Posts Tagged ‘Jamie Linden’

“I was a big math and computer geek.”
Brian Acton
(Lake Howell High School grad and now billionaire)


I know there’s a big football game today in Minneapolis, but just to mix it up a little here are some photos and memories surrounding an alumni baseball game I played in yesterday at my old high school. And the story of two graduates from my high school who made it big.

The mascot of Lake Howell High School is the Silver Hawks. The hawk statue in the above photo was part of a $4 million dollar donation that also included renovating the school’s air conditioning, updating the football field, building a swimming pool, and new computers.

It was an anonymous donation, but most figure it came from Brian Acton who was one of the founders of the WhatsApp and also a graduate of Lake Howell High School. Brian and Jan Koum sold their WhatsApp to Google in 2014 for $22 billion dollars. It’s estimated that Brian’s net worth today is around $6.7 billion.

Last September, Brian announced he was leaving WhatsApp.

 I’ve decided to start a non-profit focused at the intersection of nonprofit, technology and communications. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while, and now it’s time to just focus and execute.
Brian Acton

When Brian was on the Lake Howell math team his coach was Mike Bouch.

 “You wonder in your career whether you’ll ever touch the life of someone who goes on to make it really big. But this, uh, this is just beyond belief.”
Mike Bouch
Orlando Sentinel article 

Though I was more than a decade ahead of Brian, Coach Bouch was also a coach of mine when I played football there. And just a two years behind me at Lake Howell was Dave Martinez. He went on to play pro baseball for 16 years, and won a World Series ring two years ago as a bench coach for the Chicago Cubs.

This year as MLB spring training gets on its way, Dave is the new manager (what they call head coaches in baseball) of the Washington Nationals. In November, The Washington Post announced his contact was worth a million dollars a year.


That puts a Silver Hawk in Washington, D.C. and one in Silicon Valley. And in previous posts I’ve mentioned screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall) and actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) are also Sliver Hawks flying high in Hollywood.

If you’ve follow this blog for long, you may have noticed that in many phots of me I have a hat on. It’s not because of the older I get, the less hair I have (which is true) it’s just that I grew up loving and playing baseball and wearing baseball hats as far back as I remember. Here’s a photo from yesterday’s game.


Scott W. Smith

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“Anyone who buys the idea that great athletes are dim should have a close look at an NFL playbook.”
David Foster Wallace

By far the most read post on this blog is How Much Do Screenwriters Make? In fact, I just Googled that phrase and out of the 1,070,000 results, my 2009 post was on the first page. In that post I contrasted working screenwriters and NFL football players and made this observation:

“While reading over the WGAw report I made another connection between screenwriting & the NFL. On the film side there were 1,553 male writers employed in the last year of the report. That’s about 150 less writers than players in the NFL any given year.”

Perhaps someone else made the connection before, but I’d never read or heard it if they did.  And perhaps the reason I did make that connection is before I went to film school I played 11 years of organized football. Didn’t come close to making the pros, but have more than a casual understanding of the game. (I’ll write an extended post script if you’re interested in me unpacking how I may of had the shortest career of any University of Miami football player.)

Now 6 years after my original post John August and Craig Mazin picked up that football verses screenwriting on their Scriptnotes podcast (Episode 215) and ran with it some. They added some insights and based some of their thoughts on a photo about the odds of making it in the NFL. No matter how you tweak the metrics, the odds of a player making it to the NFL are small.

The shorthand facts are there are a million high school football players any given year and only 6.5% of those will play NCAA college football, and only 1.6% of college football players will ever play pro football. And of those that make it that far, only 150 will have careers that reach the four year mark. And while the 2014 league minimum of $420,000 makes a nice salary for anyone (especially when you’re in your early 20s), that chart estimated after taxes that’s a take home pay around $252,000. Still good money if you don’t squander it—which many pro athletes are famous for doing.

Quarterback Tom Brady is one of the best players in the NFL and let’s call his contract $9 million a year (the actual number is higher but getting into the structure of his contract is complicated, so let’s just stay with $9 million). Brady’s teammate Malcolm Butler was the hero of the Super Bowl last year when his interception in the end zone sealed the New England Patriots Super Bowl win. Last year Butler made the league minimum salary with no signing bonus—$420,000.

I don’t see it as self-defeating to talk in terms of the odds in making in as a pro football player or as a high paid screenwriter. Just shows you how high the bar is to make it. A few years ago I wrote the post How to Be a Successful Screenwriter where I unpacked screenwriter Michael Arndt‘s journey to becoming an Oscar-winning screenwriter. (Basically he wrote ten screenplays before selling one. And that one took five years to get made.)  The 99% Focus Rule has another great quote by Arndt for aspiring screenwriters.

The other thing is even if you fail in your dreams others opportunities come out of those ashes. Every once in a while the consolation gig is superior to the original dream. When I was at Miami the back-up quarterback to Jim Kelly was Mark Richt who never had pro career, but he’s now the head coach at the University of Georgia. (I bet the number is pretty small of athletes his age who had NFL careers and can match his million dollar plus annual salary these days.)  David Chase never became the feature screenwriter he wanted to be, but he did okay with a little show called The Sopranos. (Not sure his net worth would be in the $80 million range if he’d been a feature film screenwriter.)

You might still get work in other aspects of film, TV, or Internet productions. And there are many other opportunities in theater, education, churches, non-profit organizations, and in the corporate world where you can earn a living off of your talent and creativity. And, of course, there is no expiration date on writing screenplays. Arndt made the decision before his success that he was going to be a screenwriter for life. If you still have ideas, desire, and passion to write—then write.

Just don’t forget to have a life.

P.S. (A longer than average postscript for those really interested in football.)

On Friday night I did something I hadn’t done in 20 years— I went to a football game where I used to play high school football. While years ago they tore down the old Lake Howell High School buildings and rebuilt new ones,  the football stadium is essentially the same from the day it was built back in the ’70s.

While the game wasn’t very good, it was fun to take in the atmosphere and watch the various cliques in stands like a live version of a John Hughes film. On the field, sidelines, and surrounding track I found the players, coaches, cheerleaders remarkably similar to when I was in high school. The two schools bands as much as anything stirred my sense I was back in high school. And after the game I met Coach Ken Kroog who was my receiver coach in high school when I scored three touchdowns one game.

They also had six or seven posters displayed of Lake Howell players who had made it to the NFL including Chuck Scott who played for the L.A. Rams and the Dallas Cowboys. Chuck and I were the two starting receivers when I was a senior year and he was a junior.

His senior year he became an all state player, and a few years later while playing at Vanderbilt became an All American tight end. Currently, his son Calab Scott plays receiver at Vanderbilt and his son Chad Scott plays football at Furman. Smart and talented family. And Chuck’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. (And I actually was working at Yary Photo in Southern California and took the rookie photo of him below when the Rams were based out of Anaheim.)

Scan 5

Chuck Scott

Perhaps the greatest football player to come out of Lake Howell is Brandon Marshall who scored the game-winning touchdown yesterday for the New York Jets. He’s a five time pro bowl player and this is his tenth year in the league. Actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) also played football at Lake Howell, and screenwriter Jamie Linden who wrote the football centered film We Are Marshall also graduated from Lake Howell.

Here’s my entire football career summarized in three photos. An all-conference photo, a letter from Miami’s head coach Howard Schellenberger, and an article on being injured. It really wasn’t career ending injury, but after I had surgery on my shoulder I decided to focus on school in L.A. since that’s where people seemed to head after they graduated. The reason I say I may of had the shortest career of any Miami player is I was injured the week after dressing for only one game. A game in which I played exactly zero plays. Not exactly going out in a blaze of glory.

Scan 1

Scan 13


But I do have one fond memory of playing at Miami. When you’re a walk-on you are mainly on the scout team (when not standing around) meaning whatever team the varsity is playing, you are running that teams’ plays.  There was one particular practice where I caught a lot of passes and Stanely Shakespeare (who was a freshman then, but would later start at wide receiver on Miami’s first National Championship team, and play one season in the NFL) said to the JV coach, “You gotta start Scott, he catches everything.” That was validation that I at least belonged there. But at 5’9″ 160 pounds—even before my injury— I realized my shelf life was limited.

Related posts:
The Perfect Ending (One of the reason I went to Miami was the film program.)
Postcard #24 (Coral Gables)
Tinker Field: A Love Letter
‘If you want to write, write’—Guillermo del Toro
The Secret to Being a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously) John Logan spent 10 years working in a library and writing plays, but eventually found screenplay success co-writing the football-centered movie Any Given Sunday with Oliver Stone.

Scott W. Smith

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” I wanted to minimize the locations and there are really only four locations in the movie so we designed the production to allow us to go from one location to the next.”
Writer/director Jamie Linden (10 Years)
article by Stuart OldhamBride and Groom 2

There’s nothing quite like high school friends.

Yesterday I missed writing a post on a weekday for the first time in a long time. But it was just one of those crazy 15 hour shooting days. I’m working on a video version of the Mike and the Mechanics song The Living Years that will be used in symphony concert settings.  The budget’s tight so I had to reach out to some friends for some assistance with props and people.

The video is an arc of life concept shot in silhouettes and I needed a bride and groom and just put it out there on Facebook and a friend from high school said his nephew got married earlier this year and thought they’d be game to help. So Chris and Danielle were kind enough to drop by yesterday and allow me to shoot the above shot. (The finished shot will be more stylized, but I do like the simplicity of this shot.)

Turns out that Chris went to the same high school I did (many years after, of course) and two of his classmates just happened to be actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) and screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall). Small world, huh?  A few years ago Linden and Porter returned to Florida for their 10-year reunion of Lake Howell High School.

“I went to [my high school reunion] with my friend, Scott Porter, who is an actor.  We grew up in Orlando, Florida, as far away from this business as you could be.  I have a couple other friends who live here in L.A. that went to high school with us, and we went back as a group ‘cause we don’t get a lot of chances to go home and definitely not together, so it was an excuse.  And I don’t think I was disappointed by it, but just was underwhelmed by it all.  But, I found it interesting, just purely on a sociological and anthropological level.”
Jamie Linden
Writer/director of  10 Years
article by Christina Radish

That experience was the beginning of Linden writing and directing the feature 10 Years.  If you didn’t see (or even hear of) the 2011 film that’s because it was a small indie film. But the ensemble cast included Channing Tatum (who both Porter and Linden worked with on Dear John),  Rosario Dawson and Chris Pratt.

Two days ago Variety reported that Linden, “will write the screenplay of Lionsgate’s franchise starter Chaos Walking: The Knife of Never Letting Go.” George Clooney and Jodie Foster are set to co-star and Robert Zemeckis attached to direct. Porter plays George Tucker on the TV program Hart of Dixie. Linden and Porter are kind of the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck of Orlando.

And speaking of Lake Howell High School, last week I dropped off two boxes of my screenwriting and filmmaking books at the school in hopes that they would inspire the next crop of Scott Porter’s and Jamie Linden’s. Go Silver Hawks.


P.S. Yesterday’s shoot was the first time I’ve done a 4K shoot. Used the little Lumex GH4 which for the price may end up being the hottest camera to come along since the Canon 5D. Here’s Philip Bloom’s review of the camera.

Related post:
Remembering the Friday Night Lights
The 10 Film Commandments of Edward Burns Low-budget indie film tips
Screenwriting from High School (Back in 2008 I went back to my old high school to give a talk.)

Scott W. Smith


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“There’s enough land here (Florida) to hold all the ideas and plans we can possibly imagine.”
Walt Disney

Florida has had an awkward dance with movies for the past 100 years. While it’s had its share of feature films and TV programs filmed there over the years it’s almost as if the industry there is a façade. (Just like the above New York façade I shot on the Universal Studios Florida back lot last week.)

It looks real, but upon further investigation you see that it’s not–but stick with me there is a silver lining. You may recall in the 80s & 90s when Florida was calling itself “Hollywood East” as Disney and Universal were building studios. Some believe the studios were built for tourism from the start and word was that Disney even once hired people to push movie lights around when a tram went by.

But for a while it seemed to be working. Ron Howard and Steve Martin came to Orlando to make Parenthood, Wesley Snipes made Passenger 57, Nickelodeon was busy on the Universal lot, TV programs The Mickey Mouse Club, Superboy and Sea Quest were also shooting around Orlando.

Adam Sandler went to Central Florida to make The Waterboy, Director John Singleton to make Rosewood, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp to make Edward Scissorhands, Michael J. Fox to become Doc Hollywood, and Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro to make Marvin’s Room. Then it seemed like every other state and country got into the tax incentives for filmmakers game.

And then like a crew wrapping a production on location and returning home “Hollywood East” disappeared.  Around the same time a handful of filmmakers educated in Orlando colleges made one of the biggest splashes in independent film history making The Blair Witch Project landing two of the filmmakers on the cover of Time Magazine. Then they all but disappeared as well.

Perhaps the greatest illusion of Florida is the fact that two of the greatest films ever made are set in Florida but neither were shot in the Sunshine State. Both Citizen Kane (listed as AFI’s top film) and Some Like it Hot (AFI’s top comedy film) were shot in California adding to the irony of the Florida film industry.

And most of Scarface, with a story set in Miami, was shot in California. But if you want to see what Miami’s South Beach looked like 25 years ago (gritty) then Scarface is the film to see because they captured well those great art deco exteriors. Even the classic Lauren Bacall & Humphrey Bogart film Key Largo was filmed mostly in California. See what I mean about Florida’s strange dance with the movie industry? But while movies about Florida are not always shot in Florida, Florida did doubled for the Amazon underwater scenes in the cult favorite Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The film industry first came to Florida at the turn of twentieth century and it looked like Jacksonville in North Florida would be a major player in film production. Dozens of films were made there and studios began to pop up to take advantage of the warm sunny days. But eventually the film industry chose Hollywood as it’s go to place to film around the year.

The greater Ft. Lauderdale-Miami -Palm Beach area has seemed positioned over the years to be a leader in the film industry and some fine films and TV programs have been made down there: Body HeatThe Jackie Gleanson Show, Flipper, Gentle Ben, Miami Vice, and most recently CSI Miami, Burn Notice, and Marley & Me written by South Florida reporter and author John Grogan.

And some iconic stars and well know have made films in Florida including Elvis Presley (Follow that Dream), Gary Cooper (Distant Drums), Frank Sinatra (Lady in Cement) and Paul Newman (Absence of Malice). Not to mention a cast of more recent movie stars including John Travolta, Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey, and Demi Moore, as well as Florida’s own legend Burt Reynolds have made movies in Florida.

On the surface when  you step back from the picture what you see emerge in Florida’s 100 year movie history is that Florida doesn’t so much have a unified film industry –it’s one giant back lot. A great place for New York & California filmmakers to come and make movies and commercials. And they have made a lot of them over the years.

But when you look beyond the smoke and mirrors of “Hollywood East” you begin to a deeper foundation.  Since I like to talk about screenwriting and regionalism you can’t get any more regional in Florida than The Yearling written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize Novel in 1939 and it became a great  film in 1947 and also was made as a TV film in 1994.

In a similar vein is Minneapolis born writer Theodore Pratt who after a time freelancing in New York spent most of the last 35 years of his life living in Florida and writing more than thirty novels that were set in Florida. His most well-known novel The Barefoot Mailman was made into a movie in 1951.

Zora Neale Hurtson was part of the Harlem Renaissance movement  in the 20s & 30s and used her hometown of Eatonville, Florida as the backdrop for her most well-known novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. Oprah Windfrey produced the TV version of that book in 2005 starring Halle Berry.

As a quirky side note my high school and college creative writing/English teacher  (and Zora Neale Hurston scholar) Annye Refore got me interested in Hurston’s work back in the early 80s and when I was in film school in California I talked to an actress named Cyndi James-Reece who I was taking an acting class with saying she’d be great in the role that Berry eventually played. (Reece went on to win Star Search one year and married Lou Gossett Jr.)

And of course there are a whole list of writers who have called Florida home over the years some whose work has become movies; Ernest Hemingway, James Michener, E.B. White, Harry Crews, John D. McDonald, Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry to name a few.

But what about…screenwriters from Florida? Yes. Let’s see what we can find. Let’s start with writer/director Victor Nunez who though a UCLA film school graduate is known for his un-Hollywood films. In fact, he could be the poster child for regional filmmakers. The first film I saw of his was A Flash of Green that not only introduced me to his talent but also that of a young actor named Ed Harris. His next film Ruby in Paradise was Ashely Judd’s first film as a lead actress.

Nunez’s Ulee’s Gold starred Peter Fonda (who received an Oscar nomination) and was just the second film for a young actress named Jessica Biel. Nunez continues to make films but his day job is currently teaching film at Florida State University.

Which leads us to Tallahassee where FSU is and where screenwriter Robin Swicord graduated from. She recently got a screen story credit on The Curious Case of Behjamin Button, the David Fincher and Brad Pitt film that just opened yesterday. She also wrote the scripts for The Jane Austen Book Club, Memiors of a Geisha, and Little Women.

We are Marshall screenwriter Jamie Linden is also an FSU grad and Fort Lauderdale native Steve Conrad briefly attended FSU before going to Northwestern and eventually writing the script The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith.

And while famed FSU football coach Bobby Bowden may not be a screenwriter I heard or read many memorable one liners come from him while growing up in Orlando. My favorite was when he talked about one player, “He doesn’t know the meaning of the word fear, in fact, looking at his grades he doesn’t know the meaning of a lot of words.

Screenwriter Melissa Carter who wrote Little Black Book starring Brittany Murphey and Kathy Bates is an FSU alum.

And while not a screenwriter (and who actually was an advertising-marketing major at FSU)  I must give Cherylanne Martin a special mention because she has worked on a magic carpet ride list of feature films (about 30 total). Beginning as a production assistant in 1983 on Jaws 3-D (shot in Orlando), she worked her way up to second assistant director on Rain Man, first assistant director on Forrest Gump, unit production manager on Castaway, and more recently was one of the producers of Nancy Drew. Quite a career, right?  (Years ago I crossed paths with Cherylanne when in a happy accident I met her father and he kindly past a script of mine on to her.)

And lastly (but the most  highly rewarded FSU grad) is Alan Ball, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of American Beauty. (From the theater school where Burt Reynolds graduated from back in the day.)

I know there are many colleges in Florida doing media and theater training but none that have the fruit of the FSU program. (This coming from a Miami Hurricane mind you. Though it is worth mentioning that Sylvester Stallone did attend a few semesters at the University of Miami and later went back using his script for Rocky to finally earn his degree. It’s good to see that writing a film that wins an Academy Award for best picture is worth a few college credits.)

Native Floridian writer Connie May Fowler wrote the book and script Before Women Had Wings (BTW–I love that title) that became an Emmy winning movie starring Oprah Winfrey and Ellen Barkin.

Florida will always be place to shoot films and TV programs like the classic Sea Hunt starring Loyd Bridges, because of the local and weather. But I also believe there is a remnant left over from “Hollywood East” made up of actors and production people who will keep turning out independent features from time to time.

While I was in Orlando last week I stopped by and visited some old haunts; Building 22-A at Universal, Panavison Florida and some friends who now work at Full Sail (which does have the most amazing sound stages I’ve ever seen for students). The good news is Universal has had a solid run of booking their sound stages for the past 18 months with a variety of productions and we’ll have to see what this new economy brings.

The talent, studios, desire, film commission offices, and other infrastructures are in place for things to take off in Florida. But for whatever reason it seems like Florida as a whole as been in rehearsals for 100 years. I believe Florida is ready for its close-up beyond just attractive people running around on the beach. And that’s where screenwriters from Florida come into the picture.

Producer's Building-22A Producer’s Building-22A
Panavision Florida

Panavision Florida

Full Sail Stage

Full Sail Stage

Florida is fertile ground for writers. It has an eclectic multi-cultural mix of characters and a large transient culture. (Heck, Jimmy Buffett’s had a long career writing songs about such people. And if you haven’t seen Errol Morris’ early documentary Vernon, Florida I’d recommend checking that out.)   There are stories to be told from there and there  just needs to be some screenwriters who can tap into the real Florida rather than Hollywood’s version of Florida.

Sidenotes: Orlando-based editor Oliver Peters who has edited features and documentaries (and a heck of a lot of corporate and commercials) has a helpful and informative blog called Digitalfilms for those of you interested in filmmaking. And to find out  about production news in Florida (including tax incentives) contact Film in Florida. Florida also has over 50 film festivals including the Florida Film Festival hosted by the wonderful Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida.

Text & Photos Copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith

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