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Posts Tagged ‘Carl Reiner’

“Let’s move to the big story—the only story that everybody is talking about, Tiger King. The new Netflix series that is somehow more viral than COVID-19.”
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah

NOTE: Starting today, I’m going to try a little experiment. I’m calling it The Coronavirus Writers’ Room. I don’t mean to downplay the seriousness of the deadly situation around the world. But this is just one way to creatively process all the information coming at us. And in the spirit of books I’ve read where an older writer has a conversation with a younger writer, I bring you a small writers room of just two people trapped in my mind that I’ll just call OLD PRODUCER (OP) and YOUNG WRITER (YW). They’re not fully formed characters, so don’t be surprised if they morph some in the coming days. And it’s not really a writers’ room—it’s all done online using Zoom to keep with social distancing practices.

Their goal is see how to turn this events of the coronavirus into a movie, tv, or streaming/online script. I imagine something like this is going on in many places in the world.

OLD PRODUCER: How was your weekend?

YOUNG WRITER: There was the weekend?

OP: One day blends into the next.

YW: Exactly. I’m not even sure of the month. Or the year.

OP: It’s the year of the Tiger King.

YW: You didn’t watch that did you?

OP: Was there anything else on? I think it’s now mandatory viewing during the coronavirus lockdown.

YW: Like moving to Florida once you turned 60—it’s the law.

OP: You stole that from Seinfeld.

YW: Only steal from the best.

OP: You stole that from Woody Allen.

YW: For an old man, your mind is pretty sharp.

OP: Are you age-shaming me?

YW: No, I think it’s great that you’re still at it.

OP: There’s a few of us still kicking;  Carl Reiner and Betty White are 98, Norman Lear’s 97, and Roger Corman is the spring chicken at 94.

YW: You’re going to be the first to 100.

OP: Then like George Burns—exit stage right.  

YW: Can you imagine all the changes Burns saw in his lifetime?

OP:  World War I, The Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Civil Rights, Viet Nam—

YW: —Milli Vanilli winning a Grammy.

OP: Oy.

YW: I may not be totally up on American history, but I’m a pop history queen.

OP: Burns was the real deal. He was one of the few performers who crossed over from vaudeville, to film, to radio, to TV. He was known for his comedy—

YW: —And his cigar.

OP: And his cigar. And Gracie. But he could really sing, too.

YW: He died before 9/11, right?

OP: ’96.

YW: I wasn’t even born yet.

OP: So this pandemic is your first life-changing event?

YW: I was too young to remember anything about 9/11 or the dot com crash. Even the housing crash didn’t invade my world. But I was pretty distraught when Nate Newby dumped me in third grade.

OP: But you got over it?

YW: It’s amazing what years of therapy will do.

OP: You need to watch Tiger King—then you’ll never have a bad day again.

YW: Pitch me Tiger King in five words.

(Pause. Thinking.)

OP: Oklahoma man. Florida woman. Shakespeare.

YW: Is there a body count?

OP. Yes. Plus baby tigers and a guy with a mullet. 

YW: Sold. I’m watching it tonight.

OP: The struggle for power is universally interesting because it has built-in conflict. That makes it inherently dramatic.

YW: Boom.

(YW imitates a mic drop.)

OP: Are we done?

YW: We haven’t even started. We have a whole coronavirus story to develop.

OP: That’s right. What’s our way into the story?

YW: I don’t even know where to start.

OP: I’ve done stories based on a character, or a situation. But this is so big I kind of think we ought to tap into what Mamet wrote about 20 years ago in Three Uses of a Knife—thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

YW: Doesn’t take my breath away.

OP: We’re just trying to get some traction to get out of the gate. I’ve never seen the world shutdown like it has been over this virus. During The Great Depression people went to the movies. After 911 people went to the movies. They ate out. They went to church. They went to work.

YW: The world didn’t stop.

OP: Right. I think there’s going to be a new reality after this. That’s where thesis, antithesis, synthesis fits in.

YW: Sounds a little too academic for my blood. Anti-creative.

OP: You said you wanted to learn.

YW: I just have trouble seeing how that academic thing works in storytelling.

OP: Can you envision A+B=C?

YW: Not helping.

OP: Basically two different things come together and make a new thing. Think peanut butter over here and chocolate over here—they come together and you have Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

YW: Can you give me one writer who writes this way?

OP: When Mike Birbiglia—who wrote Don’t Think Twice

YW: —Loved it.

OP: When he was writing his Netflix special The New One, he said that his thesis was “All of the reasons no one should ever want to have a child.” His antithesis, “How I had a child and how I was right.” His synthesis was “how I was wrong.”

YW: That’s kinda brilliant.

OP: Being a couple is cool, kids mess that up, but becoming a family is worth it all. 

YW: So do you have a Mamet-thingy for this story?

OP: Order. Chaos. New Order. 

YW: I don’t hate it. I see where you’re going.

OP: At least it’s a starting place.

YW:  Let me chew on that before we continue.

More to come in Part 2.

Scott W. Smith

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“I had no notion of becoming a writer,” is how writer Walter Mosley describes his life before reading the following two sentences:

“He was looking at me and neither his eyes nor his gun moved. He was as calm as an adobe wall in the moonlight.”
The Long Goodbye, written by Raymond Chandler

“It took Raymond Chandler to show me something that I already knew but had never been aware of. Adobe walls in the lunar light of the southern California desert had the most passive demeanor—they were the ideal of peacefulness. Then the writer contrasts this nearly absolute tranquility to an armed and dangerous man … For the first time I understood the power of language to reach beyond the real into the metaphysical and into metaphor. Those 24 words alerted me to the potential power of writing.”
Author Walter Mosely who’s published 34 books and won the O Henry award, a Grammy, and PEN Lifetime Achievement Award
The Two Raymond Chandler Sentences That Changes Walter Mosley’s Life written by Joe Fassler in the Atlantic

“Everyone knows who Raymond Chandler is and I began reading him in the late ’40s when I was writing westerns. And I remember thinking, ‘why don’t I switch over to things like the kinds of stories that Raymond Chandler’s doing?’”
Author Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty)
On receiving the Raymond Chandler Award

“He wrote like a slumming angel and invested in the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a gusto and imaginative flair.”
Reference about Raymond Chandler by crime fiction author Ross Macdonald who created detective Lew Archer (The Moving Target)

“What [Quentin] Tarantino may be most renowned for is his focus on highly stylized modes of speech. Greatly influenced by the likes of film noir/pulp fiction writers Dashiell Hammond, Raymond Chandler and Elmore Leonard, Tarantino elicits vivid responses from his audiences by incorporating mundane banter about ubiquitous popular culture subject matters.”
Michael Peters
An Analysis of Quentin Tarantino and His Films

“Your clothes should be jazzy, very jazzy indeed, Steve. To be inconspicuous in this town is to be a busted flush.”
Raymond Chandler, The King in Yellow 
A short story by Chandler, and worth noting because the name author John D. MacDonald called the famed houseboat in 21 Travis McGee private detective novels was The Busted Flush. (Though the character McGee won the boat in a poker game, some consider it a nod to Chandler by the writer MacDonald.)

And here’s a different kind of Chandler influence from the trailer for Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) written and directed by Carl Reiner and starring Steve Martin:

That’s just what I could come up with in a breif search online. Do you know of other writers who were influenced by Chandler?

Scott W. Smith

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Chicago-born writer Larry Gelbart died on September 11, 2009 adding one more name to what I’m now officially calling the summer of deaths. Good thing fall starts tomorrow.

Gelbart had an incredible career. Just one of his success stories would be an amazing feat, but the fact that he pulled them all off at such a high level is hard to comprehend. He was the co-creator of one of the most popular TV programs of all-time (M*A*S*H), he was co-writer of one very long Broadway show (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), and he c0-wrote one of the most popular and highly regarded comedy movies in the last 30 years (Tootsie).

He won an Emmy, a Tony, and had an Oscar nomination. Not bad for a kid from Chicago whose Jewish parents immigrated from Poland.

The L.A. TImes quoted Jack Lemmon describing Gelbart as “One of the greatest writers of comedy to have graced the arts in this century.” In a statement Friday, Woody Allen called Gelbart  “the best comedy writer that I have ever knew and one of the best guys.”

Gelbart began his writing career as a teenager and learned from the best including Danny Thomas, Bob Hope, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, and Neil Simon. One of my favorite quotes of his was his reaction to all the rise in screenwriting classes; “So many gurus and so few good writers. Where are all these lessons going?”


Scott W. Smith


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Today is a holiday so to give me a break from blogging I’ll  put up some photos I took last week in New York. While the full list of films and TV shows shot in New York City would be quite long, my guess is the exterior of this restaurant is the most recognizable of all of them.

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Though I was in New York doing camerawork it wasn’t on a Woody Allen film. Just having fun with a free iPhone app.

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The Big Apple has attracted and developed some major talent over the years. (Sign reads: “Here at City Center, Your Show of Shows came to life each week. Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Howard Morris, Mel Tolkin, Lucille Kallen, Tony Webster, Joe Stein, Danny Simon, Max Liebman and Woody Allen made both a classic television series and comedy history. The show’s scripts were created in a legendary and storied room on the sixth floor and if those walls could talk, well, then I guess we wouldn’t need this plaque.”) 

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Scott  W. Smith

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