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Posts Tagged ‘Colorado’

Today I interviewed screenwriter Rick Ramage (Stigmata) and his 25 year journey has been an interesting one. If I told you he optioned his first screenplay for only $5,000 you may not be impressed—until you learned that it was while he was still a student at AFI. And that it quickly led him to working on projects with Sydney Pollack and Steven Spielberg.

And if that doesn’t impress you, what if I told you he once sold a spec script for 2.5 million dollars? If none of the above impresses you I’ll have to result to playing my “unlikely places” card and tell you that he was born in Fargo, North Dakota and raised—and mostly remained— in Denver, Colorado through all the highs and lows of working in the Hollywood film business.

I’ll unpack his journey more next month, but for now here’s a sample of our Q&A earlier today.

SWS Question: What encouragement do you have for a screenwriter who doesn’t want to uproot and move to L.A.—can they succeed from North Dakota or South Africa?

Rick Ramage: “I believe they can. From the bottom of my heart, I believe they can. Because it’s all about great stories. The one thing that’s worth a lot of money in Hollywood is a story. And if you have a good one they’ll find you. Agents will find you, because word will get out. I have this thing [I teach], ‘Don’t be afraid of rejection, be afraid of not being read.’ At least if it’s a rejection you’ll know. I still have a lot of phobias. One is after I start a script is, ‘Will I be able to do it again?’ And, ‘How will it be read. How will it be received? Will I be read?’ Those insecurities are normal. They’re indicative of our profession. I want other writers to know we all go through that.”

Related Quote:
“I believe as long as you have a compelling story and talent, you could be on a farm in Iowa and start your screenwriting career. Although I now live and work in New York City, I originally got my start in Orlando, Florida.”
Amanda Caswell
How I Started My Screenwriting Career From Outside LA

Related posts:
Blake Snyder Revisited “I have said often that geography is no longer an impediment to a career in screenwriting.”
Christopher Lockhart Q&A (Part 1) The WME Story Editor says you don’t need a great script, but the right script.
‘You can write from anywhere’
Why You Shouldn’t Move to L.A. 
Why You Should Move to L.A.
‘Keep Your Head Down’
The 99% Focus Rule
Juno Has Another Baby (Emmy) Diablo Cody is the poster child for the “Screenwriting from Iowa” blog, and while she had no problem moving to L.A. after selling her first screenplay, the fact is she found her initial success writing in Minneapolis. (You know, in the state next door to North Dakota.)

P.S. Any produced screenwriters who are interesting in being interviewed and passing on their knowledge and insights to other writers send me an email at info@scottwsmith.com.

Scott W. Smith

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Postcard #96 (Vail Covered Bridge)

BridgeWeb_2969

©2015 Scott W. Smith

Last week while in Vail, Colorado my wife and I made a special trek to the covered bridge where we got married many snowfalls ago. I now call this the mysterious hidden covered bridge in Vail as we had a little trouble finding the bridge and a dozen or so locals told us there was only one covered bridge in the center of Vail Village.

I was resigned to the fact the bridge I was looking for could have been torn down as Vail expanded over the years. But as it turns out, each of the people that I asked was actually less than a 100 yards from the bridge. Part of what now obscures the bridge on the eastern part of Vail is it sits behind a hotel so access to it is now limited.

But it’s still there and looks just as quaint and romantic as I remember it back in the November of 1985. I don’t know if the bridge has ever been featured in a movie or TV program but it’s a beauty. And you could house a large crew less than a minute walk away. Remember me in the credits.

Scott W. Smith

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Denver_2510

©2015 Scott W. Smith

On Monday night I took the above picture of the Denver City and County Building in Colorado.  Planning and construction on the building took eight years and it was completed in 1932. And the tradition of lighting the downtown building also dates back to 1932. According to KUSA 9news the Downtown Denver Grand Illumination Event  when they turn on the colorful lights on several historic buildings is “the largest lighting event from Denver to the West coast.” (And it’s much more impressive in person than my little iPhone panorama shot can capture.)

I’m not sure if the Denver City and County Building with its holiday lights has ever been featured in a movie to TV show, but it’s just another glimpse of the world out there between L.A. and New York.

Scott W. Smith

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You find someone to love in this world
You better hang on tooth and nail
The wolf is always at the door
Don Henley
New York Minute

I know it’s Thanksgiving day, but it’s also my 25th wedding anniversary. (No, I didn’t get married on Thanksgiving, it just happens to be where it falls this year.) Can I tell you a story?  I won’t bore you with all the details, but if you’ve ever wondered—as a friend once ask me—”How did you end up in Iowa?”—here’s the answer.

After getting interested in writing short stories, photography, and video production growing up in Central Florida I attended film school at the University of Miami for one year. (Even was a walk-on on the football team where Jim Kelly was the quarterback.) Made a few short films and decided to transfer to film school out in LA.

In my senior year I met my wife to be in an elevator in Burbank. Can you get any more romantic than that? She was a model & actress from Denver and had two kids. We got married a year and a half later in a covered bridge in Vail, Colorado. (That really was romantic.)

She worked as a temp at various industry related places (Disney, Warners, Paramount, NBC, Technicolor) which was part of our greater plan for me to break in. I worked as a photographer and then as a 16mm cameraman/editor for a production company in Burbank. By the time I was 25 and thought I was on the L.A. fast track.

Then life happens the way it does. On top of a few other things the Whittier earthquake happened and we decided to move to Florida where the cost of living was cheaper and they were just starting to build “Hollywood East” in Orlando as Disney and Universal were building theme parks that promised to have real working studios. It looked good on paper.

Yeah, that didn’t quite work out either but I ended up producing and directing videos for a group in the 90s just as digital revolution was taking off. That got me on the ground floor of working with AVID and eventually Final Cut Pro. Fast forward to 2003 where not only had my step kids both graduated from high school and college, but my step-daughter was married and had a couple kids. (For the record, I was an empty-nester grandpa at age 37.)

My step-daughter and her family had moved to Cedar Falls, Iowa and when my wife and I would visit and I found myself saying, “I could live in a place like this some day.” By that time I had my own little production company in Florida and I was doing some freelance producing for a TV program in Chicago that brought me to the Midwest from time to time. As often as I could I’d visit Cedar Falls.

Eventually, my wife and I thought it would be best to live closer to Chicago and we decided to try living in Cedar Falls (a five hour drive from Chicago and 3 1/2 hours from Minneapolis) and see if we could make that work. It took a little work to make it work, but I eventually met some young guys here who had a web design company and I started doing some productions for them.

This just happened to be in 2005-2006 as video for the Internet was just starting to take off. (Hard to believe now that You Tube only started in 2005.) We ended up forming a new company in 2007 called River Run Productions and we’ve watched video for the Internet grow. I’ve had a front row seat view of watching the production world totally evolve. And part of the change has been the world of blogging and how information and entertainment is distributed.

Moving to Iowa not only forced me to embrace the changes (tapeless production, multiple hats on productions, blogging) it also allowed me to tap into a great literary tradition as well as a Midwest mythology.  It certainly wasn’t in my mindset that I’d start writing a blog on screenwriting in January of ’08 that it would win an Emmy and get shout outs and links from people like Tom Cruise, Edward Burns, and Diablo Cody—but that’s all happened. And oddly enough, it’s brought me connections that I never had in my five years in L.A.

And it’s happened in part because of people like you who’ve visited Screenwriting from Iowa from time to time. As the views have increased month after month it’s given me encouragement to continue this slightly time-consuming endeavor. So this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for you all stopping by and I do hope it helps you in your writing and your dreams wherever you call home.

That 24-year-old me in the above picture thought he was going to be the next Steven Speilberg. Didn’t happen. But to quote one of Minnesota-based singer Sara Groves’ songs, there are “Different Kinds of Happy.” I just have to get Robert Duvall and former Iowan Ben Foster interested in my latest script and the whole story could have a Hollywood ending.

And I’m thankful for my wife who’s been on this crazy journey with me these past 25 years. Happy Anniversary.

Scott W. Smith


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“I just felt like I didn’t come to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns.”
Shaun White

Watching Shaun White win a gold medal last night at the Olympics in Vancouver brought back memories of Tiger Woods’ first big win at Augusta National back in ’97 when he won by a margin of 12 shots–the most in the tournament’s history. Woods was in uncharted territory. And so it is with White and his “Double McTwist 1260.”

You don’t have to know a lot about snowboarding to know that White is way ahead of the competition. And actually the comparison to Woods at this point in his career is fitting.  White began skiing with his family at age four which is around the time Woods began playing golf. Both were mentored by their fathers. And while White’s mother was also an avid skier, it was White’s father who would literally carry White on his back at times because White was so small that he would sink into the snow walking back up to get his runs on the halfpipe. White entered his first amateur snowboard contest at seven and won. He soon had his first sponsor.

White’s dedication and  talents stood out early and by the age of 12 he turned pro and soon began winning events and gaining more sponsors. By the time he was 16 he owned three cars and three homes. These days he earns $10 million a year. And after his gold last night those earning are just going to–like him on a snowboard–soar.

It’s easy to look at 23-year-old Shaun White with his casual smile and long red hair and forget that it’s taken him 19-years of work to put him in the position where he is now. It all goes back to the 10,000 rule–which White probably hit with snowboarding before he hit puberty. But along the way he also had a few major set-backs. The first came just after he was born when he had to have two major surgeries to correct a heart defect. About ten years later as a rising star skateboarder he collided on a doubles skateboarding run with Bob Burnquis that knocked him out and left him with broken bones and fractured skull. And a desire to quit. But his mom wouldn’t let him.

Then in 2002 he missed earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team by three tenths of a point. All of those things set the stage for him to win the gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics. His money and fame haven’t seemed to diminish his passion for the sport.  But keep in mind that before he was cruising around in a Lamborghini he was cruising in a converted van/motorhome improving his skills far from his San Diego home.

“It was insane because we’d all just camp out in the motorhome. It would be my brother Jesse, myself, my sister Kerri, my dad and my mom all in a van. We’d take trips up to Mammoth and all over the place. It is funny now to fly first-class out to a mountain and stay in a nice hotel. It means so much more because of that.”
Shane White
Snowboarding Magazine

I wish White the best. But one thing we can learn from Tiger Woods (and quite a few other atheletes) is an early success does not mean there won’t be some bumps ahead in the road professionally and personally. Since this is a screenwriting blog I came across a fitting quote on that topic by Shane Black:

“I sort of slid off the map a little bit after Long Kiss Goodnight was such a failure back in the nineties, and I don’t know quite how I got back on the map. Because the turnover in these offices, the executives at the studios are now twenty-five, and they saw Lethal Weapon when they were eight—so there’s a sense of being an old-timer before I’m even an old-timer. I had to reinvent my career at age forty. That’s the disadvantage of succeeding early.”
Shane Black
Tales from the Script
Page 292

P.S. It’s funny to think that when I first started skiing in Colorado in the 80s snowboarding wasn’t allowed on some of the mountains. Times change. I’ve read in some places that snowboarders now make up more than half of the ticket sales. After watching Shaun White last night I wonder if any kids starting out want put on a set of skis.

Scott W. Smith

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