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“Producers and directors buy a property because they like the story. Actors buy it because they see them­selves in a part. ”
Jerry Lewis in The Total Film-Maker
From the post Writing Actor Bait

Mark Twain’s one of my favorite writers from the South. [My character in American Made is a] kind of southern rascal, Huckleberry Finn kind of character in modern day. And also the fact that, the kind of flying that you could have in the 80s, that kind of adventure, those kind of escapades – that was it. You’ll never have that time period again, so these kind of cowboys were very unique. And also one of my favorite films, which was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, is based on a true story but had also that kind of you know – it’s a very layered film. It’s very humorous, but it’s also about American history.”
Actor Tom Cruise on what attracted him to the Gary Spinelli screenplay
ScreenRant interview with Alex Leadbeater  @ADLeadbeater

P.S. I grew up in Florida in the 70s, went to college in Miami in the early 80s and especially enjoy the Scarface to Cocaine Cowboys retelling of stories from that era. American Made puts its own topspin on the “same thing, only different” school of Hollywood filmmaking and I enjoyed the ride. Nice touch by director Doug Liman and editing crew for adding Linda Ronstadt’s 1977 version of Blue Bayou to the American Made soundtrack.

P.P.S. Speaking of American made, in this 2010 post I mentioned that Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and George Cooney all lived in Kentucky at one point in the late 60s or early 70s. You can add Harry Dean Stanton, Jennifer Lawrence, and The Father of Film to the list from the Bluegrass State. Oh, and actress Sarah Wright, who plays Tom Cruise’s wife in American Made—she’s from Kentucky, too.

Related Posts:
Mark Twain’s Florida
Cocaine Cowboys and the Future of Film
Complex Stories/Simple Characters
Writing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Thanks for the Plug TomCruise.com

Scott W. Smith

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Sam Shepard on a Farm in Iowa

“I almost died once…I almost died the first time I saw your mom.”
Sam Sheperd’s character Gil talking about Jewell (Jessica Lange) in Country

“This movie observes ordinary American lives carefully, and passionately. The family lives on a farm in Iowa. Times are hard, and times are now.”
Roger Ebert 1984 film review of the movie County

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While Sam Shepard never married actress Jessica Lange the two did have a long term relationship that produced two kids. And they made some movies together including Country (1984) that was shot in the greater Cedar Falls/Waterloo area in Blackhawk County were I lived for a decade.

According to a People magazine article Shepard even proposed to Lange while they were on location in Iowa.

“I swept her outside into the cold wind & snow & popped the question. We jumped up & down together like little kids, giggling in the snow.”
Sam Shepard on proposing to Jessica Lange

Though the couple were together from 1982 they split up in 2009. In various interviews Shepard spoke of regrets in relationships. Life can be hard—just like life in the movies. In the movie Country the real world and the fiction world overlapped.

Scott W. Smith

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[Movies] have an obligation to be sort of timeless. A good story is a good story, it doesn’t change. The Searchers is still The Searchers. It’s A Wonderful Life is still charming, Dirty Harry is still suspenseful, Jaws is still terrifying. These are movies that are prime, pristine examples of storytelling. The Exorcist is as compelling today and is absolutely frightening as it was when it was first released. It didn’t age. I took a friend of mine to see it recently, it scared her out of her wits.”
Writer/Director Shane Black
Interview with Alex Young

Related post: Study the Masters-Martin Scorsese 

Scott W. Smith

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Today I’m going to the premiere of the doc This Cold Life at the Florida Film Festival. It will be anything but cold today in Maitland/Orlando, Florida as the mid-90 degree temps are some of the hottest in the United States.

Much of This Cold Life was shot in Longyeabyen, Norway, “the world’s northernmost town.” Darren Mann directed the doc and is someone I did camera work for years ago for TV programs he shot in Minnesota and Iowa. I look forward to seeing him at the premiere and seeing a part of the world I don’t recall ever seeing before.

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“There are only two possible stories: a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town.”
Unknown (Though often attributed to Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky)

I’ve always been fond of the above quote, and over the weekend I realized that the last two Best Picture Oscars were examples of each.  Moonlight being “a man goes on a journey,” and Spotlight representing “a stranger comes to town.”

Moonlight and Spotlight are not only one word titles with nine letters that end with “light,” but there is a Miami connection as well. Moonlight is about a boy raised and Miami, and the stranger coming to town in Spotlight is when the Boston Globe hires Marty Baron (Liev Schreiberwho was the executive editor at The Miami Herald.

As the editor at the Boston Globe, Baron oversaw the investigative team that earned a Pulitzer for their coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. If the movie version is true, it was Baron’s being a stranger to Boston culture that helped him pursue truth at whatever the cost.

“Over the course of 2002, we probably did almost 1,000 stories on the topic. We went to the court to have documents unsealed that the church had hoped to keep secret, documents that addressed the fact that the church knew these priests had abused and continued to abuse children. It forced the church to address issues that had essentially been swept under the rug for 40 or 50 years.” 
Marty Baron
Leigh University / Department of Journalism & Communication

P.S. Baron is currently the editor of The Washington Post and says, “I see a lot of people getting out of law school who can’t get jobs, but the ones with journalism majors still can. The people who have learned the tools and who are open to working in a variety of different media will find opportunities, and they will succeed.”

Journalism may have hit a wall around 2008, but it’s being revamped offering opportunities for storytellers with multimedia skills. So if you’re a film school grad looking for work, don’t ignore the chance to use your producing, shooting, writing, and/or editing skills in journalism.

Scott W. Smith

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Scorsese’s ‘Silence’

“Speaking personally, Martin Scorsese is one of my absolute favorite directors, and I will watch anything he makes. Where he leads, I will follow. His new ‘Silence,’ is ready-made for this time of year, a tale of religious faith and deep spiritual questioning.”
Mark Olsen, LA Times
December 25, 2016

“With the religious historical drama Silence, Martin Scorsese proves he’s as masterful a filmmaker with men of God as he is with gangsters.”
Brian Truitt , USA TODAY
December 19, 2016

You may not even have heard of Scorsese’s latest movie Silence since it does not get a wide release until next month. But the movie which began a limited release three days ago is already listed on AFI’s Movie of the Year list of the top ten films of 2016.  And the screenplay written by Scorsese and Jay Cocks won Best Adapted Screenplay by the National Board of Review, USA.

This is the movie that Scorsese waited 26 years to make.

“I knew he had a this script and was terribly disappointed that he couldn’t get it made. And I thought, ‘What a sad state Hollywood is in when Matin Scorsese, with all his success, with all the honors he’s gotten, can’t get a movie made.’”
Producer Irwin Winkler (Raging Bull, Goodfellas)
As quoted by Paul Elie in his The New York Times Magazine article
The Passion of Matin Scorsese

But even if Scorsese has mixed faith and films since his youth, and had financial and critical success as a filmmaker, the story of Silence is of a 17th century Jesuit priest sent to Japan to minister to persecuted Catholics. It doesn’t exactly have box office gold written all over it. Oscar nominations, yes.

From interviews with Scorsese you sense he wanted to not only capture on film Shûsaku Endô’s novel, but he stayed committed to the project over the years because it was sort of a spiritual pilgrimage.  

“I believe in the tenets of Catholicism. I’m not a doctor of the church. I’m not a theologian who could argue the Trinity. I’m certainly not interested in the politics of the institution. But the idea of the Resurrection, the idea of the Incarnation, the powerful message of compassion and love — that’s the key. The sacraments, if you are allowed to take them, to experience them, help you stay close to God.”
Oscar winning director Martin Scorsese

Related Posts:
Raging Bull vs. Martin Scorsese
‘Study the old masters’—Martin Scorsese
The Director as Smuggler
Filmmaking Quote #30 (Martin Scorsese)
Writer/Director Paul Schrader (who wrote Taxi Driver)

Scott W. Smith

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