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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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Allow me a slight detour today on my screenwriting blog to say the Miami vs. Florida State football rivalry is alive and well in 2018. Once upon a time that game decided to who would be playing for a national championship. (Miami has won five championships and Florida State three.)

A shot at the national championship wasn’t at stake Saturday but it was another worthy chapter to add to the book.  (My sister went to FSU and I went to Miami so the rivalry is alive and well in our family.) Miami had to fight back from being down 27-7 to win 28-27.

A couple fights—brawls?—almost broke out in the game. It was a battle. Games like that remind me that there are parallels between football and movies.

”Are you not entertained?”
Maximus (Russell Crowe) in Gladiator

But the battles these days between schools are don’t just happen on the field—they happen in social media. The Canes Football tweet above is a great example of creativity, simplicity,  and meaning. It’s Miami’s symbolic turnover chain wrapped around FSU’s (symbolic?) backpack.

If you’re in film school or in some kind of media studies looking to work in production, don’t overlook how college and pro teams are using social media and digital storytelling. Colleges know that next year’s recruits are tracking teams and school on Twitter, Facebook, You Tube, etc. There are jobs there writing, producing, shooting, and editing content.

Here’s a video put together by Clemson Univesity that captures where things are heading in the sporting world.

“We go into so many high schools for the first time and the head coach will tell us, ‘Man, y’all put out the best videos, the best social media.’ When that’s your first meeting with a coach and he already knows that much about you, your staff and your program, that shows where it’s paying off. It absolutely makes a difference.” 
Jeff Scott, Clemson’s co-offensive coordinator
How Clemson Became the Champions of Social Media

Here’s a video showing Clemson University’s transformation in social media how it engaged their fan base, recruiting, and also helped in fundraising.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“Miami’s turnover chain for 2018 is somehow even gaudier than last year’s”
USA Today headline

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The Miami Hurricanes football team plays Florida State University today. While the game may not be as big as it was back in the day, it’s still a strong rivalry. And while Miami is still a top 20 team, they are arguably number one in the props department with their turnover chain.

The player that gets an interception or recovers a fumble gets to wear the turnover chain. It’s a symbolic gesture meant to fire the team up. It’s a thick Cuban chain holding an image of Ibis (the team’s mascot) made of 4,000 thousand orange, green and white stones. It weighs 6.6 pounds and it fits Miami’s culture100% . It’s even making waves in Germany…

There’s been solid talent that’s flowed to Hollywood from both the University of Miami and FSU. Here’s a list off the top of my head:

Florida State: Burt Reynolds (Deliverance), Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight), screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall), editor Joi McMillion (the first African American editor to ever be nominated for an Oscar), Oscar-winning producer Adele Romanski (Moonlight), Producer Cherylanne Ann Martin (Westworld), Oscar-winning screenwriter Alan Ball (American Beauty), Oscar-winning actress Faye Dunaway (Network)

Miami: Sylvester Stallone (Rocky), Ray Liotta (Goodfellas), Dwayne Johnson (Ballers), Emmy-winning director David Nutter (Game of Thrones), Emmy-nominated producer/actor Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm), screenwriter Max Landis (Bright), filmmaker Billy Corban (Cocaine Cowboys), singer/actress Gloria Estefan

P.S. Am I the first one to ever dream about hearing Barry Jenkins do a director’s commentary on Smokey and the Bandit? Call it A Night with Burt & Barry—could be a big fundraiser for the FSU Film School (one of the top-rated in the world). Though Jenkins commenting on Rocky would make more sense. Jenkins has Miami roots as well so maybe he can do a fundraiser for the UM film school as well. (Where my early love of movies began to flourish long ago.)

10/9/18 update: Despite Miami not beating FSU at home in 14 years, and the fact that they were behind Saturday 27-7 late in the third quarter, they found a way to win 28-27. And they beat FSU in social media, too. (Miami’s turnover chain vs. the FSU’s turn over backpack.)

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Related article:
“Meet the College Friends Who Helped Make Moonlight”

Related posts:
Postcard #24 (Coral Gables)
Hurricane Mark, the Turnover Chain, and ‘The Other Florida Project’
Postcard #25 (Miami Beach) 
Oscar Winner Barry Jenkins Before ‘Moonlight’

Scott W. Smith

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