Archive for the ‘screenwriting’ Category

“There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can.”
Rev. Michael B. Curry

I went to see A Quiet Place a second time in this weekend. Actually, on the same day of the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Merkle and I think there’s a connection between the two.

There is an iconic moment in the movie A Quiet Place that centers around the concept of love. In a cryptic spoiler alert, you could even say that the theme of A Quiet Place is rooted in what Jesus called a “greater love.” Yes, A Quiet Place lives squarely in the space of horror/thriller movies—but it also a love story.

And it’s the love story element that I believe made the movie about something, and helped propel it to both a critic and audience global success. I don’t know if the love story part was in the original script by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, or added in later in the pass done by director/actor John Krasinski. But it is weaved into the story seamlessly.

I didn’t watch the Royal Wedding live, but since the sermon was talked about more than the dress I thought I at least watch that part. That sermon may be the first ever sermon that’s ever been run in entirety on BuzzFeed.

It’s also turned into the first sermon in a long time that’s been debated about in the open public as to the meaning behind the meaning. But here’s the opening lines you can just read at face value and connect it to the family in A Quiet Place that faces a new world:

And now in the name of our loving, liberating and life-giving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

From the Song of Solomon in the Bible: Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.

The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way.’

There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power, power in love.
Rev. Michael B. Curry
Saturday, May 19, 2018

Scott W. Smith



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“Evelyn is nine months pregnant, because A Quiet Place wasn’t stressful enough with labor and the threat of a screaming newborn.”
Jordan Crucchiola
Let’s Talk About the NAil Scene in A Quiet Place

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I know it’s only May, but Evelyn (Emily Blunt) in A Quiet Place gets my movie character mother of the year vote. If you’ve seen any of the promotional material it’s not really a  spoiler to say that in the photo above Blunt’s character is eight months pregnant,  there’s a monster in the house, and she can’t make a sound or she’ll die. Yeah, movie character mother of the year.

P.S. When people think back to movies in 2018 I wouldn’t be surprised if the iconic image if from the bathtub scene. It’s hard enough to get a movie made, much less get one that both critic like and finds a huge audience—but to toss in something iconic is off the charts amazing.

Scott W. Smith


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When I first saw A Quiet Place the films Alien, The Birds, and Them came to mind. But later shades of a strange mix of films have also popped into my mind like The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (monster in the house) and  Spielberg’s TV movie Duel. But what I didn’t think about was what Michael Phillips and Adam Kempenaar talked about on the Filmspotting podcast. Here’s an abridged version of their 25-minute conversation on A Quiet Place:

Michael Phillips: Why do I keep thinking of Shane and High Noon when I think about this rugged frontier clan fending off the hostiles in A Quiet Place? Is this some sort of bizarre hybrid of a western and a monster movie in a survivalist anthem?

Adam Kempenaar: I didn’t really think about westerns and High Noon. Though, of course, you get this idea in maybe like Rio Bravo where they’re sort of trapped in a certain spot and, yes, you do have the villains on the outside and you’re trying to survive.

Michael: [It is] in a peculiar way a western—with critters in it. It’s a bizarre hybrid of genres, but it seems to be really hitting people’s appetite very well.  And I can see why. 

Adam: It is about this idea of life of going on. The fact that you’ve got this family who are trying to live as relatively a normal life as they can. There is this sense of purpose. They’re still having school, [the mother is] still teaching her son how to divide properly because there’s this hope, there’s this thought that maybe someday math will matter again. And maybe it won’t be in a larger societal context. Maybe it will just be in the context of you trying to stay alive. The fact that they’re teaching them to fish and provide for yourself—depsite the hopelessness and the despair it would also be our instincts as human beings to do what we would normally do. Or try to make it as normal and to survive and have that sense of hope as opposed to letting everything overwhelm you.

Michael: This film for better or for worse is a completely sincere, unironic embrace of family values. And it’s the most family-values friendly horror film— I guess if you want to call it that—how do you characterize this thing?

Adam: I don’t know.

Michael: It’s running two or three genres at once.  I think the reason it was a huge success opening weekend and I suspect will continue to do well is it really is kind of a red state, blue state crossover. 

Note: A Quiet Place, after a month in theaters, continues to do well.  According to Box Office Mojo it came in third last night. And not only in red and blue or purple states—but overseas as well (whatever color that’s supposed to be) crossing the $250 million mark at the worldwide box office. Perhaps part of the crossover genius of A Quiet Place is you take two micro-budget indie filmmakers (Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) with a heart for Hollywood films, mix that with an actor known for his comedic chops on The Office (John Krasinski) and have him do a pass on the script and direct the movie, and then toss in big-budget Hollywood action director  of Armageddon and Transformers (Michael Bay) and have him produce the film and you’re bound to have something interesting.

Scott W. Smith

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A Quiet Place has now been out in theaters for a whole month and still came in #3 at the box office this weekend. You could also say it entered full culture iconic status over the weekend when Saturday Night Live spoofed it with their A Kanye Place skit.

And also over the weekend, Scott Myers at Go Into the Story concluded a six-part interview with A Quiet Place screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. Here’s an excerpt that touches on the great opening of that movie without really spoiling it for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.

Very early on, the idea that attracted us was opening with a completely idyllic farmscape and what appears to be the perfect family living out the perfect life. Little by little, as this family starts to move about their farmhouse, we start to realize that there are weird things going on.

They’re putting padding on the walls. They’re wearing shoe covers on their feet. They don’t seem to be speaking very much. Everything is really quiet. It all builds up to that Monopoly scene where there’s a noise and we realize, ‘Oh, there’s creatures out there. If they make a noise, then they’re in danger.’

That’s how it started. Then it started to evolve more into this Jaws opening, where we set the stakes up immediately. We would pay full credit to John [Krasinski] for going this dark this early, but we love it.
Screenwriter Bryan Woods
Scott Myers/Go Into The Story  interview with Bryan Woods & Scott Beck

P.S. Congrats to Scott Myers for his excellent blog being named recently to the 20th Annual Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers list. This month his blog celebrated its 10th anniversary and I’ve been a fan of his site since way back in 2008.

Scott W. Smith

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“John Krasinski is not the name you’d think of like ‘Can’t wait to see a horror movie by that guy.’ And the reason why is I wouldn’t think that either. Until I read this script originally by these amazing writers Beck & Woods (Scott Beck & Bryan Woods), and they had this incredible idea of a family that had to live quietly or else they would die. And to me, this whole movie is about family. It’s not a horror movie—I mean it is a horror movie, but to me the theme of family and what would you really do for your kids is the reason why I did the movie.”
Director, writer, actor John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)

Scott W. Smith

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The Rise of Regional Cinema

“I had to go to France to appreciate Iowa.”
Artist Grant Wood

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Stone City by Grant Wood

Note: I don’t have the time to do this post justice, but I want to get in out there because it’s so timely to the success of A Quiet Place this month. I’ll try to update it when I have more time.

You may have seen a painting by Grant Wood titled American Gothic—it’s only one of the most recognized paintings in the history of painting.  (And along with the Mona Lisa, probably the most parodied.) What you may not know is that small farmhouse is in Eldon, Iowa and is now a part of a small museum there.

Wood painted that painting in his small studio in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and the rest is well-documented history. For a couple of years back in the 1930s, he was part of a short-lived artist colony in Stone City, Iowa depicted in his painting above.

He would later teach at the University of Iowa. The same school where playwright Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire), and screenwriters Diablo Cody (Juno), and Scott Beck & Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place) all earned there bachelor’s degrees. As well as a long distinguished list of writers who did their master’s with the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

There’s some special mojo going on in that area. In fact, I did the rough not-to-scale map below (yes, Bettendorf should be west of the Mississippi River) that basically covers a two-hour radius from Iowa City where the University of Iowa is located.  From 2003 to 2013 I lived in this zone of creativity and I’m not surprised that the A Quiet Place has its roots there.

I’ve either judged or had films in four film festivals located in this zone. There’s a lot filmmaking talent in the area. Most will never have the off-the-chart success that Woods/Beck but it’s not a total surprise.


When Beck and Woods talk about plan-B of shooting A Quiet Place in Iowa if they couldn’t get anyone in Hollywood interested, that doesn’t mean that it was going to be two guys on a farm with iPhones. (Though I’m sure they could have pulled that off, too.) No, they have a real support based in the Quad Cities on the Iowa/Illinois border.

If you check out their Bluebox Films website you’ll see some photos of some rather large casts and crews they’ve assembled for various productions. One connection I have with them is grip/ job operator Jon Van Allen who has a very extensive grip truck. Below is a production from way back in 2009 that I directed using Van Allen’s Jimmy Jib in a loft in Cedar Falls, IA.

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Chicago is around 2 hours from Bettendorf so some of the locally-based talent is able to hone their craft there. And Eastern Iowa is just one pocket in the county where filmmakers are doing work on a regional level. Think of them like regional bands or community theater actors.

When I left Cedar Falls five years ago I think there were five establish college or community theaters. One of the actors that rose out of that talent pool is Sam Lilja
who is currently an understudy in the Broadway revival of The Iceman Cometh starring Denzel Washington.


In some other pockets of the world I have no doubt that someone is going to take Blackmagic’s new 4K pocket camera (or some other camera) and make some inroads that puts another unusual place on the map. No one is saying that this a sure path to greater financial success, but I do think regional filmmaking is on the rise in a way mirrors what regional bands and community theaters have been doing for years.

If you have a desire to help out local filmmakers in your area here’s a helpful exchange between indie producer Keith Calder and John August.

 I actually do think that if you live really anywhere in the world and you want to be a producer, I do think that your best step forward is to go to your local film festivals. Wherever you live there’s probably one within driving distance. And see what the local talent base is like and see if you can build a local filmmaking community of some sort and make movies that way. I don’t think that that is necessarily a path to financial success and kind of success within the larger industry, but it is a path to working within the arts and making movies in the same way that I think if you want to do theatre you can go be in your local theatre production. You shouldn’t have an expectation that that’s going to lead to you starring in a play on Broadway.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making regional cinema. I think that’s actually a great way for people to spend their time. And I think you can do really cool work that can expand way beyond that. But I do think that the arts has a tendency to look at the absolute most success and then say, “Well how do I get to that?” And there’s very rarely a real path to that other than doing what you can do as well as you can.
Keith Calder interview with John August on Scriptnotes (Ep. 343)

Scott W. Smith

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“Being in Iowa gives you a unique point of view inherently. Embrace that.”
Bryan Woods
Alumni filmmakers Scott Beck, Bryan Woods strike deal with Paramount Pictures

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Screenwriters Scott Beck & Bryan Woods

Box Office Mojo had A Quiet Place stepping back into the top of the box office over the weekend and crossing the $200 million mark worldwide. Pretty amazing for a non-franchise that cost $17 million to make.

Congrats to both Scott Beck and Bryan Woods who originally wrote the script, and to John Kransinki who directed the film and honed the script.

Because Beck and Woods are from Bettendorf, Iowa (and are familiar with this blog) this is as good a time as any to make them the poster boys for “Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places” (even if they’re in their 30s now). They join Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter Diablo Cody who I named years ago as the poster girl for the blog.

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It just so happens that Beck, Woods, and Cody are all graduates of the University of Iowa. I’ve been asked if I teach at U-Iowa (or was when I lived in Iowa) or was a student there and the answer is no and no. I have no connection at all to the University of Iowa.

I simply started this little blog in 2008 after seeing Juno and here we are a decade later. It just so happens that the University of Iowa turns out some talented people.

Related posts:

The Juno-Iowa Connection
Postcard #55 (Iowa Writers’ Workshop Library)
David Lynch in Iowa
John Irving, Iowa & Writing
Yawn…Another Pulitzer Prize (University of Iowa grads)


Scott W. Smith

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