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“Once there is sufficient volume of air involved in this phenomenon, it can sometimes begin, quite slowly at first, to turn in a counterclockwise direction, an effect of the drag of the earth’s rotation, the way a speeding truck will create whirling dust devils along the dry shoulder of a highway.”
John D. MacDonald
Condominium

hurricane-matthew

Unless someone at NASA is working on their Photoshop skills, the above photo is what Hurricane Matthew looks like as it heads toward Florida. An image worthy of a Hollywood Horror film. And brings back memories of Heath Ledger as The Joker.

heath-ledger-as-the-joker-in-batman

Maybe it’s time for someone to remake John D. MacDonald’s book Condominium (about a Hurricane heading toward Floridainto a new movie. (It was made as a TV movie back in 1980.)

P.S. The new trailer for next Pirates of the Caribbean movie Dead Men Tell No Tales dropped two days ago so maybe this whole thing is just a huge Disney PR stunt.

pirates-of-the-caribbean-5-dead-men-tell-no-tales-2017-movie

Scott W. Smith

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Camilo José Vergara

The work of photographer and documentarian Camilo José Vergara  reflects a sense of time and place. Often a place heading toward a state of decay. Places like Detroit, Harlem, Newark, Los Angeles, Chicago and Gary, Indiana. Check out the evocative photos on his website.

There’s something about his photos that tell a deep story and stir the soul.

Scott W. Smith

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Zeus, Paul Bunyan, & Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow hit a home run in his first professional at bat. Of course he did.

That’s how mythologies are made. (Sure his home run was in unimportant instructional league game, but we’re still talking professional baseball here.)

But since this is a blog about screenwriting, let’s look at Tebow’s life so far from a dramatic standpoint. Let’s see if it appears if Tebow is on track to reach the status of Zeus and Paul Bunyan (or at least Chuck Norris) some day.

Movies are about heightened reality. Or as Carson Reeves at Scriptshadow wrote it’s about the best or worst day or time in a character’s life. Now most people don’t have a “bomb on a bus” moment, but everyone has a special day or two in their lives.

Before reaching the age of 30 Tebow has more than his share of special moments:

—As a college freshman his team won a national championship.

—As a sophomore at the University of Florida he was the starting quarterback as the Gators won another National Championship. Oh, and he won the Heisman Trophy as the best player in off of college football. He was the first college sophomore to ever win the Heisman.

—By the time his college career was over he held SEC all-time records in both career passing efficiency and total rushing touchdowns.

—He was a first round draft pick of the Denver Broncos.

—His NFL career was short lived, but he did throw the winning touchdown in a playoff game to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. John Elway said that without Tebow helping to elevate the team that ear they would have never signed Payton Manning. Last year Manning was the starting QB as the Broncos won the Super Bowl.

—Tebow turned to making a living as a broadcaster on the ESPN-owned SEC Network. (A job that alone would be impressive without all his other accomplishments.)

—Tebow sightings are more command these days that Elvis sightings. His doing missionary work in the Philippines one day, then praying for a man on a plane who had a heart attack, and yet on another day he’s in an Orlando hospital after the Pulse shooting to comfort a friend & former teammate who was a bartender at Pulse during the tragic terrorist shooting in last June.

Now he’s trying to become a Major League Baseball player after not playing since he was a three sport star in high school. And he’s the oldest player in instructional league. The odds are against Tebow having a MLB career, or even playing a game in the big leagues (aside from a George Plimpton/Paper Lion-like experiment). I wouldn’t bet on Tebow as a baseball player, but I wouldn’t bet against him in this case.

I always appreciated basketball great Michael Jordon trying his hand at baseball even though the odds were way against him. I even went to late spring training game at Wriggly Field in Chicago to watch Jordan and the White Sox play the Cubs. Though Jordan failed in that endeavor, he came back to professional basketball with renewed passion and helped the Chicago Bulls win three more championships.

The take away for us mere mortals is even the great ones, the accomplished ones, are not afraid of failure. And since this is my third Florida-centered post this week it’s probably as good a time as any to toss in a quote from one of the greatest surfers of all-time, and one born and raised in the Sunshine State:

“When there’s a generational change, there’s a change in the way things are done. And people who are stuck in their ways and don’t want to see change are the first ones to be vocal about it. And I feel totally supportive because I’m still trying to take my surfing to different levels and that’s exciting for me. Because, honestly, there were times when I first got on tour that I was bored with the level of surfing. And I’d much rather be getting my ass kicked than being bored.”
Kelly Slater
Surfing Magazine
Interview by Matt Walker

The 44-year-old Slater is currently in his 27th year as a pro surfer. And even though he’s having his worst year ever, he still wins occasionally.

I heard it said on a podcast recently (by I forget who) that “people will respect your strength, but they will connect with you in your weakness.”

Slater, Jordan, and Tebow are not perfect human beings—or even athletes—but we can admire their accomplishments, and be inspired as how they push themselves.

In an election year here in the U.S. where picking a presidential candidate is like triage— now would be an ideal time for Tebow to walk away from is Major League Baseball dreams and, say, run for President of the United States. Who would doubt that he’d be more likable that the current candidates?

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

 

 

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Arnold Palmer (1929-2016)

“Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated; it satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening—and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind has ever invented.”
Arnold Palmer

palmer

This morning when I heard he’d died it reminded me of a couple of years ago when I had a meeting at the Golf Channel in Orlando, Florida and took the above photo of his parking space there.

Here’s a nice tribute on Arnold by Golf Digest including thoughts from actor Chris O’Donnell, broadcaster Jim Nantz, and hockey great Wayne Gretzky:

Scott W. Smith

 

 

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Now What? (3-2-1 Launch)

So now that I passed a million views on this blog…now what?  Good question. I’ve been wrestling with that answer. (If you’re short on time check out a Patreon account I just set up.)

theres-no-finish-line

Jon Krakauer touches on the theme of how fleeting mountain top experience can be in his book Into Thin Air as he explores the quest to reach the summit of  Mount Everest. His says behind most mountain climbers desire to reach the highest peak in the world are years of dreaming, training, and a lot of money for travel, gear, and sherpas to assist in the climb.

A climb in which people have died. One that if you are fortunate to accomplish that feat (as Krakauer did in ’96) when you finally arrive at the top of the world you are light headed from the altitude and are sleep and food deprived. As Krakauer stood “28,028 feet up in the troposphere” he didn’t have much time to take in the view due to needing to descend for survival purposes.

“I’d been fantasizing about this moment, and the release of emotion that would accompany it, for many months. But I was finally here, actually standing on the summit of Mount Everest, I just couldn’t summon the energy to care….I snapped four quick photos…then turned and headed down. My watch read 1:17 P.M. All told, I’d spent less than five minutes on the roof of the world.”
John Krakauer
Into Thin Air

Back in college I used to have a Nike poster with the tagline “THERE IS NO FINISH LINE.” Looking back I see it as inspirational, but with a twist of futility. Finish lines are good. They let us know how good someone like nine-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt is in the world of sprinting.

Speaking of Olympic gold medals…as an athlete I never came close to winning a Olympic medal—well, I did win a first place blue ribbon in a potato sack hop during the English Estates Elementary School Olympics when I was ten, though I don’t think that counts—but I can imagine the let down after the real Olympic games are over. A lifetime of dreaming and training for an actual moment that, in some cases, lasted less than a minute of actual competition. Then what?

Well, after nine years of posts, I can see the finish line.

January 21, 2018 to be exact. (About 15 months away.)

That would complete 10 years of writing Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places blog posts. My goal was never to blog for ten years, or to get 1 million views, it was to blog about 50,000 words—enough for a book. (In case you’re wondering, I’m finally within striking distance of completing the book. More on that in coming weeks.)

Then what?

Crossing a finish line doesn’t mean the end. To switch metaphors, I’m not quite sure how I’ll land this plane, but I will continue to create content in some form. And while blogging will be an element it will evolve into something much broader than just screenwriting and include video essays—and possibly a podcast, infographics, ebooks, and whatever ever new technology seems fitting.

But those things are going to take even more time and resources, and probably more help from others to help pull off. For the 2,323 blog post that I’ve written I would say I invested an average two hours of time per post, meaning I poured into this blog at least  4,646 hours. And that doesn’t include all the books read, movies watched, commentaries listened to, internet searches, interviews recorded, transcriptions written & edited, and research in general.

A little crazy, I know. But that’s why they call passion projects, passion projects. There was no business plan written, no accounting books kept, no marketing plan prepared. No army of people gathered to study analytics. Just a strong desire to write informative posts and curate the best screenwriting and filmmaking advice for you and the next generation.

But as I attempt to climb the next mountain I need some assistance, so I’ve set up a Patreon account to see if readers like yourself will assist me. Please check out the website and thank you for consideration. And since this is a new venture it’s bound to have a few kinks to work out so I welcome all your input. As always, I can be reached at info@scottwsmith.com.

P.S. If you’re familiar with Patreon and support others already, I’m especially interested in hearing about your experiences.

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

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Well, the wind is blowin’ harder now
Fifty knots or there abouts,
There’s white caps on the ocean.
And I’m watching for water spouts
Jimmy Buffett/Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 8.07.37 PM.png


As I type this post, residents here in Florida are waiting for a hurricane to make landfall in the state for the first time in ten years. Hurricane Hermine is predicted to make landfall near Tallahasse in a couple of hours. The Weather Channel warns of damaging winds, life-threatening storm surge flooding, as well as the threat of tornadoes.

So the day will end just as rough as it started when the Space X unmanned rocket launch exploded this morning on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Once again a reminder of how fragile we are despite our command of advanced technology, as well nature’s power to wreck havoc.

Dere is trouble all over dis world
Children, dere is trouble all over dis world
Traditional Negro Spiritual
(What was sung before Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech)

Let’s hope tomorrow is a better day.

And despite the negative news, a personal bright spot is later tonight or early tomorrow morning this blog will hit a milestone that I never dreamed about when I started this blog almost nine years ago. I’ve actually been waiting for it for about a year and a half.

Come tomorrow and see what I’ve been waiting for and how this plateau will potentially change the future of this blog. If you’re new to this blog, or a long time reader, thanks for taking the time to visit Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places. For me it’s been a little like trying to surf in a hurricane—a pretty crazy ride.

Everyone in the greater Florida panhandle area take care, and I’ll see ya tomorrow.

P.S. And if you personally need a little pick up today, check out the Rich Roll podcast interview with George Raveling. I listen to a lot of podcasts these days and this one one was one of the most inspirational ones I’ve heard all year. The story of how Martin Luther King Jr. handed Raveling his speaking notes from what is now known as King’s 1963  I Have a Dream Speech in Washington D.C. is outstanding. (King, by the way, was only allotted 5 minutes to speak at the Civil Rights March, but Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson keep telling King—in the middle of his speech— to tell the people about his dream. King ended up speaking for 16 minutes, and history was made. But Raveling tells the story much better than I can so check it out.

Related posts:
Shelter from the Storm (Bob Dylan)
Shelter from the Storm (Dorothy)
Postcard #21 (Hurricane Isaac)
Postcard #83 (Kennedy Space Center)
Postcard #104 (Space X)
Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting

Scott W. Smith

 

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“In life I wasn’t funny. I felt on stage or in movies I could do whatever I wanted. I was free.”
Gene Wilder

WillyWonka

It’s hard to write something about Gene Wilder that hasn’t been written since he passed away two years ago. But I’d like to touch on his Midwestern roots and how he found small victories on his way to greater success. After all, that is a key aspect of this blog all these years.

Wilder was born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a youth, he entertained his mother with humor to try and help ease the pressure of her bad health. He began studying acting at 13, his older actress sister got him a spot doing summer stock when he was 16, and when he was 18 he followed her theatrical path and attended the University of Iowa because of its reputable theater program.

He was in four plays his freshman year alone (Note: It’s not easy to get stage time as a freshman in top drama programs), and graduated in 1955. Kim Howard Johnson’s book The Funniest One in the Room: The Lives and Legends of Del Close mentions that Del Close claimed to have been a roommate of Wilder’s at Iowa. Wilder didn’t mention that in his autobiography, but they were within a year of each other age wise and did both attend Iowa so it’s possible.

If true, it certainly would have made for an incubator of creativity. While Wilder would go on to Broadway and Hollywood success, Close would make his impact mostly in Chicago being a early part of improv (Second City/Upright Citizens Brigade) and whose students included; Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Chris Farley,  Mike Myers, John Candy, Jon Favreau, Tina Fey,  Harold Ramis, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner (who would eventually marry Gene Wilder).

“Many have called Del Close the most important comedy figure of the last fifty years whom you’ve never hear of.”
Kim Howard Johnson

Close was only at Iowa one semester, but I’d like to believe that he and Wilder had some late night discussions in Iowa City about “pure imagination,” in the Willy Wonka sense.

The first time I saw Wilder was in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when I was ten years old. Watching Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Silver Steak and Stir Crazy are like entertaining sign posts through my middle school and high school years. In a time before cable and the Internet—and back when hit movies had lines to get in—Wilder was memorable because he made me laugh.

But he wasn’t Steve Martin funny. And when you look at the path he took after Iowa and you seem to see a disconnect—until you learn that Wilder said seeing Lee J. Cobb in Death of a Salesman was what made him want to become an actor. Wilder went to New York and studied with Lee Strasberg (where Wilder said he was only two actors out of 1,200 accepted into the actors studio when he applied).

He yearned to be a serious actor.

Opportunities in off-Broadway and Broadway plays brought him into contact with the person he claimed would change the direction of his career.

“I was miscast in that production [of Mother Courage and Her Children] … but it was with Anne Bancroft, whose boyfriend at the time was Mel Brooks, and that made my — I can’t say my day, it made my life, in a way.”
Gene Wilder
NPR/Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross 

Wilder co-starred in The Producers (1967) which Mel Brooks produced and directed. They team up again on Young Frankenstein (written by Wilder) and on Blazing Saddles (where Wilder was The Waco Kid).

The disconnect: Wilder was seriously funny.

So while Wilder was influenced by the seriousness of playwright Arthur Miller, he also wrote in his autobiography that another giant influence was Charlie Chaplin. He specifically points out the brilliance Chaplin in the hot dog scene from The Circus (1928).

“The acting lesson from this film seems so simple, yet inspired me for the rest of my career: if the thing you’re doing is really funny, you don’t need to ‘act funny’ while doing it.”
Gene Wilder
Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art

Wilder wrote, directed, and starred in movies through the 80s, but seemed to walk away from Hollywood after his wife, Gilda Radner, died in 1989. But he had a great over ten year run that included his best work with Brooks and Richard Pryor, and as Willy Wonka, and that brought me some of the greatest joys of childhood and teenage years.

P.S. The University of Iowa is home to the The Gene Wilder Papers. And a nice Iowa tie-in is Cloris Leachman, who plays Frau Blücher in Young Frankenstein, was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa.

Scott W. Smith

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