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Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

Earlier this week I watched the movie Speed that I hadn’t seen in quite a few years—maybe a decade. Hard to believe that movie came out more than 15 years ago. It holds up well.

Speaking of holding up well, how about Sandra Bullock? (The 45-year-old actress was named by the Quigley Publishing Company list as the top box office star of 2009.)  Before her soon-to-be greatly nominated roll in The Blind Side (which has already made $200. million at the box office), her breakout role was in the blockbuster hit movie Speed.

I thought I’d track down a quote from Graham Yost,  the screenwriter of Speed. Yost is from Ontario, Canada where his now retired dad was a TV host in Canada on several programs including Saturday Night at the Movies.  It was the elder Yost, who told his son about an Akira Kurosawa screenplay The Runaway Train* that provided the seed of inspiration for Speed. (Are you allowed to use seed and speed in the same sentence?)

“When I moved to New York at the age of 22, my plan of action was to write anything that anyone would pay me to write. I wrote jacket-flap copy for Doubleday, I got a job with The Encyclopedia Britannica, I wrote everything. But I always wanted to write for movies and television. After four, five years in New York, I moved to LA and started developing story ideas on a Nickelodeon show called Hey Dude. After that show finished, I had some extra time and wrote Speed.”
Graham Yost
Creative Screenwriting 3/22/04
Edited by David Konow

Yost went on to be nominated for an Emmy as one of the writers of Band of Brothers and won a Primetime Emmy as one of the producers of From the Earth to the Moon. Currently he is the creator and executive producer on the TV series Justified that will première on FX in March 2010. (Justified is based on the Elmore Leonard novella Fire in the Hole.)

*The 1985 American film Runaway Train was based on Kurosawa’s script.

Scott W. Smith

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“I rode a school bus for an hour each way… so I had two hours a day on the bus and I tried to read a book a day.
James Cameron

They should have a special room for James Cameron over at Box Office Mojo. Titantic, which he wrote and directed, sits atop every film ever made in terms of box office gross ($600. million domestic/$ 1.8 billion worldwide). And for the last two weeks his newest film Avatar has been #1 at the box office already bringing in $600. worldwide.

And, of course, those aren’t the only films he’s ever made. Aliens, The Terminator,  Terminator 2:Judgment Day also found quite large audiences. But how many saw his first two films Xenogenesis and Piranha Part Two; The Spawning? It’s easy to get lost in the big numbers Cameron puts up and forget that he had to jump-start his career just like anyone else who’s made it.

So where did he come from?

Cameron was born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada and raised in a town of 2,000. He was inspired by the movie 2001:A Space Odyssey and said he read The Making of 2001 book eighteen times and dreamed of Hollywood all before his family moved from Canada to Los Angeles when he was 17. And before he ever won an Oscar he drove a truck to pay the bills until his screenwriting career took off. I’ve pieced together a few of his quotes from various places to give a succinct overview of his views on filmmaking.

“The film industry is about saying ‘no’ to people, and inherently you cannot take ‘no’ for an answer…You never really ‘get’ an opportunity. You take an opportunity. You know, in the film making business no one ever gives you anything…If you wait until the right time to have a child you’ll die childless, and I think film making is very much the same thing. You just have to take the plunge and just start shooting something even if it’s bad…Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee…I think it’s, the old adage: ‘The harder I work, the luckier I get.’ I think chance is not a big factor in the long run…There are many talented people who haven’t fulfilled their dreams because they over thought it, or they were too cautious, and were unwilling to make the leap of faith.”
James Cameron

Most of these quotes were pulled from an interview found on the Academy of Achievement website.

Scott W. Smith

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I Hate Valentine’s Day!

That’s a movie now in post-production and was written by the female screenwriter who actually wrote the most successful romantic comedy in box office history. Any guesses on the title of that movie?

Here’s a hint, the screenwriter was born in Canada.  Another hint? The writer’s name is Nia Vardalos and she starred in the film. 

According to Box Office Mojo, My Big Fat Greek Wedding pulled in $241,238,208. Not bad since it only cost $5 million to make. One thing that wasn’t fat was the script as the movie came in at only 95 minutes. And I should add that it was Nia Vardalos’ first script and she received an Academy Award nomination.

She wanted to write it as a one act play but a friend told her to write it as a script first so she could register her story. So she wrote the script first then she wrote the story as a one-person play and began performing it in Canada and in the US. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson loved the play and thought it would make a good movie and the rest is history.  

Now that the actress is now also a writer/director I figured I could find a quote from her for those of you who love screenwriting. 

“I think the lesson in everything that happened to me, for people, is don’t listen to the odds, not to listen to the naysayers, to listen to the odds of you getting hit by lighting and getting kidnapped by terrorist are greater than your screenplay being done–if you have a story to tell just write it.”
                                                                                Nia Vardalos 

And while Vardalos was born in Canada and found fortune and fame in LA, I should add that she honed her comedic chops here in the Midwest at Second City in Chicago. She worked in the ticket office for two years until she got a break one night by getting on stage when a performer was sick.

If you recall, the My Big Fat Greek Wedding is set Chicago (though it was filmed in Toronto). Years ago while on a production in Chicago I made a point to eat in Greektown. (If you’ve ever had a gyros, that’s where the tradition reportedly started in America.) It’s a great area to visit to get a different slice of America beyond the suburbs and strip malls.  

I didn’t realize this until I wrote this post that there are similarities with Nia Vardalos and Diablo Cody. First time writers that found box office success, comedy writers, Chicago connection, recognition from the Academy Awards, films focused on families dealing with issues.  (Didn’t I just write about Orson Welles and his Chicago-area connection? There’s something going on over there.)

By the way, I pulled the Vardalos quote from an interview she did that is part of a video series called The Dialogue, Learning from the Masters that looks great. Here is a sample found on You Tube.

 

Related post: Screenwriting da Chicago Way  (Which for the record is the #4 most read post on Screenwriting from Iowa.)

Scott W. Smith

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eldoniowajan092

Yeah, it’s kinda cold throughout the Midwest these days.  According to the weather channel’s website as I type this it’s -13 and feels like -35 here in Iowa. Is that legal? 

The cold weather is one of the reasons that half the people in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin drink so much and why the other half are screenwriters. Visit the various posts I’ve written on those states and you’ll know I’m only half kidding.

Yesterday I was shooting video all day in Tom Arnold’s old stomping grounds of Ottumwa, Iowa. Even shot some footage at his old school, Indian Hills Community College, and was told he was kicked out of the dorms there for rowdy behavior. (If you ever find yourself in Ottumwa make sure to eat a loose meat sandwich at the Canteen Lunch in the Alley which was the inspiration for The Lunchbox in the Roseanne Barr sitcom Roseanne.)

The last shot of the day was a short shot (a very short shot because it was zero outside) in Eldon, Iowa where the house sits that was the inspiration for the house in Grant Wood’s painting American Gothic.

But nothing quite warms my bones like the news of Nick Schenk’s Gran Torino script (that he wrote in Minneapolis) being the number one movie at the box office this week. 

But when I think of cold weather now I think of Canada, and of course they have there fair share of creatives up there so I found  a screenwriting quote that I dedicate to the them. It’s from the excellent Wordplayer website by writers Terry Russio and  Ted Ellott (whose writing credits include Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl).

“If there are two writers, one living in Toronto obsessively focused on quality and craft, and another in Hollywood, looking to make contacts — my money’s on the out of town writer all the way.”
                                                           Terry Rossio
                                                            I Love LA
                                                            Wordplayer Screenwriting Column 33

american_gothic

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