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7 Years & 2,000 Posts

“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue.”
Playwright Eugene O’Neill
From his play The Great God Brown

“I broke my hand, my shoulder, my elbow and my face but the real injury this year was to my Irish pride as it was discovered that under my tracksuit I was wearing yellow and black Lycra cycling shorts. Yes, LYCRA. This is not very rock ‘n’ roll. 

Recovery has been more difficult than I thought… As I write this, it is not clear that I will ever play guitar again. The band have reminded me that neither they nor Western civilization are depending on this.”
Bono on his bicycle accident in NYC
U2 News: Little Book of a Big Year, January 2015

Cancer changes everything. Towards the end of 2014 I started to think of how I could do something special for the seventh anniversary and 2,000 post on this blog—which happens to be today. But life happens. About the same time last November when Bono was having a five-hour surgery for his bike accident I started six weeks of chemo and radiation.

Shortly before my treatment ended the first week of January ESPN’s Stewart Scott died after a long fight with cancer. News of he and others with cancer hits a little closer to home with me these days.

Hopefully, I’ll find out in a couple of weeks that I cancer free—but having cancer has a way of changing your perspective. I am aware that Western civilization doesn’t depend on me doing something special for my 2,000th post. And the world won’t stop if I don’t write post number 2,001.

So I don’t have any big fanfare today except to say thank you for joining me on this extended personal project that’s gone on a lot longer than I ever thought it would. And there will be a 2,001st post plus some, they just may not come as regularly as they have in the past. I would like to do one short video essay a month just to bring a new dimension to the blog.

As a way to begin a new chapter in my own life I started a new video producer position with a local college last week and it’s been nice to get back into the studio after almost three months of downtime. I hope 2015 has some moments of grace and creativity for You, Bono and myself.

Cheers—

P.S. Here’s the nice note from WordPress after I hit publish on this post:

2000

Scott W. Smith

 

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“There’s Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, and Cedar Falls. That’s the company you’re keeping.”
President Barack Obama speaking in Cedar Falls January 14, 2015

If you followed this blog for long you may know that I started writing it in January 2008 while living in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Well, earlier this week President Obama was in Cedar Falls to talk about this town of just 40,000 people being a gigabit city with an Internet network as fast as some of the best networks in the world.

Below is Wednesday’s talk featuring an introduction of the President by Marc Reifenrath—a former business partner of mine while I lived in Iowa. I’m not sure if President Obama will bring up his visit to Cedar Falls in his State of the Union address on January 20, but there are big things happening in unlikely places.

Scott W. Smith

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How to Write Songs

“Bob [Seger] was the first one that wrote and recorded his own songs that I’d ever met. He said, ‘you know, if you want to make it you’re going to have to write your own songs.’ And I said, ‘Well, what of they’re bad?’ And he said, ‘Well, they’re going to be bad. But you just keep writing, and keep writing, and eventually you’ll write a good song.’
Glenn Frey

Turns out writing songs and writing screenplays have some things in common:

“Around nine in the morning I’d hear Jackson Browne’s teapot going off with this whistle in the distance, and then I’d hear him playing piano. I didn’t really know how to write songs. I knew I wanted to write songs, but I didn’t know exactly, did you just wait around for inspiration, you know, what was the deal? I learned through Jackson’s ceiling and my floor exactly how to write songs, ’cause Jackson would get up, and he’d play the first verse and first course, and he’d play it 20 times, until he had it just the way he wanted it. And then there’d be silence, and then I’d hear the teapot going off again, and it would be quiet for 20 minutes, and then I’d hear him start to play again … and I’m up there going, so that’s how you do it? Elbow grease. Time. Thought. Persistence.”
Glenn Frey—The Eagles
HISTORY OF THE EAGLES DVD & Blu Ray currently playing on Netflix

Related post: ‘Against the Wind’

Scott W. Smith

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Different Drummer from Linden, Texas

“Linden, Texas is my home town. It’s a small town in northeastern Texas. When I was growing up the population was about 2,500—2,600. It’s primarily an agricultural area. Some people worked at the steel mill —it’s just a typical small Texas town. There’s an old courthouse dating back to before the Civil War and one stoplight, kinda of like The Last Picture Show. It was a great place musically because it was kind of a cultural crossroads. It’s really located where the old South meets the West. Linden, Texas was the birth place of Scott Joplin and T-Bone Walker. Both of my parents loved music so we had a lot of records  in the house. I was exposed to music of all kinds from an early age. You know, Country and Western, Western swing, gospel music, blues, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Pasty Cline. There was a 50,000 watt radio station in New Orleans and I heard on that station that I didn’t hear anywhere else. And when I’d go to work with my dad he would listen to a station in Shreveport  KWKH and that station broadcast the Louisiana Heyride where Elvis Presley made his first radio broadcast in 1954. The first record I bought was by Elvis Presely. My playing the drums was sort of an organic process. I began by beating on my school books with my fingers and with pencils…I managed to cobble together a drum kit from old drums that I found stashed in the band hall at high school. And then one day my mom said, ‘come on, get in the car,’ and she drove me to a town an hour and a half away called Sulphur Springs, Texas to McKay Music Company. Much to my surprise she bought me a set of Red Sparkle Slingerland drums that I still have today. So I have to give my parents a lot of credit.”
Don Henley—Eagles
HISTORY OF THE EAGLES DVD & Blu Ray currently playing on Netflix

 

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“The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday—that’s guaranteed.”
Pat (Bradley Cooper)
Silver Linings Playbook

“Next year all our troubles will be miles away.”
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas lyrics
Frank Sinatra version featured in Silver Linings Playbook 

Here’s a little 2-minute video I put together today sitting in a hospital bed on Christmas day, based on the theme and a Christmas scene from Silver Linings Playbook (written & directed by David O. Russell) :

Related Posts:
Broken Wings & Silver Linings
Screenwriting Quote #177 (David O. Russell)
The Greatest Gift The short story that became the classic Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

P.S. Countdown to 2000th special post on January 22, 2015—12 posts.

Scott W. Smith

 

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Christmas & Cancer

“If you don’t die of thirst, there are blessings in the desert.”
Author Anne Lamott/ @ANNELAMOTT

Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace
Hail the Son of righteousness
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n healing in His wings
Christmas carol lyrics of Hark! The Herald Angles Sing

The first time I cried watching TV was during the original Brian’s Song (1971) movie, when Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) said, “We just got word that Brian Piccolo is – that’s he’s sick, very sick….” I was ten years old and while I didn’t understand the word cancer, I understood the words very sick.  Then four years after Brian Piccolo died, my Aunt Marilyn also died of cancer.  More tears.

Over the years I’ve shed more tears as I’ve watched friends of mine battle cancer. Now it’s my turn. The cure rate for my type of cancer is high (80-90%), but today I go into the hospital for my second round of chemo and my fifth week of radiation. It’s all been rather surreal—almost like I’m an old school method actor doing research for a role.

I debated whether or not to write anything about it here or not, but decided to do so because I’m going to take about two weeks off from posting. And instead of just reposting some articles, I thought that since views dip during the Holidays that I’d just take my first break in seven years of writing this blog. I’m looking forward to hitting the reset button in more than one way in January.

Spending Christmas day in a hospital is not ideal, but I’m certainly not the first person to do so—and I’m thankful that it’s something I’ve never had to do until now.  And on the positive side I imagine it’s a festive, colorful, and even cheerful time to spend in a cancer center. I’m actually looking forward to keeping my writer’s hat on embracing the whole experience this week.

Granted it’s much easier to do when your oncologist is upbeat about your prognosis and treatment, but I’ve met upbeat and positive people in the last month who’ve been told they have less than five years to live. Those people inspire and encourage me. If you’re one of those people, keep telling your story. Because life tends to be like a good drama; we’re either in a crisis, coming out of a crisis, or heading into a crisis. Chances are good that even if you don’t have cancer, there’s something else funky going on in your life that you’d rather not be dealing with.

“People go to the movies when they’re sad.”
Don Draper’s son in a Mad Men episode

Conflict and emotion are two of the drums I often hit on this blog because that’s what drives both movies and life. And I’m on season five of Breaking Bad right now and I think one of the reasons it’s considered by many as one of the greatest TV shows ever is it’s a show full of conflict, emotion and crisis after crisis. Just like the Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life—except Breaking Bad has a higher body count.

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas—

P.S. Countdown to 2000th special post on January 22, 2015—13 posts.

Related posts:
40 Days of Emotions
Everything I Learn in Film School (Tip #1) on conflict
Tension=Attention

Scott W. Smith

 

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“Stop making the same, safe, soul-less movies and TV shows.”
Part of a memo from the Sony Pictures leak

“We have a new paradigm, a new reality, and we’re going to have to come to real terms with it all the way down the line.”
George Clooney on the Sony hack and canceling of The Interview release
Deadline Hollywood December 18, 2014

Did you get the memo? If not, maybe that’s because the Sony hack was reportedly 100 terabytes of information. A massive tidal wave of information that if was just in paper form would probably take a lifetime for one person to read it all. (Among the information is said to be 47,000 social security numbers.)

My first thought when I heard the news (with a group called Guardians of Peace taking credit) was something an old boss of mine used to repeat often—”There are no secrets.”

I’m waking up, I feel it in my bones
Enough to make my systems blow
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Radioactive lyrics

I do believe that—as George Clooney basically said, and as the Carpenters used to sing— “We’ve only just begun.” Now an unnamed person or group (many believe connected to North Korea, though the government has denied) has taken the next step and threatened further damage to Sony Pictures if they released their movie The Interview—a comedy about a mission to kill the leader of North Korea—and any moviegoers who watch the film in theaters. The December 25 film release has been canceled.

Welcome to the new age, to the new age
Welcome to the new age, to the new age

There has been much speculation about how the leak—and last month’s shut down of Sony’s website—could happen without some Sony—or former Sony—insider. (To paraphrase Shakespeare, “Hell hath no furry like an employee scorned.”) Perhaps we’ll never know the intricate mysteries behind the hack, but some of the information from it has been interesting.

My favorite line being a plea to, “Stop making the same, safe, soul-less movies and TV shows.” And this extended thought:

“Perhaps it’s a generational thing, but I’ve been disappointed with the content of some of the films we’ve been producing lately. I don’t think people who know me would consider me a prude, but the boorish, least common denominator slate strikes me as a waste of resource and reputation. ‘I think the mirror should be tilted slightly upward when it`s reflecting life — toward the cheerful, the tender, the compassionate, the brave, the funny, the encouraging, all those things — and not tilted down to the gutter part of the time, into the troubled vistas of conflict’—(actress/philanthropist) Greer Garson 1990. I think that quote could be adapted to apply to the base elements of some of the films we produce.”

I’ll leave to authorities to sort out the legalities of the hack, and to the pundits dealing with the ramification of Sony Pictures canceling the December 25th release of The Interview. But my charge to all screenwriters and film and TV producers is, “Stop making the same, safe, soul-less movies and TV shows.”

Of course, one could say Sony didn’t take the safe road producing a film that depicts the killing of the leader of North Korea. And I’ll defend Sony Pictures all day long with its AMC productions Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Neither of which were the same, safe, or soul-less. I don’t know the date of the “soul-less” memo—maybe it’s what led to taking a chance with creators Matthew Weiner and Vince Gilligan.

And lastly, while I haven’t seen it yet, there doesn’t appear to be anything safe or soulless about Sony’s recent release Whiplash, written and directed by Damien Chazelle.

P.S. Countdown to 2000th special post on January 22, 2015—14 posts.

Related Posts:
‘Mad Men’ Diet & Workout
Breaking Bad’s Beginning
Jerry Maguire’s Mission Statement

 Scott W. Smith

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