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Posts Tagged ‘Alabama’

“When I decided to continue to coach, I really did want to enjoy it. I really did want to have fun. And what better place than Miami can you have some fun? Gosh, it’s just been a blast.”
University of Miami head Coach Mark Richt
USA Today  (11/12/17)

(I’ll continue my run of posts on The Florida Project movie tomorrow, but give me a minute to talk about The Other Florida Project.)

Hurricane Mark is the main reason that Miami is ranked #2 in the Amway Coaches Poll this week. I never would have guessed that UM would be sitting next to the powerhouse Alabama team in November 2017. But as a fan I’m thrilled about it.

When University of Miami head coach Mark Richt (and former UM QB) was fired from the University of Georgia a couple of years ago there was not a Hurricane fan in the know who didn’t want Richt to return to his Alma mater.

The glory had long departed the program that had won five national championships between 1983-2001. My hopes was that UM would be back in the top ten on a regular basis in 3-5 years. Richt and his staff and players have made them into a national contenders in just two years.

And one of the fun things about watching the Hurricanes play this year is the five and a half pound sapphire-studded turnover chain that is draped around every Hurricane on defense that gets a fumble or an interception. Just a symbolic way to bring the swagger back to Miami. I can imagine what that imagery (and of course, the winner) is going to do for high school recruiting this season.

This won’t win me any points with Fighting Irish fans, but here are the highlights of the game yesterday when Miami defeated the favored Notre Dame team. After 15 years of traveling a bumpy road, allow a Hurricane fan to enjoy a moment of contentment.

Hurricane Irma.jpg

Smiling after Hurricane Irma only grazed Orlando in September, and hopeful for a decent season for the University of Miami football team

Related posts:
Postcard #24 (Coral Gables)
A24, the 305, the 407…and Drake
Miami Vs. Florida
#GetWellJimKelly

Scott W. Smith

 

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Aaron Sorkin is that rare breed of dramatic writers who has had success with Broadway theatre, Hollywood feature films, and broadcast television. But did you know part of his start was in small southern towns?

After he graduated from Syracuse University in 1983 with a degree in musical theater he moved to New York City, but he got work as an actor not off-Broadway, or off-off Broadway, but way the hell off Broadway.

“When I was twenty-one or twenty-two, I traveled the South with a touring children’s theater company called The Traveling Playhouse. When I say the South, we weren’t playing in Atlanta, we were playing Jasper, Alabama. We’d do six or seven shows in elementary school gymnasiums at about ten o’clock in the morning, then pile into a station wagon, and a van carrying the costumes and sets. We did The Wizard of OzRip Van Winkle, and Greensleeves. We were paid thirty dollars a performance.”
Aaron Sorkin
Zen and the Art of Screenwriting
Interview with William Froug
Page 31

Sorkin says he had no interest in writing until one day at a “Motel Six or something” somewhere in Georgia when, “I don’t know why, I all of a sudden felt like Sam Shepard. I felt like I ought to be writing something. That’s the first time that thought went into my head, and it just kept nagging at me and I just felt like a writer without ever having written anything.”

His first completed play was Hidden in This Picture, a single-scene one act play involving four characters. A few years later he found breakthrough success.

“His older sister, a naval lawyer, told him about a 1986 incident at the U.S. Marine base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when an informal disciplinary action had gotten out of hand, resulting in the death of a young soldier. Sorkin immediately recognized the possibilities of a courtroom drama based on the event. In November, 1989, his play, ‘A Few Good Men,’ about two naval lawyers defending two Marines accused of murdering a fellow corpsman, began a 14-month run on Broadway.”
Patrick Pacheco
1992 Los Angeles Times article 

That led to Sorkin writing the film version of A Few Good Men (1992) with a star cast that included Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, and Demi Moore. He would go on to win an Oscar award for writing The Social Network, and multiple Emmys for his work on The West Wing.

Now to come full circle, earlier this year NBC announced plans to stage a live version of A Few Good Men in early 2017.

I’m not saying all that wouldn’t have happened if Sorkin career path didn’t take to Jasper, Alabama and who knows where Georgia, but magical things can happen on the road—even in a Motel Six.

Dream big, start small.

P.S. Jasper, Alabama is also where stage and film actress Tallulah Bankhead spent some of her childhood, and where SciFy channels docuseries Town of the Living Dead was shot.

Related posts:
(Because I love writing about a sense of place, here’s some love I’ve written over the years centered around Alabama and Georgia.)

Alabama:
Tuscumbia to Hollywood
Muscle Shoals Music & Movie
Shooting a Feature Film in 4 Days
Postcard #82 (Selma)
Postcard #46 (Huntsville)
Revisiting ‘Highway 61 Revisted’
Bama, Bobby & The U
Screenwriting from Huntsville, AL
Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting 

Georgia:
25 Links Related to Blacks & Filmmaking
Postcard #43 (Savannah)
Postcard #35 (Villa Rica)
‘Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus’
Writing Quote #40 (Harry Crews)
Writing from Rural Georgia…to Dreamworks
Screenwriting, Baseball & Underdogs
Truett Cathy–Bird by Bird
Screenwriting Quote #70 (James Dickey)
Writing Quote #39 (Writing in Paris)
Shrimp, Giants & Tyler Perry
‘Super-Serving Your Niche’

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

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 “Last Sunday, more than eight thousand of us started on a mighty walk from Selma, Alabama…”
Martin Luther King Jr.
March 25, 1965 address at the conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery march

selma-scottwsmith

Back in 2006 after a video shoot in Jackson, Mississippi I made a point on my way to Atlanta to drive through Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. I took the above photo as I crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. I especially thought of that trip today because it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the movie Selma is currently in theaters fresh off a Best Picture Oscar Nomination.

Related Posts:

25 Links Related to Blacks & Filmmaking (From the Screenwriting from Iowa blog)
The First Black Feature Filmmaker
Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting (Tip #7)
Martin Luther King Day Special (2012)

Scott W. Smith

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And I’d never been 
West of New Orleans or East of Pensacola
My only contact with the outside world
Was an RCA Victrola
Jimmy Buffett/Life is Just a Tire Swing 

“If I had grown up in Montgomery or Birmingham with less access to the beaches, bays, and rivers, I would be a completely different person.”
Lucy Buffett

Pascagoula1

Halfway between New Orleans and Pensacola sits a little town with a long name—Pascagoula. (That’s almost as much fun to say as Yazoo City.) Though I’d never been to Pascagoula, Mississippi before Tuesday, it’s doubtful there would even be a blog titled Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places without an event that happened one Christmas day in Pascagoula.

Singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett was born on December 25, 1946 in Pascagoula. I bought my first Buffett album at the ripe age of 15 years old. At that point in my life I had only been to three states (if you include a stopover at the Atlanta airport). In fact, most of my life was lived on a dead-end street in Central Florida. But it was on that street, in a cement block house, that I sat in my bedroom with Koss headphones on and listened to Buffett’s music that opened up a world of storytelling.

Stories about pirates, Paris,  New Orleans, Tony Lama boots, and Patsy Cline music became influences in my life.

Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I’ve been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
Jimmy Buffett/ Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

Eventually I made my way off the dead-end street to all 50 states and to the far side of the world. Found my own adventures sailing in Key West, flying in a sea plane over the Amazon River, and riding a camel in the middle east. All inspired by a guy born in Pascagoula. An unlikely place.

Inspiration is funny that way. A guy born in Tupelo, Mississippi (Elvis) inspired a guy from Pascagoula/Fairhope/Mobile (Buffett) . A guy from Lubbock, Texas (Buddy Holly) inspired a guy from Hibbing/Duluth, Minnesota (Bob Dylan). And they all have roots in the Delta Blues. And the epicenter of the Delta Blues is in Clarksdale, Mississippi where Highway 49 and Highway 61 meet at the famous Crossroads.

And the main influences of Delta Blues musicians were hard times, alcohol, and gospel music. (What good can come from Bethlehem?) That and a good deal of them came from Mississippi. Here’s just a handful of the key blues players and where they’re from in Mississippi; Robert Johnson (Hazlehurst), Bo Diddley (McCombs), Elmore James (Richland in Holmes County), Muddy Waters (Issaquena County) and B.B. King (Itta Bena).

I’m fortunate to not get much criticism on this blog, but one that I’ve heard goes along the lines of “Who cares where writers come from? Everyone in Hollywood comes from somewhere else? What’s the big deal?” There is no big deal if you’re writing cookie-cutter, contrived screenplays. But you if want to write something special, your roots and influences are all you have. That’s what sets you apart. And that’s true if you’re in Hollywood, or if you’re in Austin like screenwriter Jeff Nichols (Writing “Mud”). It’s true of Pat Conroy novels and Tennessee Williams plays.

Lastly, as I drove home to Florida this week after 10 days on the road working on various photo and video gigs I made a stop a Lucy Buffett’s Lulu’s in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Lucy is Jimmy Buffett’s sister and has her own little empire cooking down in lower Alabama. While I had a great trout dinner in North Carolina, the best meal on the whole trip was a simple flounder meal at Lucy B. Goode overlooking Homeport Marina. It was a fitting stop on the tail end of a trip that really started one Christmas day in Pascagoula.

photo-25

P.S. BTW—Mississippi not only produced some great blues artists but other people who have been some of the most influential in their fields. Here’s a list I came up with quickly: Tennessee Williams (Columbus, MS), James Earl Jones (Arkabutla), Oprah Winfrey (Kosciusko), Jim Henson (Greenville), and Jerry Rice (Starkville).  And Morgan Freeman has a home  in Charelston, Mississippi and owns the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale. Lotta mojo still in Mississippi.

Related Post:

Jimmy Buffett in Iowa (Part 1)
Revisiting Highway 61 Revisited (2.0)
Muscle Shoals Music & Movie
The Outsider Advantage

Scott W. Smith

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“Dr. von Braun Says Rocket Flights Possible to Moon”
May 14, 1950 headline in The Huntsville Times
Huntville

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that there’s a not so top secret area in the deep south that has some stories to tell.

Last night I stayed in Huntsville, Alabama and took this photo at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center before I pulled out of town early this afternoon.

Though I never saw the 1986 film SpaceCamp I remembered that the story was inspired by a space camp for kids in Huntsville. The movie starred the up and comers Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston, and Joaquin Phoenix.

While most know the name of Neil Armstrong as the first man who walked on the moon, less known is Wernher von Braun the NASA engineer (and Huntsville resident from 1950-70) who lead the development of the Saturn V rocket that allowed Anderson to take those famous first steps in 1969. And according to Wikipedia, “Dr. von Braun also developed the idea of a Space Camp that would train children in fields of science and space technologies as well as help their mental development much the same way sports camps aim at improving physical development.”

In a 1961 President John F. Kennedy said in a speech, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth. ” This was something that the visionary von Braun had thought at least a decade earlier. But do you want to know the other visionary besides President Kennedy and von Braun that helped put man on the moon? Adolf Hitler. Now that’s a part of the story I don’t recall that story ever being told in a movie. (Though I can’t believe it hasn’t at least been addressed in a documentary or two.)

At one time von Braun was a Nazi. He is called “the Father of Rocket Science” not only for his work in the United States, but the early development of rocket technology during World War II for the Germans.  I’m not an expert in the fine details of how von Braun and his team of 118-127 German rocket scientists (known as The von Braun Group) found their way to Alabama, but there no doubt had to be some interesting cultural exchanges and gossip going on in Huntsville back in the 50s and 60s.

In a 2007 New York Times article When the Germans, and Rockets, Came to Town Shaila Dewan wrote, “By the mid-1960s, von Braun had so mastered the local [Huntsville] culture that when he wanted voters to approve a bond issue for the Space and Rocket Center, he persuaded Bear Bryant, the revered University of Alabama football coach, and Shug Jordan, the rival Auburn coach, to make a television commercial supporting the project.” Dewan also wrote that Von Braun himself was threatened by the Ku Klux Klan for hiring blacks.” I find all that quite interesting.

And interesting to think that rocket science was probably the real life “lost ark” that Hitler was hoping to find. If he had of won the space race, he would have ruled the world like he desired. Hitler, Nazis, JFK, KKK, rockets, Alabama football, and plans to take over the world—how come this movie hasn’t been made?

P.S. While von Braun’s genius was never in question, and he became an American citizen in 1955, his background made him open for satire. In the 1963 Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) the main character (played by Peter Sellers) is an ex-Nazi scientist and Sellers said that he based his part as Dr. strangelove on von Braun. And then there is this video by singer, songwriter and Harvard grad in mathematics Tom Lehrer:

Related Post:

Screenwriting from Huntsville
Muscle Shoals Music & Movie (This afternoon I drove through Muscle Shoals, AL and look forward to finally seeing the doc Muscle Shoals as it gets a wider release this month.)

Scott W. Smith

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“Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don’t quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don’t quit until you reach it. Never quit.”
Coach Bear Bryant

Tonight’s BCS game between the 13-0 Alabama Crimson Tide and the 13-0 Texas Longhorns is high drama. Two long-standing, unbeaten college football programs battling for the national championship. (Mini-screenwriting lesson; Drama is conflict and there’s nothing like putting two equal (and successful) opponents against each other and taking them to the end of the line in a battle that will crown one as the victor.)

Over the years I’ve been to both Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Austin, Texas and found them both have their own unique vibe.  The University of Alabama has played college football since 1892 and has won 12 National Championships and has had a cast of characters over the years including Bart Starr, Joe Namath, Ken Stabler as well as the coach of coaches, Paul “Bear” Bryant. (Heck, even Forrest Gump played ball there.) This year’s team has Heisman Trophy winner  Mark Ingram on its side.

But in the last decade or so Alabama’s football teams have not shined so brightly. They’ve  shuffled through five coaches over that time trying to get back that winning tradition. They brought Nick Saben in to get them back on track and gave him a $32 million contract. The September 2008 cover of Forbes magazine asked about Saben,  “Is he worth it?” Even if the doesn’t win tonight, the answer is yes.

The University of Texas at Austin on the other hand has won four national, has had two Heisman Trophy winners, and their legendary football coach is Darrel Royal.  If you want to read a knock your socks of book on college football read Gary Shaw’s Meat on the Hoof, about his days as a player at the University of Texas.

The championship game tonight pitting #1 against #2  in Pasadena should be a great game. Drama at its best.

This week is the first time since 1954 where Bobby Bowden is not coaching college football. Last week he won his last game as the head football coach at Florida State University, where he had been head coach since 1976. Bowden also has an Alabama connection having been born in Birmingham, played his freshman year at the University of Alabama before transferring to Howard University (now Samford University in Birmingham), where he also began his coaching career.

Bowden led FSU to two national championships and is the second winningest coach in Division 1 college football history.  Congrats on a great career Coach Bowden–one that is not only  measured in wins, but in respect and appreciation. He also helped change how football teams from Florida are perceived. Since 1984 teams from the state of Florida have won nine national championships in football which is a staggering number. Bowden probably would have had a couple more national championships if they would have made a couple field goals against the University of Miami.

Speaking of the University of Miami, when I was in Florida last month I happened to catch Billy Corben’s documentary The U that was featured on ESPN’s 30 for 30. One write-up on the documentary said, “For Canes fans, this will be a reminder of what they loved about this team. For Canes haters, this will be a reminder of what they hated about this team.”

Many don’t know how controversial the documentary is in Miami. In the film, the Miami football program is not always shown in a positive light and it’s been reported that the school made it known to former players and coaches they would rather they not participate in the documentary. Corben definitely played up the bad boy image of the program (yes, rapper Luther Campbell is featured so that gives you a hint), but I think he also did a fair job of showing the rough areas where many of the players were from. They were playing for respect and they got it. (Well, respect mixed with a little hatred. Is calling a program “classless” its own form of trash-talking?) Miami’s program hasn’t been around since the 1800’s so it’s still working on being refined like those southern gentlemen in Alabama.

The U also takes time to show how Howard Schnellenberger was the architect for building a championship program out of a school that just a few years earlier was thinking about dropping football. The football program has not been without its scars, which makes it all the more amazing that in the last 25 years they have won five national championships—more than any other school during that time.

And who was Schnellenberger’s mentor? That happened to be none other than Bear Bryant. Schellenberger was an assistant at Alabama and helped Bryant lead the school to win three national championships in the 60s. Schellenberger was also an assistant on the 1972 Miami Dolphins Super Bowl championship team that is the only pro team to ever go undefeated in a single season. In fact, I’d love to produce a documentary on just Schnellenberger.

In fact,  to the University of Miami officials and/or alumni who didn’t care for the documentary The U and want to produce another angle to the story, give me a call. I was a briefly a walk-on player in the early 80s (still have my letter from Coach Schnellenberger), was a film major there, and have a couple decades of experience producing, directing, writing, shooting and editing many award winning projects.

The Miami football team doesn’t need a sugar coated version of the program, but their are other dimensions that could be covered that were missed on The U documentary. A good start would be  interviewing players like Jim Kelly, Warren Sapp, Vinny Testaverde and coaches Bowden, Larry Coker, Steve Spurrier and Mark Richt (the Georgia coach who was also a player at Miami, and an assistant at FSU). Corben and his rakontur production team covered a lot of ground, but Miami football  is its own mini-series & soap opera rolled into one, and you can only cover so much ground in an hour and a half.

Anyway, many eyes will be on Southern California tonight, but not because of USC, UCLA or the latest movie—but for two teams from fly-over country who have risen to the top of their field.

Scott W. Smith

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“My work, I can do anywhere.”
Screenwriter Christoph Silber

One trend that I’ve noticed since starting this blog in January ’08 is there really is a growing trend of people writing screenplays and making movies outside Los Angeles. And some are doing quite well such as Paranormal Activities made by a writer/director living down in San Diego (still California, but really like another time zone to the people in the thirty mile zone) and then I just heard about a working screenwriter living in Huntsville, Alabama.

Now the south in general and Alabama in particular is no stranger to fine storytellers, but this one does have a twist. Christoph Silber not only lives far from Hollywood, but the films made from his scripts are made far from California—or even Huntsville. According to an article by Jon Buseker Silber is “one of Germany’s most soughtafter screenwriters.”

He’s had three films made in Germany  North FaceAranged, and the Golden Globe-nominated Good Bye Lenin!, and has written for the German crime show Tatort. Busdeker says that Silber met his wife in New York City but the couple moved to Alabama after they inherited a house and felt like it would be a better place to raise their family.

Silber said about the move south,”I think it benefits my writing. I feel there’s something about the land.” (Of course, it may have something to do with that land he’s living on being mortgage-free, but that’s another story for another day.)

Silber was raised in Germany and I’m sure he’s not the only German in town.  Huntsville has a history of Germans living there at least back to the World War II period when many of Germany’s top scientist fled Hitler and ended up working on the rockets that helped build the US space program (and why it’s called “Rocket City.”)

And this isn’t the first time Huntsville’s come up on this blog. Check out the post on Daytime Emmy-winning writer (and former Miss Alabama) Pamala K. Long.  Roll tide.

And a hat tip to Mystery Man on Film for the lead on the article. If you’re still looking for a good reason to join twitter then I recommend jumping into the game just to follow the Mystery Man on Film (@MMonFilm). (And follow me as well @scottwsmith_com)

Scott W. Smith

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