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The Princess Bride is the only novel of mine that I really like. And I don’t know how I did it . . . I don’t understand the creative process. Actually, I make more than a concerted effort to not understand it.”
William Goldman
Four Screenplays with Essays
Page 270

P.S. One of the things I enjoy discovering is how contradictory writers and artists can be. Here’s the flip side of Goldman’s quote;

“The whole thing is a mystery to me. It’s like I go to work and I sit around taking a nap and read a couple of books and curse myself for being a lazy swine. And at some point a work of some description shows up and I say how did that get there? . . . What I’m trying to do—I’ve written a lot of books [on acting and writing]—is understand a mysterious process. Try to get closer to a mysterious process.”
Screenwriter/playwright/novelist David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, The Verdict)
WTP with Marc Maron podcast interview

Related posts:
Where Do Ideas Come From? (A+B=C)
Creativity and Milking Cows
Frank Gehry on Creativity

Scott W. Smith

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Writer Jack Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1969. On Monday I drove by the last house he lived and took a photo. Neither the photo or the house or anything special, but it was something that I felt compelled to do after receiving my master’s degree from USF, St. Petersburg the day before. (I was drawn to Kerouac’s writing when I was 20-something because he was the first writer that I knew that had a football background.)

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The Last House Jack Kerouac Lived In

There are a lot of homes and hotels in St. Petersburg that are special because they reflect that fine era of the 1920s & 30s.

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Private Residence

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The Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg

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The Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach

St. Petersburg is also special to me because it’s where my father’s remains are buried in Bay Pine Cemetery, so I made a stop there on Monday as well.

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Bay Pines National Cemetery

The nice thing about being in St. Petersburg in December is you get to experience a taste of Christmas St. Petersburg style.

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St. Pete Santa

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Nothing Quite Says Christmas Like a Rhino with a Wreath

In Tampa, the Oxford Exchange is also decorated for the holidays…

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Oxford Exchange in Tampa

…and it’s where I picked up my first pair of Warby Parker glasses. Look for them in the video I hope to begin releasing in early 2019.

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Demo Pair of the Sullivan Frames in Saltwater Matte

Of course, the tie-in here is the Warby Parker name is pulled from some names that Jack Kerouac wrote. Overall I had a whirlwind weekend in the Tampa Bay area to finish two years of chipping away on my M.A.

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Go Bulls! (Fall Graduation 2018)

P.S. Post-Thanksgiving I was pushing to finish a final project and final paper so my blog posts were sporadic—but starting tomorrow I’ll get back on the bull and finish the year strong with some help from the late William Goldman.

Scott W. Smith

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“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of American had better learn baseball, the rules and realities of the game and do it by watching first some high-school or small town teams.”
French-born American historian Jacques Barzun

It was a Muncy mash that ended the longest game in World Series history early this morning.  The drama of the baseball game climaxed when Max Muncy hit a solo home run in the 18th inning to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.

Everyone has a story.

Muncy played college ball at Baylor and was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2012. He played his first professional game in Iowa with the Burlington Bees. He kicked around a few years with minor league teams in Stockton, Midland, Nashville on his way to making it to the big leagues in Oakland in 2015. But after an unspectacular start, he was released from the team after the 2017 spring training.

He was now 26 and unemployed. He went back to his hometown in Keller, Texas where his dad helped him take batting practice at his old high school. He was hoping to get a call from another team, but he was also thinking it might be time to go back to school and finish his business degree.

Dark night of the soul stuff that makes the reversal so rewarding at the end of the story.

“It’s been a whirlwind of emotions, a whirlwind of talks, not knowing if I was ever going to play baseball again. Was a team going to give me a chance? Was I ever going to make it back to the major leagues?”
Max Muncy
How Max Muncy Rose from  .195-Hitting Castoff to MLB’s Hottest Slugger

Then he got the call. The Dodgers signed him in April of 2017 and he had a solid year playing for their minor league team in Oklahoma City. A year later they called him up to play in Los Angeles and here he is six months later—World Series hero.

It’s a real-life Field of Dreams/The Natural-type story. I was glad I stayed up past until 3:30 am (EST) to watch the drama unfold. First baseball game I’ve watched all year. Might be a decade before I see one as good.

P.S. If you’re into baseball stories and good writing, check out the Dan Barry book Bottom of the 33rd; Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game.  The booked centers around a game between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox in the International League that was actually played over three days in 1981.  There were 1,740 in attendance in Pawtucket, Rhode Island when the game started on April 18th and just 19 when the game was postponed in the 32nd inning at 4:07 am (on April 19th). They finished the game on June 23 (the 33rd inning) making the total length of the game 8 hours and 25 minutes.

Related posts:
The Night Baseball Got Born Again
Burns, Baseball, and Character Flaws
George Springer MVP
‘Moneyball’ & Coach Ferrell
Screenwriting, Baseball & Underdogs

Scott W. Smith

 

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A production friend sent me this video this week and how could I not share in on this blog? BTW—My favorite University of Iowa story related to the dramatic arts is UI is where a guy named Tom Williams got his nickname. The story goes that when Tom was a student in Iowa City a guy in his fraternity knew he was from somewhere in the south with a long name and called him Tennessee. The only problem was Tom was actually from Mississippi. But Mississippi Williams doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like Tennessee Williams does.

Postcard #65 (Tennessee Williams)
‘A Quiet Place’ Meets ‘Screenwriting from Iowa’
Diablo Cody Day

Scott W. Smith

 

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Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light…
Casey at the Bat poem by Ernest Thayer

A little glimpse into the drama of college football, and the humbling power of sports.

A year ago at this time, UCF head coach Scott Frost was past the halfway mark on the way to leading his team to a 13-0 record and a win in the Peach Bowl.  It was quite a reversal from the team he took over—the one that finished the 2015 season 0-12. It was the worst season in the school’s history.

Frost was offered the head coaching job at his alma mater the University of Nebraska.  The hope being that Frost could bring that school back to its former glory when it won national championships—like the one they did when Frost was a quarterback in 1997. That team finished 13-0 and number 1 in the Coaches’ Poll.

So the hope at the beginning of this season was that Frost would work his magic and get Nebraska back on track. That’s still the hope, but it’s going to take a little time. This year the team is 0-6.

To put that into a broader perspective, that is the worst start Nebraska has ever had in their 129-year history. That’s 1890 for those keeping score. Not the kind of record books Nebraska was aiming for at the beginning of the season.

But Frost won as a player, he won big as a coach at UCF, and he’ll win again at Nebraska. It may only be a game or two this year, but you have to start somewhere. He’s got a great freshman QB and in three years he’ll have a team full of his recruits and I expect they’ll be back in the top 20 again.

Sports—and movies—are replete with dramatic reversals. Everyone loves a comeback story.

“If you’re not willing to look at who you are, you’re not willing to fix who you are. . . . We’re going to look back on these days with a little bit of a smile.”
Scott Frost (after his team was 0-5)

10/21/18 Update: That didn’t take long . . . about five hours after I wrote this post, Nebraska beat Minnesota 58-28. They looked so good they might win 3 or 4 games this year. There is joy in Nebraska once again.

Related posts:

Screenwriting from Nebraska
Writing Quote #56 Willia Cather 
Screenwriting Quote #195 (Bob Nelson)
‘Nebraska’ Take 4—The Nebraska Mafia in L.A.)

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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Sears

SEARS

Last week I went to a mall that I’ve been going to since I was a teenager and I noticed there was a major change. One of the anchor stores that had been there from the start was blocked off from the interior mall entrance. There was no familiar Sears sign.

On Monday, I heard on NPR that Sears had filed for bankruptcy and was trying to keep some stores open. The news wasn’t a total surprise as I’ve watched many iconic brands fade or disappear in the age of Walmart and Amazon.

Once upon a time, Sears was one of those iconic brands that symbolized American success. Richard Warren Sears and Alvah Curtis Roebuck started the first version of the company in the late 1800s as a mail ordering catalog company based in Chicago. Especially for rural people who were a long way from stores, and transportation limited, Sears catalogs were a way of life. It was like the Internet 100 years ago where you could order clothes and household items and have them shipped to your house. Heck, at one time you could even order a house.

The first Sears & Roebuck store opened in Evansville, Indiana in 1925. The stores spread throughout Main Street America and then eventually grew into malls when those became the new thing. Sears became the largest retailer in the U.S. with thousands of stores and hundreds of thousands of employees.

Perhaps the symbolic pinnacle of the success for Sears is when the Sears Tower was completed in 1974. At that time, the 110-story building was the tallest in the world. And it was their headquarters. Now, like Kodak, it’s fighting to keep a foothold in the world.

One more not so subtle reminder that one day you can be on top of the world, and the next day the world is on top of you.

SURFING

Surfing is not a sport on the decline. It’s going to be an Olympic sport in 2020. And I don’t think it’s a bold prediction to say someday there’s going to be a champion surfer from Oklahoma, Minnesota, or another unlikely place in the world someday. Right now I’m sure there are some solid young surfers out there in the middle of the U.S. who’ve never even seen an ocean. How?

Wave pools. Like this one.

While artificial wave pools will have their share of critics from purists it’s going to open up surfing opportunities for people who’ve never had the opportunity to surf. That will add to a larger global surf industry as a whole and eventually foster a champion who grew up far from the ocean but was able to hone their skills on wave machines.

Surfer Today lists several places where wave pools have been built or are being built including one in Waco, Texas. Like any new business venture finding the right business plan that makes wave pools financially feasible is the only thing limiting their growth.

But my guess is that within ten years wave pools will be sprinkled throughout the country. Definitely ones in Las Vegas, Dallas, and Atlanta, and probably even an indoor one in Minneapolis eventually.

Actually, Disney’s Typoon Lagoon in Orlando for years has opened their wave pool before and after normal business hours for surfing. To borrow a phrase from the acting world, surfers in the future will get better quicker because they will get more stage time. Less flat or choppy days, more consistent waves.

And all those kids that used to play tackle football and spend hours doing gymnastics—look for their moms taking them to the wave pools. And that’s where the future champions are going to be coming from.

STORYTELLING

“While everyone was busy complaining about slow sales at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, something remarkable happened: The festival saw its first major VR acquisition.”
Kim Voynar, Virtual Reality Finally Sold Big at Sundance

That same day I saw the Sears store shuttered, I noticed Barnes and Noble was doing something with their DVD/CD section. I’m not sure what yet, but it looked less like a reorganization and more like a plan to get rid of the DVD area. Time will tell. But it’s no secret that DVD/Blu-Ray sales are down and not coming back. Barnes and Noble itself is trying not to go the way of Border Books—or Sears.

But storytelling is alive and well. And it’s evolving. Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and AI are the new frontiers. The 2018 Sundance Film Festival showcased some experimental media.   Indiewire reported that seven-figure deals were made for virtual reality films at Sundance so there are going to be opportunities there that weren’t even a dream for filmmakers and storytellers of the past.

Here’s a glimpse into the future; Spheres is a short film/high concept CGI project written and directed by Eliza McNitt. It was one of the films that found success at Sundance and “was the first and only virtual reality to screen at the Telluride Film Festival this year.” (Darren Aronofsky is the executive producer.)

“Science is a form of storytelling. Instead of a narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end, you have a hypothesis, a process, and a conclusion.”
Eliza McNitt

Back in the ’80s when EPCOT first opened in Orlando I remember a ride they had (and may still have) where it simulated being on an airboat in the everglades. I remember clearing feeling like I was zipping through the water at a high speed and looking down at the ground as we were moving at a walking pace. I believe that was my first virtual reality experience. Now virtual reality rides are common at theme parks.

Here’s a deeper look at virtual reality from a Ted Talk by Chris Milk.

Related post:

Spreading the Aloha Spirit
Surfing in a Snowstorm
Postcard #22 (Kelly Slater)

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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“I will never forget one day [Lucille Ball] sort of walked out of the studio and then came back, and came up to me and said, ‘you’re very good,’ and then walked on. That was the greatest gift I ever received in this business. I don’t think I have another moment that compares with the impact of those words.”
Mary Tyler Moore
Archive of American Television interview in 1997

Since Oct 15 is National I Love Lucy Day, I thought I would round up some Lucille Ball interviews, shows, and tributes for the occasion.

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