Posts Tagged ‘Bill True’

The shoot yesterday of a short dramatic scene for a project I’m producing & directing at River Run Productions went very well. Thanks in large part due to the cast in the above photo. It dawned on me today that it was my first project to be cast via Facebook and I realized just how dependent I was on the Internet for much of the pre-production. Here’s a quick timeline of events that happened in about a two week time period.

Back in March of 2009 I wrote a post called Q&A with Movie Critic Colin Covert. Since Covert writes for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and had watched two box-office successes of screenwriters from Minneapolis (Diablo Cody, Juno & Nick Shenk, Gran Torino) I asked him who the next hot screenwriter from Minneapolis was going to be. Covert’s answer was Bill True (Runaway).

Bill mentioned my blog article on his website and linked to my blog. I followed the trail back and ended up becoming Facebook friends with Bill who now lives in L.A., but has many contacts in Minneapolis. I hadn’t found the right actor for this scene I was shooting and sent Bill a message via Facebook asking if he had any leads on actors in the Twin Cities around 30 that he’d recommend.

Bill connected me via Facebook with Mike Rylander (on the left in the picture) and I ended up going with him and it also led to me casting another Minneapolis actor Natalie Kane. They did a perfect job of playing a young Midwest couple looking to buy their first a condo in San Francisco. (And for the actors out there, it was 100% important in the casting that both Mike and Natalie had websites and links to videos of their work.)

The realtor showing them the condo was played by Brent Mattahias (in the center of the photograph) who is a public speaker based in Iowa and has various on-camera experiences. I met Brent on a shoot a couple of weeks ago and only got the idea for him as the realtor a couple of days before the shoot. Since I didn’t feel I had found the right person yet, I Googled his name, tracked down his email address and sent him a message, and the next day we talked and two days later we were shooting the scene.

The internet also played a key roll in doing research—at realtor.com—to find true places for sale in San Francisco. Finding out prices and features and benefits in the Bay area helped shape the dialogue of the script. At realtor.com I was also able to research San Francisco-like places in Iowa and Minnesota. That lead me to the condo at 1503 Pleasant St. in Des Moines and realtor Stacey Ward who paved the way for us to shoot at the condo.

On You Tube I was able to watch some House Hunter episodes for script writing inspiration as I could watch real life young couples and realtors interact as they looked at homes. And of course, I was able to email the script to the actors. I could probably come up with another dozen ways in which the Internet helped a cast and crew come together yesterday for a one-day shoot. (Of course, I should add that the intended use for the finished piece is the Internet.)

I was fortunate to work with a talented cast and crew and thank the Internet for helping pull all the elements together for a great shoot. The key thing for writers and filmmakers is to harness the Internet without getting lost in the rabbit trails it can take you. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, focus on getting productions done.

P.S. The arched doorway in the photo is a classic example of Italianate Victorian architecture. The style was very popular across the United States in the era of 1850-1880, in part by the rock star architect of the mid-nineteenth century, Alexander Jackson Davis.  And if you are in the Des Moines area this weekend or next (Sept 17-18 & Sept. 25-26, 2010) you can tour homes in Historic Sherman Hill Neighborhood where this photograph was taken. (Learned all that on the Internet.)

Scott W. Smith

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Juno delivers uproarious laughs, fully fleshed personalities, honest uplift and tender moments when the throat goes dry and the eyes grow moist. Much of the credit goes to the deservedly acclaimed script by former Twin Cities scribe Diablo Cody, whose blogs-to-riches story seems destined to culminate in a spotlight solo at the next Academy Awards.”
                                                                         Colin Covert 

                                                                         Star Tribune movie review of Juno
                                                                         December 17, 2007 


As soon as I discovered Rotten Tomatoes I discovered movie critic Colin Covert of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. I found his reviews intelligent and insightful. And that he could turn a phrase with the best of them as he did in his review of the Russian mob drama Eastern Promises; “It’s a mouthful of blood with a vodka chaser.”

With the fairly recent success of screenwriters from Minnesota, Diablo Cody (Juno) & Nick Schenk (Gran Torino), it seemed logical to throw a few questions Covert’s way to get a pulse on the creative scene in the Twin Cities. 

Q: Do you have a favorite film that has come out the state of Minnesota? 

Colin: “A Simple Plan,” a superbly realized story of heartland values and creeping corruption from Sam Raimi. It’s topnotch filmmaking from the depth of the script to the elegance of the direction to the evocative use of snow and shadows to suggest the stark moral choices facing the characters when they discover a downed plane containing $4 million in drug money. 

Q: At the 2008 Academy Awards Diablo Cody and the Coen Brothers represented Minneapolis well by winning Oscars. What in the world makes Minneapolis a special place for writers? 

Colin: It’s a bit like Vienna, 1900. Creative people gravitate here, cross-pollinate with folks from other disciplines, and sharpen their talents with debate and collaboration. Add to that the can-do work ethic of the place and you have a real petri dish for artistic growth. 

Q: When do you mark the beginning of this literary movement in the Twin Cities? 

Colin: That’s like one of those “when does human life begin?” questions. 

Q: When you first saw “Juno” did you think it would have universal appeal, be a box-offer winner, and win an Academy Award for its screenwriter Diablo Cody? 

Colin: I can honestly answer, yes. She’s scary-smart and hit a solid home run with the story, which gets deeper and smarter every time you watch it. Her hipster dialog is just one small facet of her skill as a writer. She creates flesh-and-blood characters who surprise you at every turn, yet remain consistent and truthful. 

Q: Right now there are two films in the theaters written by writers from Minnesota, Gran Torino (Schenk) & New in Town (Ken Rance) is this a fad or a part of a growing trend? 

Colin: It’s the steady pulse of creativity. There is a critical mass of bright, engaged people here who will continue to make a mark on the film industry. 

Q: Who do you see as the next screenwriter or filmmaker from the Twin Cities that’s we’re going to be hearing about in the coming months or years? 

Colin: That’s a tough call. It could be Bill True, whose psychological drama “Runaway” (with Melissa Leo and Robin Tunney) is scheduled to go into release this year. It’s a strong piece of work. 

Q: Artist Grant Wood spoke about regionalism in that painters would we true to where they live. Do you think regionalism is beginning to occur in movies or are creative decisions being made to shoot outside L.A. simply because of tax incentives by various states and countries? 

Colin: If painters got tax incentives from New Mexico, they’d paint a lot more cow skulls and cacti. 

Q: What does it mean for the Twin Cities that the Coen Brothers returned to the Minneaplois-St. Paul area to shoot their most recent film “A Serious Man”? 

Colin: Long term, not too much. But it was a lovely gesture that really energized all the local folks who appeared as bit players and extras. We almost lost that ultra-regional Minnesota-set film to Wisconsin because they offer richer production rebates, you know! 

Q: They say every film critic dreams of being a screenwriter or a filmmaker. Do you have a script hidden in a drawer? 

Colin: I don’t kid myself that I have that kind of talent. 

Q: Tell me about the screenwriting seminar you are putting together in the Minneapolis area. What’s the goal you hope to accomplish? 

Colin: The first week in October, we’ll convene a conference of notable local and national screenwriters, present sessions on the professional rewards and challenges of the movie writer’s life, and schmooze at parties and have a lot of fun. I hope to see you there. Anyone who wants more information, please email me at colincovert@gmail.com!

The Star Tribune is also producing videos with Covert’s movie reviews and to see a sample with reviews from The Wrestler and Gran Torino go to startribune.com.

Cedar Falls, Iowa is only 3 1/2 hours south of Minneapolis so I hope to be at the screenwriting conference in October. 

Related Posts: Juno Has Another Baby (Emmy)

                            The Oscars Minnesota-Style

                            Screenwriting Quote of the Day #19 (Nick Schenk)

Side notes: For what it’s worth, it was Covert who I learned that Cody wrote Juno at the Starbucks inside the Target Superstore in Crystal, Minnesota. And lastly, the movie  “A Simple Plan” was based on the book by that other Scott Smith, Scott B. Smith.

Scott W. Smith


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