Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Earlier this month I saw the movie Paint (2023) starring Owen Wilson as a Bob Ross-like painter. The footprint of Bob Ross is big here in Central Florida since he was born in Daytona Beach, lived his later years in the Orlando suburb of Longwood, and is buried at Woodland Memorial Park in Gotha, Florida (about 10 miles from downtown Orlando.) In New Smyrna Beach there is the Bob Ross Workshop and Gallery, and I took the photo below of a mural of Bob Ross at Floyd’s Barbershop in Winter Park, FL.

It’s hard to pinpoint the evergreen nature of the love appeal of Bob Ross, but I think a large part of it was his calm speaking demeanor as he painted. And the world has only gotten crazier since he died back in 1995, which partly explains why his YouTube videos rack up tens of millions of views.

The movie Paint is not the Bob Ross story, probably because the real Bob Ross story is a tangled world of rights usage. Netflix released the documentary Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal, Greed in 2021. I’ve yet to see that, but it sounds like if there was more conflict than harmony regarding who owned what in the Bob Ross empire. But if you’re like my wife and the original Bob Ross is somehow totally off your radar, the last video below is what initially brought the 20-year Air Force veteran Bob Ross fame—his show The Joy of Painting. Simple paintings that were recorded in at PBS station WIPB in Muncie, Indiana.

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

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“Think about someone you know who is skilled in the growth mindset—someone who understands that important qualities can be cultivated. Think about the ways they confront obstacles. Think about the things they do to stretch themselves. What are some ways you might like to change or stretch yourself?”
Carol Dweck, Stanford psychology professor

Last week, Pro Football Hall of Famer Jason Taylor was named the defensive line coach for the Miami Hurricanes football team. The photo above is from a video shoot I did in Taylor’s South Florida home back in 2012. This post is actually a good follow-up to my last one on Andrew Huberman, the brain and dopamine.

Taylor’s already packed a full life of accomplishments in his 48 years. He was an All American linebacker in college and inducted into the University of Akron Ring of Honor. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins where he was a six-time Pro Bowl selection and in 2006 was named the NFL Defensive player of the year. In 2017, he was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And if that isn’t enough, he and his dance partner were runner ups in season six of Dancing with the Stars.

So why does a multimillionaire take on being an assistant coach? Going back to Huberman’s YouTube video on dopamine , I think the answer to Taylor’s new job is a “growth mindset.” As a professional player, Taylor reached the top of the mountain. But like NFL great turned college coach Deion Sanders, there are other mountains to climb. There’s satisfaction in helping others climb mountains. There is the process, and satisfaction in individual growth.

Academy Award-winning actor Paul Newman once said he rarely went back and watched his movies because he only saw ways he could improve his performance. One way to sum up Newman’s seven decade career could be also be called a growth mindset. I’ve been non-linear editing for almost 30 years and learned how to do something new today in Adobe Premiere. Growth mindset. There is great satisfaction is getting a little bit better everyday.

All of this reminds me of an article I wrote in 2002 called “A Hurricane in Nebraska” that was published in the Orlando Sentinel. It’s about the only former college football head coach I know that won back to back National Championships and has a Ph.D. And after coaching he became an elected politician. Growth mindset.

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

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“How does dopamine work and what does it do? Well, first of all it’s not just responsible for pleasure. It’s responsible for motivation and drive primarily—at the psychological level. Also for craving. Those three things are sort of the same; motivation, drive and craving. It also controls time perception.”
—Andrew Huberman
Huberman Lab Podcast #39

“Everything we do, every thought we’ve ever had, is produced by the human brain. But exactly how it operates remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries, and it seems the more we probe its secrets, the more surprises we find.”
—Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse

Because of so much information pumped out on YouTube everyday it is hard for much to stand out. I’d never heard of Andrew Huberman until two weeks ago. Then suddenly he’s everywhere. What’s crazy is that in age of TikTok videos (that make the case for Neil Postman’s 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death), Hurberman is a neuroscientist and associate professor at Stanford University. In 2021 he started a podcast and YouTube channel that are gathering a large following.

Just when you thought the dumbing down of culture was a permanent change, a guy with a PhD starts talking about biology and nerotransmitters and starts racking up millions of views. Case in point is his video Dopamine Mindset & Drive that as I type this has almost 5 million views alone. Some of his videos are 2 and 3 hours in length.

For at least 20 years I’ve done a lot of casual reading and studying on how the brain works. Perhaps it’s just a fascination of trying to wrap my head around creativity behind the standard left brain, right brain conversation. There’s been quite a lot written in the past about athletes and artists getting in a flow state resulting in peak focus and performance. But it’s often from the outward response to being in a flow state.

Huberman comes at things from more of inward view. What is going on in your brain? While he can get deep in the weeds talking about things like neurotransmitters, he has a gift of taking technical research and addressing everyday problems people face such as anxiety, lack of sleep, and addictions.

I think in the past two weeks I think I’ve heard the word dopamine more than I have in the last 20 combined. It’s why I’m calling dopamine the screenwriting word of the year. (I actually think dopamine explains why I’ve written this blog for the past 15 years. There is a simple pleasure in writing these posts.) And to help you wrap your head around its importance, here’s an extended outtake from the 2 hour and 16 minute video above.

“I’m excited to teach you about dopamine, because dopamine has everything to do with how you feel right now as you’re listening to this. It has everything how you’ll feel an hour from now. Has everything to do with your level of motivation and your level of desire and your willingness to push through effort. If ever you’ve interacted with somebody who just doesn’t seem to have any drive, they’ve given up, or if you’ve interacted with someone who seems to have endless drive and energy, what you’re looking at in those two circumstances is without question a difference in the levels of dopamine circulating in their system. There will be other factors, too. But the level of dopamine is the primary determinate of how motivated we are, of how excited we are, how outward facing we are, and how willing we are to lean into life and pursue things.”
—Andrew Huberman
Huberman Lab Podcast #39

If you want an 11-minute version with visuals, check out the video below about dopamine. And if you want to read my feeble attempt to unpack dopamine in limited layman terms for creatives I’ll write that below this video.

In March of 2020, as COVID was shutting down the world, I bought a Hobie kayak. I took advantage of being able to work mostly at home and not having a two hour daily commute. Since I live in Florida and near a 440-acre lake, I was able to kayak often and for about an hour each time. At the start it was magical. Your body naturally releases dopamine into your system at peak levels when you are doing something you enjoy. It could be walking on the beach or in the mountains, being in a new relationship, eating a good meal, or performing an athletic feat, or doing a creative endeavor well.

But that natural high doesn’t last. Your body only can produce so much dopamine. But there are ways that people try to recreate and maximize pleasure that is often destructive. Smoking, alcohol, cocaine, meth, gambling, and pornography are some of the common means that lead to crashes sometimes resulting in addictions that bring anything but pleasure. Addictions that can lead to depression and even suicide. I think it’s why so many musicians die from drug overdoses. They’re trying to reproduce the incredible but fleeting high of performing concerts before tens of thousands of cheering fans who appreciate their music.

The first year I kayaked 125 times. The water, trees, and wildlife (gators, herons, egrets, eagles, and a variety of fish) put me in a happy place. I mostly editing at home and doing occasional video shoots. Even my commute time when needed was cut in half because less people were on the road. It was a rare calm work/life balance.

Because I was working a full time job, I quickly realized the ideal time to go out was at sunrise and sunset. And when the temperature was between 68-72 degrees, it was sunny with a few white puffy clouds in the sky, and a gentle breeze. And for peak calm there were little or no other boats on the lake, no drones flying overhead, and no jet skis buzzing around. The more I kayaked the less those conditions were met all at the same time. My second year of kayaking I went out 50 times, and in year three I only went out just 25 times. The law of diminishing returns. My schedule was totally different in year three, but kayaking wasn’t bringing the same pleasures as it did in the first year. Sometimes it even felt like work. I contemplated selling my kayak.

I think that’s why people often jump from new sport or hobby to another sport to hobby over and over again. Jump from relationship to relationship. The newness wears off. The pleasure diminishes. Andrew Huberman says that your dopamine is at peak levels just before you get the thing you were seeking. The anticipation. If you tell kids you’re going to get ice cream, they’re all excited as you drive to the ice cream place, you stand in line deciding what kind of ice cream you’re going to get, and when you finally get your ice and just before you take that first lick is the peak. At least that’s what neuroscientist studying brain patterns tell us.

And it makes sense. That dress or shirt you were so excited to buy at the store often doesn’t bring the same joy sitting in your closest. The newness of that new car wears off. That trip you planned to take for years doesn’t bring you the joy you had just planning the trip.

Huberman says the answer is to moderate your dopamine. To not try to artificially stimulate a dopamine peak. An illustration from the world of screenwriting that comes to mind comes from an interview I saw with Christopher McQuarrie. He was working as a security guard on LA when he was writing a screenplay that he thought had great potential. It turned out to be The Usual Suspects for which he won an Oscar Award for writing. He said if given the choice to go back in time and either relive the night he won the Oscar or when he was doing and day job and writing s spec screenplay, he would take writing the screenplay because there many personal conflicts in his life at the time he won the Oscar. (Robin Williams once said winning an Oscar changes your life—for about a week.)

For McQuarrie there was joy in the writing process and the anticipation that it could make a good movie. And that’s why I’m calling dopamine the screenwriting word of the year. Understanding how dopamine works in your body is key to understanding your creative flow. And it also might just save your life.

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

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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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“Pelé changed everything.”
—Brazilian soccer great Neymar

Back in 2007 I was working as a cameraman on a shoot in Brazil when I did the dumbest thing I ever did on a production. We flew into São Paulo which I knew was Pelé territory. The soccor great was one of those rare athletes who reached global icon status. The top of the short list over my lifetime is Ali, Tiger, Michael Jordan, and Pelé.

We were told that São Paulo was not the safest place in the world at the time. In fact, just before we arrived there had been a murder at the ranch where we were supposed to stay. We had a security guy with us most of the time. He told us what it took to provide security for the band U2 and the Pope who were both in Brazil in 2006/2007. In short, let me just say there is a reason the Travel Channel has an article titled How to Stay Safe in Rio.

But one night in Rio de Janeiro, I dropped my common sense when I saw a street vender selling a Pelé jersey I just had to have. I was told it was $10 which seemed like a deal. This is where I made a tactical error and reached in my pocket and pulled out a small stack of Brazilian bills (reais). Later someone on the production crew said every mugger within five miles turned their head to look at me. The good news is it was an uneventful transaction and I still have that Pelé 15 years later.

I remembered that shirt after I learned that Pelé died recently. Much has been said and written about the Pelé winning three FIFA World Cups with the Brazil National Football Team, being the key figure for populaizing soccer in the United States, and in 1999 being named The World’s Best Man Player of the Century.

But the lesson I’m going to pass on from Pelé is a pure rags to riches story. Growing up in poverty Pelé could not afford a soccer ball or soccer shoes so he played the game barefoot with a sock stuffed with rags for a ball. Years later in 1970, Puma paid him $120,000 to simply tie his shoes at the World Cup. While he made millions playing soccer, he made tens of millions in endorsement and advertisements deals long after his career was over. His net worth at the end was estimated to be around $100 million.

The lesson there is the ole, do what you can, where you are, with what you have.

Barbara Walters died the day after Pelé died. Over the years I read many stories of the uphill battle she faced as a female journalist in the 1950s. She started her career in broadcasting doing publicity and writing press releases for WNBT-TV in New York City. But the time her career slowed down she’d interviewed Fidel Castro, Margaret Thatcher, Michael Jackson, Sir Laurence Olivier, Jimmy Carter, and the list goes on and on.

Many years ago someone recommended the book she wrote titled How to talk with practically anybody about practically anything. I picked up a used copy and found it a very useful book. Still have it to this day. I’ve applied many of her principles over the last 20 years. In the book she tells the story about when she had lunch with Aristotle Onassis who at the time was one of the riches men in the world. She was hoping to convince him to do a TV interview with her. At the lunch she first she found him to be intimidating and uncooperative. Then she asked him a question that caught his attention:

“Tell me Mr. Onassis, you’re so successful—not just in shipping and airlines, but in other industries too—I wonder, how did you begin? What was your very first job?

“It was like saying the secret word on the old Groucho Marx show, the one that brought down the floppy duck. Onassis clearly was delighted with the question and immediatley became very animated. He told me that he was born in Turkey but emigrated alone to Argentina after his father was jailed during the persecution of the Greeks by the Turks. In Argentina, young Onassis worked as a dishwasher, a construction worker, and finally as a cigarette salesman, which ultimately led to his first big fortune. He seemed touchingly proud that his beginnings had been so lonely and difficult.”

And he agreed to do an interview—on his yacht.

Walter’s made a career out of asking questions that were then seen as a little off beat in traditional journalist. But I’ve found asking most people something about their hometown and/or the equivalent of their first job are great ice breakers.

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


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Merry Christmas 2022

This Christmas morning around sunrise I drove to Lake Baldwin located in the Baldwin Park area of Orlando, Florida. It was a nice, peaceful, and cold (for Central Florida—around 30 degrees) way to start the day.

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“I’m 37 years old and I teach rocket science on YouTube. I used to be a professional photographer but since 2017 I’ve been digesting rocket science and making videos about it with the goal of bringing space now to earth for everyday people.”
—YouTuber Tim Dodd (Everyday Astronaut)

When I lived in Cedar Falls, Iowa I knew a talented young photographer named Tim Dodd who I featured on a couple of blog posts in 2012 and 2017. One day he bought a Russian space suit for $600 and started taking photos of himself in the space suit as a personal creative project. I thought it was cool when his space suit photos were featured in BuzzFeed. I thought it was cool when he started the YouTube channel Everyday Astronaut in 2017 and a few years later crossed the 100 million views mark. But he topped all of that a few days ago when he was chosen a crew member of the first civilian mission to the moon as part of dearMoon project.

The project funded by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa will launch from Cape Canaveral in 2023 or 2024. Dodd was chosen with 7 other creatives to part take in the circumlunar art project mission in a SpaceX’s Starship out of 1 million applicants. A YouTuber from Cedar Falls, Iowa—what are the odds? It’s definitely in the spirit of when I started the Screenwriting from Iowa … and Other Unlikely Places almost 15 years ago in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

“Seven years ago I bought a space suit as a joke to take pictures with and now I’m going to be flying around the moon—the story arc is ridiculous. If that can happen to me— you know if you just purse something with your whole heart and all your energy, you never know what can happen.”
—Tim Dodd

Here’s a video where Dodd has a casual conversation about rocket engines with Elon Musk. Just another day for the Everyday Astronaut.

Safe travels Tim Dodd. I hope when you return to earth that you get a tickertape parade down Main St. in Cedar Falls.

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

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“When you make a difference, there’s going to be haters.”
—Deion Sanders, Pro Football Hall of Fame speech

“The Colorado Gold Rush started in 1858 and was the second largest mining excitement in the United States history after the great California Gold Rush a decade earlier.”
Western Mining History website

Now before you think I dropped in the $ in Sanders in the title as a knock on Deion Sanders, know that’s how the man himself signed a mini-Dallas Cowboy helmet for me a few years ago. Last week after finishing the season undefeated as the head coach at Jackson State, Sanders traded his $300,000 yearly salary for a five year contract in the $30 million range at the University of Colorado. Prime Time struck gold in the Rockies the old fashioned way—he earned it. (Some are upset with Sanders because he spoke so much about elevating HBCU football only to leave for a bigger opportunity.)

And it’s not like Sanders needs the money. But he’ll take it and the respect that comes with it. When I pulled up to his home ten years ago for a video shoot, some of the money he made as a phenomenal football player was on full display. The home was the largest home I’ve ever been in before or since and estimated to be around 30,000 square feet. The crew had the photo below taken in his kitchen by one of his sons. It was a fun shoot as he cooked a Prime Burger for the project.

We had a connection back to his Florida days in that the sports reporter Sam Cook who hired me as a 19-year-old photojournalist for the Sanford Herald also covered Sanders’ rise as an all-state football, baseball, and track athlete at North High School in Ft. Myers. Back in 2012 Sanders was coaching a youth or high school team and I asked him how that was going and he laughed and said, “Not well.” Obviously, things are going well for him now.

Will Sanders win at Colorado? In one sense, he’s already won by increasing his annual pay by $4.7 million a year. Will he win a national championship? I wouldn’t bet on that. But this is the man who is the only human being in history to play in both a World Series and a Super Bowl. This is the man who never coached college football before and just finished the best season in Jackson St. football history. So I wouldn’t bet against him either.

What I would bet on is Deion Sanders helping Colorado performs better than they did this season. They were 1-11 and last in their conference. It’s rare that a great player becomes a great coach. (The Iowa wrestling legend Dan Gable is an exception that comes to mind.) But much of college football is about recruiting and that’s another area where Coach Prime shines.

I personally think that Sanders was born to play and coach at the University of Miami, but no one asked me.

But it will be fun to watch the Prime Time Revival Show transform Boulder.

If you’re unfamiliar with his struggles growing up without money, watch this acceptance speech when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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

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“The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.”
—James Taylor (Secret O’ Time)

Yesterday I drove from Orlando to Tampa to watch Tom Brady play for the first time in person. Widely considered the greatest football in history, I was hoping the 45 year old QB showed a little of his seven-time Super Bowl winning greatness. And while this was just regular season game, it was against the most recent Super Bowl winners—the L.A. Rams.

And a great day it was. I got my money’s worth. And one of those rare times when an event superseded my expectations. I got to see Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp catch eight passes including a 69 yard TD. I got to see Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey do what they do best on the Rams’ defense. Tampa Bay had their own stellar defense. And I saw a 74-yard punt by Jake Camarda that tied the Bucs franchise record.

But most importantly I saw Tom Brady cross the threshold of 100,000 career passing yards. A sports record never likely to be beaten. And to top it off he led the Bucs to a come from beyond victory throwing a TD in the last few seconds of the game. It was classic Tom Brady. And to make it all the more special, that TD just happened to be in the corner of the end zone where I was sitting. I may never go to an NFL game again because everything after this is going to be a letdown.

It was all the more special in that my dad took me to my first ever NFL game in 1976 to watch the Bucs play. It just happened to be the first home game Tampa Bay ever played in franchise history. A preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. I still have the ticket stub.

Here are some of my iPhone photos that capture the day. From my arriving early to make sure I didn’t miss a single play because of a traffic/parking snafu, to the end of the game. (There were no shortage of Brady jerseys.)

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

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I’m going to continue into November with some photo stories from a recent trip I took to Denver, but since today is Halloween I’ll share a passage from a classic Stephen King book about a family in transition:

She went upstairs and into the kitchen. She put on the teapot and laid a couple of Oreos on a plate for Danny in case he decided to come up while she was lying down. Sitting at the table with her big pottery cup in front of her, she looked at the window at him, still sitting on the curb in his bluejeans and his oversized dark green Stovington Prep sweatshirt, the glider now lying beside him/ The tears which had threatened all day now came in a cloudburst and she leaned into the fragrant, curling steam of the tea and wept. In grief the loss for the past, and terror of the future.
The Shining, the last paragraph in chapter two
(And an early sign that things weren’t okay at the Overlook Hotel.)

In the 1980 film version of The Shining, the wife’s fear of terror is realized when she checks on the novel her husband has been working.

And since Scott Beck and Bryan Woods are credited on writing the script for The Boogeyman (2023)—based King’s short story with the same title—it’s fitting to mention they have a book coming out this year centered around their movie Haunt. It’s called Haunt, Screenplay & Filmmakers Diaries.

And while a lot of filmmakers dream of owning a movie theater someday, earlier this month it was announced that Beck and Woods will being opening the Last Picture House in downtown Davenport, Iowa. You can read about it here.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles (The forward was written by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods.)

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