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Posts Tagged ‘Grumpy’s’

Grumpys

“O muses, o high genius, now assist me!”
The Inferno
Dante

Stephen King says his muse is a working class guy down in the basement chomping on a cigar. I think his muse is related to screenwriter Nick Schenk’s. When his day job was over, Schenk wrote much of Gran Torino while sitting at Grumpy’s Bar in northeast Minneapolis. He told Colin Covert of Star Tribune, “Loading trucks every day, your back was tired but your mind was fresh…So I’d just roll into Grumpy’s, where my friend was the bartender, and write the stuff longhand on a pad of paper.”

I stopped in Grumpy’s Bar  yesterday late afternoon and was told that Schenk is considered family, though he doesn’t come in as much since the success of the movie Gran Torino based on his screenplay. It’s opened up writing gigs for him in L.A. where he now lives.

Grumpy’s is the kind of place that you could see Clint Eastwood’s character Walt Kowalski walking into and ordering a Pabst Blue Ribbon. If you’re looking for original stories and original characters look for them in the places you work and hangout. (Tennessee Williams based Stanley Kowalski on a fellow he worked with in a factory in St. Louis. Kowlaski…coincidence?) According to the owner of Grumpy’s, Schenk is a talented writer who has been at it a long time, but he also has a great ear for dialogue. And much of Eastwood’s character flowed from the banter that was kicked around that corner bar.

Though they shot Gran Torino in Michigan (thanks to their film incentives) the area around Grumpy’s is very similar to Walt’s neighborhood in the movie. The only beef with the movie from the bartender I talked to at Grumpy’s is that they didn’t shoot the film in Minneapolis.

Since I’ve written about Diablo Cody writing much of Juno in a Target in the north suburbs of Minneapolis I thought you’d be interested in knowing that these two locations are probably less than 3 miles form each other. That’s around $300 million dollars of box office success written from the same basic area far from L.A. and far from that perfect little cabin in the woods everyone dreams about writing the perfect novel or screenplay.

I don’t know if Schenk and Cody have crossed paths in L.A., but I’d like to at least think they’ve met back in Minneapolis at that kitschy Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge and celebrated their unusual journeys with a Tiki drink.

If you haven’t hired a working class muse maybe you should give one a call.

Related post: Juno vs. Walt.

words & photo copyright  Scott. W. Smith

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It’s January in Iowa, it’s cold and snowing outside, and I’m blogging about a screenwriter from Minneapolis—-so what else is new? What’s new is the screenwriter is not Diablo Cody. She’s so ’08. No this Twin City screenwriter is not a former stripper…he’s a former construction worker/liquor store clerk/fruit truck driver who likes to ice fish.

The newest Minneapolis screenwriter on the scene is Nick Schenk. Nick who?

Nick Schenk, the screenwriter of Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood.  The film won the best original screenplay from The National Board of Review. (The same award Cody won the year before for her Juno Script. (No, The National Board of Review best original screenplay award does not go to the best screenplay from a Minnesota screenwriter.)

At age 43 Schenk is old enough to have watched Starsky & Hutch in its original TV show version that featured that funky red with white stripped Gran Torino. While he sold his first script almost 15 years ago this is his first produced screenplay. He does have a writing credit on B0Dog Fight, a mixed martial arts TV show. He’s told several reporters that he “was too stupid to quit” (writing screenplays).

But he did get some help. Sharing Gran Torino story credit is another Minnesotan Dave Johannson, who sells furnaces for a gas company. (That sound you hear is the sound of people dropping out of film schools in L.A. and taking up odd jobs in Minnesota. The hottest trend to break into the movies.)

Of course, the big question is did Schenk use the screenwriting software Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter to launch his career? According to Patrick Goldstein’s blog at the LA Times, “Schenk says he wrote the script, using a pen and a pad of paper, sitting at night in a bar called Grumpy’s in northeast Minneapolis.”

So I thought you’d enjoy reading what Schenk told Goldstein was the process that led him to writing a script that attracted the attention of  Clint Eastwood (a four time Oscar-winning director who has his pick of projects);

“I just scribbled away every night. …The bartender there is a friend, so sometimes I’d ask him questions about where I was going with the story as I was writing. When it came, the words just came. One night, I knocked off 25 pages right there in the bar….They said it would never get made, because you’re not supposed to write about old people, especially a guy that sounds like a super-racist. But I’m not the kind of person that listens to that stuff. I just knew this character well. When I was working construction, I’d meet a lot of guys like Walt Kowalski. Because I liked history, I’d always be the one that the older guys on the site would tell their stories to.”

Let’s recap Schenk’s 10 simple steps to success because it’s at the core what Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places is all about.

1) Write everyday
2) Don’t move to L.A. (At least wait until your screenplay sells)
3) Always be looking for stories (It doesn’t hurt to listen to old people)
4) While 40 is old for a screenwriter in Hollywood terms, keep writing anyway
5) Hang out with friends who aren’t screenwriters
6) Don’t quit your day job (because that’s a good source for stories—-and paying bills)
7) Screw complaining about not having a computer (or screenwriting software) and grab a pen and note pad
8 ) Regular writing develops your craft and helps you write something good enough that attracts producers who believe in the story enough to get a Hollywood icon interested, who in turn gets the film made
9) Collect awards
10) Continue writing

I look forward to finally seeing Gran Torino this weekend as the film that’s getting some Oscar-buzz has finally made it to my neck of the woods.

To read more about other writers from Minnesota read the post The Oscars Minnesota–Style.

Other related posts: Juno Vs. Walt
                                      Screenwriting Post Card from Minneapolis


copyright 2009  Scott W. Smith

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