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Posts Tagged ‘Emmy Awards’

“I’m having an amazing life—and it isn’t over yet.”
—Cloris Leachman (how she started her 1972 Oscar acceptance speech)

Actress Cloris Leachman was a Hollywood icon with Iowa roots. Long before she picked up an Oscar Award, a bunch of Emmys, and a whole new fan base as an 82-year-old on Dancing with the Stars, Leachman had a humbler start when born in Des Moines in 1926. She died yesterday at age 94.

Her father and a cousin started Leachman Lumber Company in Des Moines which is celebrating 100 years of business this year. She began playing the piano and performing in plays as a youth in Iowa on her way to greater success in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. In 2006, Drake University in Des Moines awarded her with an honorary doctorate in fine arts.

If Leachman had of just been an extra in the following plays, Tv shows, and movies her career would have been remarkable.

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (the original Broadway show)
Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Lassie
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone
The Last Picture Show
Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein
The Muppet Movie
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Malcolm in the Middle

Of course, she wasn’t just an extra but an acclaimed actress whose career spanned an unbelievable nine decades. Along the way she picked up eight Primetime Emmy Awards which is a record she shares with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. (It’s worth noting that both went to Northwestern University. And because it’s an expensive school it’s also worth noting that Leachman received a scholarship to attend the drama program.)

Here’s her Oscar acceptance speech for The Last Picture Show where she gave shout-outs to both her first piano teacher and her dancing teacher in Des Moines, her father Buck “who paid the bills,” and her mother whose “imagination and funny sense of humor” all which lead to her success.

Dream big, start small.

And here’s her performance from a script Peter Bogdanovich and Larry McMurty (based on McMurty’s book The Last Picture Show) that led to her Oscar.

P.S. Leachman’s comment at the Oscar’s about her father paying the bills got extended applause. I imagine because in 1972 they had a deeper understanding of what that meant. Leachman was three years old when the stock market crashed in 1929 meaning from that point through her teen years was lived in the economic hard times of The Great Depression and World War II. AP News reported that since Leachman’s family ”could not afford a piano, she practiced on a cardboard drawing of the keys.”

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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2008-2009SFI

A few days ago I learned that I received two more Emmy nominations by the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. That makes four in two years. And though there are many great screenwriting blogs out there, I was thrilled last year that Screenwriting from Iowa was the first screenwriting blog ever to win an Emmy.

But this year the blog didn’t even get a nomination. My nominations this year were for location lighting for a commercial I shot film noir style and editing (along with Steve Holm) an advanced media project.  I made a decision at the end of last year to slightly change the direction of the blog and I knew that come award time it might hurt me. But I had a bigger goal in mind.

I decided to go daily and instead of the long 1,000 and 2,000 words essays I would try to keep my posts under 500 words and sometimes just put a quote up. Since my views on the post had remained level for that entire first year I thought I needed to do something to rev this thing up a little. (WordPress makes this easy to track as the above chart shows.) I was hoping maybe that I could double my views by trying this approach.

That’s were I was off a little. I quadrupled my views. So while there is a little sting from not getting a nomination for the blog this year,  the fact that this month is my highest month of views makes up for it. Heck, one would like to have both–but life doesn’t always work that way. (In fact, it usually doesn’t.) Of course, I’d trade the whole thing in to be telling you that a film I wrote is a box office success and a critics favorite. 

But here’s my point today…keep flipping your pancakes. That’s an expression I first heard from an acting teacher in L.A. when he told the class that they had to learn how to flip pancakes. What he meant was they needed to be able to do Ibsen, Chekov and Shakespeare while at the same time be ready to audition for a small film or TV roll—or even a commercial.

You learn along the way and you never know what is going to be your breakthrough moment. But the chances are it’s going to happen while you’re in motion. Remember the Goethe quote; “In action there is power, grace and magic.”   And the Richard Foster quote I am fond on mentioning, “We tend to overestimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can do in ten.”

So while I have my own screenwriting goals I am also plugging away on growing creatively with the projects that come my way. And while nine years ago I would have said that I didn’t think one could do the jack-of-all trade well,  I am pleased to have Emmy nominations in producing, lighting, editing and writing. 

And my work isn’t just in Iowa. This week I was editing a project that I shot in Brazil and this morning I fly to New York for a shoot. So keep writing, keep meeting people and showing them your work…but don’t be afraid to start flipping some pancakes. If you’ve never picked up a camera, pick one up and shoot some footage. If you’ve never edited, find an editor friend to give you a tour of Final Cut Pro. And spend a little time getting to know Lynda.com.

I could be wrong but I don’t think this technology is going backwards anytime soon.

 

Scott W. Smith
River Run Productions 

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