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Posts Tagged ‘Emmy’

When Emmy-winner Stephen J. Cannell died in 2010 his IMDB credits were extensive. I can’t image many others who wrote 450 TV episodes or produced more than 1,500 episodes. But there’s really no secret to how he did it—it’s basic math. He began his days at 3:30 AM:

“You know, when you say, ‘He created 42 primetime television series—how’d he do that?’ Well, you’d be surprised at what you can do if you get up and write for five hours a day everyday for 35 years.”
Stephen J. Cannell
Script magazine interview with Ray Morton

How did he get into that position where he was getting paid well to write for five hours? Again no secret—more basic math.

After Cannell graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Oregon he worked for his father. After work he went home and wrote for five hours every night. And he did that for more than five years without seeing anything he wrote get produced.

“I was like a machine. I swear I had a stack of material you could sit on.”
Stephen J. Cannell

That’s a great image to leave you with today. I’m not sure how big that stack of paper was, but if you measure the height of a 100 page stack of paper and multiple it by the height of an average chair you’ll come up with a pretty accurate number. Basic math.

P.S. And Cannell’s IMDB credit list continues to grow after his death. Most recently he was credited for the 2012 movie version of 21 Jump Street and the 2014 sequel 22 Jump Street because he was co-creator of the original TV series starring Johnny Depp.

Scott W. Smith 

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Game of Thrones broke a huge Emmys record at Sunday night’s ceremonies. With David Nutter’s win for best director of a drama series, the HBO show snagged its tenth Emmy this year, the most any series has ever won in a single year.” 
Eliana Dockterman, Time, September 20, 2015
(Game of Thrones would finish the night with 11 Emmys)

“What am I doing up here?”
David Nutter
(How Nutter began his Emmy acceptance speech)

It was the perfect ending. Perfect and poetic. I’m not talking about a movie or a TV show, but about yesterday—and about a life. And what made it really special is no one wrote the ending, it just happened in that mystical way where things align together perfectly. It was an ending that filmmaker/film teacher Ralph Clemente would have appreciated if he hadn’t died earlier this year, but one that happened because he lived.

When David Nutter was a 20-year-old music major he had a big dream—to be the next Barry Manilow. Nutter’s musical dreams died before he graduated from the University of Miami. But he also found a new dream in 1980 when he took an 8mm filmmaking class with Prof. George Capewell.

Then Nutter found a filmmaking mentor with Clemente, who Capewell had hired as filmmaker in residence at Miami. After graduating from Miami, Nutter launched his career when he directed the 1985 feature Cease Fire (starring Don Johnson), which Clemente worked on as an associate producer.

Fast forward 20 years to last night when Nutter accepted a Primetime Emmy for directing the Game of Thrones episode, Mother’s Mercy. A remarkable accomplishment because we are in what has been called the modern golden age of television. At the end of his acceptance speech Nutter said, “Thank you to Ralph Clemente, the man who taught me the most.” One little sentence made for the perfect ending.

Earlier in the day there was a tribute at Valencia College in Orlando for Ralph Clemente, where Clemente started the film program in the late ’80s. He would help students work on 47 feature films through a film program that he helped designed. Valencia College President Sandy Shugart spoke at the tribute about how Ralph taught him about vision, saying Clemente was like a gardener who could taste the fruit before he planted the seeds.

And Ralph Clemente planted a lot of seeds. Inspired a lot of people.  At the tribute they played a video of Nutter talking about how Clemente was not only his teacher and mentor but also a father figure. He also said that he changed is life because he ended up marrying the au pair that Ralph and his wife Emily had when they were raising their sons in Miami. Nutter said that he regretted not being at the tribute, but if he won an Emmy he’d be sure to mention Ralph—and that’s exactly how it went down. Fruit from seeds planted 35 years ago.

Ralph Clemente Tribute at Valencia College

Ralph Clemente Tribute at Valencia College

Several people at the tribute mentioned affectionately how Clemente was a schmoozer.  He was a positive people person who got people on board with his vision. I wish I had a quote of his I could drop in here to show how that helps in the filmmaking process, but since I’ve been running Robert Rodriguez related posts all month I’ll hand it off to him to talk about the salesmanship side that is often needed with the creative and technical side of filmmaking:

“If you go to an actor and say, ‘hey, I’m a filmmaker and I’m making a low budget movie and I kind of need a marquee to kinda help sell it. I can’t pay you very much. And it’s probably going to be a lot of work, but do you want to be in it?’ you’re only thinking about yourself , and they’ll be like, ‘No, get the hell out of here.’ Because all you’re taking about is what you do and how you do it, which is I make low budget movies. Yeah, so what, that means ya got no money. Instead I always start with why. I go to [the actor] and say, ‘I love what you do. I’ve always been a big fan—I believe in creative freedom. I don’t work with the studios, I work independently. I’m the boss, it’s just me and my crew. It’s very creative, ask any of your actor friends. They’ll say go have that experience, you’re going to feel so invigorated. I shoot very quickly and you’ll be out [quickly]. Robert De Niro in Machete was out in four days. While you’ll be on your next movie for six months, you’ll be on my movie for four days, and it’s going to be the most fun you’ve ever had. And your performance is going to be really freeing, that’s why I do it. How do I do it? I work very independently. I have very few people on my crew and we do multiple jobs. We do it with less money so we have more freedom. Do you want to come make this movie?’ And they’ll be like, ‘Yes.’ Because it’s all about what they can do. What they can bring to it. How it’s going to fulfill them.”
Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez
Tim Ferriss interview

Clemente wasn’t in it just for himself. He knew he could only do the kinds of things he wanted to do by helping people do the things they wanted to do. Win-win. I was part of the Miami film program during the Clemente era and know that he poured himself into students. So yesterday wasn’t the end of his legacy. There will be students of his that will take what they learned from him and pass it on to others they work with in that circle of life kind of way.

Link to donate to the Ralph R. Clemente Scholarship at Valencia College.

P.S. Back when I had a production company in Iowa I worked with Josh McCabe while he was still in college and tried to pass on what I knew to him in the few years we worked together. (I wrote about him in the 2011 post How to Get Started Working in Production.) Today Josh works in production in Denver, Colorado and just this weekend got married. Congrats to he and his wife Ashely.  He never met Ralph Clemente, but I hope I passed on a few things to him I learned working with Clemente that helped make him the creative producer/shooter/editor he is today.

Josh&Ashley

Photo by Jon Van Allen

Related posts:
Ralph Clemente (1943-2015)
‘It has to move me.’—David Nutter
Insanely Great Endings Screenwriting insight from Michael Arndt

Scott W. Smith

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“I am not in danger, Skyler—I am the danger.”
Walt (Bryan Cranston) in Breaking Bad

“In the early days, especially writing the [Breaking Bad] pilot, I worried so much that Walt wouldn’t be likeable. It’s funny, I bent over backwards to give the audience reasons to sympathize with him. I was nervous – anxiety-ridden, as I typically am – that what I was saying in that script was interesting enough for the audience. Watching that first episode, I probably overdid that a bit. In hindsight, I’ve learned the audience will go along with a character like Walt so long as he remains interesting and active, and is capable about his business. People like competency. What is it people like about Darth Vader?  Is it that he’s so evil, or that he’s so good at his job? I think it might be the latter. All the fears I had – ‘Boy, no one’s gonna sympathize with this guy’– turned out to be unfounded, which was a very interesting revelation.”
Two-time Emmy winning producer/writer and Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan
Rolling Stone article by Rob Tannenbaum

Related bonus quote: “Television is really good at protecting the franchise. It’s good at keeping the Korean War going for 11 seasons, like M*A*S*H. It’s good at keeping Marshal Dillon policing his little town for 20 years. By their very nature TV shows are open-ended. So I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to have a show that takes the protagonist and transforms him into the antagonist?”
Vince Gilligan on creating Breaking Bad
The Dark Art of Breaking Bad by David Segal
2011 New York Times 

Related posts:
Simple Stories/Complex Characters (Tip #95)
David O. Russell on Characters & Theme “I always look for amazing characters who I find are fascinating, charming, flawed, romantic and in trouble.”
Protagonist= Struggle
Movie Flaws, Personality & DNA “Scorsese is often called ‘America’s greatest director’ on the strength of a body of work in which all the characters in his movies are various degrees of wicked and miserable people.”—William Froug
Martin Luther King & Screenwriting (Tip #7) “Strong characters hold our interest in life and on the screen.” —Andrew Horton, Writing the Character-Centered Screenplay

Scott W. Smith

 

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“It was kind of a Cinderella night.”
Emmy-Winning Producer Cherylanne Martin
August 29, 2010

Why should you move to L.A.?—You might win an Emmy and get your picture taken with Tom Hanks. I’ll explain producer Cherylanne Martin’s journey in a moment.

Yesterday, I wrote a post titled Why You Shouldn’t Move to L.A. which was geared toward screenwriters starting out and based on a quote from an interview with the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Rain Man, Barry Morrow. And even as I wrote that post I was thinking about the opposite view, which is why you should move to L.A.

And soon after I published my post a Hollywood assistant made this comment:

I moved to LA with no money or connections and got a low-paying job which barely pays my rent (granted, I’m not waiting tables – I’m working in development for a production company). Between my job, my girlfriend, and life in general, I don’t have very much time to write.

But you know what? Being in this town and in my particular line of work has allowed me to meet agents, managers, producers, and many many friends in very high places.

The main reason to move to Hollywood is simple….that’s where the film industry is based. That’s where the majority of jobs are located.  And there will always be room in Hollywood for interns and entry-level assistants who are willing to work long hours (12-16 on regular basis) for little or no pay. And every once in a while one of those interns or assistants finds a way to turn that opportunity and those contacts into a successful career.

Enter Cherylanne Martin. Before she collected a Primetime Emmy Sunday night along with Tom Hanks for producing the HBO drama The Pacific, she grew up in Maitland, Florida about two miles from where I grew-up. She is a year older than me and we both graduated from different high schools in Winter Park, Florida. She went to Florida State and I went to film school at the University of Miami. (I believe her major was advertising and she didn’t originally have her sights set on the film industry at all.)

In the early 80s I moved to L.A. and she worked as a production assistant in Orlando on Jaws 3-D (her first IMDB credit). I forget all the details but she ended up in L.A. working on features including being a second second assistant director (no not a typo) on Rain Man. (You knew I’d work in a Tom Cruise angle, right?) She also worked as a second assistant director on Far and Away which also starred Cruise.

By pure coincidence I met Cherylanne’s father after I moved back to Central Florida. He told me he was proud of his daughter because she worked as an assistant director on Forrest Gump. I was kind of stunned by this revelation because our meeting was not an industry meeting and this was 1994 when Forrest Gump was the biggest thing around.

He gave me Cherylanne’s address and she read a script of mine and wrote a nice note back. Since that time I’ve followed her career as she’s work with an amazing group of people including Rob Reiner, Michael Douglas, Michael J. Fox, Martin Sheen, Robert Zemeckis, Jodie Foster, Robin Williams, Matthew McConaughey, Michelle Pfeiffer, and several times with Tom Hanks.  She worked her way up from production assistant, to assistant director, to unit production manager, to associate producer, and then to producer working on films like Cast Away, Road to Perdition, and Nancy Drew.

So if you are looking for a reason why you should move to L.A. Cherylanne’s story is a pretty sweet one. She’s had opportunities in L.A. that she never would have had staying in Orlando. Perhaps not the norm for PA’s, but it’s nice to read a “Once Upon a Time…” story every now and again. Congrats on her success. I’m sure her dad is more proud than ever.

But Morrow’s comments yesterday were geared for screenwriters and really a charge for writers to get five scripts written so you have a command of the craft of screenwriting before you set your sights on moving to Los Angeles. Just remember that nothing magical happens when you first arrive in California. Whatever talents you have back home or acquired where you went to school are all you have. Earlier this summer I wrote a post where I mentioned that starting out Tom Hanks got serious stage experience working for a couple years in Cleveland, Ohio and has said,  “[I have] an artistic bent, almost a philosophy, which I learned for the first time onstage in Cleveland.”

The bottom line is both Tom Hanks and Cherylanne Martin (pictured above) are talented people who came from outside L.A., worked very hard at their craft, and found great success.

P.S.— Los Angeles will always will a great place to bump into people. Heck there are around 10 million more people in L.A. than live in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Check out my posts The Bump-In FactorThe Bump-In Factor (Part 2). But with that said, the Internet these days can change how you bump into people. How else did Screenwriting from Iowa pop up a few days ago on TomCruise.com in a post titled Guide for Aspiring Screenwriters?

Related post from other blogs: WHAT DO I NEED TO MOVE TO LA? YOU TELL ME RIGHT NOW! by Geloff LaTulippe

Scott W. Smith

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“Most people , I believe, initially shun jury duty. The summons always seems to come at the least opportune time, and one might go kicking and screaming.”
David Mamet
Introduction, Twelve Angry Men, Penguin Books

Some writers begin with character, some with a situation, some from theme, but today we’ll look at a writer who once started with setting. A setting most try to avoid—the courtroom.

The first time I stepped foot in a courtroom I was 18 years old and fighting a traffic ticket. It was intimidating, and stimulating to the senses. And it was made all the sweeter in I presented my case, showed some photographs, and won. I was relieved and the police officer even gave me a pat on the back when it was over. That was a good day and left a positive impression of the legal process. My next time in court was a wake-up call.

I was a 22-year-old film school student when I was given a ticket in North Hollywood for what I believed was a mistake of perception on the police officer’s part. I took pictures once again and was confident that the judge would understand the situation and rule in my favor. And he might have, except I didn’t factor in one thing—that the police officer would lie. I was stunned. The judge believed his story, I lost, and the cop called me a punk as we walked out of the building. My hands shook as I drove back to my apartment in Burbank, constantly looking in my rearview mirror.

After that day I started to listen to those who complained of police improprieties. Yes, Virginia, there really are good cops and bad cops. (And  good doctors, bad doctors, good money managers, bad money managers…) Sooner or later you realize we all live outside the garden. Once your eyes are opened, it doesn’t take much to realize the depth of depravity in the world.

But fortunately we live in a country where in general the law and the courts seek the truth. The water may get a little muddy, and it may not always be found, but truth and justice are the goal. And that leads us to Reginald Rose and what led him to write the classic story 12 Angry Men as a successful teleplay (for which Rose won an Emmy), play, and Oscar-nominated screenplay and movie. (In 2005 , the play also won an Tony for “Best Revival of a Play.”)

Rose began writing plays as a teenager and sold his first teleplay when he was 30. Four years later he wrote 12 Angry Men as a one hour teleplay for Studio One and its popularity grew into the play and the 1957 film starring Henry Fonda directed by Sidney Lumet. (A great study for independent filmmakers because the bulk of the movie takes place in one room.) In 1997, another TV version was made starring George C. Scott, Jack Lemmon and Edward James Olmos and would win a collection of Emmy, DGA, SAG, and Golden Globe awards.

And what was the impetus for the story that would go on to win so many awards and be performed so much? A court case where Reginald Rose was part of the jury.

”It was such an impressive, solemn setting in a great big wood-paneled courtroom, with a silver-haired judge. It knocked me out. I was overwhelmed. I was on a jury for a manslaughter case, and we got into this terrific, furious, eight-hour argument in the jury room. I was writing one-hour dramas for ‘Studio One’ then and I thought, wow, what a setting for a drama.”
Reginald Rose
1997 interview with The Daily News.

I don’t know if Rose looked at his jury duty as a pain or a civic duty but I do know that it was that it resulted in a story that was the pinnacle of his career. And since today is Memorial Day let me say that since Rose was a veteran I’d like to think that he, to borrow Mamet’s phrase, saw himself an “essential component of American Democracy.”

Rose enlisted in the Army in 1942 after Pearl Harbor and served in the Philippines and Japan as a First Lieutenant until 1946.

He was nominated for a total of six Emmys winning three and belongs to mentioned with his TV contemporaries Paddy Chayefsky and Rod Serling.

So the next time you get that dreaded jury duty request, remember Reginald Rose and 12 Angry Men.

Twelve Angry Men (Play published by Penguin Books with David Mamet intro)

12 Angry Men (50th Anniversary DVD starring Henry Fonda)

Twelve Angry Men (L.A. Theatre Works CD)

Twelve Angry Men (DVD of original 1954 Studio One production)

Scott W. Smith

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In all of the many books I’ve read on screenwriting and screenwriters I don’t recall the name Peter Stone being mentioned once. Perhaps that’s because his films, mostly written in the 60s and 70s, aren’t the most timeless classics from his era—but he did win an Oscar for co-writing Father Goose (1965). In fact, I believe Stone was the first writer to win an Oscar, and Emmy and a Tony. (Even today that’s a small list.) One of the most popular and enduring films that he worked on was Charade (1963) starring Cary Grant. And the script for Sweet Charity (starring Shirley MacLaine and directed by Bob Fossee) was written by Stone, and still has a fan base.

Contemporary writers may know Stone as the screenwriter of the original movie The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 (1976). Stone had a solid background not only having a father (John Stone) who was a screenwriter and producer of more than 100 films, but he earned a Master’s degree from Yale. He died in 2003, but fortunately we have a glimpse of some of his views on writing from his audio commentary on the Charade DVD. There the Oscar, Tony and Emmy winning writer talks about one form of writing that didn’t mesh with his skill set.

“When I couldn’t sell the original screenplay (for Charade) I was advised by my wife, and my agent concurred, to turn it into a novel. I had never written a novel and it was in the course of writing the novel that I came to realized that I had no ability for writing novels at all. It’s a different set of muscles. There are very, very few people who can write dramatic material and narrative prose. Very few. Chekhov could do it. There are some today who can do it. Richard Price can do it. Crichton. They just call on a different set of muscles. One is descriptive and uses language in a way that dramatic material does not.

Dramatic material—everything has to be revealed through behavior, that’s all you have to reveal it with. And description plays such a small part in it. It’s just a different set of muscles at work and I don’t have them, or I never developed them, or I wasn’t interested in them or something. But I sure discovered it immediately. So it was a rotten novel.”
Peter Stone
Charade DVD commentary

That in part explains why Hemingway, Faulkner and Steinbeck never thrived in Hollywood. Is there sufficient proof to say that novelist trying to become screenwriters or screenwriters trying to become novelist leads to excessive drinking? Stone boils it all down for us: It’s simply “a different set of muscles.”

Related Post (as someone who has done well writing novels and screenplays); William Goldman Stands Alone

Scott W. Smith

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James Whitmore died yesterday and though he was an Emmy and Tony Award winning actor who was twice nominated for an Oscar I imagine most people today remember him most for his role in The Shawshank Redemption. In that film he played the elderly Brooks Hatlen who upon being released from a long time prison sentence has trouble finding his place in the world and eventually takes his own life.

Whitmore himself didn’t seem to have trouble finding his place in the world and is one of those people who lived his 87 years with gusto. He played football at Yale, served as a Marine in the South Pacific during World War II, and was a broadway actor and made his first film in 1949. He had three children and once gave an acting workshop where one of the students was James Dean.

Certainly someone with a 50 year career has at least one quote we can mull over.

The Associated Press reported that as a teenage actress Shirley Jones was starting out, Whitmore gave her this advice, “If you’re going to be in this business, you better learn your craft.” And Jones added, And he never stopped learning.”

 

Scott W. Smith

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