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“People will come to Iowa, for reasons they can’t even fathom.”
Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams

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Even before I lived in Iowa between 2003 and 2013, I’d made a pilgrimage to the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. If it’s on your bucket list of places to visit, then this summer is the ideal time to go.

The first ever MLB game game in Iowa will be played on August 13, 2020. The New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox will play in a field (and a temporary 8,000 seat stadium) adjacent to field where they shot the movie Field of Dreams.  

Today, the Des Moines Register gave a run down of activities that will be happening in August, including a showing of Field of Dreams. 

If you can’t make that game check the website for info on Field of Dream seasonal tours and opportunities to stay the night in the Field of Dreams home.

Back on the 25th anniversary of the movie Bob Costas and Kevin Costner were on hand to try to put into words why that movie continues to touch people.

“They’ll watch the game, and it will be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.”
Terence Mann
Field of Dreams

Has there been a time in Major League Baseball since the steroid era to look forward to a baseball game in a cornfield in Iowa? Last month it was revealed that the Houston Astros were cheating by sign-stealing when they won the World Series in 2017.  Some coaches were fired, some players apologized, and some have called for the Astros to be stripped of their World Series title.

MLB is not as popular as it was back in 1989 and it doesn’t need another scandal. But here we are.  Time will tell what measures MLB will take. In the meantime, I offer the smoothing voice of actor Jame Earl Jones, saying the words of written by screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson), via the character  Terence Mann.

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Page 102 of the “Field of Dreams” screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson

“It’s a crazy speech to watch knowing how many times baseball has let us down over the last 25 years. There was a real innocence about how people loved baseball [back when Field of Dreams was made], and it was the American pastime. . . . In 1989, there was no struggle. People were like; I love baseball, period.”
Bill Simmons
The Rewatchables podcast , April 19, 2019

“This Field of Dreams-style of thinking about baseball peaks with Sosa and McGwire, and then gets completely destroyed when that turns out to be horseshit.”
Chris Ryan (on the home run chase of ’98, followed by the steroids scandal)
The Rewatchables 

“Ultimately, the message about baseball is not about the purity of the game as a creation. It’s about how the game allows you to unlock something in your life.”
Mallory Rubin
The Rewatchables 

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“Baseball means what those of us hold it in our heart need it to mean. It can be a game, a past time, or it can be something by which we measure the seasons of our lives. Or it can be something that serves metaphorically for the battles, the wars, the triumphs, and the tragedies of any form of human conflict.”
Baseball: A Film by Ken BurnsEpisode 9 (Currently available on Amazon Prime)

In other Field of Dreams news, there will be a reading of the script this weekend in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town and will miss it. But if you’re in Orlando on Sunday (2/23/2020) and would like to see professional actors reading the script, check out their Facebook page. It will also be live streamed on YouTube.

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Today I wasn’t able to track down old photos from my visit to the Field of Dreams ballpark in Iowa, but I was able to come up with a photo from a video shoot I did at Tinker Field in Orlando shortly before they tore it down. When I was growing up there were no major league baseball teams based in Florida, but we did have spring training. The Minnesota Twins Twins used to hold their spring training games at Tinker Field and that’s where I saw the Cincinnati Reds play every chance I could. When I was a youth I attended to a one-day camp that Pete Rose held on that field, and a few years later went to an open tryout at Tinker for the Pittsburgh Pirates. (Not because I was that good of a player, but I knew it would be a unique experience.)

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The perfectly cracked and faded left field fence at Tinker Field in 2014, shortly before it was removed and the stadium torn down.

When I was 19-years-old, I worked as a sports reporter and photojournalist for the Sanford Evening Herald. Here are some of my favorite baseball shots.

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Tim Raines’ plan in 1981 was to give pro baseball a try, and if it didn’t workout to walk-on to the University of Florida football team. He ended up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

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My dream at 19 was to work my way up to being a Sports Illustrated photographer. I could of had a 30 year career and not taken a better shot than this one.

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I played baseball from Little League  through high school with and against Bob Parker. He ended up playing college ball at Mississippi St. and in the minor leagues with the Houston Astros organization.

P.S. And since Field of Dreams came out in 1989, I just connected it to the Orlando Magic playing their first game in 1989. I was at that game and go this nice memento. I was in Orlando when the Magic picked up Shaq, then  “Penny” Hardaway, and finally Horace Grant and before you know it they were in the 1995 NBA finals. It was Magical.

If I recall correctly, they were the quickest franchise in NBA history to go from new franchise to the finals.  They got swept by the Houston Rockets, but a championship was in sight. Then Michael Jordan un-retired, Shaq joined the L.A. Lakers, and there was no joy in O-town. (Total titles in 31 years—0.)

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The Moment in the Script That Made an A-list Actor Say Yes to Making a Now Classic Movie 
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Scott W. Smith 

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“Dad was a Yankee fan then, so I rooted for Brooklyn. In ’58, the Dodgers moved away, so we had to find other reasons to fight.”
Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner)
Field of Dreams 

If you’ve never watched Field of Dreams (1989) then this post is not a good starting point, because it’s about the end of the modern classic movie. In the late 1980s, Kevin Costner was already a major star—coming off an incredible five year run of movies including The Untouchables, No Way Out, and Bull Durham—when he first read the Field of Dreams screenplay.

As much as he wanted to do Field of Dreams, he was under contract to do Revenge. Plus he didn’t think it wise to follow-up a baseball movie with a baseball movie. But when production start date for Revenge wash pushed back a couple of times he told that films producer, Ray Stark, that he was going to make Field of Dreams. Stark threatened to sue him and Costner called his bluff.

Costner’s star power allowed him to not only avoid getting sued, but he made Field of Dreams, and a few days after that movie wrapped he was on the set of Revenge. But what was it in the Field of Dreams script that made Costner be willing to get sued, and to make back to back baseball movie? It was a single moment at the end of the Phil Alden Robinson screenplay.

Note: Costner played Ray Kinsella and John is his father (the ghost catcher).

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If you listen to the podcast interview Costner did with Tim Ferriss, you’ll learn that Costner and his dad didn’t always see eye to eye. And they didn’t totally patch up their relationship until shortly before his dad died. Here’s how Costner explains the moment of reading the script that made him want to make Field of Dreams. A movie he thought had a chance of being a modern day thematic version of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. A story of second chances.

“I had a real short intake of breath when I said ‘Dad, can we have a catch?’ I had to remember that moment forever because that’s how I make a decision whether I’m going to do a movie. I said if we can get to that moment, and take that moment where the hair on the back of your neck stands up, and where you begin to weep—and you don’t even know why—that means we’re going to have to do all these scenes that are almost dopey, correctly. They’re dopey, but we didn’t try to wink at it. It was real. That’s what makes that dangerous hard [to make]. It bordered on dopey, to begin with. And then that’s your big ending? ‘Let’s have a catch.’ I get so much credit for this, but Phil Robinson is the guy who wrote [the script]. I never would have done that movie based on a pitch. I did it based on the script. And I knew the script had gold dust on it. I didn’t know obviously that it would become part of the vocabulary. I didn’t know 30 years later it would find its way into the hearts of the people the way it did. But it found its way into my heart, and that’s why I challenged Ray Stark on Revenge and said I’m going to do this movie in the corn.”
Actor Kevin Costner 
Interview on The Bill Simmons Podcast

Field of Dreams was based on the W.P Kinsella book Shoeless Joe. Kinsella earned his B.A. in creative writing from the University of Victoria (at age 39), and an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Link to Field of Dreams screenplay. 

P.S. Dwier Brown plays Costner’s dad in the movie, and wrote the book If You Build It … A Book About Fathers, Fate and Field of Dreams. Costner says Brown’s own life story of overcoming adversity is quite inspirational.

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Scott W. Smith 

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“The setting of [Field of Dreams] is just so inspired, and so perfect. You look at the movie, and the cinematography has aged really well. What’s more American than apple pie? Well, literally, nothing is more American than a cornfield in Iowa, right? And so many times in the movie someone talks about the smell—the smell of the glove by your face, or the feel of the grass on your feet. And that visceral physicality to the thing that allows you to connect with it—that has aged well. There’s almost a nostalgia for it in an era when digitally, we’re just removed from everything.”
Mallory Rubin (Editor-in-Chief, The Ringer)
The Rewatchables, ‘Field of Dreams’ with Bill Simmons, Chris Ryan, and Mallory Rubin

Since the tile of this blog is Screenwriting from Iowa … and Other Unlikely places (and features a cornfield in Iowa photo), I couldn’t pass up on posting the above quote after hearing it on The Rewatchables podcast. I actually didn’t love Field of Dreams when it came out in 1989. But after my dad died September 6, 1995—the same night Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gerhrig’s recordField of Dreams was the first movie I watched. Since then I’ve been a fan.

In 2014,  I shot and produced the micro-doc Tinker Field: A Love Letter, and recalled a baseball memory with my father:

P.S. Tinker Field was named after Joe Tinker who played for the Chicago Cubs, and is perhaps best remembered as part of the double play combination mentioned in the 1910 poem Baseball’s Sad Lexicon by Franklin Pierce Adams :

These are the saddest of possible words:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
“Tinker to Evers to Chance.”

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Field of Dreams—25th Anniversary
Field of Dreams Turns 20
Dreams for Sale 
‘What could be make on a farm in Iowa for $50K?’—A Quiet Place 
Sam Shepard on a Farm in Iowa 
Burns, Baseball & Character Flaws 
Screenwriting, Baseball, and Underdogs (2.0)

Scott W. Smith

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Thursday January 23 will be the 12th anniversary of my blog Screenwriting from Iowa … and Other Unlikely Places. I’ve written all of the more than 3,000 post since its inception. So today, Martin Luther Ling Jr Day seems like a fitting day to break that streak.

Jack Trice was a football player at Iowa State in 1922-23. He was one of the early African-American football players to play at a major college. To put that in perspective he died six years before Martin Luther King Jr. was born, and the University of Alabama—one of the greatest programs in college football— didn’t have a black football player until 1971.

So here is the first guest post of sorts. I saw it today on Facebook written by Brendan Dunphy, who is a smart and multitalented guy from Iowa—who could pass for Tom Cruise’s younger brother—who was an actor on a short film I shot a few years ago.  Here’s his post in bold (I have added the links):

On MLKj day, I’ll share with you one of my proudest moments of 2019.

For the past 7-1/2 years, I have been investigating the life and legacy of famed fallen athlete, Jack Trice, often in painstaking and novel detail. “Jack” was Iowa State University’s first black athlete and remains the only athlete in school history to have ever died as a result of athletic competition. The stadium that bears his name is the only one in the U.S. named after a black person.

This research has been carried out not only for an upcoming documentary film on Jack (along with my film partners Scott, Paul David, and Christopher) but also for a probable podcast series that shares the investigative process that has been, at times, a hard-to-believe series of events that is wrought with strokes of serendipity. The Trice story is so much deeper than has ever been chronicled.

As a result, I was asked by “Cleveland” to give a ten-minute tribute to Jack Trice in October during a first-ever benefit gala for a new organization that aims, in part, to resuscitate northern Ohio’s Senate Athletic Conference, which is supposedly the oldest in the nation; that’s where Jack played. This organization also honors the sports legends of Cleveland, and Jack has deservedly been inducted as one.

To share a sliver of his story with a Cleveland audience full of Olympic athletes, NFL players, Cleveland Indians, and many college stars that have never even heard of Jack Trice was a true honor.

When Cleveland asks you to commemorate Jack Trice at such an event, you just say “yes.”
When Olympic gold medalists seek you out to thank you for the work that you do in revealing his story to the world, you say nothing because you are speechless.

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Jack Trice (1902-1923)

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Brendan Dunphy

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2019 Sports Legends of Cleveland Public Schools Senate League Benefit Gala

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“Convincingly creepy while also slightly thought-provoking, it warns about deceiving facades, because what hides underneath masks is possibly much worse.”
Carlos Aguilar review of HAUNT
Los Angeles Times 

Filmmakers Scott Beck & Bryan Woods were working on the screenplay for their new movie Haunt at the same time they were working on the script for A Quiet Place. Last year A Quiet Place found a worldwide audience and made $340 million at the box office. Yesterday Haunt opened in select theaters with a wider release next week.

It’s not playing in Orlando yet, so I’ll round out my extended run of posts on Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood in the next few days. Then I’ll turn my attention toward Beck and Woods’ recent film.

But if you happen to be in Davenport, Iowa tonight Beck and Woods will be returning to their hometown Quad Cities area for a screenwriting at the Putnam followed by a Q&A session. Next week Haunt opens in Iowa City where Beck and Woods went to college and they’ll also be on hand for a Q&A there as well— September 21 at FilmScene as part of the theater’s grand opening of their Chauncey location.

“To come back to meet some of the founders of FilmScene who just have a love for film as much as people in California is incredible. We couldn’t be more excited to come back to Iowa.”
Bryan Woods
Isaac Hamlet, Iowa City Press-Citizen

The next project for Beck and Woods is adapting Stephen King’s short story The Boogeyman. They’re not doing too bad for a couple of guys who started out screenwriting from Iowa.

Congrats both of them. May they be a major inspiration to you—especially to those of you working on screenplays and making movies outside of Los Angeles.

P.S. Haunt is also currently available On Demand and digitally. 

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A 20 Year Journey to ‘A Quiet Place’
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Unless you’ve been stuck under a avalanche in Colorado the past few days you can’t have missed that Captain Marvel starring Brie Larson opens tonight. Here’s what the IMDB slash page looks as I type this post. But you may have missed that movie has Iowa roots.

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Captain Marvel co-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (who also co-wrote the film with Geneva Robertson-Dworet) shot their first narrative indie film Sugar (2008) in Davenport, Iowa. Actually, in the same Quad City area along the Mississippi River that A Quiet Place screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods first started making films together as youngsters.

And the last feature Boden and Fleck made before Captain Marvel  (Mississippi Grind) actually starts out in Iowa. Though I think for budgetary reasons the entire film (except for insert shots) was shot in Louisiana. No news yet if Captain Marvel makes a stop in Iowa.

Mississippi Grind, starring Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds, is one of the best acted films that people never saw. It had a limited release in 2015, but is hopefully finding its lost audience now that it’s on Netflix. But the $130,000 box take (less than Captain Marvel probably spent on orange juice for the crew) made Boden and Fleck question the future of their careers.

Here’s a lightly edited excerpt from an interview that Boden and Fleck did in 2016 on The Moment with Brian Koppelman podcast.

Brian Koppelman: I do sense from you a little discouragement on the state of independent film. I look at your career and I think they’ve been able to make all these movies exactly the way that they’ve wanted to. It’s incredible. It’s the kind of thing that later someone looks back and thinks they’re living a french new wave kind of existence. Of course, living it is hard. You’re making exactly  the movies you want to make with no creative compromises. Yet I can see your frustration—are you frustrated by it?

Anna Boden: I am frustrated by it, but I look back at all the movies that we’ve made and the experience of making them—it took a few years to make Mississippi Grind (our last film) and I was frustrated. I was going home to my husband every night as we were trying to get that movie off the ground [and] I was like I can’t do this—this is my least favorite part of filmmaking. And I was complaining to all my friends about it—maybe I should open a B&B in Hudson Valley. And then we got down to New Orleans and started prep and I felt so happy. I felt so exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. So confident in what we were doing and the people we’d chosen to work with. And in those moments that it’s worth it. But then you finish and then you spend a year releasing it, and then nine people see it. And then you have to start raising money for your next project. And it’s in those lulls that you start wondering, “Is it really worth it?”

In that lull between releasing Mississippi Grind and beginning to work on Captain Marvel, Boden and Fleck directed three episodes of Koppelman’s Showtime series Billions in 2016 and 2017.

Scott W. Smith

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The photo that’s been at the top of this blog all these years is a quintessential farm shot I took one morning outside of Decorah, Iowa where I was shooting a short film.  The anchor in the shot is the barn and silo in the left part of the photo.

That’s classic Iowa. And I hadn’t thought about that photo in years until today when I read this quote about the silo used in A Quiet Place. 

“Where we grew up [in Iowa] was a healthy mixture of city life and farm life. We lived in the city, but you would hear about grain silos being one of the most dangerous things you can fall into. It’s basically like drowning, but in dry grain. It was terrifying to drive by them on country roads. Early in the writing process we said, ‘That has to be part of the setpieces.’”
Screenwriter Scott Beck (A Quiet Place)
Filmmaker Magazine interview with Matt Mulcahey 

Here’s a clip where the young actors Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jope discuss shooting that scene inside a silo surrounded by corn.

Here’s what part of that scene looked like on the page of the original screenplay.

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That silo scene reminds me a little of the Mt. Rushmore scene in Hitchcock’s North By Northwest. 

P.S. You want to know an odd connection between North By Northwest and A Quiet Place. Cary Grant, who starred in North By Northwest, died in Davenport, Iowa.  Where did A Quiet Place screenwriters  (Beck and Bryan Woods) grow up and begin making movies? Davenport/Bettendorf, Iowa. (Part of what’s known as the Quad Cities.) Check out my 2010 post Cary Grant and T. Bone…”somewhere in Iowa.” I don’t just make this stuff up. Check out Cary Grant’s IMDB page and see where he died. Then look up Bryan Woods IMDB page and see where he was born.

It’s a small, small world.

Scott W. Smith

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