Posts Tagged ‘Gary Kelley’


For the last few days I’ve been working on condensing a massive amount of digital files. And when you do something like that you stumble across a few gems. Here’s a photo I took while photographing Gary Kelley’s artwork for a multimedia project we were working on a few years ago.

Gives you a little glance into Gary’s process. If I recall correctly, he had The Silent Clowns by the late film critic Walter Kerr on hand for the title cards he was designing that captured a WWI silent film era.

Here’s a 2013 promo by the Waterloo Cedar Falls Symphony for that production.

Related posts:
Mr. Silent Movies
Silent Screenwriter Dies
Harold Loyd v. Buster Keaton
Writing the Artist
You Tube Film School (Early Film History)
Artist Gary Kelley Paints the Cloud in Iowa

Scott W. Smith

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One of the great joys of my decade living in Iowa was getting to know and work with artist Gary Kelley. Here he is explaining his football sized artwork at the Google data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  

And these large murals are painted in other Google data centers (the cloud) around the world.

P.S. Gary’s daughter Cydney Kelley is a writer on Days of Our Lives. She also wrote an episode of The Game

Related post:
Kelley’s Blues Concert
Post #1,500
Postcard #32 (The Planets)
The First Black Feature Filmmaker  (Oscar Micheaux stamp by Gary Kelley)

Scott W. Smith

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Since today marks the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech given in Washington D.C. I thought I’d pull together many of the links related to Martin Luther King and black writers and filmmakers I’ve written about since I started this blog in 2008. The roots of this blog go back to a creative writing teacher I had in high school named Dr. Annye Refoe—who just happens to be black. She opened to me and other students a new world of creativity, literature & storytelling, and an understanding of the black experience in the United States.

Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting (Tip #7)
Martin Luther King Jr. Special
Blacks in Black & White
Shrimp, Giants & Tyler Perry
Postcard # 18 (NYC Synagogue)
The First Black Feature Filmmaker
Writing & House Cleaning “Whatever your life’s work do it well.” MLK
The Father of Film (Part 2) A look at Birth of a Nation.
The Father of Film (Part 3)
Jackie, Spike & Sanford, Florida
Soul of the Game
President Obama, The Man & Iowa Seeds
First screenplay, Oscar—Precious
40 Days of Emotions (Famous scene of Denzel Washington in Glory)

And I’ll close with this the video below of the multi-media performance of Three Black Kings I edited a couple of years ago with artist Gary Kelley. It was performed live by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony under the direction of conductor Jason Weinberger.

Scott W. Smith

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A few mountaintop experiences in my life include seeing one full solar eclipse in Salzburg, winning two Regional Emmy’s in Minneapolis, and scoring three touchdowns in a high school football game in Florida. That’s an eclectic mix, and there have been others of course, but those came to my mind Saturday night as I was brought up on stage after the debut of The Planets: Re-Imagined featuring the artwork of Gary Kelley, the music of Holst performed by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony and a choral group from the University of Northern Iowa. All brought together under the direction of conductor Jason Weinberger.

My role was to create the video along with Kelley which was projected in high-definition on the 30 foot wide-screen just above the orchestra at the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Standing on stage and looking up at more than 1,200 people applauding something you worked on is an amazing experience by itself.

The concert was a great experience and I hope in the coming years The Planets: Re-Imagined finds its way into concert halls throughout the United States and even around the world. Jason Weinberger is not only the conductor of the WCFSO but the its artistic director and CEO as well. Raised in Santa Monica and educated at Yale and Peabody, Weinberger has quite a vision and hope for the future of symphony music and education.

It was a special night and I was thrilled to be connected with so many talented people.

Below are some photos of the concert (and a rehearsal and pre-concert talk) taken by Noah Henscheid a photographer from St. Paul, Minnesota.


planetsreimagined-1 planetsreimagined-2 planetsreimagined-3

P.S. If you’re unfamiliar with Gary Kelley’s work, there’s a good chance you’ve  at least seen his art—if you’ve ever been to a Barnes & Noble book store.  Since there’s about to be a revival of author F. Scott Fitzgerald due to the release of the movie The Great Gatsby next month, here’s a photo I took at a Barnes & Noble/Starbucks of Fitzgerald that is part of the mural of writers that Kelley painted. (Actually taken in the Twin Cities not far from where Fitzgerald was born and raised.) Kelley is repped by Richard Solomon in NYC.


Scott W. Smith

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Here’s a promotional video for a project I finished editing this week with artist Gary Kelley called The Planets—Reimagined.  The video I worked on will be part the  multi-media concert featuring the music of  Gustav Holst performed by the  Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony led by conductor Jason Weinberger. The debut is tomorrow night (April 27, 2013) and the hope is that the project will be licensed by other symphonies around the county.

It’s been a privilege to be connected with so many talented people.

Scott W. Smith

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I showed my wife the two pictures below and asked her if I looked like Tom Cruise and after studying the pictures she said, “Well, you’re both wearing a hoodie.” I think that means yes.

Check out the movie poster from Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (which features Cruise as Ethan Hunt and opens today in the United States), and then check out the book cover for Blood Brothers which I posed for this summer. Eerie, huh? (Okay, maybe not, but enough of a coincidence to give me something to blog about today.)

Blood Brothers: A Heartland Cain and Abel was written by Scott Cawelti, and he and I completed the screenplay Shadows in the Dark this year based on the true story of a family of four that was murdered here in Iowa. As his book was being prepared for printing a couple of months ago the artist Gary Kelley asked me to pose for the cover and I was glad to do so. (The book was released just a couple of months ago and is already in it’s fourth printing.)

By the way, if you’re new to this blog check out this link to the official Tom Cruise website and blog where Screenwriting from Iowa got a nice unsolicited shout-out last year.

P.S. Back in the eighties my wife was working at the Disney Studios in Burbank when word got out that Tom Cruise was on the lot and she left her desk quick enough to get a glimpse of him as he got on his motorcycle and ride off. Judging from the video below he still causes a stir with the ladies 25 years later. 

Scott W. Smith

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Today is my last day of spending a week in my old Florida stomping grounds. It’s been a mixture of business and pleasure. So between Disney World one day, the beach another day, I was rounding up equipment for a little video shoot. Somewhere along the way I realized that if I lived in Orlando it would be hard to write and blog on a daily basis. There are just a lot more distractions here than back home in Iowa.

Not to mention the hours I spent this week driving to and from various activities and duties. Last night I got a kick out of going to dinner at a Central Florida Romao’s Macaroni Grill and walking in and seeing several pieces of artwork on the walls by my friend and Cedar Falls-based artist Gary Kelley.

Several years ago I asked Kelley why he didn’t at some point in his career move to a big city. He joked that he was from Algona, Iowa (pop. 5,741) and Cedar Falls was the big city. Then he went on to tell me that he didn’t need to move to a big city because he had an agent in New York and it didn’t mater where he lived. It was the work that mattered.

Kelley further said that he liked living in an area which had a low cost of living and where he could drive to his studio in five minutes (unless he decided to walk). He said that the problem that artists often have in big cities is that just living is a full time job on top of being an artist.

Of course, living in smaller areas has a different set of problems. What’s that saying—”Every problem has a solution, every solution has a problem.” My point is the only way to create everyday is to limit your distractions. I’m sure most creatives in Orlando and L.A. aren’t going to both the beach and Disney World/Disneyland every week. You simply must find a way to limit your distractions and focus on the work at hand.

That all brings me back to the book Your Screenplay Sucks!

“Really, really good writers will write even if they are not paid for it. It’s a compulsion for them. And it feeds something in them that goes beyond the financial. You must be writing because if you don’t write, you’ll die.

…All artistic pursuits are about discipline. Margot Fonteyn. Julian Schnabel. Mick Jagger. Saul Bass. Ron Bass. Picasso. Donatella Versace.  Milton Cantiff. Worker bees every one. It’s about waking up earlier than the other guy and working harder than the other guy and caring enough to be professional about this craft you say you love.”
William M. Akers
Your Screenplay Sucks!
pages 244-245

(Of course, I should say that some artists can get quite a lot done working at the beach. Here’s a iPhone shot I took yesterday at Cape Canaveral of a sand sculpture.)

Related post: Screenwriter’s Work Ethic

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In the spirit of the Olympics, how do you think the state of Iowa would match-up against Hawaii? You may be surprised at the results. (Stick with me and I’ll tie it in with screenwriting.)

In a recent article I read on Yahoo! News written by Jeanna Bryner she reported on the happiest places to live in 2009. All 50 United States were graded on a well-being score.

Bryner writes, “The well-being score for each state is an average of six sub-categories, including: life evaluation (self-evaluation about your present life situation and anticipated one in five years); emotional health; work environment (such as job satisfaction); physical health; healthy behavior; basic access (access to healthcare, a doctor, a safe place to exercise and walk, as well as community satisfaction).

Who came out on top? Hawaii…but Iowa was close behind at #5. And if you add its neighbor just to the north, Minnesota which came in #4,  then Iowa/Minnesota make the best one/two connected states in the U.S. on the old happy meter. (Granted Hawaii is at a disadvantage there.) Actually four of the top ten states are in the Midwest with Kansas and North Dakota being the other states. Who knew?

So Hawaii edges out Iowa as far well-being. But lets put Cedar Falls, Iowa up against Maui. Well, I’m sure there are many ways to judge such a thing but only one of those places was chosen earlier this month as a “distinctive destination of 2010.” Yep, Cedar Falls. (See the article Cedar Falls receives rare honor from National Trust.)

I think we’re officially on the map. Last month Sports Illustrated did a feature on the local college basketball team (UNI) and last summer Good Morning America taped a segment  downtown.  Remember this is the town that Julia Roberts escapes to in the movie Sleeping with the Enemy. That novel was written in Cedar Falls by Nancy Price as was The Bridges of Madison Country when Robert Waller  lived in Cedar Falls. And the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine features an illustration of Sade that was created by local artist Gary Kelley. (And don’t forget the first screenwriting blog to win an Emmy was created in–of all places–Cedar Falls, Iowa.)

If you’re a screenwriter/filmmaker outside L.A. you probably have a chip on your shoulder. And it’s good to be reminded of people and places in your area of the world that have found some measure of local, regional, national or international success. Remember that “hope is a dangerous thing.” Isn’t it inspirational when you watch Olympic athletes who come from small middle of nowhere towns and villages around the world and stand on the world stage?

Focus on the prize. (And do the work when no one is watching.)

And if you’re ever in these parts stop by for a visit. (The above photo is for a client of mine The Black Hawk Hotel.) Here’s what the National Trust for Historic Preservation writes about Cedar Falls:

Situated in a picturesque bend in the Cedar River, Cedar Falls, Iowa offers an impressive mix of shopping, dining, entertainment and cultural activities, from eclectic shopping experiences along its historic Main Street to the many recreational opportunities in the surrounding forests, lakes and prairie preserves. Cedar Falls’ Main Street is a national model, a winner of the Great American Main Street Award that hums with activity nearly round the clock. In addition to its retail offerings, the historic downtown has been certified by the state of Iowa as an “Arts and Cultural District.”

P.S. If you’re looking to move to a happy place and you’re torn between Hawaii and Iowa (common problem)… you may want to compare housing prices.

Text & photo Copyright 2010 Scott W. Smith

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“Life is a lot like jazz. It’s best when you improvise.”
George Gershwin

So I was looking for an excuse to show some pictures of the recent multi-media project I worked on that debuted Saturday night and I landed on Gershwin. The concert called “Kelley’s Blues” featured the artwork of Gary Kelley and the music of Duke Ellington and George Gershwin performed by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony (and guest pianist Genadi Zagor)  under the direction of Jason Weinberger.

As a composer Gershwin is perhaps best known for his Rhapsody in Blue, though much of his music has had a long life in Hollywood, beginning with a forgotten film called Delicious in 1931 to his music being used in an episode of The Simpsons in 2010. IMDB has Gershwin’s music being credited (or at least used if not credited) in more than 300 films and TV shows. Among the list are An American in Paris, Porgy and Bess, and Manhattan.

When Rhapsody in Blue was used in The King of Jazz (1930) he was paid $50,000. It’s well-known that at one time in the 1930s that baseball great Babe Ruth made more than President Hoover, but writer Walter Rimler (George Gershwin: An Intimate Portrait) has said that Gershwin made more than both of them combined.  Gershwin’s loan Oscar nomination came in 1938 for the lyrics he wrote (with his brother, Ira) for the song They Can’t take that Away from Me used in the 1937 film Shall We Dance.

Outside of Hollywood he had his first hit in 1919 with the song Swanee, and La, La, Lucille was his first Broadway play. In 1932 he won the Pulitzer Prize for the musical Of Theee I Sing (on collaboration with George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin.) He had quite a run, especally when you consider he was only 38-years-old when he died.

Here are some photos I took of the artwork being created and at the rehearsal last Saturday.

Photos Copyright 2010 Scott W. Smith

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Tonight the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra will perform a concert called “Kelley’s Blue” that I had the opportunity to work on. Part of the concert will be a 40 minute section featuring the music of Duke Ellington’s “Three Black Kings” and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” and visuals by artist Gary Kelley.

Whether it’s opportunities like this or writing this blog, I am reminded of the Tom Peter’s quote that helped change my mindset when I moved to Iowa back in ’03–“Sometimes it’s best to go where the hotspots aren’t.”

Keep that in mind wherever find yourself in this world.

Over the last couple decades Kelley’s clients have included New Yorker Magazine, Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek, CBS Records and the large murals seen at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. In 2007, Kelley was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. My role in this concert came in the shooting and editing of 50 pieces of Kelley’s artwork that will be shown on a large screen for between 1,200 and 1,500 people.

Photographer Chase Jarvis has said something to the effect that right now within 10 feet of you there are 100 great photos that can be taken. I think the wherever you live there are not only stories to be told, but opportunities to use your creativity in ways you ‘ve never dreamed of.

If you have really big dreams about really big mountains that’s great—but keep in mind that mountain climbers start with small climbs. As the saying goes, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” Then build on what you’ve done.

By the way, this won’t be your standard symphony concert tonight as conductor Jason Weinberger ( a Santa Monica native who came to Cedar Falls via Yale & Peabody Conservatory) will also be “incorporating music from William Grant Still and J Dilla (James Yancy), a Grammy-nominated record producer and one of the music industry’s most influential hip-hop artists.”

WCF Courier article on concert by Melody Parker.

Scott W. Smith

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