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Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

“We’re two boys from Liberty City representing the 305.”
Tarrell Alvin McCraney
(305 is the area code in Miami)

“Liberty City, one of the poorest sections of Miami and almost entirely black, is geographically tiny, little more than the housing projects and the blocks surrounding them.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones/ New York Times


liberty-city

What’s more unlikely than an Oscar-winning screenwriter being from the Liberty City section of Miami? That’s easy— how about two Oscar-winning writers being from there. Barry Jenkins and Tarrell Alvin McCraney collected the Best Adapted Screenplay Award Sunday for their Moonlight script. Both are from the same housing project in Liberty City.

And to top it off, Moonlight had a surprise upset of La La Land to win Best Picture Oscar.

Allow me take you on a quick tour of greater Miami to explain what’s so special about being from Liberty City.

Less than ten miles east of Liberty City is Miami Beach with its beautiful Art Deco hotels, glamorous night clubs, and high-end cars. Here’s a map of homes in the South Beach and surrounding islands listed on Zillow that are listed for three million or more. (Make note of one listing for $65 million.)

Homes for sale .png

A little over 10 miles to the south of Liberty City you’ll find Coral Gables. It’s home to the Miracle Mile, the University of Miami, and the beautiful and historic Biltmore Hotel.

And lastly on our little tour, just 10 miles to the west of Liberty City you’ll find the Trump National Hotel Miami, a country club where PGA tournaments have been held every year since 1962. Tiger Woods won four times there.

You get the picture. Liberty City is surrounded by some of the finest and upscale places in the United States. I won’t speak for Liberty City (or its next door neighbor, Overtown) in terms of today, but back in 1979 when Barry Jenkins was born Liberty City was  a just under six square miles low income and high crime zone.  (Tough but not as many guns on the street as there are today according to Jenkins.) In 1980 riots broke out there amidst racial tension over a police shooting and acquittal.

This is how Time magazine wrote of the area in 1981 article titled Paradise Lost?:

“Even in Liberty City, the black enclave in North Miami where 18 people died in last year’s riot, the Latin influence is apparent. White store owners who abandoned their businesses are being replaced by Latin landlords. ‘The only things blacks have in Miami are several hundred churches and funeral homes,” says Johnny Jones, a former Dade County school superintendent. ‘After a generation of being Southern slaves, blacks now face a future as Latin slaves. ’”

This is how this New York Times explains the Liberty City journey of both Jenkins and McCraney:

Both men were born to mothers who had their first children when they were teenagers. Both saw their mothers become H.I.V. positive after falling victim to the crack epidemic that overtook their community. Both were taken away from their mothers and bounced around; caregivers, related and not, took them in. They both knew what it was like to have the water turned off for lack of payment, to go to school without deodorant because there was no money to buy it.”

So, yeah, it’s an unlikely place for two Oscar-winners to be raised. And in a nutshell, that’s what the Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places blog is all about. To give a little hope to the creative Outliers in unlikely places around the world.

Related links:
A Liberty City Oscar Watch Party Reacts to Moonlight win/ Miami Herald
Watch Moonlight Director Barry Jenkins Revisit His Hometown/Vanity Fair

Related posts:
The First Black Feature Filmmaker
Postcard #24 (Coral Gables)
Postcard #25 (Miami Beach)
Cocaine Cowboys & the Future of Film (Doc on Miami in the 70s & 80s)
25 Links Related to Black & Filmmaking (2017 Oscar-Edition)

Scott W. Smith

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“We were actually writing the screenplay at the same time as Margot [Lee Shetterly], the author, was writing the book – all we had was the book proposal. A few years ago, the producers were looking for a writer, and they read my script on Agatha Christie, actually, and they sent me the book proposal – having no idea that I had grown up near Cape Canaveral in Florida, that my grandmother had worked at NASA, and that my grandfather and I had worked at NASA.

“So I got it, and called the producer ‘Please, I have to be a part of this, I was born to write’, or something equally cheesy, and the producer probably rolled her eyes and thought ‘Oh, those Hollywood writers will say anything.’ But when I told her my background – that I’d studied math a lot in college and so on – that was it, I was hired. ”
Oscar nominated screenwriter Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures 
Alex Moreland Interview

Note: Schroeder did her undergraduate work in economics at Stanford and earned an MFA in film at USC. Check out Juggling paid work and spec scripts at JohnAugust.com to read a first hand account of what Schroeder’s life was like just a few years ago—“Before my big break, I worked, and worked hard as a PA, an assistant, and writer-for-free.”

P.S. Schroeder graduated from Melbourne High School, here on the Space Coast of Florida, in 1997 and said in a Florida Today interview,  “Mrs. Steady was my English teacher. She was always an extreme advocate for my writing. She really pushed me to go out and see the world. She urged me at 18, it’s OK, fly across the country. Go experience something new and have an adventure. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Scott W. Smith

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Postcard #107 (Downtown St. Pete)

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©2016 Scott W. Smith

It’s fitting that I was in the Tampa Bay area on the day that Fidel Castro died over the weekend. A third of all Cubans in America live in Florida. The majority of those of those live in the greater Miami/South Florida, but Cuban immigrants began coming to Tampa in greater number in the late 1800s often working and living near the cigar factories in Ybor City area.

Perhaps I’ll write more about Castro, Cuba and the movies on another post, but for today I’ll say that my views of Castro are shaded by those who fled after Castro took power in 1959, including one college professor I met who left behind everything in Cuba to come to the United States—arriving with 37 cents in his pocket.

The views of Castro are well summed up by Graciela Martinez in The NY Times Sunday,”For those who loved him, he was the greatest. For those who hated him, there was no one worse.” I went to school in Miami just after Mariel boatlift so I was definitely surrounded by people who did not love Castro or what he did to their homeland.

I imagine few would have bet on a 30-year-old exiled Castro arriving in Cuba via boat with Che Guevara and 80 other rebels in 1956 and not only overthrowing the government, but his communistic government staying in power to this day. And much has been written (and will be written) about the pros and cons of Castro’s legacy.  Perhaps the one positive thing most can agree on that flowed from Castro’s dictatorship is the 1983 film Scarface. (AFI’s #10 ranked Gangster film of all time. “Say hello to my little friend” is #61 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Lines of All Time.)

But politics and movies aside, I love the Cuban/Spanish culture that you’ll find all over Florida from St. Augustine to Key West.

I took the above photo in downtown St. Petersburg over the weekend. Believe it or not, St. Petersburg is one of the most transformative, invigorating, an artistic cities in the United States. It’s like a mix of the best of Miami and Minneapolis with a little bit of a Marina del Rey/Santa Monica west coast vibe–and Spanish spices tossed in.  Call it The St. Petersburg surprise.

Home to several financial institutions, the University of South Florida—St. Petersburg,  and the Home Shopping Network, it’s also been ranked #1 in the Top 25 Mid-Size Cities for Art.  (In part due to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Chihuly Collection, and the Salvador Dali Museum.)

The USF sailing team finished sixth in the nation at The 2016 College Sailing Match Racing Nationals just last week. And sure, there’s still the world’s largest shuffelboard club in St. Pete (est. in 1924), but you’ll find hipsters there as well as retirees.  So when you read in Esquire New Brooklyn Gets Into Good Ole’ Shuffleboard, know that trend started in St. Petersburg.

Part of those St. Pete surprises.

P.S. If you ever visit Tampa make sure you eat at the Columbia Restaurant (Florida’s oldest restaurant) in Ybor City. In 2017, I’d like to cover more global cinema and look forward to getting caught up on Cuban movies made over the last 50 years.

Related posts:
Havana Daydreamin’
Coppola, Castro & Capitalism
Cuba to Key West

Scott W. Smith

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

wesh-hurricane-matthew

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

DominicAgostini

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

dv

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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