ve worked on in the last 10 days. (I’ll share it later when I can write a post about the experience.) But I am reminded of the book by the legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser—“Art is Work.”

There is a sea of change coming and I will write more about that this month.

But one thing remains the same, Ray Ban Wayfarer sunglasses still look as cool today as they did in the 1950s and musicians and actors started wearing them.

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

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”Just do it. Make something. Put it out there and if it is good, it will be noticed.”
—Director Joseph Kosinski

Director Joseph Kosinski is going to remember June 2022 very fondly. He directed Top Gun: Maverick which has only been in theaters for a week and it’s already made over $300 million. And in a couple of weeks, his Spiderhead comes out on Netflix. How did go from growing up in Marshalltown, Iowa to directing a Tom Cruise blockbuster movie? I’m glad you ask.

According to this Time-Republican article, he moved to Mashalltown at age 5 and graduated from Marshalltown in 1992. He did his undergraduate work at Stanford (mechanical engineering) and master’s work at Columbia (architecture). Smart cookie for sure, but where did film come into the picture?

His skills in computer graphics opened the door to working on commercials and short films. And he started writing a short story called Oblivion —that grew into the 2013 film Oblivion starring Tom Cruise.

“I have come to appreciate the freedom I had while growing up in Marshalltown, being able to ride my bicycle around and going to movies at the Orpheum. Having lived in Manhattan for 10 years and now the Los Angeles area, the freedom was special.”
—Joseph Kosinski
Hollywood director comes home by Mike Donahey

Related posts:
Marshalltown #56 (Marshalltown) Photo of Orpheum where Kosinski saw Raiders of the Lost Ark as a kid in 1981.
Once Upon a Time… in Iowa (Jean Seberg)

Tron: Legacy (Part 1)

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

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