Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Jimmy Buffett’

”All creative work is mystical.”
—Screenwriter John Milius (Apocalypse Now)

”Our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of genius. For if we think of genius as something magical, we are not obliged to compare ourselves lacking.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche
(As quoted in the chapter ”Effort Counts Twice” in the book Grit by Angela Duckworth)

Last night I watched the four part series They Call Me Magic about one of greatest basketball players in NBA history. This was the Magic Johnson quote that jumped out at me about his dedication for the game as a youth and teenager growing up playing pickup games in Lansing, Michigan:

“I played [basketball] in the rain. I played in the snow, it didn’t matter. Sun up to sun down. And then I started playing against older boys, then I started playing against men. . . Nobody outworked me in the neighborhood. I was on the court more than any kid. It wasn’t even close. I wanted it more.”
—Magic Johnson

The reason that quote jumped out as at me is because I’ve been listening to the audio book Grit by Angela Duckworth. Just a few days ago in the chapter titled ”Effort Counts Twice,” Duckworth addressed greatness in Olympic athletes whose talent seem otherworldly. (Think of swimmers Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps.)

She points to an study of competitive swimmers titled “The Mundanity of Excellence,” by sociologist Dan Chambliss who observed;

“Superlative performance is really a confluence of dozens of small skills or activities, each one learned or stumbled upon, which have been carefully drilled into habit and them are fitted together in a synthesized whole. There is nothing extraordinary or superhuman in any one of those actions; one the fact that they are done consistently and correctly, and all together, produces excellence.”

How old do you think Magic Johnson was when he threw his first no-look pass? I’m gusessing pretty young. And before that become one of his trademark plays, I’m sure that small skill was well honed by thousands of passes before he put on a professional uniform.

I was a better than average football and baseball player as a youth, but when I joined my first basketball team when I was 12 I was instantly out of my league with kids who grew up around the game. Magic Johnson was the youngest of nine brothers and sisters, and I wouldn’t be surprised if when he was 12 years old he didn’t already have a decade of experience around the game.

Back to Duckworth’s book:

“With everything perfect,” Nietzsche wrote, “we do not ask how it came to be.” Instead, “we rejoice in the present fact as though it came out of the ground by magic.”

But Magic wasn’t really created from magic. Or fully formed. How did he come to be Magic Johnson? He told us in that first quote. He was created from the mundane task of showing up to play pickup games in the the rain, and snow, sun up to sun down. Determined to win, because winners got to stay on the court. And win he did. Here’s what he accomplished before he turned 21 years old:

Everett High School, State champs & Parade First Team All American (1977)
Michigan State, NCAA champs & All American (1979)
Los Angeles Lakers, NBA Champs & NBA Finals MVP (1980)

Astonishing. And not only that, but Magic changed the game. He lead the team that made the NBA popular. The NBA Finals in 1980 weren’t even broadcast live, but aired on tape delay because CBS didn’t want to spoil the ratings of Duke of Hazards. (In 1980, Dukes of Hazard was the #2 Tv show in the United States with an estimated audience of over 21 million. About twice as many viewers of even the 2021 NBA Finals.)

But Magic and his Lakers teammates “Showtime”style of play throughout the 1980s (along with the Boston Celtics rivialry) made basketball mainstream in the United States in a way it had never been. And paved the way for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls to take it to even a greater level of global popularity. And if you just saw Jordan in his prime—flying in the air—you’d swear it was a mystical experience. But when you read his story, you know he may have been the most determined person to ever play basketball.

Michael Jordan = Grit. (Of course, in basketball, it also helps if you’re 6’6″ like Jordan, or 6’9″ like Johnson.)

On page 211 of my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles, I touched on what I called the mystical aspects of creativity. The unexplained aspects. I even quoted Jimmy Buffett who said that even though he wasn’t the greatest singer or guitar player he was able to “capture the magic” in his songs and concerts. But now I’m thinking Buffett was full of grit. Still performing and touring as he approaches 75, he cut his chops playing on the streets of New Orleans and working his way up to clubs, then colleges, then larger concert venues, on his way to playing stadiums.

As I update my book, I’m going to revisit that section. I’m thinking that grit is a cousin of The 10,000 Rule.

P.S. My first paid job when I was in film school in the early ’80s was with Broadcast Equipment Rental Company (BERC) in Hollywood. My primary job was to drive Ikegami cameras to various production companies and TV studios throughout Southern California. I never got to make a delivery to the Forum where the Lakers played, but I know they did sometimes supply cameras to ESPN who covered games. But I did get a glimpse (thanks to a security guard) of the empty stage of The Tonight Show at NBC in Burbank back when Johnny Carson was the host. Here’s a clip of when Magic Johnson was on the show after he won his third NAB championship in 1985.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles


Read Full Post »

“When you’re working well all of your instinctive powers are in operation, and you don’t know why you do the things you do.”
—Photographer Dorothea Lange
Grab a Hunk of Lightning documentary

I’m six chapters into recording the audio version of my book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles and looking at it with fresh eyes there are a few things that jump out at me. When you boil down the creative process there seems to be some common traits in people who flourish in the arts.

—Talent
—Ambition
—Work ethic (to hone the natural skills they possess)
—Knowledge (doesn’t have to be a formal education)

But then there is that extra something-something that really helps some people rise above others and create something special that resonates with a large group of people. Some would call it intuition, and others would call it magic.

I thought of that yesterday when I listened to a podcast interview with Mike Campbell. He co-wrote the songs Refugee, Here Comes My Girl, and You Got Lucky with Tom Petty, and The Boys of Summer with Don Henley.

“Writing is such a mystical thing. Sometimes you’re just in the moment— playing that riff or whatever— and you’re just toiling around trying to put two pieces together, and sometimes a song will just reveal itself to you. It’s like magic, it really is. It’s almost so mystical that I hate to analyze it.”
—Musician Mike Campbell (Tom Petty’s right hand man for 30 years)
The Moment with Brian Koppelman

Here’s a section from my book:

Over the years I’ve spent enough money on Jimmy Buffett concerts, music, and books to help him buy a small island in Margaritaville. When asked on a 60 Minutes interview about his talent Buffett said, ‘I’m an adequate musician. I wish I was a better guitar player, and I’m a fair singer. They’re not my strongest suits . . . I’m a go capture the magic guy.”

And he’s captured enough magic to not only have that rare career that has sustained an audience for over five decades, but he’s built an entertainment and lifestyle empire making his personal worth over $500 million. That’s a lot of magic. How it happened is even a mystery to Buffett.

May you capture the magic in your writing today. But if your muse is like Stephen King’s it’s less like Tinkerbell tapping you on the shoulder, and more like the working stuff guy shoveling coal in the basement. And his only shows up when he’s at a desk writing.

P.S. Here’s a line from the song The Heart of the Matter written by Mike Campbell, Don Henley, and J.D. Souther that resonates strongly three decades after it was written:

These times are so uncertain
There’s a yearning undefined
People filled with rage
We all need a little tenderness
How can love survive in such a graceless age?

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.”
Anthony Bourdain

Gulfport_7411

Saturday night I had an enjoyable meal at Isabelle’s located at The Historic Peninsula Inn in Gulfport, Florida. I took this photo the next morning because I knew it’d be bathed in the early morning light. (The blue sky was a bonus.)

Gulfport_7695

I thought a lot about Anthony Bourdain over the last few days since hearing about this death. I enjoyed his shows and how he balanced talking about food, travel, movies, and culture. While I have traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and overseas on various productions, my entire career probably looks like a slow year for Bourdain. One article I read said he was sometimes on the road 250 days a year.

No need for me to read into his death, but I’ll miss seeing him explore far (and near) places. His work continued a thread in my life that started when I grew up listening to Jimmy Buffett’s music. A desire to see the far side of the world. And sometimes just the far side of the United States that are sometimes in our own backyards.

So when I pulled into the small art town of Gulfport (next to St. Petersburg) there was a spirit of discovery there that just made my short trip enjoyable.

Related posts;

Parts Unknown Part 1

Parts Unknown Part 2

Parts Unknown Part 3

Parts Unknown Part 4

Parts Unknown Part 5

Parts Unknown Part 6

Parts Unknown Part 7

Parts Unknown Part 8

Parts Unknown Part 9

Parts Unknown Part 10

Scott W. Smith

 

Read Full Post »

And there’s that one particular harbour
Sheltered from the wind
Where the children play on the shore each day
And all are safe within

One Particular Harbour written by Jimmy Buffett & Bobby Holcomb

(Warning: Long post today. Only wrote it because I think it needed to be said. You might disagree, but that’s the purpose of discourse. If you want something short, here’s a link to the screenplay and the press kit for The Florida Project ).

Over the weekend I learned that there’s a Margaritaville Resort Orlando being built and it seemed like the perfect place to round out my run of posts centered around The Florida Project.

The Jimmy Buffett/Key West-inspired resort is being built in Kissimmee on U.S. Route 192 in the shadow of Disney World—and is just 10 miles away from The Magic Castle Inn and Suites where they filmed most of The Florida Project.

Since this is my last planned post on The Florida Project I must address the mouse in the room. Yes, there is much I admired about the acting, the writing, and the overall production of the movie including the cinematography of Alexis Zabe . 

I love that it shined a spotlight on the issue of the hidden homeless. And I’m glad it will now be an ongoing part of that conversation. The movie has a 100% top critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and I think it will be remembered at Oscar-nomination time.

But the conversation that I haven’t read about is the responsibility of the mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) If she has a mental illness then we can end the discussion and know that her circumstances need to be addressed on a professional medical level.  But if she’s not mentally ill then it’s fair game to speculate how she got there and why she appears to be heading in the wrong direction.

This indie film is a character study, so let’s study Halley a little bit more. I like that screenwriters Sean Baker and Chris Bergosh didn’t give us a back story or dump a lot of exposition on us about Halley.

But how did she and her daughter come to live in a low-budget, extended stay hotel in Florida? (If she simply ran away from her problems at home with hopes of a new life in the palm trees then that path is well-worn and comes with the disclaimer: “Results may vary.”)

Perhaps The Florida Project isn’t about the problem that there’s not enough affordable housing in parts of the country (as some have said), but a cautionary tale on how not to live your life.

At every turn Halley shoots herself in the foot.

A while ago I saw a video on the internet (if I find it I’ll post it here) and the person was telling students that they only needed to do three things to have a shot at a good life in America. (In the U.S. there is the extra advantage over other parts of the world in that that clean drinkable water is a given.)

  1. Finish school. (At least high school, ideally college.)
  2. Don’t have a kid until you are out of school and can support yourself and your kid.
  3. Get a job. Keep it. And do it well.

What happens if you don’t accomplish any of those? Halley is Exhibit A. 

Too harsh? Maybe. Or maybe just the harsh reality of what happens to those who give the finger to any kind of structure in their lives. The Halley’s of the world are not going to make that 10 mile journey from The Magic Castle to Margaritaville Resort Orlando (or even a basic 1-bedroom apartment) without a lot of grace. And hard work.

One summer when I was in college I worked in a factory where if you punched in late to work you were given a warning, if you punched in late a second time you were sent home for the day, if you punched in late a third time, you were fired. Halley’s F.U. attitude has no chance of being hired at a place like that, or keeping a job like that if she got it.

There were factory workers there who had been through various hardships and challenges. Many were part of the working poor. Some lived at home and drank what they earned. One guy told me that if he didn’t take quaaludes he wouldn’t make it through the day.

You didn’t have to be Theodore Dreiser to know you were watching An American Tragedy unfoldOr part American tragedy and part of the American dream.  Some were taking a night class or two at a community college and chipping away at a degree and hoping for a better life. Heck, I bet the majority of them did okay. (Probably one or two are planning to move to Margaritaville Orlando as soon as it opens.)

If Halley is hoping for a better life, she’s sure not doing much to that end. (And I’m not sure another stripper job is the answer.) This is not the edgy character April in Pieces of April who has issues but is trying to make amends to her dying mother by cooking a turkey for her family  on Thanksgiving. No, this is a young woman hustling her way through life—and that includes her doing prostitution work in a hotel while her daughter hides in bathroom.

Halley appears to have no support system; no parents or grandparents to take her in, no boyfriend to share the load. The closest person that can bring her a hint of redemption is the manager Bobby (Willem Defoe) and he’s close to kicking her out of the hotel for bad behavior.

In literary terms Halley’s joined the end of the rope club. In real life the Halley’s of the world often end up dead sooner than later.

But they don’t have to. If you’re a Halley, find an extended family member, a social service group, or a faith-based group to help you get back on your feet. I don’t think anyway wants to see their daughter or sister go through what Halley (and by extension her daughter Moonee) go through in the movie. May you find shelter from the storm in that one particular harbour. (If you’re like Halley and in Central Florida contact the Coalition for the Homeless in Central Florida/407.426.1250. Their website says they’ve helped nearly 1,000 guests move from one of their programs to permanent housing just in the past year.)

It’s one thing for a movie to open our eyes, another thing to stir our hearts, but it’s all just poverty porn if all we do is talk about fine acting and beautiful cinematography.

P.S. Brooklynn Prince (who plays Halley’s daughter Moonee in The Florida Project) was named today as BEST YOUTH PERFORMANCE by the Seattle Film Critics Society.

Update: After I wrote this post I ended up reading dozens of reviews on The Florida Project before I came across this a Film Comment review by Cassie da Costa that gave a little push back: “We never get any particular sense of who Moonee and Halley are as individuals beyond their predicament and pluck, and why they are at the center of the movie, instead of, for instance, Scooty and Ashley, or Jancey and Stacy, or Bobby and the young delivery man named Jack who seems to be his son. It seems that all of these characters are on screen because they’re interesting—they have unpredictable, confrontational personalities, and live in a rarely depicted, insular community where their eccentricities interweave and conflict—but not because Baker has genuine emotional insight on them or their circumstances.”

Scott W. Smith

 

Read Full Post »

Hurricane Survival Mode

Squalls out on the Gulf Stream
Big storm commin’ soon
Jimmy Buffett/Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

SuvivalBookIMG_1447

My dad was a pilot in the Air Force (flying C-120s/C-130s) and gave me a survival book when I was a kid. It’s got cool pictures of how to, well, survive if you were put into an extreme situation. Fortunately, I’ve never had to actually use the book—but I’ve held on to it all these years. And when Hurricane Irma was heading toward where I live in Florida last week I was aware where I kept this book.

GasStation

It doesn’t take much in 2017 for the veneer to be pulled back on our modern day lives in the United States to be reminded how quickly our lives can change with the disruption of everyday services like food, water, gas, and electricity. (There are still a million people without power in Florida a week after the hurricane hit Florida.)

Irma Photo

There was one situation last week that I witnessed first hand at a UPS place that I found humorous. I just went in to drop off a return package and there was a lady who said this basically verbatim:

“I understand there was a storm and there are delays—but these are $500 shoes and I paid $36 for them to be overnighted. I don’t want them left on the front steps of my house, and I don’t want to just wait here until the driver shows up. I don’t think anyone here is appreciating my time.” 

True story. Now I don’t live in the world of $500 shoes (I think my last pair cost less than her overnight shipping) and I’m sure she had a a real reason for needing those shoes ASAP, but her attitude wasn’t getting a lot of sympathy from anyone.  I thought to myself, “The customer is always right—unless they’re acting like a bitch two days after a hurricane that has caused major disruptions for millions of people.” UPS/Fed Ex crews, despite their efficiencies, were not exempt from the hurricane’s disruption.

But I do hope she got her shoes. Maybe they were some kind of high end survival shoes that she needed to wear as she sifted through her things in her destroyed home down in the Florida Keys or wade through flood waters filled with water moccasins hoping to find her missing puppy lost in the storm. It never hurts to think the best of people.

P.S. My dad was in ROTC at Ohio State, did his flight training in San Angelo, Texas, was briefly stationed in Smyrna, Tennessee, and later flew in the reserves out of Savanah, Georgia. He died in 1995 and never spoke much about his time in the service which was in that window between Korea and Viet Nam. Love to hear a story or two if you were a pilot in the Air Force. Ever have to use the Survival book put out by the Air Force Department of Defense? Shoot me an email at info@scottwsmith.com.

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

The tourist traps are empty
Vacancy abounds
Almost like it used to be
Before the circus came to town
When the Coast is Clear
Lyrics by Jimmy Buffett and Mac McAnally

Siesta Key

Earlier this year Siesta Beach on Siesta Key in Florida was listed as the top beach in the United States by Trip Advisor. I hadn’t been to Siesta Key in over a decade so I took some time Monday to stop by and took the above shot with my iPhone. I’m drawn to simplicity, so while I know that sky begs an inspirational graphic—like “Keep Writing”— I think I’ll post this photo as is.

Clean and simple. (But do keep writing.)

P.S. And if you’re down today and need some inspiration, do you know what you have to do? “Just keep swimming.”

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

Ramadan is over,
The new moon’s shown her face,
I’m halfway round the planet,
In a most unlikely place
Far Side of the World lyrics by Jimmy Buffett

I’ll end this 10 part look at Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown  with a couple of interviews that gives you a better glimpse of how that show is put together.

Read Full Post »

“Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.”
Scott Adams
Dilbert creator

While Scott Adams says “it’s never a good idea to take advice from cartoonist” that’s just a friendly way to disarm you, make you like him, and want to hear what he has to say. And he makes a point of saying he just offers information.

And since the Dilbert creator’s had a 30+ year career as a cartoonist it doesn’t hurt to listen to his information on what he calls the “success formula.”

“Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success. You can raise your market value by being merely good, not extraordinary at more than one skill.”
Author & speaker Scott Adams 
How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big

And this is how he explains that formula to his own success:

“I’m a poor artist—certainly in the beginning. Through brut force I’ve sort of brought myself up to mediocre. I’ve never taken a writing class, but I can write. I’m okay. But if you put me in a room of writers I’m not going to be the best one. If I have a party at my house, I’m not the funniest person in the room. But I’m a little bit funny, I can write a little bit, I can draw a little bit—you put those three together and you have Dilbert and it’s a fairly powerful force.”
Scott Adams
Forbes interview with Carmine Gallo

He also has an MBA and a business background which were a part of the mix as he went on to have a career at making people laugh at office culture gone bad. But he makes a point of saying all his skills are average, it’s only when they all come together when they are effective.

It reminds me of musician Jimmy Buffett who once said that he’s not the best guitarist, not the best singer, and not the best song writer—but that he can pull all those skills together and “capture the magic.” And that’s resulted into a 45+ year career entertaining people. (And according to Forbes has helped made Buffett the 13th wealthiest celebrity in the United States with an estimated net worth of $550 million.)

Sure the word success is subjective and not just about fame and fortune, but take a look that success formula and see how acquiring new skills can help you in your career and life.

Scott W. Smith 

 

 

Read Full Post »

I went down to Captain Tony’s to get out of the heat
When I heard a voice call out to me, “Son, come have a seat”
Jimmy Buffet/Last Mango in Paris

captaintonys_5256

Though today’s postcard comes from Key West (where I was yesterday) this is the first international post in the nine years of writing this blog. So greetings from Cozumel.

Despite having higher end Panasonic and Nikon cameras with me on the production I’m on, the clear winner after two days is the Apple iPhone 7plus. Speed is the issue. Yesterday I only had four hours to capture an overall essence of Key West in the daytime.

The versatility of which you can shoot stills and videos is a strength of iPhones, but the iPhone 7 Plus cell phone/camera is a significant jump up from the iPhone 4s I just upgraded from. I’m shooting a lot of footage in 120 (and some in 240) frames per second which is serious slow motion. Today I’ll also shoot in 4K.

I’m also using the FiLMiC Pro camera app (which only costs $9.99) a lot which allows you to shoot in 24p and also disable the in camera stabilizer. It’s also easy to lock focus and exposure. Because I knew I’d be on the move a lot shooting in Key West gave me a chance to test the DJI Osmo Mobile.

While it’s always best to test out equipment well before a shoot, sometimes you just have to roll the dice. In this case, I just booked this shoot a week ago. Did some research and then finally pulled the trigger on buying the DJI Osmo less than 24 hours before my cruise ship departed.

After purchasing it in Orlando and driving to Miami, at around midnight I finally got to open the box set-up the battery to charge. At 2:3o AM it didn’t appear to be charging. I went to sleep thinking it was a bust and I’d just return it after the cruise.

But in the morning it all fired up so it gave me hope. We left that day out of the Port of Miami and the next day while on Old Town Trolly Tours I finally had a chance to start shooting with it and my first impression is it’s great. Very user friendly is getting Stedicam-like shots from an iPhone. (Note: I once owned a Stedicam Merlin and I never really could balance the dang thing. The DJI Osmo took less than five minute to balance.)

One sad note on my quick trip to Key West is that it’s changed a lot since I first visited there in 1981 or ’82. Back then it still had a bohemian/artistic/drop out of society feel to it. Today it feels like Orlando.  I have nothing against Starbucks or CVS Pharmacy, but places like that take away from the other-worldness that Key West once had. But you’re still closer to Havana, Cuba than a Walmart… and there’s still Captain Tony’s, and Sloppy Joe’s, and Hemingway’s house, etc. etc.  Just don’t go there expecting to see a quaint   seaside hippy village unless you can go in 1971. Aside from that go for at least 4 days, not four hours. That gives you time to decompress and find the secret gems of Key West.

And especially for content creators, Key West is still a visual feast.

P.S. For what it’s worth, two of my most memorable dining experiences came from a trip to the Keys years ago. Louie’s Backyard in Key West and Little Palm Island (just a boat ride away from Key West).

Related posts:
Jimmy Buffett in Iowa (Part 1)
Jimmy Buffett in Iowa (Part 4)
Sing Along with Mitch in Margaritaville

Scott W. Smith

 

Read Full Post »

Squalls out on the gulf stream
Big storm commin’ soon
Jimmy Buffett/Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season

wesh-hurricane-matthew

From all reports it appears that Hurricane Matthew will be the worst storm to hit Central Florida in the past 50 years. They’re expecting a category 4 storm (winds range from 131 to 155 mph, and possibly a category 5) by the time it heads up the east coast of Florida (West Palm Beach, Vero Beach, Melbourne Beach, Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach).

Even here in Orlando where the airport is only 50 miles from Cape Canaveral the sustained winds are expected to be 50-70 mph. I hope there are no more serious injuries or loss of lives due to Hurricane Matthew, but unfortunately the odds are quite good that this will disrupt lives for days or weeks, and possible alter the landscape forever.

One more reminder that there are things way beyond our control.

And because this is a screenwriting blog there are a few takeaways. There’s conflict, visual conflictstakes, urgency,  a good bad guy (Hurricane Matthew) who threatens lives and well being, a dilemma, a ticking clock,  and a central dramatic question—what’s going to happen in about 12 hours from now?

One of the best Hurricane-related movies is the 1948 classic  Key Largo (which is actually set during an impending hurricane hitting Florida) written by Richard Brooks and John Huston, based on a play by Maxwell Anderson:

Gangster: Hey Curly, what all happens in a hurricane?
Curly: The wind blow so hard the ocean gets up on its hind legs and walks right across the land.  

And today I found this Lux Radio version of Key Largo starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Edward G. Robinson:

And here’s a fitting Jimmy Buffett song (from one of my all time favorite albums, A1A) to close this blog post:

To watch live feed of Florida beaches during Hurricane Matthew check out Surfline.

 

Related posts:

Postcard #27 (A1A)
Shelter from the Storm (Dylan)
Havana Daydreamin’
Postcard #21 (Hurricane Issac)
Postcard #22 (Kelly Slater Statue)
Postcard #90 (Second Light)
Writer Jim Harrison (Part 2)
Jim Harrison 1937-2016 (part 4)
The Weather Started Getting Rough
Jimmy Buffett in Iowa (Part 2) A little Steve Goodman, a little Pat Conroy
Writing Quote #31 (Hemingway)

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: