Archive for the ‘Postcards’ Category

It took a few decades, but back in June (when there was a little lull in the COVID pandemic) I visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. I’ll unpack in tomorrow’s post why it was such a meaningful trip. But for today, I’ll just leave you my favorite photo from the day when I waited for the crowd to dissipate and the sun to shine into baseball’s most sacred hall.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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After I left Nantucket in June, I spent most of the next day accomplishing my own whale quest. The photo below is the best result of about three hours of total driving on Cape Cod and around three and a half hours on a boat. (And a few dollars on a whale watching boat.)

We saw three whales on our outing off Provincetown, Massachusetts in an area known as the Stellwagen Bank. Those waters off Cape Cod are considered some of the best places in the world to watch whales.

Your expectations tend to be high when you go whale watching—in part because we live in an internet age. But our guide said that seeing 3-5 whales is a good day. She had seen as many as 20 once, and they occasionally have days where they don’t see any.

And the sperm whales you think of when you think of Moby-Dick are in deeper waters so that was off the table. I was glad to see the whales we saw, and seeing the classic tail on the end of a dive was worth my entire trip.

My wife and I only spent a few hours in Provincetown because we were staying at an inn located in Brewster. Provincetown is a dash of Key West and a sprinkle of Savannah. And odd mix considering it’s a sub-two hour boat trip from downtown Boston (and a little longer if you drive).

The town has always been on my radar since the days when I studied acting and playwriting since Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Eugene O’Neill went there in 1916 and for a time in his 20s lived, wrote, and had the plays Anna Christie and Bound East For Cardiff performed (and sometimes just readings of his work with actor friends).

If you’ve never read O’Neill’s one act plays, I just saw that four of then are available on Kindle for just $5.25 total. (And in paperback for $8.99.) It can be overwhelming for young writers (and older writers for that matter) to read his masterpiece Long Day’s Journey into Night. The early in his career Bound East for Cardiff is a good place to start.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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Postcard #201 (Nantucket)

“Nantucket! Take out your map and look at it. See what a real corner of the world it occupies; how it stands there, away off shore, more lonely than the Eddystone lighthouse.”

Moby Dick written by Herman Melville

It took me a few decades to make it to Nantucket. Yeah, it was worth it. The little island is just over an hour boat ride from mainland Massachusetts, but it takes some effort. One lady from western Massachusetts told me it’s easier for her to get to Paris than to get to Nantucket.

Nantucket was once the whaling captain of the world which afforded it to build a beautiful little town. It’s unlike any place I’ve ever been. A hint of Key West, a dash of Savannah, but a personality all its own.

An interesting side note is that Herman Melville had actually never been to Nantucket before he drew on it for inspiration in his classic novel Moby Dick.

P.S. The Nantucket Film Festival is held every year in June.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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“You know it when you see it: whether it’s the symmetrical lines, pastel hues, immaculate composition, or something idiosyncratic and beautiful that you can and cannot describe at once, the director Wes Anderson has an immediately identifiable style to his films.”
—From the book Accidentally Wes Anderson

A couple of weeks ago I was kayaking on Lake Howell and came across a newly built dock and I could see a Wes Anderson inspired shot. One of my friends commented that it was ”Accidentally Wes Anderson.” I didn’t know there was a whole social media movement around #accidentallywesanderson. I later tracked down a book based on shots from around the world echoing the influence of filmmaker Wes Anderson.

Wally Koval with Amanda Koval have turned many of the photos into the book Accidentally Wes Anderson.

A few days ago I went back that same dock around sunrise and decided I could tweak my composition to improve the shot. This one (the one at the top of this page) I call Purposely Wes Anderson since I trying to fill the frame in a way that Anderson might.

Of course, there is more to Anderson’s films than quirky framing, and here’s an video by StudioBinder that is an excellent overview of what make his style some unique.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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Last Saturday night I had the opportunity to see and take some photos of something I’ve only seen one other time in my life—the night-blooming cereus. And in this case it was the Selenicereus grandiflorus which only bloom once a year. And only at night.

Perhaps equally as impressive to the individual blooms was the group of cereus which climbed up a tree that had to go higher than 60 feet.

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Edited in Prisma app with Thota Vaikuntam

I failed. They say that it’s better to have a goal that you fail to meet, rather than not have a goal at all. I think that’s because in taking steps toward your goal you’ve made progress. My goal was to get the first episode of my podcast uploaded yesterday. That didn’t happen—but I’m just going to push that back a week.

In meantime, here‘s a nice little sunset shot I took Saturday night in Pass-a-Grille on the southern end of St. Pete Beach. It’s a good example of “the best camera is the one you have with you.” Just a few minutes before I took this photo the sky was flat because the sun was buried behind the clouds. But it popped out just before it lowered itself toward the Gulf of Mexico skyline. That’s when the ordinary became extraordinary. It lit up parts of the sky in a way that I’d never seen before.

I zoomed in so far with my iPhone that the picture is pretty pixelated. So I ran it through my Prisma app to cover all the flaws and like the end result.

Perhaps the takeaway is this—More than one writer has spoken about feeling like their work is ordinary, only to stick with it and have a breakthrough toward the end of the process that make it extraordinary.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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Postcard #197 (Easter Sunday 2021)

I drove by this church Sunday afternoon on Easter Sunday 2021 and had to turn around and take a photo. It’s actually only a few miles from where director Jim Jarmusch and cinematographer Tom DiCillo shot part of the black and white Stranger Than Paradise.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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Postcard #196 (Rainbow)

Here’s a photo I took yesterday of a rainbow that emerged for a few fleeting minutes. The pixels on the iPhone didn’t quite hold up so I ran it through the Prima app (Thota Vaikuntam) to give it a little texture and magic.

P.S. Some time in the next few weeks I’ll hit my 100th kayak trip on this lake since the pandemic began. Usually I’m out between and hour or two around sunrise or sunset. I’ve started to think there is a feature I could shoot on this lake. Perhaps a Huck Finn-like adventure, maybe a On Golden Pond-like family drama, or a Big Fish-like fantasy. A mediation film like the journey in David Lynch’s The Straight Story (changing out the riding mower for a kayak) could be interesting. My filmmaker friend Edd suggested I watch The Peanut Butter Falcon for inspiration so I’m watching that tonight. But if you have any suggestions let me know.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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Next to finishing my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles, the best use of my time during the Covid pandemic has been taking up kayaking in April. This month I’ll hit my 100th day out on a 440 acre lake. Each trip lasting 60-90 minutes in the early morning or late afternoon—times when any other year I would be commuting to or from work.

This morning I was the only one on the lake for the entire time and I saw something I’d never seen before—two Bald Eagles together. I thought I’d missed the shot because as I paddled closer one flew away. I forgot about it until tonight and then this shot grabbed me. Since it was just taken zoomed in with an iPhone the resolution wasn’t great. But I ran it through the Prima filter (just as I did with this rowing shot) and I thought the results came out pretty decent.

They are beautiful and majestic creatures. In 1782, the bald eagle was chosen as the national bird of the United States of America.

Scott W. Smith

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Note: My new book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles is available on Amazon in both paperback and eBook.

Years ago when I traveled more for productions than I do today, I started this postcard section where I shared various shots on the road. And that also gave me a break from writing a daily posts. So today’s post is in that spirit, but a throwback postcard.

Way back to when I was in film school at the University of Miami. (Back when the cost of film school wasn’t as astronomical as it can be today.) Today’s postcards are from a photography class I took in the spring of 1982. I think they hold up pretty good for student work.

The first shot is of The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Today it’s a luxury hotel, and that’s what it was when it first opened in 1926. But in-between it had a couple of lives. I’m not sure how the great depression was for business, but in 1942 the government converted to the hotel into what was called the Army Air Forces Regional Hospital.

At some point it was used as The University of Miami’s School of Medicine, and was a Veteran’s Administration hospital until 1968. According to Wikipedia, it was abandoned for many years until becoming a hotel again in 1986.

When I took this exterior shot in 1982 is was a tragically beautiful building. This was well before YouTube and urban explorers, but I would have loved to have seen what it looked like inside after years of neglect. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) was still fresh on mind my so it wasn’t hard to imagine a Jack Nicholson-like character typing away in the lobby. (My assignment must have been to shoot something fitting for infrared film. )

The faded edges of the printed from years gone by have only added to the mystery I was hoping to capture as a student.

The Hollywood connection to the hotel is not only various celebrities that stayed there (Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, Bing Crosby and Tarzan—Johnny Weissmuller), but many movies and television and TV shows that were shot there (Bad Boys, CSI Miami, and Miami Vice).  

The second shot is from Vizcaya Museum and Gardens overlooking Biscayne Bay. It was built between 1914—1922 as the winter estate for businessman James Deering who made his fortune from farm equipment. In case you missed it, this huge estate was just where he wintered. Apparently there was a lot to be made selling harvesters to Midwestern farmers who helped feed people in the United States.

Enough to live like a king. Of course, this is photo is not James Deering, but just a random king I stumbled upon at (with the help of some internet research) the Florida State Renaissance Festival in March of 1982. (They stopped doing the annual festival in 2003). A rather timeless photo. I’d like to thing that this is someone’s grandfather and they get a kick out of seeing it somehow.

Now that I’m in a Miami state of mind, tomorrow I’ll share the secret I learned about talent during my short stint as a walk-on on the UM football team and at the film school there. Advice that’s also timeless.

P.S. If you ever have a weekend in Miami and want to get a 1-2 taste of grand ole Miami it’d be hard to beat checking out The Biltmore and Vizcaya.

Scott W. Smith

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