Posts Tagged ‘Harvard University’

“I was surprised at how relatable I found many Villagers’ pursuits. Their attempts to find connection, love and meaning were not so dissimilar from my own.”
Director (and recent college grad) Lance Oppenheim

A mistake that creative people often make is that interesting stories are somewhere else—usually far away exotic place. South Florida native Lance Oppenheim found the subject of his first documentary feature in a well-known retirement village in Central Florida.

Some Kind of Heaven premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last month.


The Villages sits in the triangle between Orlando, Tampa, and Ocala and I wondered if the film was made in part by  one of the many film/digital/ journalism programs within an hour drive or so from the large retirement community (Full Sail, Seminole State, Valencia, UCF, University of Florida, USF, University of Tampa).  But it turns out the 23-year-old Oppenheim graduated in 2019 from Harvard University’s Visual and Environmental Studies program.

Oppenheim told Filmmaker Magazine that he started pursing filmmaking while in high school discovering  “crazy things happening in my backyard,” including documenting his grandfather’s last days with Alzheimer’s disease. He collected some student awards and fellowships along the way.

He then made three short docs for New York Times OpDocs. Here’s one of those videos that was a Staff Pick on Vimeo. Followed by a short piece Long Term Parking about people living in a parking lot at the LAX airport.

I don’t have any further information on distribution plans for Some Kind of Heaven, but it will be playing February 19th at MoMA in New York City as part of Doc Fortnight 2020.

Related posts:
Starting Small
Aiming for Small Scale Success First 

Scott W. Smith

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Screenwriter Damien Chazelle didn’t really write Whiplash straight out of Harvard University—he’d actually sold a few spec scripts after he graduated with a degree Visual & Environmental Sciences. He’d even had a couple of features produced from his scripts. But it wasn’t until after he tapped into his own experience as competitive jazz ensemble drummer in high school that he became an Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

“[Whiplash] was the most personal thing I’d ever written—the most embarrassing in that sense as well. It sounds very cliche to say this but it was that kind of pouring out on the page sort of thing. And wrote it very quickly and kinda put it in a drawer, and was too embarrassed to show it to anyone for a while because I didn’t like what it said about myself. And then tinkered with it a little bit and finally got up the courage to show it to a few people and then it sort of became, ‘okay, let’s try to actually make this.’ But it started out more as just a, ‘This [other script’s] not working I need to just do something completely different, I’m going to write what happened to me as a drummer.”
Screenwriter Damien Chazelle on his screenplay Whiplash
DP/30 Interview

P.S. The day after the New England Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl it seems fitting to have a Boston/Cambridge related post. If you go back to 2008 post Screenwriting from Massachusetts you’ll find that Chazelle joins of list of at least 20 writers who attended Harvard and had their work end up as movies. 

Other Massachusetts related posts:

‘The Verdict’ Revisited
Tony C
Screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski (‘Prisoners’)
Will Simmons’ Road to Hollywood
Mad Men (and Women) Writers
Screenwriter Thomas McCarthy
Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg
Writing ‘Good Will Hunting’
(Yawn)…Another Pulitzer Prize
Screenwriting Quote #3 (Charlie Kaufman)

Scott W. Smith

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“I believe that a screenplay is a distinct form with very specific rules. It’s meant to seduce the reader.”
Caroline Thompson

Screenwriter/director  Caroline Thompson was born in Washington, D.C., grew up in Maryland,  and is yet one more person educated in Massachusetts (Radciffe College, Harvard University and Amherst). Her credits include The Addams Family, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpus Bride, and her first produced script Edward Scissorhands.

“I wrote Edward (Scissorshands) really fast, the first draft in three weeks...I never took a meeting at the studio. I never had studio notes. Nothing…One funny thing is that I’ve gone from being called weird—that’s how my work was described before Edward Scissorhands—to being called imaginative…I’m always interested in outsider/insider themes. Edward is a perfect example of an outsider because he’s different and they’re pleased as all get out that he’s different because it relieves their boredom. But then fundamentally he’s too different and so they reject him…The other thing that interests me is metaphors. I love Edward Scissorhands because having these scissors for hands is a perfect metaphor for not being able to have contact.

…I did feel hurt by the pieces written about Edward Scissorhands when it was always Tim Burton’s vision, or ninety percent of the time it was Tim Burton’s vision. There was a lot of me in that movie, and anybody who knows me can see me in it. But to the public at large, it wasn’t mine at all it was Tim’s completely.”
Screenwriter Caroline Thompson
American Screenwriters , Karl Schanzer & Thomas Lee Wright

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