“Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.”
Marilyn Monroe

James Gray is a working writer/director who back in 1994 made his first feature film at age 24, and his latest film (The Lost City of Z) is hitting theater this month. But in the recent article Jame Gray and the Struggle of the Middle-Class Filmmaker he lays out the difficulties beyond student loans and getting movies made:

“You know, people assume that because I’m a director, I make tons of money. I am struggling financially. Now, I’m very lucky I get to do what it is I want to do. I’ve made, good or bad, very uncompromising movies, the movies exactly that I wanted to make, and that’s a beautiful gift, so I’m not complaining about that. But I struggle. I have a hard time paying my bills. I’m 47 years old, I live in an apartment, I can’t buy a house. If I were coming of age in 1973, I would be in Bel Air. The whole reason for this is…the middle is gone. So now you have franchises, and you have, ‘I made a movie on my iPhone.’ This is the economic system in a nutshell, right? Five directors make Marvel, and then there’s the rest of us who are trying to scrounge around to find the money to make films.”
Director James Gray (The Immigrant)
Vulture article by Kevin Lincoln (4/14/17)

P.S. The most read post I’ve ever written on this blog over the years is the 2009 post How Much Do Screenwriters Make? It’s not a perfect post, but I think it’s a fair reality check and discussion starter. By the way, if you read that post and would like to clarify how writers (and how much) working writers are paid—from Hollywood to Nollywood—shoot me an email at info@scottwsmith as I’d like to clarify the process and reality as much as I can for others.

Related Posts:
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‘The Immigrant’

Scott W. Smith

“Every ring is a team story, and this is the Cubs story.”
Miran Armutlu, Master Jeweler

Last week the Chicago Cubs received their World Series rings. Everyone in the organization got a ring, not just the players. That’s a total of 1,908 pieces. That’s 1,908 stories. Here’s the only one I have a loose connection to.

One ring went to Dave Martinez who has been the Cubs bench coach since 2014. Martinez started his big league career as a player for the Cubs back in 1986. After a 15 year career where he collected 1,599 hits he began coaching for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Martinez played high school ball at Lake Howell High School where I also once played second base. The year after I graduated from high school I worked as a sports reporter and photojournalist for the Sanford Herald and was covering the game when Martinez hit his first home run of the season.

He had the purest swing of any high player I’ve ever seen. Over the years I lost track of his career until the Cubs won World Series last year and I saw his name pop up.

And for a little more circle of life stuff, after Martinez graduated from Lake Howell he played ball at Valencia College in Orlando where I’m a multimedia producer. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1983. This year is the 50th anniversary of Valencia College and while they no longer have a sports teams, it’s a nice part of the school’s history to have an alumnus wearing a Chicago Cubs World Series ring.

And how’s this for an Iowa connection; back in 1986 Martinez played minor league ball for the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines. He finished that year playing in Wrigley Field. That’s a year I’m sure he’ll never forget.

Congrats to the 1,908 Chicago Cubs employees. And what a classy move by the organization to give all of them a little bling. (And I love the little billygoat logo they included in the design.)

P.S. Since this is a blog on screenwriting and filmmaking I should add that two of Valencia College’s alumni  are Ben Rock and Greg Hale (of The Blair Witch Project), and actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) and screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall) are graduates of Lake Howell.

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Scott W. Smith

I took this photos a few days ago on the Valencia College campus in Orlando and it seems like a fitting colorful Easter day/springtime photo. It’s golden trumpet tree that blooms in the spring here in Central Florida. Especially pretty on blue sky days.


Scott W. Smith

“One of the essential components of drama is tension…Drama, so said drama critic William Archer, is almost always the effect of ‘anticipation mingled with uncertainty.’”
Writer/Director Alexander Mackendrick (1912-1994)

Hot off the presses just minutes ago. How’s this for a beginning, middle, and end? Bringing an end to perhaps the longest continually running reality show, after some people spent weeks watching the live giraffe-cam waiting for the birth. (Funky format because these are just screen grabs from my phone as it was happening.)

“The advice I give for filmmakers starting out is don’t wait for me. Don’t wait for the industry… It’s a mistake to wait for Hollywood to tell you you have a good idea. If you have a good idea, try to make it on your own as cheaply as possible… on your phone.”
Producer Jason Blum (Whiplash, Get Out, Paranormal Activity)
(His Blumhouse Productions focuses on making films in the $3-4 million range)
IndieWire/SXSW: Low-Budget Producer Jason Blum on the Secret of His Success by Paula Bernstein

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Scott W. Smith


It’s interesting how a few words written by William Goldman in his Misery screenplay (based on a Stephen King novel), and translated more than 25 years ago into a movie with two actors (Kathy Bates, James Caan) under the director Rob Reiner can still make you squirm just thinking about it as the scene walks around your memory bank.

As ANNIE swings, the sledgehammer makes contact with the ankle. It breaks with a sharp CRACK.
PAUL: CLOSE UP, shrieking.

“If you take the occasional seminar and come away with one great tip you didn’t know before, that’s a good thing. But I’ve come to believe you only learn on your own by doing it, by trying to tell stories that work. When you write 14-20 screenplays, you begin to internalize a sense of timing and movement of the story, structure, and dialogue. It’s not somebody else’s rules that matter, it’s your own. If you do it by trial and error from the inside out, your work will find its own unique storytelling voice.”
Screenwriter Michael Schiffer (Crimson Tide, Lean on Me)
The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters by Karl Iglesias
page 32

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