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‘Patriots Won?’

“Patriots won?” were the first two words I heard this morning. Those two words from my wife forming one question sum up pretty well the Super Bowl game last night.

My wife stopped watching  when the underdog Atlanta Falcons had a 28-3 lead. She woke up not knowing the final score and saw on her phone that the New England Patriots won 34-28. It was a game full of drama. The Patriots spent almost three quarters doing everything they could to lose and one quarter fighting to tie the score before time ran out. Then one drive in overtime to become Super Bowl champs—again.

So yeah, the Patriots won. Even if you were pulling for the Falcons to win their first Super Bowl, or what seemed more common, for the Patriots not to win there fifth Super Bowl—you have to at least appreciate excellence at the highest level.

P.S. I’ve only been to one NFL game in the last decade or so and it was earlier this NFL season in Tampa when the Buccaneers played the Falcons. Got to see Mike Evans make this one-handed catch that was voted the NFL Performance Play of the Year.  It’s nice when things line-up so you can see excellence in person.

Scott W. Smith

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In light of Super Bowl LI today I thought I’d repost this from 2012:

“When we speak of silent comedy we speak instantly of three names—Chaplin, Loyd, Keaton.”
Walter Kerr
The Silent Clowns

 

I thought it would be a fun challenge  to see if I could connect the silent film era with the Super Bowl. And so here’s the Harold Loyd Vs. Buster Keaton debate—in the battle of football movies.  (I didn’t include Chaplin because he recently had his own post—Mr. Silent Films—plus he didn’t make a film about football.)

“It is taking nothing from Keaton or Loyd to say that Chaplin built the road along which they swept to success.”
Kevin Brownlow
Hollywood; The Pioneers 

Despite Loyd being famous for his clock management, and Rudy-like zeal (Indiana reference #2) of not being that gifted athletically—he was only a first year player in The Freshman (1925):

Keaton would appear to have the advantage because as Walter Kerr  pointed out, “Keaton ran so often during the twelve features he made in the 1920’s that the sprint became a trademark.”   And, in fact, he did run a good deal in  Three Ages  (1923):

And the winner is—Buster Keaton. Why? Three reason:

1) First, Keaton not only starred in Three Ages, but he’s also credited as producing, directing and writing the film.
2) The Freshman was said to be pirated from H.C. Witwer’s short story, The Emancipation of Rodney.
3) I trust drama critic Walter Kerr’s (1913-1996) assessment of Keaton in his book The Silent Clowns:  “Let Chaplin be king and let Keaton court jester. The king effectively rules, the jester tells the truth.”

P.S.  Just for some added Midwest mojo, Buster Keaton was born in Piqua, Kansas and Harold Loyd was born in Burchard, Nebraska—more unlikely places for Hollywood icons to come from. Talent comes from everywhere. Kerr (who was also a produced playwright, on top of writing for the New York Times) was born in Evanston, IL and received his BA and MA from Northwestern, on his way to becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer in criticism.

Scott W. Smith 

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Living Life Dealing with Conflict

“For decades he was the chief justice of the film industry — fair, tough-minded, and innovative. I feel that all of us have lost our benevolent godfather.” 
Steven Spielberg quoted in the LA Times after the death of Lew Wasserman

When Lew Wasserman died in 2002 he was considered the last of Hollywood’s moguls. Variety said he was “Hollywood’s ultimate mover and shaker.” He was head of Universal Studios when Jaws and and E.T. became the highest grossing pictures ever.

“One of the great lessons I learned from [my grandfather Lew Wasserman] was that the more successful you are the more problems you deal with. And the more challenges you have, and the bigger company you have, and the bigger business—just stuff goes wrong. The key measure to success is how well you deal with the bad news, and the problems, not how well you embrace the good news. Inherently, the more successful people have organizations better at anticipating, communicating, learning from, growing from, and dealing with and surviving problems. He was a big believer in that. He used to always say, ‘bad news gets worse, so you better just deal with it.’ And if you think about it it’s true, I get paid to deal with problems. Good news takes care of itself. And if you think about human nature—whether if it’s with your kids, or your partner, or at work, most people’s knee-jerk reaction is to stick their head in the sand and hope that bad news goes away, and the truth is, it doesn’t.”
Casey Wasserman, Chairman and CEO of Wasserman
Rich Roll Podcast interview

P.S. Casey Wasserman is also heading the committee trying to bring the Olympic games to Los Angeles in 2024. He was 10 years old when the Olympics were last in L.A. and said it was a magical time. It was. I graduated from film school in L.A. in 1984 and remember that era fondly. That’s also the year I met my wife in an elevator in Burbank.

Related posts:
Conflict-Conflict-Conflict
Looney Toons & Conflict
Neil Simon on Conflict

Scott W. Smith

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“I’m Mary Tyler Moore and I am…an actress, an animal lover, the chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Reseach Foundation, the wife of Dr. Robert Levine, and…I don’t want to give away the whole story from the vert start. Suffice it to say there are a lot of ways to end that sentence, and I don’t think I’ve come close to living through all the possibilities, thank heavens. But what I do know is that in every role I am a devotee of laugher and tears, committed to expressing the nuances of each.”
Mary Tyler Moore
Growing Up Again:Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes
Opening of Chapter 2

That iconic freeze frame of Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air as Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a peak moment in her life. It was her Rocky running up the steps moment.

In a Facebook-centric world we’re great at putting filters on photos and our lives. We’re good a promoting our victories and happy moments. But our tears and struggles we’re not so good at talking about. (And when we do we know they won’t get as many likes.)

When Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014 it was surprising for people to learn about his struggles. He was known for his laughter. But it reminded me the suicide of Freddie Prinze back in 1977. He was a successful stand-up comedian turned even more successful sitcom actor. Yet just months after signing a $6 million five-year deal with NBC the 22-year-old took his life. Depression, drugs, and divorce were the flip side of a man who made many laugh.

Moore, who died last week at 80, was a survivor. She too made many laugh and reached incredible entertainment heights in the sixties and seventies with her comedic Emmy-winning abilities and then received an Oscar nomination for her serious role in Ordinary People (1980).  A devotee of laugher and tears.

A life shaded by getting married at 19 to flee her alcoholic parents. She later not only divorced her first husband, but her son from that marriage died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 24. Moore also had her own struggles with alcohol.  And just before her run with The Mary Tyler Moore Show began she discovered she had stage 1 diabetes.

Since this is a blog on screenwriting let me just say that’s what a three-dimensional life looks like. When we read a script or see a movie or Tv show where we see three-dimensional characters it resonates with us because it reflects our lives.

I’ll close with this excerpt from Moore’s book Growing Up Again:

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-6-49-12-am

Related Posts:
Broken Wings & Silver Linings
40 Days of Emotions
MLK & Screenwriting (on characters)

Scott W. Smith

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“Today Mary Richards and her DNA can be found in nearly every major female character in primetime.”
Tina Fey on the character Mary Tyler Moore played in the TV show that lead to Moore winning four of her seven Primetime Emmy Awards

mtm3617

©2008 Scott W. Smith

The day after I won a Regional Emmy for this blog in 2008 I drove the the Starbucks in Crystal, Minnesota where Diablo Cody wrote much of Juno, and I then drove to downtown Minneapolis and took this photo of the Mary Tyler Moore statue on the Nicollet Mall.

I’ve read the because of construction in that area the statue is temporarily “housed inside the Minneapolis Visitor Information Center at 505 Nicollet Mall, Suite 100.” And because of her death today flowers are being placed on the statue.  Here’s the opening of The Mary Tyler Moore Show that ended with the famous hat toss of a happy Mary Richards.

Entertainment Weekly ranked the hat toss as the second greatest moment in TV. The show was created by James L. Brooks and Allan Burns.

Scott W. Smith

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“If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll find one.”
Actor/Director Denzel Washington 
60 Minutes interview December 18, 2016

Congrats to all those nominated for Oscars today. But since much of the national press centered around the major turn around of people of color being nominated for Oscar Awards compared to last year, I thought it was fitting to revisit a post I wrote back in 2014. There I looked over the history of this blog and found 25 links related to blacks and filmmaking that I’d written.

I’m sure I’ve added a few over the last couple of years but I’ll just roll with the original 25.

“Over a century and a half to the present day…you see the evidence of slavery as you walk down the street…The prison population, mental illness, poverty, education.”
Oscar-nominated director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)
2013 New York Times Interview by Nelson George

“In the vast majority of stories, the hero’s overall change moves from slavery to freedom.”
John Truby
The Anatomy of Story

One of the roots of this blog is steeped in African America culture. Annye L Refoe, Ph.D., was my creative writing teacher in high school. It was in one of her classes I first wrote a dramatic script and directed a video. As a black woman raised in Sanford, Florida she opened up a new world to a class of white students via the writings of Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Where Watching God) and showing us the film version of Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun.

In my very short stint playing football at the University of Miami I heard stories of black players raised in Overtown during Miami’s riots, as a photographer in L.A. I did photo assignments in Watts and Compton and heard gang stories, and I’ve been in prison chapels where blacks made up 85% of those in attendance and heard some of their life struggles.

At the same time, some of the scariest situations of my life were racially centered. Being cornered by four black youths in Florida when I was ten years old, taking a wrong turn on the South Side of Chicago after midnight, and being yelled at from two feet away for having a video camera on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica (which at the time had a higher murder rate than Haiti).

I’ve at least seen the view, and felt the tension, from both sides of the street.

It’s said that many white Americans can go through a whole day without encountering a black person, but the opposite is not true for most black Americans. I don’t pretend to fully understand the struggle of black people, but as a human being I am sensitive to the issues.  It sticks with me when actor Jamie Foxx told Oprah Winfrey, “I was called a nigger almost every day in Texas.” For many whites the Civil Rights of the ’60s is old news, and slavery of the mid-1800s is ancient history— Look, “We even elected a black man President of the United States—twice in a row.”

Yes, there have been great strides on many levels. Heck, the biggest home I’ve ever been in was NFL great Deion Sanders’ 28,000+ square foot house in Dallas where I did directed a video shoot a few  years ago. Tyler Perry’s net worth of over $400 million makes him according to one website the fourth financially successful filmmaker in America. But only he and Oscar-nominated writer/director John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) are in the top fifty.

There are still wide gaps in our culture. And we still live in a world of much racial tension. These nominations won’t fix our problems. (Some called the 2013 film 12 Years a Slave “Oscar bait” and it walked away with three Oscars including Best Picture in 2014. Two years later it was #OscarsSoWhite.)  There’s lot of wisdom in that William Faulkner line from Requiem for a Nun , “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Pick any period of world history and you’ll find Koyaanisqatsi—The Hopi Indian word for “life out of balance.” (See Godfrey Reggio film Koyaannisqatsi.) We can go back and forth on the political, economic and spiritual solutions to finding peace and harmony in a world where good and evil exist. But it’s hard not to at least metaphorically agree with the thought that,  “We are reminded daily that we live outside the Garden.”

“Everything is supposed to be different than it is.”
Simon (Danny Glover)
Grand Canyon written by Lawrence Kasden & Meg Kasden

This whole global quest we’re all on for equilibrium is why I love storytelling in general, and films specifically. Artists are like those people waving large finger pointer signs at auctions telling everyone where to look. Movies at their best stir up questions and offer hope.

Whatever color you are, may the stories you tell—to borrow Oscar-winner Tom Stoppard’s words, “nudge the world a little.” And may they nudge it in the right direction.

Here are 25 links from this blog over the years centered around blacks and filmmaking:

The First Black Feature Filmmaker

Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting 

First screenplay, Oscar—Precious

Martin Luther King Jr. Special –A multi-media project I produced with artist Gary Kelley

Screenwriting & Slavery

Blacks in Black & White “We’re a great country. We’ve got great stories. And for the most part, the great stories of people of color have not been told.”—Spike Lee

Memphis Story Wins Oscars

August Wilson’s St. Paul Roots

Lynn Nottage & her Play “Ruined”

The Kindness of Strangers

Obama, Drama & D.C. Movies

Filmmaking Quote #10 (Lee Daniels)

Nelson Mandela, Robben Island & Nudging the World

“I Have a Dream” at 50

“Super-Serving Your Niche” (Tyler Perry’s advice to Edward Burns)

Shrimp, Giants & Tyler Perry

Jackie, Spike & Sanford, Florida 

Off-Screen Quote #26 (Jackie Robinson)

Screenwriter Ernest R. Tidyman  Though white he explains why he wrote Shaft (1971)—It was time for a black winner [in movies], whether he was a private detective or an obstetrician.”

“The Help” Smackdown

Chris Rock & Adult Movies

The Father of Film (Part 2) Touches on Spike Lee on D.W. Griffith

Postcard #51 (Cotton Fields)

40 Days of Emotion Touches on the whipping scene of Denzel Washington in Glory

The Black List Annual Report (2013) Franklin Leonard

And let me give a shout-out to Brian McDonald who writes The Invisible Ink Blog.  I believe he’s the only black writer to have written a few books on screenwriting; Invisible Ink, The Golden ThemeInk Spots.

P.S. I know there are efforts being made helping minority screenwriters and welcome you passing those websites on to me in the comments or via email at info@scottwsmith.com

Additional links:
Writers Guild of America, West Diversity Department
CBS, Writers Mentoring Program
Deadline article about Warner Bros. diversity connection with The Black List ““For a black kid from Georgia, I’m acutely aware of the access issues the industry struggles with, and I’m excited to be part of a first step toward addressing this.”— Franklin Leonard
The Black List Newsletter Follow the links for Warner Bros Submission requirements
Fox Writers Intensive (FWI) “The Intensive is designed to introduce experienced writers with unique voices, backgrounds, life and professional experiences that reflect the diverse perspectives of the audiences Fox creates for to a wide range of Fox showrunners, writers, directors, screenwriters and creative executives.”
Diversity in Hollywood, NAACP
Universal Pictures’ Emerging Writers Fellowship,Seeking New and Unique Voices
In the While Room With Black Writers “There’s this thing in Hollywood, a ‘diversity staff writer.’ Most every writing room has one…”—Beejoli Shah
Organization of Black Screenwriters, West Hollywood
BuzzFeed interview with Oscar-nominated screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave“I’m from a small town in Wisconsin, but even when I’m in New York and I’m working for MSNBC or CNN, you’re used to being the only black person in the room. You spend your life in this space where you’re constantly seeing people who don’t even know perhaps they’re being a little dismissive of people of color, let alone the ugliness that you hear on a daily basis. So at times when people say that [racism] is bubbling up, it’s just bubbling up to a level where they’re aware of it.”

Scott W. Smith

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Happy New Year! (2017)

“A new heart for a New Year, always!”
Charles Dickens
(From his short novel The Chimes written in 1844, a year after he published A Christmas Carol)

grand-bohemian

This afternoon I took this photo at the Grand Bohemian hotel in downtown Orlando which is less than two miles away from the Pulse nightclub where 49 people on June 12 last year. Then tonight I watched the 60 Minutes report on murders in Chicago this past year (the total number: 762). Sober reminders of 2016.

I know 2016 wasn’t all bad, it just felt like it. May 2017 be at least a less violent year than 2016—for the entire world. Is that too much to hope for?

Happy new year to you. I wish the best for you and your creative endeavors this year.

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