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Last night my wife and I went to the Toledo restaurant at Walt Disney World to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The restaurant is on the top floor of the recently opened Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. If you’re ever at Disney World in Orlando and want an ideal place to eat and watch the fireworks then I’m not sure you can do better than the 16th floor of the Toledo.

It was a great experience and it once again reminded me of the words of Walt Disney on reflecting on all they had done, “… I only hope we never lose sight of one thing, it was all started by a mouse.”

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Related posts:

Screenwriting Quote #53 (Walt Disney)
Walt and Walter in KC
Imagineering with Walt Disney

Scott W. Smith

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This fountain was about 100 yards away when I turned a corner while driving this morning and something told me it had potential for a nice photograph. All the layering componets were there. You have a fountain with water giving movement in the foreground, some trees in the middle area, sun in the background, and lots of negative space at the top of the frame with interesting texture in the clouds.

Taken in the Baldwin Park neighborhood in Orlando, Florida. An interesting side note is this fountain is located in Blue Jacket Park which was a former Navy training area. The park is named after the USS Bluejacket, 2/3-sized replica (230 feet) of a destroyer ship that was used for training in the same general area from 1968-1993.

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The Bluejacket landlocked Navy training ship in Orlando

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The Bluejacket opening had an official ceremony in 1969, and was demolished 30 years later

Scott W. Smith 

 

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Until earlier this month I hadn’t been to the Rio Pinar Golf Club since Jimmy Carter was in The White House. But on my way to a video shoot two weeks ago I drove by the classic midcentury modern building and took this photo. (All it needs is Rick Dalton’s ‘60s Coupe de Ville in from Once Upon a Time …  in Hollywood in the driveway) Then after my shoot I drove by again and looked at the newly remodeled inside.

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It brought back memories  to the late‘70s when I was a teenager and saw Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer play in the Florida Citrus Open Invitational. (The successor to the Arnold Palmer Invitational.) 

It also brought back to memory a video shoot I did in the ‘90s with golfer Payne Stewart (top left corner) and a photo shoot I did with Greg Norman (on the other end of this wall but not in this photo) in Los Angeles way back in the ’80s. And it also brought back a more recent memory of driving by another midcentury modern building in the Orlando area about a month ago.

On August 31 I drove by The Maitland Civic Center and noticed the grip trucks and lights outside and wondered what they were shooting. When I saw the classic old cars I figured it was for the TV version of The Right Stuff that’s been in Florida shooting recently. I took a couple of photos with my iPhone but didn’t ask what they were shooting, nor did I see executive producer Leonard DiCaprio moving any C-stands around.

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P.S. And to add a little color to this post— I found this old photo online from Rio Pinar back in its heyday. Cheers…

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Scott W. Smith

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“To me, torture would be watching sports on television.”
Quentin Tarantino

How in the world can you tie in a college football game in Florida with Quentin Tarantino’s movie Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood? It’s really not that hard because in Tarantino’s world everything is connected.

Once upon a time the rivalry between the University of Miami and the University of Florida was the Ali-Frazier battle of college football. Though they’ve been competing against each since 1938 it was the 80s and 90s when it turned into a slugfest. Since 1984 Miami or Florida have won a total of 8 national championships.

When they played this weekend it made me think of how Florida was connected to Tarantino’s world and his film Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood via some personal recollections. (BTW—I did watch the Miami—Florida game on Tv and at 3 hours it was even longer than Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. I have the ability to enjoy both.)

  1. Jackie Brown is based on Elmore Leonard’s novel Rum Punch which was set in Florida. Tarantino changed the location to the more familiar Los Angeles County where he was raised.
  2. Actor/director Sylvester Stallone attended the University of Miami long before he became Rocky and a Hollywood icon. Stallone has said in interviews that he turned down roles in both Jackie Brown and Death Proof.  In Tarantino’s ever involving list of favorite films you will sometimes see the original Rocky film listed.
  3. Burt Reynolds briefly played football at Florida State in Tallahassee before also becoming a Hollywood icon. (He first studied acting at Palm Beach Junior College.) Reynolds was the biggest box office actor in the 1970s and his films were a huge influence on Tarantino growing up. The Rick Dalton character played by Leonardo DeCaprio was partly inspired by Reynolds and Tarantino cast Reynolds to played George Spahn in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.   
  4. In 1978 I went to one of the best concerts of my life at the Tangerine Bowl (now known as Camping World Stadium) in Orlando (which is where the game was played last Saturday between Miami and Florida). The final act of that ’78 concert was Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band. Seger’s 1969 song Rambin’ Gamblin Man is featured on the soundtrack of Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

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    I was a concert rat back in the day and kept many of my ticket stubs. I think there were around 60,000 people in attendance.

  5. At the old Orlando arena I once saw Neil Diamond in concert and his work is also featured on the Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood soundtrack. He performs Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.
  6. Back in the 90s I was editing a video project a Greg Rike Productions in Altamonte Springs and was told that Deep Purple was regularly coming into the studio at night.  Apparently they liked to winter in the Orlando area where they could play soccer and rehearse. Deep Purple has two songs on the Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood soundtrack—Hush and Kentucky Woman (which was actually written by Neil Diamond).
  7. Another time when I was editing at that same facility I met one of the band members for Flock of Seagulls. In Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction Jules (John Travolta) calls one of the people he’s going to kill “Flock of Seagulls” because of the guy’s haircut.
  8. One of my high school football coaches was Sammy Weir who played one season with the New York Jets in 1966. The quarterback of the Jets in ’66? Joe Namath.
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    Here I am (#42) standing next to Coach Weir my senior year at Lake Howell. Weir was a Little All American at Arkansas St.

    When Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) walks into the Bruin movie theater to watch the movie The Wrecking Crew the movie trailer playing is for C. C. and Company and features Joe Namath. At the 35mm showing of Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood I saw in Jacksonville they actually showed the original trailer of biker film featuring Broadway Joe (as Namath was known in his heyday).

  9. In the trailer for C.C. and Company (and in the movie) are clips of musician Wayne Cochrane with his pompadour in full glory. Cochran was known as The White Knight of Soul and he is said to be the inspiration behind Elvis in his jumpsuit era. Cochran spent his last years in Miami where he was an evangelist.
  10. Jim Morrison of The Doors is mentioned in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood and he was born in Melbourne, Florida, was a student a Florida State University, and cut his singing chops playing in bars in Tallahassee. Another musician on the edge of the story was Graham Parsons who was raised in Winter Haven, Florida on his way to being a part of The Byrds. The Byrds road manger Phil Kaufman knew Charles Manson while in prison at the Terminal Island Prison and encouraged Manson to pursue a music career. (That prison is not far from Torrance, California where Tarantino grew up.)  Manson eventually met Beach Boy Dennis Wilson and that leads Manson to meeting record producer Terry Melcher in hopes of getting a record contract. Melcher once lived at  10050 Cielo Drive. Some speculate that when Manson’s cult members went to Cielo Drive it was an effort to payback or scare Melcher for not following through with a record deal for Manson.
  11. When Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) pulls into the Van Nuys Drive In theater one of the movies on the marquee is Pretty Poison which stars Anthony Perkins. Perkins went to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida (an Orlando suburb). Fred Rogers—better known as Mr. Rogers—also went to Rollins. At one of the viewings I went to there was a trailer for the new Mr. Rogers movie starring Tom Hanks.
  12. I’ve often joked that I had the shortest career of any football player who ever put on a University of Miami football uniform. I was a walk-on player (non-scholarship) who dressed out for exactly one JV game, and that happened to be a game against Florida. I played exactly zero downs which was the only time that ever happened in 10 years of playing organized football. I dislocated my shoulder the week after that game and had it operated on. Though I was a good high school player I was a athletic version of Rick Dalton by the time I was 20. One thing sports teaches you at every level is there is a pyramid of talent and that pyramid is always rotating. Jerry Rice was one of the top players to ever play NFL football. (A top of the pyramid wide receiver.) But at the end of his career when in was with the Denver Broncos he retired after learning that he would no longer be a starter. The head coach when I was at Miami was Howard Schnellenbeger who as an assistant at the University of Alabama in the early ‘60s is the one who recruited Joe Namath to play for the Crimson Tide.
  13. I made my first 8mm film while at the University of Miami with my arm in a sling after surgery on my shoulder. The rock star in the film program then was David Nutter who went on to win an Emmy for directing an episode of Game of Thrones. I heard (though don’t know if he’s still attached) that he was directing some episodes of TV version of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff—that is being produced by Appian Way Productions which is Leonardo F-ing DiCaprio’s company.  (Tampa Bay Times article on The Right Stuff shooting in area.) I did see photos that they had set up shop at Universal Studios Orlando which is just a couple miles from when I’m typing this post.
  14. And while Scarface has nothing to do with Once Upon a Time … Hollywood (that I know of), it was shot in Miami and directed by one of Tarantino’s favorite directors Brian DePalma. 
  15. Toward the end Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood Brad Pitt says “And awaaay we go” which is a famous tagline of Jackie Gleason who from 1966-1970 hosted The Jackie Gleason Show “live from Miami Beach.” Gleason played Burt Reynolds nemesis in Smokey and the Bandit—a movie that Tarantino says warrants repeat viewings.

P.S. Updated bonus track: After a University of Miami football game in 1981 the Beach Boys played a concert at the Orange Bowl. (And were oddly paired that night with the Commodores.) That was two years before Dennis Wilson died and so I assume he was part of that gig. The Beach Boys were formed in 1961 in Hawthorne, California and a few years later a young Quentin Tarantino attended Hawthorne Christian School for part of his elementary years. (A school he’s said he wasn’t fond of attending.)

And two more Florida connections to Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood is celebrity hairstylist and Sharon Tate buddy Thomas John Kummer went professionally by the name Jay Sebring, taking his last name from Sebring, Florida which is known for its international raceway. And lastly, Walt Disney gets a nice shout out in the movie when Julia Butters says Disney was a once in 50 years kind of genius. As someone who grew up in Central Florida I’ve always said Orlando basically only had indoor plumbing and air conditioning before Walt Disney’s vision of Disney World opened here in 1971. To go there that year as a ten year old was personally a transformative experience. Just riding the monorail at the start of the day was surreal to my senses. The Haunted Mansion, 2000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride were mind blowing fun.

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I still have some of my early Walt Disney World tickets.

The first Disney movie I remember seeing in theaters was The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) which stars Kurt Russell—who, of course, is in Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood. 

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

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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.)

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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.”

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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. 

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Live music accompanied the screening of The Flying Ace.

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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.

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Google Earth screen capture

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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:

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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.

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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

 

 

 

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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 

 

 

 

 

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Postcard #167 (Christmas 2018)

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

Scott W. Smith

 

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