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Rocky Mountain Oscars

“How Is It Possible For The 2nd Consecutive Year All 20 Contenders Under The Actor Category Are White?”
Writer/director Spike Lee

“He said I don’t know what it’s like to be a black person? I’m Mr. black people!”
Jerry Maguire 
Screenplay by Cameron Crowe

This blog depends on a certain amount of serendipity to exist. There’s no team of people planning the direction the blog will take months ahead. It’s just me floating down the river of cinema—finding quotes and making observations that I hope filmmakers find helpful. Especially those outside the Hollywood system.

And having just spent the past three weeks writing posts in, around, and about the Rocky Mountains—including the posts  Rocky Mountain High and  Rocky Mountain Movie Battle RoyaleI couldn’t pass the the comment below after the Oscar Awards were announced last week:

“Hollywood is like the Rocky Mountains, the higher up you get the whiter it gets. And this year’s Academy Awards will be yet another Rocky Mountain Oscars. Yet again, deserving black actors and directors were ignored by the Academy — which reinforces the fact that there are few if any blacks with real power in Hollywood.”
Al Sharpton
(Statement after the 2016 Oscar nominations were announced)

No matter what you think about Sharpton or his comments, you’ve got to admit there’s some good zingers in that statement—and a measure of truth. And many have made the point of Beast of No Nation, Creed, Straight Outta Compton, Will Smith and Samuel L. Jackson and others of color being under represented in the Academy nominations.

Of course, there is always a subjective and political nature in just about any kind of award—in Hollywood or anywhere. I do think this has less to do with racism than it just does that the Oscar voters are 94% white and on average 63 years old.

Last year when an older than average industry heavyweight white writer/director wrote last year about a certain movie “…everything at highest levels…best ensemble cast, best acting by movie stars, costumes, music, locations, editing. the look!”, it’s no surprise he was talking about The Big Short not Straight Outta Compton. (And for all I know he may have loved Straight Outta Compton, too. But The Big Short was much more in his demographic  wheelhouse.)

And a few years ago a working screenwriter publicly admitted he was voting for so and so because he was his friend.  We want to live in a world when things are won purely on merit—but that’s not the world we live in. Hence the struggle for justice on many levels.

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

And on this Martin Luther King day if there’s one thing we can do is look at the world of change that’s happened since the civil rights was killed in 1968. Including not only a black man being elected president of the United States, but some changes in Hollywood including that night in 1992 when both Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won Best Actor/Best Actress Oscars, to John Ridley, Lupita Nyong’o, and 12 Years a Slave winning Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Film in 2014.

But it’s also understandable—and expected—that Spike Lee write his #OscarsSoWhite thoughts that were posted today:

Dr. King Said ‘There Comes A Time When One Must Take A Position That Is Neither Safe, Nor Politic, Nor Popular But He Must Take It Because Conscience Tells Him It’s Right”. As I See It, The Academy Awards Is Not Where The “Real” Battle Is. It’s In The Executive Office Of The Hollywood Studios And TV And Cable Networks. This Is Where The Gate Keepers Decide What Gets Made And What Gets Jettisoned To “Turnaround” Or Scrap Heap. This Is What’s Important. The Gate Keepers. Those With “The Green Light” Vote. As The Great Actor Leslie Odom Jr. Sings And Dances In The Game Changing Broadway Musical HAMILTON, “I WANNA BE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS”. People, The Truth Is We Ain’t In Those Rooms And Until Minorities Are, The Oscar Nominees Will Remain Lilly White.
Spike Lee Instagram post today
Spike Lee is Boycotting the Oscars 

And the Rashomon effect is to look at it from the executive and studios perspective where they are trying to make decisions that will be profitable and preserve their jobs. It’s a tangle web indeed. Here’s a real life example from the creator Everybody Loves Raymond on the notes he was giving in casting the show (before it won 15 Primetime Emmy Awards) :

“We started hearing about how we shouldn’t go too ethic with the cast [on Everybody Loves Raymond]. What does that mean? It means that for this show to play in Middle America, we couldn’t have too many overtly swarthy Italian or Jewish types populating this family. Ray [Ramono]and Brad [Garrett] are both, and respectively, swarthy, Italian, and Jewish. I asked, ‘It’s an Italian family. What are we supposed to cast? Network Guy says, ‘Nonethnic ethnic.’
Phil Rosenthal (Creator and Executive Producer of Everybody Love Raymond)
You’re Lucky You’re Funny
page 85

So we’ve gone from “nonethnic ethnic’ in the mid-90s to the “Rocky Mountain Oscars” in 2016. Sometimes it’s hard to see the progress, but I think this is a great country and I have hope for the future. And this is as good a time as any to show a clip I shot and edited a few years ago of artist Gary Kelley’s work done in conjunction with the Waterloo Cedar Falls Symphony and conductor Jason Weinberger.

In was a special night when the images where shown on a large screen with a live orchestra before 1,000 people.

Related posts:

25 Links Related to Blacks & Filmmaking
The First Black Feature Filmmaker
Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting
Postcard #82 (Selma)
Screenwriting Straight Outta Compton
Straight Outta Compton (Wearing SIlver & Black)
Jackie, Spike & Sanford, Florida

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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Rocky Mountain High

“No one comes up here without a damn good reason.”
Tagline from The Hateful Eight movie poster

FullSizeRender-2

I first visited Telluride back in the ’80s and found it one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been. A few decades later, and many travel miles later, I still think that’s true.

And while a large chunk of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight actually takes place inside a single building (and the story set in Wyoming) the exteriors were shot in the Telluride area (mostly on the Schmid Family Ranch on Wilson Mesa) and showcased the snowy mountain region area well. (Though the people I met in the area are nicer than the ones in the movie.)

And, of course, The Hateful Eight is not the first Western to be shot in the same general area.  Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969) —while also shot in Utah, Mexico, New Mexico, Arizona, and sound stages in Los Angeles— did shoot in several parts of Colorado including Silverton, Durango, and at the New Sheridan Hotel Telluride.

How the West Was Won (1962), starring Henry Fonda was shot Ridgway, Montrose, Silverton, and Durango. Screenwriter James R. Webb (1910-1974) won his sole Oscar for writing that film. And for what it’s worth, Webb was born in Denver. (The greatest one word screenwriting advice ever comes from Webb—”Finish.”)

True Grit (1969), starring John Wayne, was shot in nearby Ouray, Gunnison, Montrose and Ridgway.

According to The Telluride Daily Planet, part of what attracted the producers of The Hateful Eight to shoot in Colorado was, “The Colorado Economic Development Commission and its Office of Film provided the film project with a $5 million incentive package. The Colorado Film Incentive program offers a 20 percent rebate for film production costs within the state for qualifying projects.”

For more information about shooting permits and incentives in Colorado contact the Colorado Office Film, Television & Media.  To see how that film money works its way into the local economy check out this story on a how The Hateful Eight crew spent $140,000 at a Telluride tire shop.

Other websites to check out are Telluride Film Commission , the Telluride Film Festival,  Visit Telluride is the official tourism site, and there’s a New York Times article 36 Hours in Telluride.

As of last year, Tom Cruise’s Telluride house was listed for sale at $59 million. And since we’re still in an all Star Wars time period, Lawrence Kasdan, co-screenwriter of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has had a home in Telluride for many years. (Yes, everything is connected to the Star Wars universe.)

In fact, in his 2012 film Darling Companion (co-written with his wife Meg Kasdan) takes place in Colorado. Though because of incentives most of it was shot in Canada, they did do some pick-up shots in Telluride including a cameo of the New Sheridan Hotel—the same one featured in Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.

And a fitting way to round out a couple week of posts on Colorado is the classic John Denver song Rocky Mountain High.

P.S. National commercials are also no stranger to shooting in the Telluride area. I believe the last shot of the “Born in the Rockies” Coors spot is Wilson Peak 11 miles west of Telluride.

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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‘My Nebraska’

This week Nikon released it’s new D5 camera and with it a video called My Nebraska directed by Bill Frakes. (So I going to push back my Telluride/Hateful Eight final Colorado post until Monday.)

Besides the state of Nebraska sits between Colorado and Iowa, so this video is at home on this blog. (Plus I’ve been a Nikon shooter since I was 20-years-old.)

Frakes is a fifth generation Nebraskan, a Sports Illustrated photographer—who according to his website “was a member of the Miami Herald staff that won the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of Hurricane Andrew,” and whose advertising clients include Apple, Nike, and Reebok. He started Straw Hat Visuals in 2008.

Besides you have to appreciate a state that produced Montgomery Cliff, Alexander Payne, and Marlon Brando. (All from Omaha, too.)

P.S. I’ve travelled to all 50 states in the U.S. and a small chunk of the rest of the world and one of the coolest natural sights I’ve ever seen (up there with seeing a full solar eclipse in Salzburg) was seeing what I’m guessing was tens of thousands of sandhill cranes in central Nebraska descend on a lake like a large dark cloud slowly falling from the sky.

Related posts:
Screenwriting from Nebraska
‘Wake up and pay attention.’ Alexander Payne
‘Nebraska’—Take 1 (Casting Farmers)
‘Nebraska’—Take 2 (Directing Actors)
‘Nebraska’— Take 4 (The Nebraska Mafia in LA)

 

Scott W. Smith

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Today my wife and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We met in an elevator in Burbank, California and married in a covered bridge in Vail, Colorado, and have experienced many of the ups and downs of any relationship that has endured 30 years.

I put together 30 pictures that symbolized the sweeping overview of our marriage and shared it with friends. I’ll spare you 30 pictures but will share a favorite one of mine that was taken in 1999 when we backpacked across Europe in our most memorable travel adventure together.

15-VeniceThis afternoon we went to a movie that is easily one of the best I’ve seen this year— Brooklyn. It also happens to be a movie about new adventures, the search for love, and the complexity of choices we face in life. (With a nice Ireland/Italian/American mix to the story.)  John Crowley directed the script written by Nick Hornsby (High Fidelity) based on the New York Times best selling  best selling novel Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. I should add that is was beautifully shot by cinematographer Yves Bélanger. (But across the board, from cast to crew, this is a finely crafted movie.)

Scott W. Smith

 

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“I’m telling an old myth in a new way. That’s how you pass down the meat and potatoes of your society to the next generation.”
George Lucas on creating Star Wars

“Mythology teaches you what’s behind literature and arts, it teaches you about your own life…Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life.”
Joseph Campbell

George Lucas has been open over the years about Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces influencing him in creating the Star Wars movies. (And the above video unpacks that some.)  The following quotes by Campbell are from his interview with Bill Moyers in The Power of Myth.

#1—“Myth basically serves four functions. The first is the mystical function—realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder you are, and experiencing awe before this mystery.”

#2—“The Second is a cosmological dimension, the dimension with which science is concerned—showing you what the shape of the universe is, but showing it in a way that mystery again comes through.”

#3—“The third function is the sociological one—supporting and validating a certain social order.”

#4 “There is a fourth function of myth, and this is the one that I think everyone must try to relate to—and this is the pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under and circumstances.”

Scott W. Smith

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“The road to success isn’t paved with gold—99 percent of the time it isn’t paved at all.”
Photographer/Author/Educator Chris Orwig
The Creative Fight

Because my mom was an art teacher, I was aware of the creative fight from an early age. Before I was ten I was fascinated by Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, but perhaps more enamored that he cut part of his ear off. I’ve read plenty of theories about the madness, pain, and demons that the creative genius fought before his death at age 37.

Chris Orwig’s book The Creative Fight may not have saved Van Gogh’s life—but it may help you on your creative journey.  Encourage you as you face a world of constant noise and change. The goal of his book is to help you refocus and reframe your creative vision and life in general.

“Creativity has given us romance, recovery, culture, cuisine, music, motocross, fables, fashion, and sports. Deep creativity stirs our soul. It reminds us of something we once knew but have since forgotten. Creativity awakens life, like the taste of those cookies brings back your grandmother’s face or that one song reminds you of being 16. We not only watch and witness creativity, we take part in ourselves. And the most creative act of all is living life to the fullest degree. Without creativity by your side, it’s impossible to live a rich and meaningful life.”
Chris Orwig
The Creative Flight
Page 4

For the past few weeks I’ve been in the process of moving my still photography workflow from Apple Aperture to Adobe Lightroom, and Orwig has been helping me with the transition. Not personally, but via his tutorials on lynda.com. I’ve been a long time fan of lynda.com and have watched many of Orwig’s tutorials.

Over the years I’ve grow to realize that change—for various reasons— is just a part of the game. In shooting footage (8mm,16mm, 3/4 inch, Beta SP, DigiBeta, and several digital formats), editing (upright Moviola, Steenbeck flatbed, AVID, FCP, Adobe Premiere), and 35mm and medium format film cameras to DSLRs that shoot stills and video I’ve been through plenty of changes since graduating from film school back in the day.

And I wouldn’t say I’m the most technical person out there and there have been many fights on the technical side so I for one welcome the prolific online training available. Help with the creative fight is harder to come by. But Orwig—a photographer/adventurer— is an able guide. And throughout his book he sprinkles quotes from a wide range of people: John Muir, Mark Twain, Dr. Seuss, Mahalia Jackson, Ansel Adams, T.S. Eliot, Seth Godin, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Kelly Slater, Thomas Edison and others. (In fact, an electic group of which I have quoted from many of them on this blog over the years.)

“[Jack London] wrote and wrote on a borrowed typewriter, but still the rejection letters came. One publication sent him this rejection note: ‘Interest in Alaska has subsided in an amazing degree. I do not think it would pay us to buy your story.’ It seemed his adventures up north wouldn’t pay off after all. Little did London know, more rejection was to come. During his first five years as a writer he received an avalanche of over 500 rejection letters. After his books became a huge success, London would say, ‘You have to go after inspiration with a club.”
Chris Orwig
The Creative Fight
page 97

I bought the book last weekend because I wanted to support Orwig, but also because I’m always open to anyone who can help me in my own creative fight. Especially when one can do so visually and poetically, and who often comes to his soulful observations through is own journey of pain, suffering, and brokenness.

Here are some other videos of Orwig speaking that may help you in your creative fight.

Related Posts:
Creativity & Milking Cows
‘Creativity for Life’
lynda.com for President
Off Screen Quote #12 (Kelly Slater)
Living a Creative Life
Creativity’s Best Friend
Where Do Ideas Come From?

Scott W. Smith

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“My story is like an American dream story. I grew up on the south side of Chicago [in a] working poor family…I was a freshman in high school when I saw Bonnie and Clyde, and I remember very profoundly there is a scene where Gene Hackman’s character gets shot in the head and he’s in this field and he’s dying. And I remember being overwhelmed with sadness and emotion. And that was the seminal moment where I go I gotta be a movie director. Right around the same time I’m watching Johnny Carson and his guest that night is Jerry Lewis. In the 60s he was like the Spielberg of the movie industry. He had like total autonomy of making his movies. So Johnny says, ‘Hey Jerry, I hear your teaching school at a university,’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, I’m teaching at USC Cinema School.’ And I went, there’s cinema school? I thought there’s a place where you can actually learn cinema. I said I gotta go to this place. I got accepted into the USC film school and that was my connection to the movie business. I came out cold turkey. I had no relatives in the movie business, nobody had a union card, and I basically got into the industry through the film school.”
Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump)
The Director’s Chair
interview with Robert Rodriguez

In 1975 Zemeckis won at the The Academy’s Student Film Award for his film A Field of Honor. Over the years his filmography includes Back to the Future, Cast Away, Flight, and The Walk (which is released in theaters next week).

Related posts:
Professor Jerry Lewis (The Total Filmmaker)
Professor Jerry Lewis (Screenwriting)
Professor Jerry Lewis (Great Filmmakers)
Jerry Lewis (Directing)
Professor Jerry Lewis (Actors)
Filmmaking Quote #13 Robert Zemeckis
Postcard #43 (Savannah)
40 Days of Emotions

Scott W. Smith

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