Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

IMG_5676

Ritz Theatre and Museum in Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida was once known as “The Harlem of the South” referring to the African-American renaissance going on in Harlem, New York mostly in the 1920s and 30s. A time of intellectual, social, and artistic explosion.

That creative expression was also experienced on a smaller level in the LaVilla area in what’s now part of downtown Jacksonville. There were clubs, restaurants, and movie theaters for blacks in the “separate but equal” era of racial segregation.  The Ritz Theatre and Museum in the above photo was built in 1999 on the original site of the Ritz movie theater. (The sign is part of the original building.)  A young Ray Charles performed there and author Nora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God) worked around the corner at the Clara White Mission while living with an uncle in the area.

The Ritz Theatre was one of the stops on what was known as the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” where black entertainers traveled between places like the Apollo Theater in Harlem, the Fox Theatre in Detroit, and Royal Theatre in Chicago. Dates vary, but that period appears to have lasted from the early 1900s though the early 1960s.

There were a couple of movie theaters in the LaVilla area including The Strand Theatre which was built as a vaudeville theater in 1915 and became an African American theatre showing movies. (To read more of the movie history visit The Lost Theatres of LaVilla.)

Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 3.20.33 PM

The Stand Theatre

According to the book Richard E. Norman and Race Filmmaking by Barbera Tepa Lupack in 1914 there were only 238 theaters in the United States that catered to exclusively black patrons (compared to “32,000 white houses”). Most of those theaters catering to blacks showed traditional Hollywood movies. But after D.W. Griffth’s Birth of a Nation (a movie said to give rise to an almost dead KKK movement) there was a push to make what was known as race films or race movies.

John Noble and Rex Webster made The Birth of a Race as a direct response to The Birth of a Nation (1915). The film premiered in 1918 at Chicago’s Blackstone Theater. It was nowhere as widely seen (or praised) as Birth of a Nation—nor as technically proficient. But it was a response to make films that did not show a stereotypical view of blacks. One that resonates today. And one that was addressed in Robert Townsend’s 1987 movie Hollywood Shuffle. (A film I’ll write about later this month since it influenced a young Quentin Tarantino.)

Producer, writer, director Oscar Micheaux (The ExileHarlem After Midnight) is considered the first successful African-American feature filmmaker and I like to point out that his first film (The Homesteader) based on his novel was shot in Gregory, South Dakota and…wait for it—Sioux City, Iowa.

Few of the race films in their entirety survive to this day. But I was able to see one this weekend in Gainesville, Florida. The Cade Museum showed all six reels of The Flying Ace (1926) which was billed on the original poster as featuring an “ALL ALL-COLORED CAST.”

IMG_5685

The film was written and directed by Richard E. Norman. I wonder if he ever crossed paths with Micheaux. Before Norman moved to Florida he lived in Iowa (I swear I don’t make this stuff up) and had a company called Capital City Film Manufacturing Company of Des Moines, Iowa. One of his business cards stated, “Director and Photographer of Successful Photoplays Featuring Home Talent, Des Moines, Iowa.”

Apparently he did advertising, industrial films, and recorded special events throughout the Midwest. He did well enough that he had his own laboratory in Des Moines to develop his film. He also was resourceful enough to make short films with local talent in various cities and then show the films at a local theater and make a lion share of the 60/40 spilt with the movie theater.

But he moved to Jacksonville, Florida and opened Norman Studios and eventually began using his talent to make race films. He also happened to be white. At the screening Sunday his grandson was on hand to introduce the screening of The Flying Ace. 

DSC_8688

DSC_8696

Live music accompanied the screening of The Flying Ace.

DSC_8697DSC_8701DSC_8705

The buildings of Norman Studios survive to this day and a non-profit organization has been set-up to preserve its history. If you look at the map below you’ll see that Norman Studios was located less than five miles from where the Ritz Theatre now stands.

Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 2.55.36 PM

Google Earth screen capture

Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 2.57.07 PM

And because all things are connected in Quentin Tarantino’s Tarantinoverse parts of The Flying Ace were shot in Mayport just outside of Jacksonville. The Navel Station Mayport is located there and if you’ve read Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff you may remember that Wolfe starts out discussing Navy life in Mayport/Jacksonville and begins with a gruesome plane crash of Navy jet in the swamp area around Mayport. (See the top right area of the above map.) Here are the first few paragraphs of The Right Stuff:

Screen Shot 2019-08-14 at 5.10.27 PM.png

The wives of the young jet pilots were calling each other to see if they’d heard what had happened “out there” until an officer would arrive at one of the homes and begin with “I’m sorry….” I don’t recall that part being in the 1983 film version The Right Stuff. 

But perhaps it will be touched on in the Tv mini-series of The Right Stuff that is being set-up at Universal Studios Orlando. (Just a few miles down the road from where I’m writing this post.) One of the producers is Leonardo DiCaprio who plays Rick Dalton in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. 

Here are some other posters from the race film The Green Eyed Monster that Norman produced that perhaps can serve as inspiration to Tarantino’s 10th and final film before he retires from feature filmmaking.

Screen Shot 2019-08-12 at 3.14.23 PM.png

P.S. Yes, I am aware that other places considered themselves “The Harlem of the South” so no need to write me about that.

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

I did finish watching the HBO mini-series Chernobyl and plan to write a post about it tomorrow. In the meantime, yesterday I saw the trailer for Once Upon a Time in . . . Hollywood and it triggered a few things.

A few days ago a friend of mine was in outside his midcentury home in an Orlando suburb when a location scout started asking him some question. Turns out he was looking for homes for the TV program The Right Stuff. (The Tom Wolfe book of the same name was made into a remarkable movie back in 1983.)

I wasn’t even aware that they were doing a TV show on The Right Stuff—much less one right here in Central Florida. A quick Google search showed that Leonardo DiCaprio (recently starring in Once Upon a Time . . .  in Hollywood) is executive producing. And Emmy-winning director David Nutter is scheduled to direct the pilot.

I went to film school with Nutter at the University of Miami and our paths almost crossed again back in the early 90s when he was editing Superboy at Century III at Universal Studios Orlando and I was in the next bay editing a project. On a break I went over to say hello but he was already gone.

And he was soon gone from Florida and off to incredible success in Hollywood. His long list of directing credits include Band of Brothers, The X-Files, The West Wing, The Pacific, and The Sopranos, and Game of Thrones.

To show what an interconnected world production can be, the location scout for the new The Right Stuff studied film with Ralph Clemente at Valencia College, who Nutter studied with at Miami. (See the post The Perfect Ending).

And while I was editing projects at Century III (the top post house in Orlando back in the day) I worked with Mike Elias (in the pre-AVID/non-linear days) using a video editing technique that used rows of VHS machines to assemble an edit. (I forget what machine was called, but it would be great for production students to see in action to appreciate non-linear editing). Elias was a good friend of Nutters (and also worked on Superboy) and for the last few years has been an editor on Family Guy.  If I recall correctly, Mike’s father is the writer Michael Elias who co-wrote The Jerk starring Steve Martin and The Frisco Kid starring Gene Wilder and Harrison Ford.

The thing that brought David Nutter and Mike Elias to Orlando in the late 80s and early 90s was this thing called Hollywood East—a marking ploy to position Florida as a major player in film and TV production. Disney and Universal Studio opened working film studios at that time. Panavision opened and office and for a decade it appeared to be working.  Parenthood (1989), Edward Scissorhands (1990),  Passenger 57 (1992), Marvin’s Room brought some of the biggest names in Hollywood to Florida including Ron Howard, Steve Martin, Johnny Depp, Wesley Snipes, Meryl Streep and DiCaprio.

And then Hollywood East was gone. Not gone-gone…it just relocated from Florida to its currently home in Georgia. But now at least DiCaprio is coming back to shoot at least part of The Right Stuff in Central Florida.

Another  fun connection I just learned yesterday is I edited a video two months ago on sustainability (and learned about things like hyrdroponics) and the person I did that video for was hired to work full time as the Sustainability Lead on The Right Stuff. The goal of the DiCaprio’s production company and Nat Geo is to “become the most sustainable TV production ever.”

I’m not sure this will jumpstart a new wave of film and TV production in Florida but it’s a nice addition to Florida’s production history that goes way back to the early days of cinema. If you’re every in Jacksonville, Florida check out touring Norman Studios which began making silent films in 1916 and produced movies with exclusively African American cast in the 1920s.

P.S. I first arrived in L.A. in the early 1980s and felt like I got a glimpse of the old a fading Hollywood that Tarantino appears to capture in Once Upon a Time in . . . Hollywood, which is set in 1969.

Scott W. Smith 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Postcard #167 (Christmas 2018)

Deland2018_IMG_0987
Merry Christmas.
(I took this photo last Saturday in downtown Deland, Florida.)

Scott W. Smith

 

Read Full Post »

IMG_0657.jpg

Writer Jack Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1969. On Monday I drove by the last house he lived and took a photo. Neither the photo or the house or anything special, but it was something that I felt compelled to do after receiving my master’s degree from USF, St. Petersburg the day before. (I was drawn to Kerouac’s writing when I was 20-something because he was the first writer that I knew that had a football background.)

IMG_E0731.JPG

The Last House Jack Kerouac Lived In

There are a lot of homes and hotels in St. Petersburg that are special because they reflect that fine era of the 1920s & 30s.

IMG_E0767.JPG

Private Residence

IMG_0747.JPG

The Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg

img_0755.jpg

The Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach

St. Petersburg is also special to me because it’s where my father’s remains are buried in Bay Pine Cemetery, so I made a stop there on Monday as well.

IMG_0736

Bay Pines National Cemetery

The nice thing about being in St. Petersburg in December is you get to experience a taste of Christmas St. Petersburg style.

IMG_0702.JPG

St. Pete Santa

IMG_E0749.JPG

Nothing Quite Says Christmas Like a Rhino with a Wreath

In Tampa, the Oxford Exchange is also decorated for the holidays…

IMG_0585

Oxford Exchange in Tampa

…and it’s where I picked up my first pair of Warby Parker glasses. Look for them in the video I hope to begin releasing in early 2019.

IMG_0578

Demo Pair of the Sullivan Frames in Saltwater Matte

Of course, the tie-in here is the Warby Parker name is pulled from some names that Jack Kerouac wrote. Overall I had a whirlwind weekend in the Tampa Bay area to finish two years of chipping away on my M.A.

IMG_0679

Go Bulls! (Fall Graduation 2018)

P.S. Post-Thanksgiving I was pushing to finish a final project and final paper so my blog posts were sporadic—but starting tomorrow I’ll get back on the bull and finish the year strong with some help from the late William Goldman.

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“I set out to tell the truth. And sometimes the truth is shocking.”
Tennessee Williams

As a preface to part three of my interview with screenwriter, Clare Sera part of what I referenced was Orlando in the ’90s had a lot going on in the arts. Here’s a quick overview:

Movies— Parenthood, Passenger 57, Waterboy
TV—Nickelodeon, From Earth to the Moon, The Mickey Mouse Club
Theater —SAK Comedy Lab, Mad Cow Theatre, Central Florida Civic Theatre
Music— Matchbox Twenty, Creed, Justin Timberlake

Scott: When you were involved in improv in Orlando in the ’90s did you cross paths with Paula Pell, Aaron Shure, and/or Bob DeRosa. 

Clare: I know them all well. Yes, I love them all.

[Note: Paula Pell went to New York and ended up writing hundreds of comedy sketches for Saturday Night Live and the screenplay Sisters, Aaron Shure won an Emmy producing and writing on Everyone Loves Raymond, and Bob DeRosa is in LA where he wrote the screenplay for Killers.]

Scott: What do you think was going on in Orlando at that at that time?

Clare: Orlando was just kind of waking up at that time so it was kind of cool. And all of them were with SAK.

Scott: I didn’t know they all had a connection.

Clare: They all did. I remember making Paula improvise which she was just terrified. She was a little more comfortable with sketches and writing sketches which has worked out quite well for her. Bob DeRosa came to SAK and started his own improv team. And Aaron, of course, was an improvisor at SAK also. So yeah, there’s a big Orlando contingent out here [in LA]. A big one.

Scott: I think a lot of people believe “If I have a movie made…,” “If someone buys my screenplay….” that it will cure all. Do you have any last words on having a life beyond the movie world?

Clare: I know it is a little bit cliché, but it’s really only cliché because it’s that same truth that said over and over, but those wishes that come true or those goals or dreams [realized]—they are so fleeting. And it absolutely is fun. [The release of Blended] absolutely was joyful blip my life but it really was a blip. And it is my relationships that are my actual life, that is what my life is. For me it’s God in each one of us, that’s what I’m spending my life doing—just being in a relationship with people. And it is the most important thing so when a blip happens whether it’s a great blip like a life dream comes true and Adam Sandler makes a movie— that’s a blip. That’s great. If it’s a terrible blip like a dear friend suddenly dies, it’s your relationships that are there before and after, and you cannot sacrifice them when those blips occur. Especially the good ones.

Scott: I hope you get a couple more blips.

[Note: I did this interview in the gap between the release of Blended and Smallfoot. So she did have another blip.]

The original idea for Smallfoot began with writers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, was developed by Warner Bros. by several others writers before Clare and James Kirkpatrick ended up with co-screenwriting credits.

In a Creative Screenwriting interview with Brock Swanson,  Kirkpatrick says Smallfoot is about “the truth as we make it up to be.” In a flip of the ole bigfoot legend, Smallfoot challenges the village belief that “There is no such thing as a smallfoot.” (A human.)

Kirkpatrick said the BBC radio show The Tyranny of Story helped shape the direction of the story as they explored the concept of the power of story on a community, and ultimately the question What is truth? became a part of the film’s theme. (A question that, as I write this post today, is quite popular in the village known as America.)

I love the humanity of writing. Especially if it’s screened in an actual movie theater. We all go into a dark room and watch the flickering images and then we all laugh at the same things, cry at the same moments, and we all come out talking about this character or that theme. It’s such a shared humanity.”
Clare Sera
Creative Screenwriting

And that concludes the non-mythical journey we’ve looked at the last three days of how Clare Sera was born in Scotland, raised in Canada, cut her comedy chops in Florida, all on her way living in LA and having a hand in writing a Hollywood film that was number one at the box office on Sunday.

P.S. Since 2001, Clare has also been volunteering lead and plan workshops with WriteGirl (@writegirlLA)  Their website states, “WriteGirl is a creative writing and mentoring organization that promotes creativity, critical thinking and leadership skills to empower teen girls.”

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

“I had done some country [music], but more sort of tongue-in-cheek.  I didn’t really think I had a talent for country. I don’t think I was really interested in doing country until I met Gram [Parsons] and he really made me see the subtleties of it and the poetry in it. And singing with him I think really taught me how to sing.”
14-time Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Emmylou Harris

IMG_8164

Last night I went to a young musician showcase at Gram Parsons’ Derry Down in Winter Haven, Florida (about an hour west of Orlando). The venue is named after Gram Parsons who was born in Winter Haven and used to play in that building back in the 1960s.

Parsons went on to be in two bands (The Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers) who were influential in what would be known as folk rock and country rock/alt-country. Bernie Leadon he became a founding member of the Eagles when they formed in 1970.

“I think in particular, Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers were influences on us because they were right there at the Troubadour. We got to see them play live and watch what they were doing and check out the harmonies and check out the songs they were writing or doing.”
Glenn Frey of the Eagles

Parsons died in 1973 at age 26 cutting short his opportunity to be more widely remembered for his music than his influence. He did spend some time on the folk music scene in Boston with the International Submarine Band. His last band was Fallen Angels. And somewhere in between, he became friends Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones who said Parsons was a “natural soul brother.”

“I think [Parsons] was just getting into his stride when he died. His actual output — the number of records he made and sold — was pretty minimal. But his effect on country music is enormous. This is why we’re talking about him now. But we can’t know what his full impact could have been.”
Keith Richards
Rolling Stone magazine, “100 Greatest Artists” (Parsons was listed as #87)

P.S. Singer/songwriter Jim Stafford, known for his ’70s hit songs Spiders and Stakes and Wildwood Weed, and who has a theater in Branson, is also from Winter Haven and played in a band with Parsons when they were in high school.

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ”
Fred Rogers

Enzian_7503

If you time it right next Tuesday you can catch the unusual double feature of Mr. Rogers  (Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Full Metal Jacket at the Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida.  Catch the documentary on Fred Rogers at 6:30, grab a food and a drink at Eden Bar, and then catch the Stanley Kubrick war classic at 9:30. (Therapy afterward optional.)

How many times will you get to do that in your life?

I had the opportunity to cross paths with Fred Rogers twice in my life. The first time was in 1997 when my wife was playing a piano duet in the music building at Rollins College.  As my wife and I were talking after the recital Mr. Rogers came up and said to my wide in his super nice and friendly manner, “I really enjoyed your music.”

Mr. Rogers also played the piano and went to Rollins College where he met his musician wife. She later received a book from him with a nice note.

FredBookCover_7508FredSign_7506

 

My second Mr. Rogers encounter was when I was taking photos at the Rollins Chapel carrying equipment and he opened the door for me. It was like having Forrest Gump open the door for you. (Speaking of…Tom Hanks will be playing Mr. Rogers in the movie You Are My Friend coming out next year from a script by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and  Noah Harpster. )

Fred Rogers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998 and may have taken one of the more unusual routes to Hollywood Blvd. He born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania (where golfing legend Arnold Palmer was also born) and after Rollins attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and became an ordained Presbyterian minister before launching his TV class show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. 

Here’s a little Mr. Rogers inspiration for you today.

FredStrength_7507

P.S. In the early 60s (1961/1962) author and theologian R.C. Sproul was starting his training at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary just as Fred Rogers was finishing his education there. In 1971 Sproul started the Ligonier Valley Study Center in Stahlstown, PA. (Stahstown, Ligonier, and Latrobe are all neighboring towns within a ten-mile radius of each other.)

Sproul later moved to Orlando and in the 90s when I was just a few years out of film school and looking for “Hollywood East” I produced many videos and a radio program with Sproul and he told me he’d gone to seminary with Fred Rogers.

Proving once again that it’s a small, small world with many surprising twists and turns.

P.P.S.

Screen Shot 2018-06-19 at 9.39.37 PM.png

Won’t you be my neighbor? (“Full Metal Jacket” version.)

Related post:
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Hollywood East (written after R.C. Sproul died last year)

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: