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Posts Tagged ‘Elvis’

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Silent Night
Lyrics by Joseph Mohr
(Written in Salzburg, Austria and performed around the world for 200 years)

RC-Notes_3395

R.C. Sproul’s notes used for a videotaping

R.C. Sproul was the Elvis of theologians.

He corresponded via letters with novelist Pat Conroy and scientist Carl Sagan. He once led a Bible study with some of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the Bradshaw-era, did a pretty decent impersonation of Peter Falk as Columbo, could recite Edger Allen Poe and Shakespeare from memory, and played jazz on the piano. He’s quoted in the vampire movie The Addiction, and once played golf with Alice Cooper. Just your average theologian.

Wait. Backup. Why are we talking about a theologian on a screenwriting/filmmaking blog?

R.C. Sproul died earlier this month and it’s brought a flood of memories to my mind because tucked between my being a 16mm cameraman at American’s Downhill in Aspen in 1987, and winning my first Emmy in 2008, I spent the decade of the ’90s producing videos with him. (You can read his official obituaries at The Washington Post or  USA TODAY.)

I saw R.C. speak at a conference before 7,000 people, and at a smaller predominately African-American church in Charleston, and occasionally recorded his talks one on one in his home. R.C.’s mind was a deep well of knowledge and it was no effort for him to switch gears between the teaching of a Jewish carpenter named Jesus with Plato, Socrates, Heraclitus, John Calvin, Martin Luther and Thelonious Monk. R.C. believed all truth was God’s truth.

I met R.C. when I was 27 years old and just a few years removed from being an earring wearing, motorcycle riding, film school student in Los Angeles. I had Tony Lama eel skin boots, skinny Italian leather ties, and a jacket or two that would blend in on the set of Miami Vice. 

Imagine that guy walking into a Brooks Brothers blue blazer culture complete with Wingback chairs, and Hunt Club prints on the walls. I may have been a fish out of water, but it turned out to be a great opportunity on many levels.

This post is not so much a tribute to R.C. as it is about the twists and turns in the road that happen in your life. And in a round about way it’s my Christmas post this year. It’s way too long for most of you, but something I had to process. Merry Christmas.

FOLLOW YOUR OPPORTUNITIES

TV host Mike Rowe says that people shouldn’t follow their dreams, but their opportunities.  When writer/director Sean Baker (The Florida Project) graduated from NYU film school he had a dream to make feature films, but he also had a need to earn a living. So what he did was follow his opportunity:

“I was lucky enough to land a job right out of school with a small publishing company that put me in charge of their AV work. So basically I was producing a lot of corporate type videos. I was interviewing authors. Traveling all over the states just to interview them to put together a little EPK [Electronic Press Kit]. But that’s good work. It pays the bills. And I would suggest anybody who’s striving to become a filmmaker to at least stay within the AV world. Because you’re practicing on a daily basis. And even though you think this isn’t me being creative, it is. It really is because you’re still framing shots, you’re still editing, you’re understanding the technical side of things.”
Sean Baker
No Film School podcast interview

For me, working for a non-profit educational group that started out as The Ligonier Valley Study Center helped me turn the corner from film to video production, and eventually led me into the digital world. There I was able to produce, direct, shoot, and edit video projects.  As an audio producer/editor I helped launch and name the international radio program Renewing Your Mind with R.C. Sproul in 1994. I did some photography, and helped build and design sets.

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Set for Ligonier youth video

But working for R.C. also did more than getting me hands on experience with non-linear editing with the AVID way back in mid-’90s, but it allowed me to work and learn from some of the most creative and talented people in Orlando. The list is too long to name everyone, but it includes cameraman Mike Murray of Adrenaline Films (who went on to become a director of photography on Survivor), cameraman Mike “Mac” McAleenan (now with Nat Geo credits), Bryan Smoker (now an editor at Disney World), audio engineer John Blanche (who worked on Eagles records at Criteria Records in Miami), editor Oliver Peters, film producer Rick Eldridge, and engineer Bob Zelin known for his posts at Creative Cow. 

I learned about graphics from Terry Groner, and motion graphics from Terry Briegel. And I doubt I’d won a second Emmy for location lighting if I hadn’t picked up a few tricks from DP Ben Mesker.  And I learned from Jack Rowley who first started videotaping R.C. back in the ’70s.

Just last week I saw a 1988 promotional video for “Hollywood East” and it made me smile. I left LA in December of 1987 in hopes of getting on the ground floor of the Central Florida production world as Disney and Universal were both building studios.

I guess in some ways I did, but it wasn’t the Florida version of Hollywood I was seeking.  The closest I got to that was editing a Ligonier project at Century III at Universal Studios while director David Nutter was editing Superboy in the next edit bay.

Nutter would eventually go on to win a Primetime Emmy for directing an episode of Game of Thrones, and Hollywood East eventually became a reality—in Atlanta.  But my point is Orlando in the ’90s was happening in terms of production.

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I put on a tie and a blue blazer and they let me direct

Directing multicamera shoots for Ligonier at the CBS and FOX TV studios, and just working on productions day in and day out was a great place to learn and grow.  And it positioned me well for the multimedia work I’ve been doing since 2002. And though I only saw R.C. in passing over the last 15 years, his teaching/storytelling/communication style is one that I embrace and use (without the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew) when I speak to students about production.

While at the time I would have rather been an assistant cameraman on the feature films that were shot in Orlando in the late 80s and early 90s —Ernest Saves Christmas (88), Parenthood (89), Passenger 57 (92)— I think I was better served long term working with R.C. producing/directing/shooting/editing an eclectic range of projects. It was also during that time when I did some of the Holocaust interviews for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah project, which is easily in my top ten all-time production experiences.

Here’s the opening I produced and edited with Bryan Smoker that I think holds up pretty well even though it was done in standard def 20 years ago .

THE LIGONIER VALLEY— SILICON VALLEY CONNECTION

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. ”
Steve Jobs
2005 Stanford graduation speech

“The older the question, the older the answer.”
Naval Ravikant (Co-founder of Angel-list)

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Grounds of the original Ligonier Valley Study Center

There was a hunger in the ’60s for some deeper meaning to life. One clear—yet short lived— example was when the Beatles went to India to study with the Maharishi in ’68. It was a time of experimentation which included psychedelic drugs and asking spiritual questions. Tech guru Kevin Kelly of Wired Magazine even talks about Silicon Valley’s roots being grounded in hippy culture where there was freedom to create and innovate. The hippies may not have cared about material possessions, but they still needed to eat. So there was an entrepreneurial/bohemian/gypsy spirit where people made bracelets and such to sell at concerts and fairs.

Of course, a strange byproduct is this group of people who didn’t people care about material items laid the ground work that’s changed the world with computers and created some of the wealthiest people in the history of civilization. (Lawrence Kasden’s The Big Chill touched on the theme of how a group of friends went from not caring about material items to become full-bore materialists.)

Established places like Koinonia Farm (founded in 1942 ) in rural Georgia. were positioned well for Jesus movement when it formed in the ’60s. In 1969 Koinonia built their first house for the less fortunate, and the international group Habitat for Humanity (and President Jimmy Cater’s life work after leaving the White House) flowed from those efforts.

The early roots of Ligonier were also earthy, communal, and early church-like. Heck, I think even a few hippies were there. (Judging some of R.C. ‘s early photos I’d put him down as a beatnik.) Several documentaries and TV programs about the ’60s cover the aspect of how baby boomers were heading into the hills around the world in search of some form of spiritual enlightenment. One of those places was in Stahlstown, Pennsylvania—a rural area in the Ligonier Valley about an hour outside of Pittsburgh.

That’s where The Ligonier Valley Study Center was founded in 1971 and modeled a little after what theologian Francis Schaeffer started in Switzerland called L’Abri. (R.C. met with Schaffer before starting Ligonier.) A place where small groups of people came to stayed for days or weeks and learned more about the Bible, theology, and philosophy and how to live the Christian life.

One redemptive example from Ligonier’s early years was Chuck Colson who came to the study center after his release from prison for his role in Watergate. He was mentored one on one with R.C. before launching Prison Fellowship They work to reform inmates while in prison and prepare them to make the transition once released. Another example is Joni Eareckson Tada who listened to R.C.’s tapes after a diving incident left her paralyzed as a teenager. Despite once thinking she wasted her life she started Joni & Friends in 1979.  Her minsitry helps handicapped people around the world, including refurbishing 10,000 wheelchairs a year.

R.C. not only connected a lot of dots for me, he showed me a lot of dots I didn’t even know existed. Some of those dots I still don’t understand. And while I embrace a lot of mystery of faith, one key principle that R.C. taught that I clearly understood was that men and women are reveled in the Bible warts and all. And the beauty is—God still used them.

While technically theology proper is the study of God. R.C.’s talks covered not only the Bible and theology, but philosophy, the arts, sex, economics, ethics, Greek mythology—in fact, I’m not sure what realm he didn’t cover.

Of course, any theologian popping up on a screenwriting blog may seem unusual, but it’s not unheard of. If you can’t talk about the spiritual realm at Christmas time, when can you talk about it? One of the most respected screenwriter bloggers/teachers, Scott Myers of Go Into the Story, has an Masters of Divinity degree from Yale. And perhaps my first grownup theological lesson ever came from Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader  in an interview published in  The Craft of the Screenwriter.  (I first read that book in the early 80s when I was still in film school.)

In an interview with John Brady, Schrader lays out the doctrine of total depravity and how he used that in the screenplay for Hardcore (1979). A story about a man from Grand Rapids, Michigan searching for his daughter who’s become a prostitute in California. (Sort of a modern-day reworking of John Ford’s The Searchers.)

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Schrader’s book Transcendental Style in Film looks at the films of Yasajiro Ozu, Robert Bresson, and Carl Dreyer goes deeper on the topic. That book was published in 1988, when R.C. had relocated to Orlando. But it’s the kind of book that he would have discussed back in the early days when he talked about the foreign films.

There’s an episode of  Northern Exposure  titled A Wing and a Prayer where they arm wrestled over the doctrine of transubstantiation. I’ve always wondered where that episode came from. And you can’t talk about spirituality and films without talking about one of America’s greatest film directors who once wanted to be a priest:

“I’m not a theologian who could argue the Trinity. I’m certainly not interested in the politics of the institution. But the idea of the Resurrection, the idea of the Incarnation, the powerful message of compassion and love — that’s the key. The sacraments, if you are allowed to take them, to experience them, help you stay close to God.”
Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese (The Mission, Silence)

From the many interviews I read and heard over the years, I wouldn’t say that Scorsese has a lot of company in Hollywood that share his views.  But if you look outside the Hollywood system you’ll find filmmakers over the years with more of a spiritual emphasis; Krzysztof Kieslowski (Decalogue)—who Roger Ebert called among the greatest filmmakers, Oscar-winning director Pawel Pawlikowski , and Andrei Tarkovsky.

If you’re unfamiliar with films with a spiritual bent check out these; Tender Mercies, Babett’s Feast, Koyaanisqatsi, Ida,  Departures, Grand Canyon, On the Waterfront, and Kurosawa’s Ikiru.

R.C.’s memorial service was this past Wednesday and the song they started the service with was the song Non Nobis Domine that ends the movie Henry V.  A song translated from the book of Psalms meaning, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the glory.” 

SLOUCHING TOWARDS BETHLEHEM

“Man is a useless passion. It is meaningless that we live and it is meaningless that we die.”
Jean-Paul Sartre

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Jesus of Nazareth

Apparently we took the long road to Bethlehem on this post. But it’s Christmas Eve and churches will be filled with people singing songs about a baby in a manger; O Holy Night, Joy to the World, Hark! The Herald Angles Sing, Handel’s Messiah. 

Outside the churches people will sing Jingle Bells, Baby It’s Cold Outside, Santa Baby, and White Christmas. Christmas time in the United States is the meeting of the sacred and the secular.

The orginal Christmas in Bethlehem was a collision of the sacred and the secular on a cosmic level.  It turned the world upside down.

So much so that even the king of rock ‘n roll once became a theologian when he sang;

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born

 

Scott W. Smith

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I’m going to Graceland
Graceland
In Memphis,Tennessee
Paul Simon/Graceland

“Elvis loved his John Deere [tractor].”
Elvis’ Aunt

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Graceland Wall #1

I’m fascinated that people are fascinated by Elvis. And though touring inside Graceland was never really on my bucket list, I was glad to have the opportunity to explore the famous Memphis home of The King of Rock-n-Roll on Tuesday. Sure it’s gaudy in places (green shag carpet on the floor—and even the ceiling— in the jungle room) but this was Elvis of the ’70s. More Vegas than Memphis.

Elvis pool room

Elvis living room

And while in today’s scope the house and grounds seem modest for a star. Perhaps that’s because last year I did that shoot at NFL great Deion Sanders’ 28,000+ sq. foot Dallas home (on 100 acres).  In one sense touring Graceland is like looking at the first 8-track player in a museum. You think, “I’m sure that was state of the art back in the day, but it doesn’t look that amazing now.”

Then you realize that Elvis bought the house when he was just 22-years-old, and just a few years before that he was living in public housing and boarding houses with his parents—and that can give you a fresh perspective. From his first hit until his death in 1977, Graceland was home. (Even though he lived in Beverly Hills during his moviemaking days, he always called Memphis and Graceland home.)  Now it’s kitsch heaven with a gift store at every turn, with everything you can buy from Elvis mugs and t-shirts to Elvis Christmas ornaments and wallets.

But what I’ll always appreciate about Elvis was his talent, his energy, and his music.  In touring Graceland and getting a sweeping overview of his life I think the real fascination I have with Elvis is that question, “What do you do after you’ve accomplished all your grand dreams?” (Or in Elvis’ case where he said he had realized his dream 100 times over.) Then what happens? After all the money, fame, and women, Elvis headed down a destructive path and didn’t live long enough to reinvent himself.

When Elvis toured in the final year of his life he was overweight and out of shape, no longer the movie star, was playing much smaller musical venues than just a few years earlier, and addicted to prescription drugs. When Elvis died at age 42, if various reports are true, he was not a man at peace with his great accomplishments.

But time has been good to the memory of Elvis. His iconic statue is intact. Thankfully he’s remembered for his music, his generosity, and for being the single best-selling musician of all time.  And more fascinating to me than touring inside Graceland is the wall outside Graceland. And it’s free. In fact, you don’t even have to pay for parking. They have a lane dedicated on Elvis Presley Blvd. where you can park and sign the wall and take a few pictures.

Elvis wall

I did learn one interesting fact on the tour that has a nice Iowa connection. In the section where they have some of Elvis’ cars they have a John Deere tractor. A video said that it was one of his favorite toys. The tractor was used for many years to take care of the beautiful grounds at Graceland. The video also made a point of saying that the John Deere tractor was made at Waterloo Works in Waterloo, Iowa.

I started writing this blog is 2008 about ten miles from that factory. This post is just one more example of embracing your limitations and seeing the unusual places it takes you.

Elvis tractor

What did we do before the internet? Here’s some rare footage of Elvis and what looks like an International Harvester tractor. (Elvis spread the love around and didn’t limit himself to Pink Cadillacs and green tractors.)

P.S. Found out that the Elvis tractor was restored by students at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Mississippi. (Article: Restoring Elvis’ tractor.)

Related post:

“God is the Bigger Elvis”

Scott W. Smith

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When I was walking in Memphis
I was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale
Marc Cohn/Walking in Memphis

BealeStreetLate Monday night I stopped in Memphis to eat dinner on Beale Street expecting it to be a very light crowd—but the action was in full swing. Turns out the Memphis Grizzlies had just finished their NBA game and people were pouring onto Beale Street. Though the music has changed some you can imagine a teenage Elvis Presley walking down the same street being inspired by the music and dress of the performers there back in the late ’40s and early ’50s. Would there be an Elvis without Beale Street?

Maybe.

But not without Memphis, and not without the Blues music that flowed to the city from the Mississippi Delta.

If you’re ever just driving through Memphis it’s worth a stop to take in Beale Street. Just last month Beale Street was named “Best Iconic Street” in America in a USA TODAY Poll.

And since this is a blog on movies I thought I’d find a list of movies shot in Memphis. Here a list I found by Teresa R. Simpson.

1) Castaway
2) Hustle and Flow
3) The Client
4) Walk the Line
5) 21 Grams
6) The Firm
7) Great Balls of Fire
8) Forty Shades of Blue
9) The People Vs. Larry Flint
10) The Rainmaker

Since John Grisham has three films on that listed from his books—and he used to live and work in Memphis—I thought I pick my favorite of that bunch to showcase. Check out The Firm if you haven’t seen it.

P.S. BTW—I had a shrimp po-boy which is something you should try if you’re not from the South, have never had one, and visit there sometime. Also, hope you enjoy my subtle visual wink in the Beale Street photo that took a little work to time right to give it the Marc Cohn tie-in. Keeps life interesting.

Related Posts:
The Elvis of Screenwriting?
Screenwriting Quote #93 ( John Grisham)
Postcard #51 (Cotton Fields)
Postcard #47 (Tupelo)

Scott W. Smith

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“The cotton fields, that’s where the music came from. Chopping cotton, picking cotton, had to have a good mule to stand up in front of you. Soon, everybody be singing to chase away those blues.”
James “T-Model” Ford

When I was a little bitty baby 
My mama would rock me in the cradle 
In them old cotton fields back home
Cotton Fields by Lead Belly

 

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You may have never seen cotton fields in the south, or heard of Huddie Ledbetter—who is better known as Lead Belly. But the two came together in 1940 when Lead Belly recorded a song he wrote called Cotton Fields. As you can see from the links below the song found its way into the world via a variety of musicians including Johnny Cash, The Beach Boys, Harry Belafonte, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Elvis— along with Lead Belly’s original version.

Lead Belly was a blues musician born in 1888 on a plantation in Louisiana. He was one of those great musicians that led a tumultuous life. One that included prison time, as well as playing in clubs in New York City. Lead Belly died in 1949, but his influence has carried on well after his death. Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain said Lead Belly was his favorite performer just before playing Lead Belly’s  Where Did You Sleep Last Night?

According to Wikipedia, Cotton Fields was featured on the TV programs The Muppet Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show, and in the movies Elvis: That’s the Way It Is and Cool Hand Luke.

And for what it’s worth, I didn’t take that cotton field photo above in Mississippi or Louisiana, but outside Mobile, Alabama.

Scott W. Smith

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DSC_0572Proving that all beautiful sunsets aren’t only found at the beach I took the above picture yesterday in Villa Rica. I was in route yesterday from Orlando, Florida to a shoot in Athens, Alabama  when I pulled off Interstate 20 in Georgia between Atlanta and Birmingham because I was intrigued by the name of the historic town. The area was originally Creek Indian territory and received the name Villa Rica in the late 1800s during a gold rush. Villa Rica is derived from Spanish for “rich village.”

I used the street lights and the hood of my rental car to add some design elements to make the sunset shot less pedestrian.

Actress Maidie Norman (1912-1998) —who in 1977 was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame—was born in Villa Rica, and the movie Randy and the Mob (2007) was filmed mostly in Villa Rica. But perhaps most of all, Villa Rica is known as “The Birth Place of Southern Gospel Music.” Thomas A. Dorsey known as the “Father of Gospel Music” was born and raised in Villa Rica.

Dorsey is featured in the 1982 documentary Somebody Say Amen. He wrote the song Take My Hand, Precious Lord which was recorded by Aretha Franklin and  Whitney Houston, and Mahalia Jackson sang it at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.  (It was said to be King’s favorite hymn):

Here’s the Elvis version:

Scott W. Smith

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“HOW do you marry God after you’ve kissed the King?”
Maureen Doud
NY Times/ Where the Boys Aren’t 

“When I met Elvis, I met a very sweet and very courteous young man who jumped to his feet and said ‘Hello,’ and ‘ How do you do, Miss Dolores?’ I was very touched by his courtesy and honesty, and I thought immediately I would like this fellow.”
Dolores Hart

A spiritual documentary about a 73-year-old nun living in a rural Benedictine monastery/farm in Bethlehem, Connecticut might not seem like the easiest route to take to the Oscars, but it worked for God Is the Bigger Elvis—the story of former a Hollywood actress who once kissed Elvis Presley in a movie.

The 35-minute film directed by Rebecca Cammisa centers around the life of Chicago-born Dolores Hart who starred in the 1960 Ft. Lauderdale spring break flick Where the Boys Are and was in the cast with Elvis in King Creole (1958) before giving up a career in movies to lead a simple spiritual life. (The film was nominated in the 2012 Academy Awards for Documentary Short where it lost to Saving Face.)

How does a documentary like God Is the Bigger Elvis get produced? According to the NY Times, Sheila Nevis, president of HBO Documentary Film, has a weekend home near Bethlehem and thought it would make a good film, and serves as the executive producer on God Is the Bigger Elvis.

I couldn’t find a preview of the HBO documentary, but here’s an old 20/20 program that features Reverend Mother Dolores Hart, followed by an ABC link to here being at the 2012 Academy Awards.

ABC Academy Awards Special

By the way, I don’t think you would have had any problems convincing Elvis that God was bigger than him. He reportedly once said in a concert, “There’s only one king and that’s Jesus Christ.” He was baptized in the First Assembly of God in East Tupelo, Mississippi. Billy Graham said that he expected to see Elvis in heaven, and Elvis recorded many gospel songs including How Great Thou Art.

P.S. My extremely loose connection to Dolores Hart is according to an article by Thema Adams Hart mentions studying acting with Jeff Corey. She didn’t care for his style and quit studying all together. When I first moved to LA in the early 80s, I called Mr. Corey because I knew Jack Nicholson had studied with him. Corey’s acting workshops were based in Malibu and when I told him I lived in Burbank he basically said, “find someone in the valley” and hung-up. He was a gifted actor and teacher (on top of being a combat photographer during WWII) who trained many Hollywood actors and directors. He died in 2002.

Scott W. Smith

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“It’s very hard to live up to an image.”
Elvis Presley

Last night at the Sundance Film Festival Sam Levinson won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award for Another Happy Day. Unfamiliar with Levinson, I was curious to see the path that the 25-year-old writer/director took to make his first feature.

“I guess it goes back to what I said about fanatically watching films since I was very young. I began to see to the film in my head and then as a reference point, I watched certain films, each of them for different reasons, but all of them had aspects of the way I wanted to shoot this film. There was nothing haphazard here, and this is not a criticism of any other style of filmmaking but I never had any thoughts of shooting this film in a verité style. I always saw this film as somehow, ‘formally informal.’ I am in no way comparing my film to these, but I went back again and again, to three extremely different types of films. I watched. ‘Who’ s afraid of Virginia Woolf,’ directed by Mike Nichols, ‘Hannah and her Sisters,’ directed by Woody Allen and ‘Carnal Knowledge,’ again Nichols.”
Sam Levinson
indieWire

I haven’t seen Another Happy Day, but since it’s an emotional drama surrounding an upper-class wedding and a dysfunctional family, it’s hard at first glance to not connect it to Rachel Getting Married. (Written by director Sidney Lumet’s daughter, Jenny.)

Turns out that Sam is the son of director Barry Levinson (Diner, Rain Man, The Natural). I’m sure Sam picked up a thing or two from his brilliant father at the dinner table.

Add Oscar-winning screenwriter Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation) into the mix and you definitely see a trend emerging. So if you happen to be looking for an alternative to USC/UCLA/AFI film school, don’t have a Minneapolis background (Coen Brothers, Diablo Cody, Nick Shenk), and are looking for a way to break into screenwriting— then having a father who is a gifted and talented director can help. And I hate to complicate matters, but the elder Lumet, Coppola and Levinson are Oscar-winners, as well. (Plus I’m not sure if adoption counts.)

Truth is statistically very few sons and daughters of Hollywood’s successful producers, directors, writers, and actors make it as big as their mother or father. There’s a special burden attached to the situation. Think of the pressures of being, say, the daughter of Elvis and wanting to have a musical career. If  you don’t need the money—it’s really not worth the all the pain of constantly being compared to the king. You don’t get the luxury of failing and of taking the time to find your own voice.

So congrats to Sam Levinson (and Sofia and Jenny) for stepping up to the plate. (And keep in mind Jenny Lumet was working as a school teacher when she sold Rachel Getting Married.)

“I was driving a truck and studying to be an electrician.”
21-year-old Elvis Presley talking in 1956 about what he did before his musical career took off.

On the other hand, if you happen to be a truck driver (or a son or daughter of a truck driver)  living in a two-room house in, say, Tupelo, Mississippi and you’re writing screenplays and don’t have a single contact in Hollywood—just keep writing and making connections. Who knows, maybe you’ll hook-up with a filmmaker in Memphis and bigger things will happen for both of you. It’s happened before. Dream big, but take little steps.

“What regional filmmaking means to me is not only utilizing the actors of your area, the musicians and the artists, but probing what it means to that region. And for me, the thing about Memphis that I’ve always responded to is its music scene, from Sam Phillips recording Howlin’ Wolf, Rudus Thomas, Elvis Presely, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich.”
Memphis-based Craig Brewer,
writer/director Hustle & Flow

If there’s ever an Elvis of screenwriting I’d put my money on that person not being someone who comes from Hollywood royalty, but from a background that looks more like this…

Update 1/31/11: As far as the current crop of Hollywood sons & daughters, I’d put Ivan (Ghostbusters) Reitman’s son, Jason (Juno, Up in the Air), as the top candidate to top his father’s legacy.

Scott W. Smith

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