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Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’

“Have you ever wondered why it had to be so hard to get through school? Or just make it from day to day? Well, that’s because what you were building (your foundation) had to be strong enough to support the weight of whatever you could dream. And if you’re like me, you’re a huge dreamer.”
Tyler Perry
2016 Tuskegee University commencement speech  

How big is Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, Georgia? Well, as CBS’s Norah O’Donnell points out, if you take the Los Angeles/Burbank studios of Warner Bros., Paramount, and Disney and combined them together—they’d still be smaller than Tyler Perry’s 330 acres studio.

Scott W. Smith 

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CumberlandIsland

©2017 Scott W. Smith

That little sliver of land at the bottom of the frame is Cumberland Island in Georgia. I took this shot on a morning walk on Jekyll Island last week. Little did I know that today’s New York Times would have a full page spread on the travel section on Cumberland Island. The print version is called Almost Out of Reach, and the online version is called On a Georgia Island, a Lot of Good Food and Plenty of Nothing. 

That Times article by Kim Severson talks about how you can only get to the island by ferry, only 300 visitors a day are allowed on the island, and except for limited camping sites the only place to stay is the Greyfield Inn.

I’ve yet to visit the island, but I hope to one day to see the feral horses that roam the island. Cumberland Island is also where John F. Kennedy Jr. married Carolyn Bessette in 1996. (Written about in the New York Times article The Island That Kept A Wedding A Secret.)

Scott W. Smith

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Aaron Sorkin is that rare breed of dramatic writers who has had success with Broadway theatre, Hollywood feature films, and broadcast television. But did you know part of his start was in small southern towns?

After he graduated from Syracuse University in 1983 with a degree in musical theater he moved to New York City, but he got work as an actor not off-Broadway, or off-off Broadway, but way the hell off Broadway.

“When I was twenty-one or twenty-two, I traveled the South with a touring children’s theater company called The Traveling Playhouse. When I say the South, we weren’t playing in Atlanta, we were playing Jasper, Alabama. We’d do six or seven shows in elementary school gymnasiums at about ten o’clock in the morning, then pile into a station wagon, and a van carrying the costumes and sets. We did The Wizard of OzRip Van Winkle, and Greensleeves. We were paid thirty dollars a performance.”
Aaron Sorkin
Zen and the Art of Screenwriting
Interview with William Froug
Page 31

Sorkin says he had no interest in writing until one day at a “Motel Six or something” somewhere in Georgia when, “I don’t know why, I all of a sudden felt like Sam Shepard. I felt like I ought to be writing something. That’s the first time that thought went into my head, and it just kept nagging at me and I just felt like a writer without ever having written anything.”

His first completed play was Hidden in This Picture, a single-scene one act play involving four characters. A few years later he found breakthrough success.

“His older sister, a naval lawyer, told him about a 1986 incident at the U.S. Marine base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when an informal disciplinary action had gotten out of hand, resulting in the death of a young soldier. Sorkin immediately recognized the possibilities of a courtroom drama based on the event. In November, 1989, his play, ‘A Few Good Men,’ about two naval lawyers defending two Marines accused of murdering a fellow corpsman, began a 14-month run on Broadway.”
Patrick Pacheco
1992 Los Angeles Times article 

That led to Sorkin writing the film version of A Few Good Men (1992) with a star cast that included Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, and Demi Moore. He would go on to win an Oscar award for writing The Social Network, and multiple Emmys for his work on The West Wing.

Now to come full circle, earlier this year NBC announced plans to stage a live version of A Few Good Men in early 2017.

I’m not saying all that wouldn’t have happened if Sorkin career path didn’t take to Jasper, Alabama and who knows where Georgia, but magical things can happen on the road—even in a Motel Six.

Dream big, start small.

P.S. Jasper, Alabama is also where stage and film actress Tallulah Bankhead spent some of her childhood, and where SciFy channels docuseries Town of the Living Dead was shot.

Related posts:
(Because I love writing about a sense of place, here’s some love I’ve written over the years centered around Alabama and Georgia.)

Alabama:
Tuscumbia to Hollywood
Muscle Shoals Music & Movie
Shooting a Feature Film in 4 Days
Postcard #82 (Selma)
Postcard #46 (Huntsville)
Revisiting ‘Highway 61 Revisted’
Bama, Bobby & The U
Screenwriting from Huntsville, AL
Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting 

Georgia:
25 Links Related to Blacks & Filmmaking
Postcard #43 (Savannah)
Postcard #35 (Villa Rica)
‘Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus’
Writing Quote #40 (Harry Crews)
Writing from Rural Georgia…to Dreamworks
Screenwriting, Baseball & Underdogs
Truett Cathy–Bird by Bird
Screenwriting Quote #70 (James Dickey)
Writing Quote #39 (Writing in Paris)
Shrimp, Giants & Tyler Perry
‘Super-Serving Your Niche’

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

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“Without a network, creative work does not endure…without Paris, there is no Hemingway.”
Jeff Goins
The Unfair Truth About How Creative People Really Succeed

Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez has his filmmaking network of people down in Austin, but he also has a literal network—El Rey Network. And when you own a network you can line up interviews with your director friends, which is exactly what The Director’s Chair with Robert Rodriguez is all about.

“It was a thrill to be able to feel that I was a director from a studio at 24 or 25, but when I came out to Hollywood and was making Finian’s Rainbow…everything I wanted to do wasn’t somehow permitted. I wanted to make the film on location—it was about sharecroppers in Kentucky and I go, ‘Can I go to Kentucky and have dancers dancing around with tobacco?’, ‘Oh no, no, we gotta do it on the sets from Camelot.’ I used to sit there with George Lucas, who was about 19, and we would just grump about we couldn’t do this and we can’t do that. And we started to fantasize, let’s go make a film driving across the country. And we’ll make a truck that has all the necessary equipment and we won’t even know exactly what we’re going to shoot. If we hear there’s mine disaster we’ll all go to the mine disaster and incorporate that into the movie. We made The Rain People that way. And then we were so mobile that we said, well gee, we have a whole studio in a truck, we don’t have to go back to L.A., we can go to San Francisco and be close enough to L.A. to have the access to the actors and the prop houses, and the resources, and not be in the center of it. I essentially combined the culture of a theater club with the reality of filmmaking as we learned at USC and UCLA and that was Zoetrope.”
Oscar-Winning writer/producer/director Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Patton)
Interview with Robert Rodriguez
The Director’s Chair, Episode 5

The Coppola family, food & film model is much of what Rodriguez has created in Austin, Texas—which has an entrenched film community that’s avoided being in the center of the film business. This is what Rodriguez told Coppola in the above interview:

“Family and food and film kind of all seem to go together for you, and it inspired me to do that. I started my own studio [Troublemaker Studios]. I work with my family, and I’ve had other filmmakers come to my sets and see that I’m working with my kids—they’ve gone off and worked with their kids and have done fantastic work. You’ve kind of started this little revolution.”

P.S. If you want to add faith to family, food & film outside L.A., look at what the writer/director team of Alex and Stephen Kendrick of Kendrick Brothers Productions are doing in (an unlikely place) Albany, Georgia. This past weekend their film War Room ended up #1 at the domestic box office, ending Straight Outta Compton‘s three week run in the top spot. Produced by Sony Pictures for $3 million War Room hasn’t even been out two weeks and has passed $30 million at the box office. I think it’s the first time a specifically Christian faith based film has finished #1 at the box office. Back in 2008 I wrote the post Shrimp, Giants & Tyler Perry and talked about the niche that Perry and the Kendrick Brothers were cooking down in Georgia.

Related posts:
‘Who said art had to cost money?’—Coppola
‘Take a Risk’—Coppola
Coppola & Roger Corman
The Francis Ford Coppola Way
Screenwriting & the Little Fat Girl from Ohio
‘Super-Serving Your Niche’

Scott W. Smith

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“Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else— out time, our love, our resources —and I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return.”
Truett Cathy

I had the opportunity to hear Truett Cathy speak probably 20 years ago when I was running audio where he was speaking. I only remember one thing from that talk; he said that he learned as a kid selling magazines in kind of a newsstand/street style (think the Newsies—without the singing and dancing)  and he learned that some people would always pay more for a magazine, even if it was essentially the same magazine, just because it was more expensive.

Cathy moved on from selling magazines to selling chicken sandwiches. Lots of them. The New York Times reported that in 2013 the company he founded, Chick-fil-A, had “1,800 restaurants and sales of more than $5 billion.” Cathy died this week at the age of 93.

“Rising to prominence between Robert Woodruff, who took over Coca-Cola in the 1920s, and Sam Walton, who began the Walmart chain with a small store in Bentonville, Ark., in 1950, Mr. Cathy was one of a handful of Southern entrepreneurs who in one lifetime took small, hometown companies to a global level.”
Kim Severson
New York Times 

As of March 2014 Forbes listed Cathy’s net worth at $6.2 billion. That put him on the list of the top 250 wealthiest Americans. Not bad for a man born in a small town in Georgia with a high school education, who started working as a youth during The Great Depression. But more impressive is his philanthropic work. In 2008 he won the William E. Simon Prize for his charity work that included work with foster children and awarding more than $23 million in scholarship funding.

And while the man who spent 50 years as a Sunday School teacher may not seem like a candidate for having a hand in movie business but he did that as well. He helped finance the faith-based film on basketball great Pete Maravich, The Pistol, The Birth of a Legend (1991). Maravich was an undersized player as a youth who would go on to be named as one of the 50 Greatest Basketball Players in NBA History. 

More recently Cathy. via the Cathy Family Trust, helped with financing Pinewood Atlanta Studio.

Georgia’s film tax incentives make it one of the top five production destinations in the US.  (The Frank Darabont created TV program The Walking Dead films in Georgia.) Pinewood’s newly opened studio just south of downtown Atlanta has 288 acres and six sound stages up to 30,000 square feet.

“Pinewood Atlanta’s location will contribute significantly to Georgia’s growing reputation as a top draw for movie and television productions. We welcome the business this world-renowned company will bring to the state and the jobs it will create for our crew base and supporting companies.”
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal

A couple of months ago I read that Marvel’s Ant-Man with be shot at Pinewood Atlanta.

So when you read articles about Atlanta the New Hollywood, you can give Cathy some of the credit (or, if you’re in L.A., some of the blame). He earned his wealth (to borrow that title from the great Anne Lamott book on writing) bird by bird—and cow by cow.

‘Put two Cows on a billboard with a bucket of paint and a brush, and they’ll create some unexpected opportunities…The Cows still haven’t learned to spell, but five years after they painted their first billboard, Chick-fil-A had doubled our sales volume. The lesson from the Cows is the lesson of my life: Take advantage of unexpected opportunities.”
S. Trutte Cathy
Eat Mor Chikin:Inspire More People

P.S. Pinewood Studios is not the only game in Atlanta either. EUE/Screen Gems Studio Atlanta has 10 stages, Atlanta Filmworks Studio and Stages has 57,000 square feet of production space, Raleigh Studios in Atlanta has four sound stages, and there’s Tyler Perry Studio. There are others—but you get the idea.

Related Posts:
Martin Luther King Jr. and Screenwriting (Includes a photo I took in Atlanta on the weekend after Coretta Scott King died.)
“Super-Serving Your Niche” Includes a photo of Tyler Perry’s studio I took when I drove through Atlanta last year.
Creativity and Milking Cows

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

 

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Savannah

Even if you’ve never been to Savannah, Georgia the odds are good that you’ve seen this church before. The roots of  Independent Presbyterian Church go back to 1755, but that’s not why you’ve seen the church before. The steeple and building get a cameo in opening shot of the movie Forrest Gump. You know, the one where there feather floats in the air until it lands at the feet of Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks).

Check it out at around the one minute mark.

I took the photo yesterday from a similar view as Forrest Gump had from where he sat on that bench in Chippewa Square. The bench was just actually just a movie prop so it’s no longer in the Square, but placed at the Savannah Historical Museum. I don’t know where that bench would be in ionic props in film history, but it has to be high on the list.

But what’s cooler than the bench is the city of Savannah itself.

“Architect John Massengale has called Savannah’s city plan ‘the most intelligent grid in America, perhaps the world’, and Edmund Bacon wrote that ‘it remains as one of the finest diagrams for city organization and growth in existence.’—Wikipedia

I first visited the city more than 20 years ago and enjoy taking the detour off I-95 to at least drive through the city even if I don’t have time to stay the night. The city was founded in 1733 by General  General James Oglethorpe. (A large bronze statue of Oglethorpe also gets a cameo in the opening scene of Forrest Gump at the 2:40 mark of the above clip. But it’s not a prop so if you visit Chippewa Square it’ll be there.)

There is also a marker in Chippewa Square for Dr. William. A. Caruthers (1802-46), an early American Novelist who lived one block away. His first novel The Kentuckian in New York was published in 1834.

Lastly, Savannah not only has a rich back story (you know it used to be a debtor’s colony), but you can see future stories being written as students from Savannah College of Art & Design walk around town carrying their large portfolios.

P.S. I’ve stayed in several bed and breakfasts in Savannah over the years, but my favorite is the Ballastone Inn.

Related Posts: Eric Roth on Theme & Loneliness

Scott W. Smith

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DSC_0572Proving that all beautiful sunsets aren’t only found at the beach I took the above picture yesterday in Villa Rica. I was in route yesterday from Orlando, Florida to a shoot in Athens, Alabama  when I pulled off Interstate 20 in Georgia between Atlanta and Birmingham because I was intrigued by the name of the historic town. The area was originally Creek Indian territory and received the name Villa Rica in the late 1800s during a gold rush. Villa Rica is derived from Spanish for “rich village.”

I used the street lights and the hood of my rental car to add some design elements to make the sunset shot less pedestrian.

Actress Maidie Norman (1912-1998) —who in 1977 was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame—was born in Villa Rica, and the movie Randy and the Mob (2007) was filmed mostly in Villa Rica. But perhaps most of all, Villa Rica is known as “The Birth Place of Southern Gospel Music.” Thomas A. Dorsey known as the “Father of Gospel Music” was born and raised in Villa Rica.

Dorsey is featured in the 1982 documentary Somebody Say Amen. He wrote the song Take My Hand, Precious Lord which was recorded by Aretha Franklin and  Whitney Houston, and Mahalia Jackson sang it at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.  (It was said to be King’s favorite hymn):

Here’s the Elvis version:

Scott W. Smith

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