Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Squalls out on the gulf stream
Big storm commin’ soon
Jimmy Buffett/Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season


From all reports it appears that Hurricane Matthew will be the worst storm to hit Central Florida in the past 50 years. They’re expecting a category 4 storm (winds range from 131 to 155 mph, and possibly a category 5) by the time it heads up the east coast of Florida (West Palm Beach, Vero Beach, Melbourne Beach, Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach).

Even here in Orlando where the airport is only 50 miles from Cape Canaveral the sustained winds are expected to be 50-70 mph. I hope there are no more serious injuries or loss of lives due to Hurricane Matthew, but unfortunately the odds are quite good that this will disrupt lives for days or weeks, and possible alter the landscape forever.

One more reminder that there are things way beyond our control.

And because this is a screenwriting blog there are a few takeaways. There’s conflict, visual conflictstakes, urgency,  a good bad guy (Hurricane Matthew) who threatens lives and well being, a dilemma, a ticking clock,  and a central dramatic question—what’s going to happen in about 12 hours from now?

One of the best Hurricane-related movies is the 1948 classic  Key Largo (which is actually set during an impending hurricane hitting Florida) written by Richard Brooks and John Huston, based on a play by Maxwell Anderson:

Gangster: Hey Curly, what all happens in a hurricane?
Curly: The wind blow so hard the ocean gets up on its hind legs and walks right across the land.  

And today I found this Lux Radio version of Key Largo starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Edward G. Robinson:

And here’s a fitting Jimmy Buffett song (from one of my all time favorite albums, A1A) to close this blog post:

To watch live feed of Florida beaches during Hurricane Matthew check out Surfline.


Related posts:

Postcard #27 (A1A)
Shelter from the Storm (Dylan)
Havana Daydreamin’
Postcard #21 (Hurricane Issac)
Postcard #22 (Kelly Slater Statue)
Postcard #90 (Second Light)
Writer Jim Harrison (Part 2)
Jim Harrison 1937-2016 (part 4)
The Weather Started Getting Rough
Jimmy Buffett in Iowa (Part 2) A little Steve Goodman, a little Pat Conroy
Writing Quote #31 (Hemingway)

Scott W. Smith

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Well, the wind is blowin’ harder now
Fifty knots or there abouts,
There’s white caps on the ocean.
And I’m watching for water spouts
Jimmy Buffett/Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 8.07.37 PM.png

As I type this post, residents here in Florida are waiting for a hurricane to make landfall in the state for the first time in ten years. Hurricane Hermine is predicted to make landfall near Tallahasse in a couple of hours. The Weather Channel warns of damaging winds, life-threatening storm surge flooding, as well as the threat of tornadoes.

So the day will end just as rough as it started when the Space X unmanned rocket launch exploded this morning on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral. Once again a reminder of how fragile we are despite our command of advanced technology, as well nature’s power to wreck havoc.

Dere is trouble all over dis world
Children, dere is trouble all over dis world
Traditional Negro Spiritual
(What was sung before Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech)

Let’s hope tomorrow is a better day.

And despite the negative news, a personal bright spot is later tonight or early tomorrow morning this blog will hit a milestone that I never dreamed about when I started this blog almost nine years ago. I’ve actually been waiting for it for about a year and a half.

Come tomorrow and see what I’ve been waiting for and how this plateau will potentially change the future of this blog. If you’re new to this blog, or a long time reader, thanks for taking the time to visit Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places. For me it’s been a little like trying to surf in a hurricane—a pretty crazy ride.

Everyone in the greater Florida panhandle area take care, and I’ll see ya tomorrow.

P.S. And if you personally need a little pick up today, check out the Rich Roll podcast interview with George Raveling. I listen to a lot of podcasts these days and this one one was one of the most inspirational ones I’ve heard all year. The story of how Martin Luther King Jr. handed Raveling his speaking notes from what is now known as King’s 1963  I Have a Dream Speech in Washington D.C. is outstanding. (King, by the way, was only allotted 5 minutes to speak at the Civil Rights March, but Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson keep telling King—in the middle of his speech— to tell the people about his dream. King ended up speaking for 16 minutes, and history was made. But Raveling tells the story much better than I can so check it out.

Related posts:
Shelter from the Storm (Bob Dylan)
Shelter from the Storm (Dorothy)
Postcard #21 (Hurricane Isaac)
Postcard #83 (Kennedy Space Center)
Postcard #104 (Space X)
Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting

Scott W. Smith


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“I think that’s the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.”
Elon Musk


Over the weekend I was on the Space Coast of Florida, but was asleep when the SpaceX Falcon 9 took off from Cape Canaveral at 1:26 a.m. Sunday. But a photographer friend, Domonic Agostini was not only awake but positioned on the beach at Patrick Air Force based to capture this great photo. And he’s allowed me to post it here. (To license this photo or contact him for a shoot, you can reach him though his website www.dominicphoto.com.)

If you’ve followed the SpaceX program you know that like many tricky endeavors it has faced many successes and failures since founder (and Tesla CEO) Elon Musk launched the company in 2002.

Screenwriting and filmmaking may not be as dangerous as space travel, but it’s tricky business and here are just a few quotes over the years from this blog that show how failure has been handled by those who’ve had glowing success.

Facing the Possibility of Failure (Edward Burns)
Tennessee Williams on ‘Apparent Failure’
Aaron Sorkin on Failure
Commitment in the Face of Failure (Oscar winner Michael Arndt)
J.K. Rowling on the Benefits of Failure

P.S. One of the great visual and visceral examples of failure is from the movie The Right Stuff in the following sequence that NASA went through on its quest to successfully put a man on the moon.

Scott W. Smith






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“Break on through to the other side…”
Jim Morrison


You can file this post under “Old dog, New Tricks.”

Recently we welcomed a 9-year-old Golden-Lab rescue dog named Ginger into our home. It was just about a year after our 15-year-old Golden Retriever Lucy died, and we still had all of her tug toys and were looking forward to our new dog playing with them.

But we found out that Ginger did care to play with any of Lucy’s toys. We were told that Ginger’s original owners were elderly and could no longer care for her which is why they gave her up. We realized that maybe she’d never chased a tennis ball or played with a stuffed dog toy.

But slowly we’ve introduced an old dog to new tricks. Albeit she’s a bit awkward because she is not a puppy, but she seems to be enjoying her latent retriever skill set.

Then it was my turn.

Yesterday, I completed three days of training on the Adobe Creative Cloud at Genius DV here in Orlando. I made the switch from Final Cut Pro to Premiere two years ago, but this filled in some gaps as well as gave me a better working knowledge of After Effects, Photoshop and Audition. (Way back in 2002, I also went to Genius DV when I was making the transition from AVID to Final Cut Pro.)

While I’ve learned greatly from various online tutorials over the years (paid and free), there is something special about stepping away from your regular work environment for a few days (or a week if you can afford it) and doing a hands-on workshop or class. (Some of my greatest leaps in learning have come from going to workshops/seminars in various places throughout the county.)

And here’s the secret that an older TV/video producer taught me when I was younger. I was complaining about a two-day seminar that I attended and how I didn’t learn that much. That can be a problem with any seminar, and there are usually many people there with varying degrees of knowledge and experience. So you can’t just skip a few pages forward, you have to stay on pace with the group.

Anyway, my friend told me, “Scott, you don’t go to workshops to learn everything, you go to learn a few things that make you better at what you do.” Amen. It may only be 10-20% of what’s taught, but that 10-20% can be huge in helping you create better work.

And I’ll add to that that your learning is not always what was actually meant to be a part of the training. Sometimes it’s the rabbit trail discussions, the passing conversations at lunch or break time with others taking the workshop, that are meaningful.

In my Adobe class led by Juan Carlos Santizo he taught this old dog, many new tricks. Some had to do with the nuts and bolts of Premiere (virtual reality in the next upgrade), much in After Effects, and a healthy dose of shop talk including showing the following behind the scene video of three of the then remaining members of The Doors (Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore) recording with Grammy-winning Skrillex back in 2012.  The official song on You Tube has 19 million views. Old dogs—new tricks. Keeps life interesting.

P.S. And I haven’t given up on Final Cut Pro. I just finished a project using FCP7 and started dipping into FCP-X earlier this year. I think it’s wise to be platformagnostic—to borrow Morgan Spurlock’s phrase. I started my production career as a Arri & Eclair 16mm  cinematographer and Steenbeck flatbed editor, so I’ve learned to actually enjoy the continual changes in technology.  And I’ve long cherished the sentiment of photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984) who said his one regret was that he wouldn’t be around to take part in the digital world.

Scott W. Smith

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“People who have nothing to do with Des Moines drive in off the interstate, looking for gas or hamburgers, and stay forever.”
Bill Bryson
The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America

Not every kid who grew up in Iowa would one day have Robert Redford portray them in a movie. In fact, there’s only one person in history I think that applies to—writer Bill Bryson.

Last night I heard Bill Bryson speak at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. His humorous writings were matched by his humorous speaking abilities. His observational style reminded me of Garrison Keillor and Mark Twain, two other writer/speakers with Midwestern roots.

Bryson spoke fondly of growing up in Des Moines during the ‘50s, of his father who was a sports writer for the Des Moines Register, of his adopted county of England, and said that the community of Winter Park was enchanting. (While I did spend an enchanting decade living in Iowa, I have lived in enchanting Winter Park more than any other place.)  Bryson now lives with his family in enchanting Hanover, New Hampshire.

He spoke to the estimated a thousand or so in attendance that there was a certain anonymity of being a writer. That in 30 years of being a published writer no one had ever recognized him on the street. He reflected that he would not recognize some of his favorite writers on the street. He read some short passages from his books and about what a pleasure it was to attend the Sundance Film Festival last year and watching A Walk in the Woods based on his book. At the movie’s premiere, his wife sat on one side of him and on the other side was Redford.

I’ll leave you a one simple practical bit of wisdom from last night’s Q&A:

“What inspires me to write? Bills.”
Bill Bryson

P.S. Des Moines is a much different town today than when Bryson grew up there over 50 years ago and recounted so well in his book The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memior.

In Colin Woodward’s recent article  How America’s Dullest City Got Cool, he unpacks how a place once known as Des Boring reinvented itself:

In recent years Des Moines has been named the nation’s richest (by U.S. News) and economically strongest city (Policom), its best for young professionals (Forbes), families (Kiplinger), home renters (Time), businesses and careers (Forbes). It has the highest community pride in the nation, according to a Gallup poll last year, and in October topped a Bloomberg analysis of which cities in the United States were doing the best at attracting millennials to buy housing. “Never mind California or New York,” Fast Company declared two years back. “By some important measures, Des Moines is way ahead of its cooler coastal cousins.”

That’s one reason why I’ve set my recent spec TV pilot in Des Moines, Iowa. Another enchanting place.

P.P.S. Screenwriters Jim Uhls (Fight Club) and John August (Big Fish, Scriptnotes) both went to college at Drake University in Des Moines.

Related posts:
Postcard #11 (Des Moines)
Postcard #77 (Iowa State Capital)
San Francisco Vs. Des Moines
2010 48 Hour Film Festival/ Des Moines 

Scott W. Smith


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Yesterday I took the above photo and decided to see if I could find a movie tie-in to post it here. And sure enough it only took a few minutes to learn that a small part of Tomorrowland—which opened in theaters just over a week ago— was shot on the same street as The Palms building in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Call it the past meets the future.

New Smyrna Beach is located 75 miles from Disney World—and both places have captivated me since my youth. Disney’s Tomorrowland stars George Clooney and was directed by Brad Bird from a script by Bird and Damon Lindof.

Scott W. Smith 

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The most famous film set on the Gulf Coast of Florida is Citizen Kane. The Orson Welles masterpiece many, including the AFI, consider the greatest American film of all time.

“Here, on the deserts of the Gulf Coast, a private mountain was commissioned and successfully built. One hundred thousand trees, twenty thousand tons of marble are the ingredients of Xanadu’s mountain.”
Citizen Kane written by Herman J. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles

And while Citizen Kane was actually shot in Southern California and on Long Island, there are plenty of other films shot on the other west coast—in Florida. And since I took the above photo on St. Pete Beach last weekend I thought I’d focus on a few films shot in the greater Tampa Bay area.

Just a couple of miles north of where I took that photo on Pass-A-Grille sits the historic Loews Don CeSar Beach Resort where just last month The Infiltrator (starring Brian Cranston) shot some scenes.  The same place Robert Altman shot part of HealtH (1980).

Director Ron Howard shot Cocoon (1985) in and around St. Petersburg, Florida.  Steven Soderbergh shot part of Magic Mike (2012) on Treasure Island—starring Channing Tatum who graduated from high school in Tampa. Harmony Korine shot Spring Breakers in several locations in the area.

The pastel neighborhood featured in Edward Scissorhands, starring Johnny Depp, was shot a few miles north of Tampa in Lutz, Florida.  Dolphin Tale starring Morgan Freeman was primarily in and around Clearwater, Florida and  Oceans 11 spent a couple of days shooting at the Derby Lane Greyhound Track in St. Petersburg.

I’m sure there is a much longer list, but those are some of the higher profile productions and/or production people connected with projects shot in the area. If you’re interested in shooting there contact the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Film Commission and/or the Tampa Hillsborough Film and Digital Media Commission.

This is a fitting place to mention that in 2007 screenwriter (and St. Pete Beach resident) Mike France (Cliffhanger, Hulk) bought the historic Beach Theatre on St. Pete Beach. It was probably more of a romantic and nostalgic choice than a profit-making business decision and the theatre closed a few months before he died in 2013. But Kudos to France for keeping the art deco theatre—which first opened in 1940—alive a few more years.

And for what it’s worth, I was doing a little research last weekend for a new script I’m writing and on the same day I took that sunset shot I caught the sunrise at Melbourne Beach on Florida’s east coast. Melbourne Beach is where Jim Jarmusch shot part of his classic indie film Stranger Than Paradise (1984)— A must see black and white film shot using only master shots.

Here’s a photo of mine from sunrise at Melbourne Beach. (To inquire about shooting on Florida’s space coast (including Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne) contact the Space Coast Film Commission.)


P.S. Congrats to the Tampa Bay Lightning for their victory last night against the New York Rangers to advance to the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Related posts:
‘The Greatest Film Ever Made’
Orson Welles at USC in 1981 (part 1)
‘State of Cinema’ (Soderbergh)
Fueling Your Imagination (Jarmusch Style)

Scott W. Smith

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