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“Of course Nebraska is a storehouse for literary material. Everywhere is a storehouse of literary material. If a true artist were born in a pigpen and raised in a sty, he would still find plenty of inspiration for work. The only need is the eye to see.”
Willa Cather
My Antonia

The Central Florida Project (CFP) was a success. Not to be confused with the movie The Florida Project, what I’m calling the CFP is in regard to the University of Central Florida football team. Two years ago they finished the season 0-12 and this season they finished 12-0 with an invitation to play Auburn in the Peach Bowl.

It was a remarkable turn around and much of the credit goes to coach Scott Frost. But Saturday in the roller coaster world of sports, shortly after Frost led UCF to an American Conference championship victory it was announced that he was taking the head football coach position at the University of Nebraska. Which is not only his Alma mater, and where he was the QB when Nebraska won a national championship in ’97, but also comes with a $35 million contract.

When someone asked me why Frost would leave sunny Orlando for the often cold midwest, I said I could think of 35 million reasons why. But first he’s going home. And second he has the chance to now work on The Nebraska Project.

A chance to restore the Nebraska football program.  One that’s been playing football since 1890 and was back to back national champions in the 70s and in the 90s. But also one that finished this season unranked at 4-8, and hasn’t had a top 10 finish in over 15 years.

Frost returning to Lincoln is ripped from the pages of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  Frost’s ordinary world started in Wood River, Nebraska (population 1325) where he had a mentors, and he went through various tests and trails,  faced enemies, crossed thresholds, hit a wall, found a new direction, found redemption in taking a team from worst to first, and now he’s taking the elixir back home to Nebraska where his mentors proudly wait for him to restore an area to its former glory.  That’s the Hero’s Journey. It may not be a movie, but’s it dramatic and cinematic.  An ESPN 30 by 30 on it is probably already in the works, and the movie rights being negotiated.

But some wonder if top players these days can be drawn to a school in Lincoln, Nebraska. But I fall on the side that great players follow great coaches. I wouldn’t be surprised if Frost helped the Nebraska team finish in the top 25 next season, and in the top ten within four. Time will tell.

Back in 2008 Scott Frost and Nebraska’s new defensive coordinator Erik Chinander were assistance on the University of Northern Iowa football team in Cedar Falls, Iowa. That’s the same year and town where I started this blog.

Congrats to both Frost and Chinander—it’s good to see people rise up from somewhat smaller pockets of the country and get their moment in the spotlight on a national stage.

Related Posts:

“My Nebraska”
Screenwriting from Nebraska

Scott W. Smith

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“Most of us have some old pain or hurt that we don’t think about all the time, but which is always vulnerable on some level of awareness…To humanize a hero or any character, give her a wound, a visible, physical injury or deep emotional wound.”
Christopher Volger
The Writer’s Journey

Katie Holmes in “Pieces of April”

Since it’s Thanksgiving Day and I’ve been writing a string of posts the last couple of weeks on The Florida Project, I thought it would be fitting to repost some thoughts on Pieces of April That 2003 low-budget indie film set entirely on Thanksgiving Day could be a cousin of The Florida Project.

Both are simple yet complex films. Pieces of April starred Katie Holmes who played April, a different version of the Halley character (Bria Vinaite) in The Florida Project. 

Yesterday I stopped at a connivence store here in the Orlando area and saw a real life April/Halley. She looked around the same age as the girls those movies, but looked more tired, worn, and dirty. She sat leaning against a wall next to a large backpack.

Since I was stopping in the store for a protein bar I bought an extra one I was going to  give to her. A clerk came in from outside as I was checking out and said to the other clerk, “If she’s not gone in ten minutes, I’m calling the police. She’s been asked to leave three times.”

When I got outside she was still there and I gave her the protein bar and a dollar and she thanked me. It wasn’t a Thanksgiving dinner or the promise of a better life. But it was something. Sean Baker’s The Florida Project (co-written with Chris Begosh) may not change the world, but the words of playwright Tom Stoppard come to mind:

“I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little or make a poem that children will speak for you when you are dead.” 
Oscar-winning screenwriter Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love)
Above quote spoken by character Henry in The Real Thing: A Play

Pieces of April was written and directed by Peter Hedges who was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. A fact I didn’t learn until years after falling in love with the movie.

In December of 1998, I received a phone call from my mother in Iowa. She had bad news. She’d been diagnosed with cancer. I went to her as soon as I could. She underwent radiation and chemotherapy. Over the next fifteen months, my sisters, my brothers, and I traveled back and forth to take care of her.

“During this time, my mother urged me to keep writing, but it was difficult. One day in my office in Brooklyn, I started opening files on my computer and came across notes I’d written a year earlier for a story about  girl with a broken oven trying to get her turkey cooked.

“In my notes, I had named the girl April after the moody, unpredictable month. The month when it is sunny one moment and rainy the next. In my notes, she was cooking Thanksgiving dinner for her family. Most surprising was the reason why I’d decided April was making the meal: She was attempting to bridge an estranged relationship with her mother who was sick with cancer. 

“That’s when I knew this was a story I had to write.”
Writer/director Peter Hedges
Pieces of April; The Shooting Script—Introduction

May you all write stories that “nudge the world a little.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

P.S. So after I wrote this post I saw the trailer for the Katie Homes directed the film All We Had about a mother-daughter relationship where “everything around us is collapsing.”

Related posts:
Goal. Stakes. Urgency. (Tip #60)
Protagonist= Struggle
Where Do Ideas Come From? (A+B+C)

Scott W. Smith

 

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“When I decided to continue to coach, I really did want to enjoy it. I really did want to have fun. And what better place than Miami can you have some fun? Gosh, it’s just been a blast.”
University of Miami head Coach Mark Richt
USA Today  (11/12/17)

(I’ll continue my run of posts on The Florida Project movie tomorrow, but give me a minute to talk about The Other Florida Project.)

Hurricane Mark is the main reason that Miami is ranked #2 in the Amway Coaches Poll this week. I never would have guessed that UM would be sitting next to the powerhouse Alabama team in November 2017. But as a fan I’m thrilled about it.

When University of Miami head coach Mark Richt (and former UM QB) was fired from the University of Georgia a couple of years ago there was not a Hurricane fan in the know who didn’t want Richt to return to his Alma mater.

The glory had long departed the program that had won five national championships between 1983-2001. My hopes was that UM would be back in the top ten on a regular basis in 3-5 years. Richt and his staff and players have made them into a national contenders in just two years.

And one of the fun things about watching the Hurricanes play this year is the five and a half pound sapphire-studded turnover chain that is draped around every Hurricane on defense that gets a fumble or an interception. Just a symbolic way to bring the swagger back to Miami. I can imagine what that imagery (and of course, the winner) is going to do for high school recruiting this season.

This won’t win me any points with Fighting Irish fans, but here are the highlights of the game yesterday when Miami defeated the favored Notre Dame team. After 15 years of traveling a bumpy road, allow a Hurricane fan to enjoy a moment of contentment.

Hurricane Irma.jpg

Smiling after Hurricane Irma only grazed Orlando in September, and hopeful for a decent season for the University of Miami football team

Related posts:
Postcard #24 (Coral Gables)
A24, the 305, the 407…and Drake
Miami Vs. Florida
#GetWellJimKelly

Scott W. Smith

 

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Two years ago I wrote a post about an up and coming baseball player named George Springer. Well last night he won the Willie Mays World Series MVP as he helped the Houston Astros win the World Series. So this seemed a good a time as any to repost my thoughts from April 2015 after I saw Springer played in a spring training game:

“The only thing I can control is how hard I play, my effort and my attitude.”
George Springer
USA Today interview (2014)
photo 2

You may have never heard of George Springer, but I think his career can help your career. Springer is not a screenwriter or filmmaker, but a professional baseball player with the Houston Astros.

This is the last week of spring training for Major League Baseball and since this past Monday it was a 75 degrees, perfect blue sky day in central Florida I drove out to Kissimmee, FL for a baseball game between the Astros and the Toronto Blue Jays.

I don’t follow baseball like I did as a kid and didn’t recognize a single player in the line-up for either team. It didn’t take long to learn Springer’s name because he made a spectacular play in right field when he saved a ball from being a home run to end the inning and on the next play hit a home run.

Turns out the 25-year-old Springer is starting his second year in the big leagues. Time will tell if he’ll become a star but he certainly has a lot of potential.  What does that have to do with screenwriting and filmmaking? This is the way I see it…Springer has had a lot of small victories to bring him where he is today.

He was a high school baseball star in Avon, Connecticut who attended the University of Connecticut on a scholarship. His freshman year of college he was named to the Baseball America Freshman All-America First Team. Two years later he was named the Big East Player of the Year and to several first team All-American teams.

In 2011 he was a first round draft pick of the Astros and had a nice signing bonus of $2.52 million. To develop as a player he played for several minor league teams in Corpus Christi, TX, Oklahoma City, Ok, Landcaster, CA and Troy, NY. His play was good enough in Texas he was voted the Texas League Player of the Year.

Last April he made his MLB debut, and the following month was named Rookie of the Month, before going on to hit 20 home runs in his rookie season. So when I saw him play earlier this week and make that great catch crashing into the right field fence, followed by his home run over the same right field fence—he’s been on a steady upward path for at least the past decade.

Dream big, start small. Consider it spring training for screenwriters. (And sometimes those small victories are just completing a script and starting the next one.)

P.S. Below is a micro doc I made on Tinker Field last year after I learned it was going to torn down. There were some protests which delayed the process, but I just learned that next week the demolition will begin on the former spring training facility.

4/19/15— Just ten days after I wrote this post Springer made perhaps the greatest catch of his career basically duplicating the catch I saw in spring training, but this time robbing a player of a walk-off grand slam home run in the 10th inning of a regular season game. See Springer’s game saving catch.

Related Post:
How to Become a Successful Screenwriter (Tip #41) Advice from Oscar-winning screenwriter Michael Arndt
Play Ball!
Baseball, Bergman & Bull Durham
The Day the Field of Dreams Died
Screenwriting & Pete Rose “Anybody in this business has to hustle.”—WME’s Christopher Lockhart
First Script Home Run
Screenwriting, Baseball & Underdogs

Scott W. Smith

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Halloween special you can file under scared to life:

“The biggest lesson of my life‑Jimi [Hendrix] died at 27, Jim Morrison died at 27, and I looked at it and asked what is in common here. And what it was was trying to live that image off stage. …It took me until I got sober to realize that I had to play Alice Cooper and be myself the rest of the time.”
Alice Cooper
Interview on WTF with Marc Maron

I think he means you can’t really live like a rock star 24/7 and expect to be rock star long—or to even live past 27. There may be exceptions, but Cooper’s been sober for 38 years. Mick Jagger who is still touring at age 74 does physical training six days a week to build stamina needed for the estimated 12 miles he covers while performing on stage.

Others in the 27 Club:
Janis Joplin
Kurt Cobain
Amy Winehouse

P.S. I saw an Alice Cooper full theatrical concert in Tampa in the early 80s and actually met him in San Diego in the 90s.  But not until the Maron interview did I realize that his career has not only lasted for five decades, but that he’s had an incredible eclectic group of entertainers cross his path over the years. Not only Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Jimmy Page in his early days in L.A., but other entertainers like Groucho Marx, Jonathan Winters, and Frank Sinatra.

Scott W, Smith

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I’m kinda swamped with projects so I thought I’d repost one of my favorite posts from  last year based on Jessica Abel’s podcast and book Out on a Wire:

“The key to writing fiction and screenplays in terms of character is conflict, just like it is in non-fiction. And you have to come up with what is the thing that’s going to test that character. And how are you going to make evident what they’re all about? If you can’t make it evident through action or the results of action it’s not believable.”
Jessica Abel
Author of Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio

Just a few years ago as the economic dipped and newspapers and magazines started to go out of business or lay off thousands of journalists, some colleges started to drop journalism as an undergraduate or a graduate degree.

Then an interesting phenomenon happened. Podcasts helped revive a new type of audio storytelling.  This American Life, Radiolab, and Serial are currently in the top ten on the iTunes chart and are great examples of audio storytelling/reporting at its best.

On her podcast Out on the Wire, host Jessica Abel explores what radio masters like Ira Glass go through in developing their stories. You may or may not be surprised that the questions are the same ones screenwriters, filmmakers, producers, and studio executive ask when developing their stories.

—What’s the hook?
—What does your protagonist want?
—What’s the inciting incident that disrupts the protagonists life?
—What’s the arc of the story?
—What’s the central conflict?
—Where’s the special sauce?
—Why is it interesting?
—How are the stakes raised?
—What’s universal about this story?
—How will it resonate with an audience?
—What’s the focus sentence? (More on that tomorrow.)
—Is there mystery, surprise, and irony?
—Is there a “You won’t f-ing believe it!” moment?
—Who or what changes?
—What’s the theme? What’s the takeaway when it’s all over?
—How do you make the story land most effectively?

Over the years since graduating from film school I’ve worked professionally in film, television, print, photography, radio, and video production (and non-professionally in theater), which possibly makes podcasting my next frontier to explore creatively.

The tools for working in audio (a microphone, a recorder, headphones, an XLR cord, computer/editing software and batteries) are cheaper to acquire than what’s needed for shooting video/film projects. That and the fact you can work solo, you don’t have to have a college degree (or even have finished high school yet), perhaps explains the rise in individual podcasts.

Sure there’s a gap in storytelling quality between the person just starting out and This American Life, but even Ira Glass said he was bad for a long time before he became good, and eventually great.

On Episode 1 of On the Wire Jessica interviews Stephanie Foo (@imontheradio a former young skateboarder who once had a podcast with a few listeners called Get Me on This American Life (that she says wasn’t legit but got her press passes). That opened an opportunity to work on Snap Judgment, and she now is a legit producer at This American Life.

In that interview I think they hit on a universal truth; in the world of storytelling it is not only the protagonist who struggles toward their goal, but the storyteller does as well.

Jessica Abel: What do you want to say to the skateboarding girl who was pretending to journalist, who had a podcast Get Me on This American Life? 

Stephanie Foo: “I wouldn’t talk to that girl because she was excited. I would talk to the girl who was at Snap Judgment producing five stories in a week and feeling like her head was going to explode, and that she was crazy and not good at her job. And I would just say you’re in it.  This what it takes to be good. And it’s working. And you might not feel like it’s working, because you might be buried in a million stories. And you might not be able to find your way out. And the bosses might be like arguing with you, and everybody at work might be an absolute chaotic mess. But that’s what it takes. That’s what everybody goes through to become good. Getting completely messy, feeling completely lost is absolutely necessary to finding your way out and becoming good.

Jessica: The German Forest.

Stephanie: Yeah, the Dark Forest, exactly. Getting completely lost, over and over and over again. Because each time you find different paths out. And so at a certain point you can go almost anywhere and know how to find your way back. It’s kind of nice. 

Stephanie is also the creator of Pilot podcast which according to its website: “Is a podcast that seeks to explore and expand possibilities in audio storytelling across formats and genres. Every episode will be a pilot for a different type of podcast.”

P.S. If you want to do some workshops or gather info on audio storytelling check out the Transom website located in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Related post:
Conflict, Conflict, Conflict
Ira Glass on Storytelling
The Major or Central Dramatic Question 
Commitment in the Face of Failure
Finding Authentic Emotions “Just because it’s a worthy cause doesn’t make it interesting.”— Alex Blumberg

Scott W. Smith

 

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Heading into today’s game against Houston, the University of South Florida football team is 7-0. This is the story of USF’s quarterback Quinton Flowers as told by ESPN and Maria Taylor.

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La La Liberty City

Scott W. Smith

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