I was saddened to learn yesterday that actress Kelly Preston died of breast cancer at age 57. This scene from Jerry Maguire where her character and Tom Cruise’s character break up instantly came to mind. Though it’s been 24 years, I remember the impact of that scene the first time I saw it in theaters.

Scott W. Smith

“Any writer that’s listening to me right now, you’ll gain a lot more knowledge by studying editing than you will by studying screenwriting. Screenwriting is something inside of you, it’s what you’re going to do. It’s going to be dictated by so many other things. Watch how movies are built. That’s where it really comes together.  Watch how movies evolve through the process of editing.”
—Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible—Fallout)
The Inside Pitch Facebook live interview with Christopher Lockhart

Of course, the catch—22 is how can you watch a movie be edited unless you”re working on the movie? Here are to three places to start:
1) Read the post: How Great movies are Made (and Why ‘The Godfather’ was Once a Pile of Spaghetti in the Edit Room) 

2) Watch this video featuring Water Murch who was ADR supervisor on The Godfather.

3) Watch The Godfather once again.

4) Buy these books on editing:
In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing by Walter Murch

The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Film Editing by Michael Ondaatje

P.S. If you know if some resources showing how a movie evolves in the editing process send that info my way. If I recall correctly, the original script for Annie Hall and the finished film are one of the best examples of being radically different creations. A movie salvaged in the editing. It went on to win four Oscar awards including Best Picture and Best Writing.

Scott W. Smith 

“Prep is the movie you want to make. Production is the movie you think you’re making. And post is the movie you made.”
—Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible—Fallout)
The Inside Pitch Facebook live interview with Christopher Lockhart

Today’s post actually uses more than twice as many letters in the title than in the definition of story according to one Oscar-winner:

“Story’s an emotional journey. That’s all it is.”
Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Mission: Impossible—Fallout)
The Inside Pitch Facebook live interview with Christopher Lockhart

Since McQuarrie has made seven films with Tom Cruise (including Valkyrie, Jack Reacher, and the upcoming Top Gun: Maverick) it’s worth repeating this  simplified version of story:

“Story’s an emotional journey. That’s all it is.”
—Christopher McQuarrie

Related post:
40 Days of Emotions
Screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie 
‘Move Me’ (advice from Christopher Lockhart)

Scott W. Smith

Here’s an excerpt from the WTF with Marc Maron podcast, episode 1129.

Marc Maron:  I can clearly see watching [Don] Rickles–whether he’s just doing jokes or however good his timing is, or whatever—that there are moments there where I’m like this is a man filled with rage.

Jerry Seinfeld: I do think we could come up with a number of different words that are in and around rage, but an essential element to be sure in comedy. It is essential. Aggression. Confrontation. Resentment. Irritation. There are varietals, like wines. But you can’t not have it. If you don’t have it I don’t think you’re going to get laughs.

Here’s a classic irritation scene from Seinfeld:

Scott W. Smith 

I needed a jolt after the July 4th weekend to get back in the saddle and I found it yesterday listening to Marc Maron’s interviews with Carl Reiner (2013) and Jerry Seinfeld (2020). It was like a mini-lesson in peak history in American comedy for the past 70 years.

Before Seinfeld became the most financially successful comedian in the history of the world he had to learn a key lesson when he was starting out:

I realized I have to have a way of growing that’s more than just hanging out bullshitting with other comics. I need a better system than that. And so I set about creating that for myself. And believe it or not, I got it from George Burns. Fred Raker gave me George Burns’s first book which was called Living it Up, or They Still Love Me In Altoona! And I read about him starting in Vaudeville and his struggles and and his love of the business. But I read that he sat and worked every day for at least two hours on jokes, which I had never heard of or done. Didn’t know anybody who did that. Nobody sat down and said, you know, I want to do something on dogs. Let’s really explore this on a piece of paper, and then explore it on stage. Let‘s do both. Everyone was [just exploring ideas] on stage. And I think to this day, most people do. They catch hold of an idea, they take it on stage—that works for a lot of people. It wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to dig deeper down the hole. And I wanted to take my time doing it. And then take it on stage. It was the back and forth, the stage and the pad. And then I found I was coming up with a lot of stuff. And then I started progressing and going past people. And I thought this is my way. I thought, if I’m going to get on The Tonight Show three times a year and crush every one of them, this has got to a bit of a serious endeavor.”
Jerry Seinfeld
WTF with Marc Maron, June 8, 2020

Related post:
What Changed Jerry Seinfeld’s Life 
Jerry Seinfeld on What Drives Comedy
Jerry Seinfeld (Part 1)
Jerry Seinfeld (Part 2)
Jerry Seinfeld (Part 3)
Jerry Seinfeld (Part 4)
Jerry Seinfeld (Part 5)

Scott W. Smith

The following question and answer is from the Creative Screenwriting magazine article
“Frank Darabont on The Green Mile” by Daniel Argent and Erik Bauer:

Q. When it came down to translating The Green Mile into a screenplay, how did you put it together? Did you work with paradigms, three-act structures, reverse structures?

Frank Darabont: I don’t think I’d know a paradigm if it came up and bit me. I don’t think in terms of three-act structures. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen in the third act, ‘cause I ain’t there yet. For me, writing is a much more organic process.

You sit down from page one and you try to experience the story as you go, and you try to make the most of the dramatic potential of the story. I generally have an idea where a story begins and I generally have an idea where a story ends.

Believe me, there are plenty of screenplays I never wrote because I could never figure out where the damn thing was going. Why bother starting then? I tend to know certain signposts along the way, and I start working toward the first signpost. And once I’m there I know that off in the distance is the next signpost, and I have to get to that.

All the structural elements flow from walking down that path, and from what the characters are telling me. That’s not to say the more organized method is wrong. Whatever works for the writer is what the writer ought to do. Left to my own devices, it’s an organic process.

In adaptation you have a leg up, because if the material is good at least you know what those signposts are.



[M]ost of the characters I’ve known as a writer have traveled something of a path from darkness to lightness. Those are the characters that I love: those who seek some kind of enlightenment or betterment, a nobler sense of themselves. Those are the characters I tend to write. It’s a recurring theme in my work. I love that.

I want more movies showing us the potential of ourselves. People seeking what Abraham Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature,’ rather than necessarily being mired in all the ways in which we can fail— spiritually or emotionally. I want to see more movies about working through those pitfalls and coming to a better place.

Hey, I just described Frank Capra, didn’t I? [Laughs] That’s another thing I’ve always admired so much about Steven Spielberg’s work, and George Lucas’s work.

Not to say that there isn’t room in this world for nihilism, but we seem to be nihilistic at the exclusion of all else in our movies of late. And that’s very disheartening to me.”
—Writer/directorFrank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption)
Creative Screenwriting magazine
“Frank Darabont on The Green Mile” by Daniel Argent and Erik Bauer





“Blue Mind, a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.”
—Wallace J. Nichols
Blue Mind, Chapter 1 “Why Do We Love Water So Much?’


While walking through the Minneapolis airport about 10 years ago I saw a Hobie Mirage Adventure Island in all its glory. The Adventure Island is kind of a cross between a traditional kayak and a Hobie Catamaran. A boat in an airport—with a big colorful sail— is impossible to not notice. And it looked like a lot of fun. I filed it away as something I’d like to try someday.

Four years ago I did a demo of a Hobie Revolution, which is like the Adventure Island without the outrigger setup on each side of the kayak. Fully decked out, you can either paddle, peddle or sail the boat. It was alway on my wish list if I ever had some extra time to justify the expense.

Then a few months ago, along came the coronavirus. Thankfully I’m able to edit from home when not doing an occasional video shoot. With my normal two hours of commuting each day gone, my gym closed, and the bike trails overly crowded, I decided it was now or never on getting a Hobie kayak.

For the past three months I’ve averaged taking it out on a lake four days a week for 60-90 minutes each time. Usually around sunrise. It’s been a blast ten years in the making. I’m sure my aging car is thinking we’re heading for a divorce. (My once weekly gas station pitstops have been reduced to just two stops in the last four months.) But from a physical, mental, spiritual, and aesthetic perspective this new venture has fulfilled my expectations.

This honeymoon period won’t last. (The old saying is, “The two best days of a man’s life are when he buys a boat—and when he sells it.” Though perhaps more true of motorized boats.) But it appears I’ll be working remotely through the end of the year, so I’m looking forward to seeing a few more sunrises and sunsets on the water before the music stops.

And who knows, maybe a personal project will come from my photos and footage on the lake. Keep looking for the silver lining in this unusual time. Here are some samples of my new favorite way to practice socially distancing :




Scott W. Smith 

I took this photo around 6:45AM yesterday just about 15 minutes after sunrise. A massive dust storm off the coast off Africa—nicknamed “Godzilla”—made its way across the Atlantic to Florida this week causing unusually hazy conditions.

The Spanish moss hanging from trees is not only common in central Florida where I took this photo, but throughout the south.


P.S. I heard on the BBC this morning that India on top of having a Coronavirus outbreak is dealing with the largest swarms of locusts than they’ve experienced in 30 years dangering the food supply and economy in some regions. What else can 2020 bring?

Scott W. Smith

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