Posts Tagged ‘Chuck Scott’

Darling trotted back, smiling, breathing deeply but easily, feeling wonderful, not tired, though this was the tail end of practice and he’d run eighty yards.
The Eighty-Yard Run by Irwin Shaw
First published in Esquire magazine on January 1941

This is how my dedication page reads to my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles:

To Annye Refoe, Ph.D.
—who pointed the way beyond the The Eighty-Yard Run.

That’s a reference to Irwin Shaw’s classic short story The Eighty-Yard Run. I had Annye as a creative writing teacher in high school where I directed my first video. Then again in a literature class my first year of college.

That’s where I first read the story about Christian Darling who in his mid-30s hadn’t quite found a life beyond his days playing college football. The peak of his life being an eighty-yard run in practice read like a cautionary tale to this 19-year-old student. (Just as the Hoop Dreams doc would for others later.)

Annye graduated from Fisk University in Nashville took her role as a teacher seriously. She was simply the best teacher I ever had and opened my eyes to the world in so many ways. From showing the class the films An Occurrence at Owl Creek and A Raisin in the Sun to reading Zora Neale Hurston and The Eighty-Yard Run I was shown a world where words and images could impact people.

The year prior to reading The Eighty-Yard Run I had been an All-conference and All-county wide receiver in high school, but at 5’8″ and 150 pounds (and, ahhh, not having very good grades) I didn’t get any scholarship offers. So I went to community college and got an A.A. degree in one year with a B average. Lifted some weights, grew an inch taller, and walked-on to the football team at the University of Miami in the fall of 1981. (Still have a nice letter from legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger.)

I could write a whole book on my short time there (or at least an interesting George Plimpton-inspired Sports Illustrated article), but it had a painful ending. One practice I cracked back on a linebacker and felt by shoulder shift a little. A few plays later I was blocking a defensive back and my shoulder popped out.

Looking back, it ended up being a key turning point in my life. The end of my old life, and the start of a new one. (Which is actually a pretty good synopsis of the best movies, television, and streaming programs.) Here’s how I start my first chapter in the book on conflict:

“Get that f—ing walk-on off the field was how my short-lived football career ended at the University of Miami back in 1981. I’d dislocated my shoulder on the pervious play in practice and was hunched over frozen-like and favoring my twisted left arm. I had surgery, put down my helmet for good, and picked up a camera.

One thing football and screenwriting have in common is they are both full of conflict. Screenwriting’s mantra should be “Conflict—Conflict—Conflict.” It’s why I chose to start this book with conflict rather than structure, character, or plot. Major conflict often happens early in a movie:   

E.T. misses his space ride.

Juno discovers she’s pregnant.

Rocky loses his boxing gym locker.

A barracuda kills Nemo’s mother and siblings.

About as close as I got to any Hurricane glory was breathing the same locker room air as Jim Kelly (who went on to have a Pro Football Hall of Fame career). Though I did have an exceptionally good practice once where future UM star Stanley Shakespeare told a coach he should start me for the next JV game against Florida State.

I never made it to the next game, and finished the semester with my left arm in a sling. (Shot my first 8mm film that semester with wearing that arm sling.) It really wasn’t a career ending injury, but I just felt it was time to move on and focus on getting my film degree. The great thing about conflict and pain is it can lead to growth and a new direction. (How many of your favorite stories have that as a theme?)

A fun twist to this story is Chuck Scott who I played football with at Lake Howell High School went on to play for Vanderbilt before getting drafted by the L.A. Rams in 1985. A year after graduating from film school I was working as a photographer for Yary Photography in Southern California and not only had the opportunity to take the Rams team photo, but to reconnect with Chuck.

Chuck’s son Caleb also played at Vanderbilt and just this week signed with the Green Bay Packers to be on their practice squad. And lastly, actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) and former NFL player and current TV host Brandon Marshall also played wide receiver at Lake Howell High School.

P.S. I was thankful to do rehab on my shoulder with UM trainer Mike O’Shea and his staff. In writing this post I saw that O’Shea retired last year from the University of Houston where he was the head trainer. Pro QB Case Keenum—who when he left the University of Houston was NCAA’s all-time leader in total passing yards, touchdowns, and completions— credits O’Shea with not only keeping him healthy in college, but helping him develop as a person. And Mike’s son Chad O’Shea is currently the wide receiver coach for the Cleveland Browns, and was WR coach for the New England Patriots for three of their Super Bowl wins.

Scott W. Smith

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“I think it’s great to have the Rams back in Los Angeles. Not having football in L.A. has been missed for the past 20 years, for sure.”
Eric Dickerson

Yesterday while I was eating lunch at a restaurant I saw that former Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson was on ESPN. I couldn’t hear the sound, but figured it had something to do with the NFL draft.

It turned out that the LA Rams not only had the first pick in the draft last night, but it was the first time in more than 20 years that the LA Rams where in the draft. Though the team was found in Los Angeles in 1946, they moved to St. Louis in 1995 where they became the St. Louis Rams.

There are a few things special about the above photo: first I took the photograph. I moved to LA in the early 80s and began working as a freelance photographer for Yary Photo while I was in film school. After I graduated I became director of photography there and was part of a small team of shooters who set up the portable bleachers and lights for the shot. When it came time to take the photo, I was the one pressing the release on the Mamiya RZ67 .

Two years later I was a 16mm cameraman working for Motivational Media in Burbank and shot an interview with Eric Dickerson at his Calabasas home and I took the 16X20 team photo that I shot and Dickerson was kind enough to sign it.  It’s one of my favorite mementos over the years. One of the things that makes it timeless is Dickerson is still the single season rushing leader. (A record he’s held for over 30 years.)

Another thing special about the photo is a fellow I played football with in high school is in the photo (Chuck Scott, on the end next to #3). He was playing his rookie year after being a second round pick out of Vanderbilt. (Today Chuck’s son Caleb Scott is a wide receiver at Vanderbilt, and another son Chad Scott is a WR at Furman.)

Another item of interest is Yary Photo was started by Ron and Wayne Yary who both played  football at USC. Ron Yary was the Outland Trophy winner in 1967 (top offensive lineman) where he blocked for the eventual Heisman Trophy winner—O.J. Simpson.  He went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings and was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. The football field at Bellflower H.S. (where he played high school ball) is named Ron Yary Stadium.

And that’s the rest of the story…

Scott W. Smith


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“Anyone who buys the idea that great athletes are dim should have a close look at an NFL playbook.”
David Foster Wallace

By far the most read post on this blog is How Much Do Screenwriters Make? In fact, I just Googled that phrase and out of the 1,070,000 results, my 2009 post was on the first page. In that post I contrasted working screenwriters and NFL football players and made this observation:

“While reading over the WGAw report I made another connection between screenwriting & the NFL. On the film side there were 1,553 male writers employed in the last year of the report. That’s about 150 less writers than players in the NFL any given year.”

Perhaps someone else made the connection before, but I’d never read or heard it if they did.  And perhaps the reason I did make that connection is before I went to film school I played 11 years of organized football. Didn’t come close to making the pros, but have more than a casual understanding of the game. (I’ll write an extended post script if you’re interested in me unpacking how I may of had the shortest career of any University of Miami football player.)

Now 6 years after my original post John August and Craig Mazin picked up that football verses screenwriting on their Scriptnotes podcast (Episode 215) and ran with it some. They added some insights and based some of their thoughts on a photo about the odds of making it in the NFL. No matter how you tweak the metrics, the odds of a player making it to the NFL are small.

The shorthand facts are there are a million high school football players any given year and only 6.5% of those will play NCAA college football, and only 1.6% of college football players will ever play pro football. And of those that make it that far, only 150 will have careers that reach the four year mark. And while the 2014 league minimum of $420,000 makes a nice salary for anyone (especially when you’re in your early 20s), that chart estimated after taxes that’s a take home pay around $252,000. Still good money if you don’t squander it—which many pro athletes are famous for doing.

Quarterback Tom Brady is one of the best players in the NFL and let’s call his contract $9 million a year (the actual number is higher but getting into the structure of his contract is complicated, so let’s just stay with $9 million). Brady’s teammate Malcolm Butler was the hero of the Super Bowl last year when his interception in the end zone sealed the New England Patriots Super Bowl win. Last year Butler made the league minimum salary with no signing bonus—$420,000.

I don’t see it as self-defeating to talk in terms of the odds in making in as a pro football player or as a high paid screenwriter. Just shows you how high the bar is to make it. A few years ago I wrote the post How to Be a Successful Screenwriter where I unpacked screenwriter Michael Arndt‘s journey to becoming an Oscar-winning screenwriter. (Basically he wrote ten screenplays before selling one. And that one took five years to get made.)  The 99% Focus Rule has another great quote by Arndt for aspiring screenwriters.

The other thing is even if you fail in your dreams others opportunities come out of those ashes. Every once in a while the consolation gig is superior to the original dream. When I was at Miami the back-up quarterback to Jim Kelly was Mark Richt who never had pro career, but he’s now the head coach at the University of Georgia. (I bet the number is pretty small of athletes his age who had NFL careers and can match his million dollar plus annual salary these days.)  David Chase never became the feature screenwriter he wanted to be, but he did okay with a little show called The Sopranos. (Not sure his net worth would be in the $80 million range if he’d been a feature film screenwriter.)

You might still get work in other aspects of film, TV, or Internet productions. And there are many other opportunities in theater, education, churches, non-profit organizations, and in the corporate world where you can earn a living off of your talent and creativity. And, of course, there is no expiration date on writing screenplays. Arndt made the decision before his success that he was going to be a screenwriter for life. If you still have ideas, desire, and passion to write—then write.

Just don’t forget to have a life.

P.S. (A longer than average postscript for those really interested in football.)

On Friday night I did something I hadn’t done in 20 years— I went to a football game where I used to play high school football. While years ago they tore down the old Lake Howell High School buildings and rebuilt new ones,  the football stadium is essentially the same from the day it was built back in the ’70s.

While the game wasn’t very good, it was fun to take in the atmosphere and watch the various cliques in stands like a live version of a John Hughes film. On the field, sidelines, and surrounding track I found the players, coaches, cheerleaders remarkably similar to when I was in high school. The two schools bands as much as anything stirred my sense I was back in high school. And after the game I met Coach Ken Kroog who was my receiver coach in high school when I scored three touchdowns one game.

They also had six or seven posters displayed of Lake Howell players who had made it to the NFL including Chuck Scott who played for the L.A. Rams and the Dallas Cowboys. Chuck and I were the two starting receivers when I was a senior year and he was a junior.

His senior year he became an all state player, and a few years later while playing at Vanderbilt became an All American tight end. Currently, his son Calab Scott plays receiver at Vanderbilt and his son Chad Scott plays football at Furman. Smart and talented family. And Chuck’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. (And I actually was working at Yary Photo in Southern California and took the rookie photo of him below when the Rams were based out of Anaheim.)

Scan 5

Chuck Scott

Perhaps the greatest football player to come out of Lake Howell is Brandon Marshall who scored the game-winning touchdown yesterday for the New York Jets. He’s a five time pro bowl player and this is his tenth year in the league. Actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) also played football at Lake Howell, and screenwriter Jamie Linden who wrote the football centered film We Are Marshall also graduated from Lake Howell.

Here’s my entire football career summarized in three photos. An all-conference photo, a letter from Miami’s head coach Howard Schellenberger, and an article on being injured. It really wasn’t career ending injury, but after I had surgery on my shoulder I decided to focus on school in L.A. since that’s where people seemed to head after they graduated. The reason I say I may of had the shortest career of any Miami player is I was injured the week after dressing for only one game. A game in which I played exactly zero plays. Not exactly going out in a blaze of glory.

Scan 1

Scan 13


But I do have one fond memory of playing at Miami. When you’re a walk-on you are mainly on the scout team (when not standing around) meaning whatever team the varsity is playing, you are running that teams’ plays.  There was one particular practice where I caught a lot of passes and Stanely Shakespeare (who was a freshman then, but would later start at wide receiver on Miami’s first National Championship team, and play one season in the NFL) said to the JV coach, “You gotta start Scott, he catches everything.” That was validation that I at least belonged there. But at 5’9″ 160 pounds—even before my injury— I realized my shelf life was limited.

Related posts:
The Perfect Ending (One of the reason I went to Miami was the film program.)
Postcard #24 (Coral Gables)
Tinker Field: A Love Letter
‘If you want to write, write’—Guillermo del Toro
The Secret to Being a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously) John Logan spent 10 years working in a library and writing plays, but eventually found screenplay success co-writing the football-centered movie Any Given Sunday with Oliver Stone.

Scott W. Smith

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“I know Eric Dickerson is feeling so good right now.”
Running back Adrian Peterson

Eric Dickerson Sign PhotoFor sale?

Eric Dickerson signed photo in my office    

It was almost a cliché, but it turned into a great ironic ending.

I’m not talking about a movie, but yesterday’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers.

The Vikings needed a win in the last regular game of the season to make the playoffs, and their running back Adrian Peterson had a shot breaking the single season rushing record that’s stood for almost 30 years. (Held by Eric Dickerson when he played for the Los Angeles Rams.)

Add to the back story that exactly a year ago Peterson tore his ACL on his left knee in a game that required surgery. Then factor in that with under two minutes to go in the game with the score score tied and the Vikings having the ball, Peterson only needed 39 yards to break the record.

Peterson got in a couple short runs and then ran for 26 yards on his final run, but fell nine yards short of the record. Dickerson can revel in his long standing accomplishment (his glorious feat) at least one more year.

But Peterson’s run did set up the game winning field goal and the Vikings are in the playoffs. He failed to reach his personal goal, but did help his team accomplish their goal.

It’s that kind game, that kind of unpredictable drama that I believe writer/director Woody Allen meant when he said if he had to chose between watching movies and watching sports he’d chose watching sports.

Though I live in Northeast Iowa where the region is divided between Packer and Viking fans, I’m just a guy from Florida who wanted to see a good game (and to watch a great comeback story as Peterson went for the record).

If I had a dog in the fight it had to do with the above photograph in my office. I took the photo back in 1985 when I was fresh out of film school and working for Yary Photography in Southern California.

The photo is of the 1985 LA Rams a year after Dickerson’s record season. The photo has extra meaning for me in that the following year I was working for a production company in Burbank as a 16mm cameraman & editor and one day got to go to Dickerson’s Calabasas, California home for a shoot and took the 16″X20″ print and had him sign it. Just two days ago I took that framed Rams photo off my office wall as I am preparing to move back to Florida next month.

While I plan to keep a presence  and clients in Iowa (in fact I have projects lined up here through April), I will be based back in Central Florida where I’ve lived the majority of my life.  (And, yes, the blog will still be Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places.)

When I came to Cedar Falls in the summer of 2003 it was supposed to be for three months. It’s been a heck of journey that I never would have guessed would last almost ten years.

Tonight I’ll give a toast to not only a Happy New Year, but one for the past decade in Iowa. At least, I won’t be leaving town empty-handed.


P.S. In that Rams team photo is Chuck Scott on the second row from the bottom on the far right . He was a rookie in ’85 and a second round draft pick out of Vanderbilt. My claim to football fame is I played high school football with Chuck at Lake Howell in Florida. He was a year behind me and a second team all-conference wide receiver and I was first team wide receiver. “All glory is fleeting,”*right? A lesson learned on the football field as well as the battlefield. And no stranger to Hollywood (i.e. The Artist) as well. BTW—Brandon Marshall who now plays for the Chicago Bears, and actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) also played wide receiver at Lake Howell.

* “For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”
Gen. George C. Patton

Scott W. Smith



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