Archive for February, 2023

For someone who grew up on a dead end street, I’ve had my share of Forrest Gump-like experiences. I was reminded of one during the Super Bowl LVII pre-game ceremonies. Just before the game started, Doug Williams was on the sidelines holding the Lombardi Trophy to make the connection to his being the first black NFL quarterback to start in a Super Bowl (which also lead to him begin the first black QB to be a Super Bowl MVP) with Sunday’s game being the first Super Bowl featuring two black starting QBs (Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts).

Super Bowl LVII was back in 1987 when the Williams-led Washington Redskins beat the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl played in Pasadena, California. Since I lived in nearby Burbank at time—and my wife was from Denver—we drove to the Rose Bowl Stadium to walk around with the tailgaters. (Oddly remember seeing baseball player Dwight Gooden signing autographs.) Then we went home and watched the game because I couldn’t afford tickets.

But just six years before that, I interviewed Doug Williams. I was a 19-year-old photojournalist and sports reporter for the Sanford Evening Herald. Back then Williams was the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers so it was a pretty big deal for a rookie reporter just a year out of high school. He was playing an off-season basketball game made up of Bucs players in Sanford, Florida.

Back in November, I drove over to Tampa to see Tom Brady play against the LA Rams because I thought it could be my best chance to see the great QB play before he retired. (That turned out to be true.) Soon after I sat down in my seat I saw Doug Williams name in the stadium as part of the Bucs’ Ring of Honor, which consists of just nine players, four coaches, and one owner in the team’s 48 year history.

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

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“You don’t learn bull riding except by getting on the bull.”
—David Mamet

Remember the good ole days when people used to ask, “Should I go to film school?” Welcome to 2023, where the Kane Parson version of that question is “Should I finish high school?”

“[T]he 17-year-old creator of The Backrooms YouTube series has been tapped by A24, Chernin Entertainment, 21 Laps Entertainment, and Atomic Monster to direct a feature-length adaptation of the series.
—Christian Ziko, IndieWire

Just six days ago I started what I said was going to be a string of YouTube-centered posts and wondered if I’d lose readers. But I really did sense this groundswell coming. A new way of finding talent and cutting deals. The Kane Pixels “about” page on the @kanepixels YouTube channel has April 12, 2015 as a joining date. (The same year that Casey Neistat began his daily tear on YouTube). That means Parson’s started the channel when he was 10-years-old. He has 2 million subscribers and his videos have received 172,622,065 views. That’s 172+ million views!

The video below is the first one of Parson’s I’ve seen but it’s hard not to see a connection to The Blair Witch Project. Not only does it state that it’s found footage, but the YouTube page states “September 23, 1996” which is just a few weeks from when the filmmakers of Blair Witch began shooting their film. There’s also a hint of A Quiet Place. The original screenwriters of A Quiet Place, Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, met in middle school and started making short films together. By high school, they put together their first feature and showed it to friends at a theater in Iowa.

The Backrooms alone has more than 44 million views—and attention from Hollywood. According Ziko’s article, “The Backrooms movie will be the latest film in the rapidly-growing niche of film adaptations of scary viral Internet stories.”

Playwright and screenwriter David Mamet has often said the only way to learning writing is to put your work in front of an audience and see if people respond. YouTube is just an updated version of finding an audience. Seeing what engages people.

I bet Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (who are credited screenwriters on the upcoming The Boogeyman, adapted from a Stephen King short story) are loving Parson’s directing deal. They also might be thinking, “Man, if we were 17-years-old today we could have been spared a 15-year journey.”

I don’t know where Parson’s lives—but I hope it’s in an unlikely place. That would keep the spirit of this blog. And I don’t know if he’ll graduate from high school this May or June, but I think it’s safe to say that he”lol be getting a film school education this summer when they’ve schedule to shoot. And instead of going into massive debt, he’s going to be getting paid. Win-win.

And another thing that I’ll unpack in the coming weeks is —with 2 million subscribers he’s already making money on YouTube. Even if his first film isn’t a success the press alone will elevate his channel and bring awareness to his work. More followers, more views, more money.

Once upon a time, moms and dads used to be worried that their kids wanted to go to film school. Moms and dads reading about Parson’s success are telling their creative high schoolers (and probably middle schoolers), “Do you need a new camera? Let me help you with that business plan and on your branding deals.” Puts a new spin on the phrase “Invest in your kids.”

Of course, so little is known about (NorCal) Kane Parson that this news could all be a snow job, and how George Lucas is choosing to spend his later years. Even better. I think it was producer Ted Hope who said there has to be a story behind your story.

P.S. A couple of the Blair Witch guys studied under film professor Ralph Clemente. I studied with Clemente down in Miami and he loved those conspiracy shows about the Bermuda Triangle. Those shows were popular in the ’70s, The Blair Witch Project changed the way that Hollywood viewed the internet in the late ’90s, the Paranormal Activity franchise starting in 2007 launching Oren Peli’s career. What’s old is new again.

Related posts:
The Perfect Ending (The day one of Clemente’s former students—David Nutter— won an Emmy for directing Game of Thrones)

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

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Today is February 1, 2023 and I’m going to start a string of post on YouTubing. Where does one start? Hard to go wrong with YouTuber and filmmaker Casey Neistat. Last May I took his online class on YouTube and throughly enjoyed it. I produced two videos in a few weeks. (I haven’t posted them yet, but aiming for a March launch.) There are a lot of parallels to movies, screenwriting, and storytelling in general so don’t touch that dial.

Here’s the essence of Casey’s success in just a single word: Interestingness. Here’s the man himself using the word in a sentence in his course:

”Seek out interestingness.”
—Casey Neistat

You’ve probably heard it said that “Ideas are king,” but Neistat thinks ideas are overrated—but they at least push you off the cliff. He’s all about execution. And the focus of his execution is interestingness. Why does he ride his boosted board on busy NYC streets in so many of his videos? Interestingness. Why does he jump cut mid-sentence? Interestingness. What made one of his YouTube videos amass 78 million views? You know.

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

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