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Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Costner’

“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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“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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“I think people trying to get into the spotlight are much more interesting than people in the spotlight. That’s why I think Tin Cup is a really well conceived and executed movie, because it’s about a guy who’s trying to get there. And when he gets there, he doesn’t know how to stay there. I think stories about movie stars or great athletes are almost always boring.”
Ron Shelton
Interview with Jon Zelazny

There’s more than one golf scene in Tin Cup (1996) because the movie is about a golf pro. Also thrown into the mix is not only competition on the golf course between Kevin Costner and Don Johnson, but they compete for the affections of Rene Russo.

Directed by Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) from a script by John Norville and  Shelton.

Scott W. Smith

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“There’s something magical about this place.”
Field of Dreams Visitor

If you’re in the market for a traditional Iowa farmhouse with a white picket fence, 193 acres, a two car garage and one baseball field used in the movie Field of Dreams—you’re in luck. Yesterday, it was announced that the field of dreams is for sale for $5.4 million.

The real estate bust in parts of the country like Las Vegas, Southern California and Arizona is pretty bad. I’ve read that 40% of homeowners in Florida owe more on their homes than they are worth. Foreclosures continue to climb. But Iowa has been spared from much of those problems because they never experienced a bubble in the first place. Growth here is like corn—slow and steady.

I live in Cedar Falls, Iowa about an hour and a half away from the field of dreams so I don’t really know the housing market there, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that $5.4 million is the most well-known and expensive house & property on the market in Dyersville, Iowa.

But while it is listed as a one-of-a kind property, I have to admit the annual 65,000 tourists that are attracted to the field of dreams pales in comparison to Graceland. (And, of course, those visitors do buy t-shirts and artwork which provides a nice income stream to keep your John Deere tractors running.)

Here’s my dream, that some wealthy benefactor (and longtime Screenwriting from Iowa reader) would buy the property and donate the house to serve as the iconic global headquarters for Screenwriting from Iowa. I’m not real interested in maintaining the ball field or farming the land. But I am open to hosting writing and acting workshops with Diablo Cody and Kevin Costner in the machine shed by the corn bib.

(For new readers, the Oscar-winning Juno screenwriter, Diablo Cody, went to college at the University of Iowa. Same school, by the way, that W.P. Kinsella (who wrote the novel that became the movie Field of Dreams) happened to attend. Check out the post The Juno-Iowa Connection. And keep an eye open for a change of address.)

Scott W. Smith

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“There’s a difference between drama and melodrama; evoking genuine emotion, or manipulating emotion. It’s a very fine eye-of-the-needle to thread. And it’s very rare that it works. That’s why I tend to dominate this particular genre. There is this fine line. And I do not verge into melodrama. It’s all drama. I try to generate authentic emotional power.”
Nicholas Sparks

Nicholas Sparks is on a roll. A new movie that he and is in theaters now made its money back in its first week and he has the number one slot on the New York Times best seller list for Paperback Mass-Market Fiction (and the #5 slot as well).

If you’re not a 12 years old girl you may not have read or seen The Last Song or Dear John, or be aware that  most of his stories are set in the Carolinas. But Sparks spent a good deal of his youth in the Midwest and an event that happened right here in Iowa helped give him a start as a writer.

Sparks was born in Nebraska, and lived for a time in Minnesota, and eventually landed in Indiana where he received a track scholarship to Notre Dame. While running in the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa he was injured and this is what he wrote on his website:

I spent the summer icing my Achilles tendon. During those three months, in which I was instructed not to run at all, I moped around the house until my mom got tired of it.

“Don’t just pout,” she said, “Do something”

“What?” I asked, not bothering to hide my sulking.

“I don’t know. Write a book.”

I looked at her. “Okay,” I said.

He completed that first novel between his freshman and sophomore years but it didn’t get published.  A few years later he wrote another novel that also didn’t get published. He worked various jobs including waiting tables and wrote a third novel. The third time was a charm as The Notebook got him an advance of $1 million.

He since has had more than fifteen books published and, beginning with Message in a Bottle starring Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn, six of his novels have been made into movies. (I wonder if Sean Penn, Robin’s wife at the time, watched Message in a Bottle. And if so, did the words “authentic emotional power” come to his mind?)

Though often thought of and called a romance writer Sparks prefers to think of himself as a writer of tragic love stories. In a recent article in USA Today he stresses the differences. That’s the article that also created a little controversy when film critic Roger Ebert took Sparks to task for some of his comments about Cormac McCarthy, but he still gave the new Miley Cyrus movie two and a half stars.

And if you’re keeping score. put Sparks down as another writer who grew up poor (at least until his father finished his Ph.D.) and Catholic.

BTW—The Drake Relays (where Sparks hurt his Achilles tendon) are later this month and a big deal in these parts as it attracts some of the finest athletes in track in field including former and future Olympians.

Scott W. Smith

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Since Diablo Cody is my poster child (female) for a screenwriter coming from outside L.A. (and the original inspiration for this blog)  then I think I’ll name Lawrence Kasdan as the poster child (male) screenwriter from outside L.A. Kasdan was raised in Morgantown, West Virginia. Quick, name another screenwriter from West Virginia.

(While Morgantown is the second largest city in West Virginia it only has about 30,000 residents not including the students at the University of West Virginia. My lasting memory of Morgantown goes back to 1994 when I was there for a video shoot and the news broke of O.J. Simpson’s famous low-speed police chase. I remember walking down the main drag and seeing restaurant/bar after restaurant/bar having the same helicopter shot of the Simposn’s white Ford Bronco on their TVs.)

Kasdan left Morgantown to attend the University of Michigan where he was an English major. A gifted writer he would go on to win Hopwood Prize at UM for creative writing. In his 30s he became  one of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood with a string of box office hits— Star Wars: The Empire Strikes, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Body Heat and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. He has also had  three Oscar nominations for his screenwriting —Grand Canyon, The Accidental Tourist, and The Big Chill.

But what I think you’ll be interested in is that little period between college in Ann Arbor, Michigan and his first sale as a screenwriter. While reading The First Time I Got Paid for It, Writers’ Tales from the Hollywood Trenches I found this retelling by Kasdan when he would have been a 28 year old advertising copywriter:

“One summer day in 1977 my agent asked me to lunch, which was so unusual it made me nervous. It has taken me a long time to get an agent, so naturally, I was worried about hanging on to him. For two years now he had been trying to sell a thriller I had written for my favorite star Steve McQueen, who didn’t know I’d written this thriller for him. Originally, the agent thought he wouldn’t have much trouble selling the script, so he agreed to represent me. But after sixty-seven rejections he was getting discouraged.”

But his agent didn’t want to part ways with Kasdan, but he did want Kasdan to try his hand at writing for television, specifically Starsky & Hutch. Kasden reluctantly agreed to give it a shot. Soon he heard back from the powers that be at Starsky & Hutch that he didn’t have the goods to write for the show. He told the agent not to give up on him that he had a new screenplay in the works that was almost done. He thought that would buy him a little more time to breakthrough.

Then Kasdan writes, “But when I came into my job the next day, there was a message that my agent had called. Could he have changed his mind overnight? Of course he could. After nine years of writing screenplays without success, I believed only bad things were going to happen to me. But what he had to tell me wasn’t bad. It was kind of miraculous. After two years and all that rejection, suddenly two different parties were interested in my thriller—which was called The Bodyguard.”

So while you dream of writing the next  Raiders of the Lost Ark or Return of the Jedi (or get discouraged in your own career) remember Kasden’s line, “After nine years of writing screenplays without success.” And also keep in mind that while that first sale came in 1977 it was fifteen years before the film The Bodyguard was produced and released into theaters. (The film starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in roles that were originally thought would star Steve McQueen & Barbra Stresisand. The movie made over $400 million worldwide.)

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“Primary exposition is telling and showing to the audience the time and place of the story, the names and relationships of the characters, and the nature of the conflict.”
Irwin R. Blacker
The Elements of Screenwriting

“Within the first pages of a screenplay a reader can judge the relative skill of the writer simply by noting how he handles exposition.”
Robert McKee
Story

Dramatically speaking exposition is simply the way you convey information.

Consider these facts:

I share a birthday with Slim Pickens.

I was born the same year as George Clooney, Meg Ryan, Michael J. Fox, Melissa Etheridge, Peter Jackson, Heather Locklear, Enya and Barack Obama.

I graduated from high school the same year and just a few miles away from the high school Wesley Snipes graduated from.

Not that I lump myself in with those well known people (okay, I just did — but let’s just say I’m not well-known or as accomplished like those mentioned) but I want to show you a form of exposition. I wasn’t totally on the nose with the above exposition but it gives you a ballpark of how old I am. (Old, but not that old. Come on, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Sheryl Crow and Jon Bon Jovi are just a year or two behind me.) If you wanted to, with a little research you could put all the pieces together.

Exposition works best in films when sprinkled here and there and doesn’t feel like exposition.

Think of exposition like exposure in photography. It reveals a subject. When you take a picture of someone on film you expose a part of them. Every angle gives you a little different exposure or insight into the person. In a close up you might see a small scar on their face, from the side you may see a tattoo on their arm, and from behind you might see their hair is thinning.

In compelling portrait photos you’re exposing someone and giving little glimpses of who the person is. In your screenwriting it’s best if your exposition is almost invisible so the audience doesn’t feel they are being spoon-feed info.

In real life people are constantly giving us exposition. Two pieces of real life expo that come to mind were in the form of a warning about other people. The first one came years ago when I was young and began a job wide-eyed and excited. A fellow who had been at the company a few years warned me about the president of the company; “Be careful there is a trail of broken relationships behind him.”

That was a great bit of exposition given in a way that was fresh and allowed me to fill in the blanks without knowing the details. Another person I worked with said of someone we knew, “I know there is a good person in there wanting to come out.” Great line.

And a fellow I once interviewed for a video told me, “The memories of my father could be put on the back of a postage stamp.” That one lines says lot more than a typical movie scene than dumping a two-minute monologue on what a bad a father he had.

This week keep track of how exposition is given to you in real life and in movies and TV shows you watch. Detective shows on TV are some of the worst at dumping exposition on an audience because they have to front load so much information because they need to grab your attention early so you know what’s going on before you change the channel. 
”Okay, we think Joe did this because his girlfriend just broke up with him and he lost his job at the factory where he works and he has a hunting rifle that uses the same caliber bullet that was used in the murder.” Then they often dump more exposition right at the end to explain all the details of why such and such happened.

Consider these great lines from movies that convey exposition in an excellent way:

“What was your Childhood like?”
“Short.”
Escape from Alcatraz

“What do you do with a girl when you’re through with her?”
“I’ve never had a girl.”
An Officer and a Gentleman

“Are you something else I’m going to have to live through?”
Erin Brockovich

In one sentence we get a glimpse that Erin’s been through some crap.

A key to writing good exposition is to only reveal what you have to reveal. We do this in real life. It’s the guy who says after the fifth date when things are getting more serious, “Have I told you I have a kid?”

In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid timely exposition comes just before there is going to be a shootout and Butch says to Sundance: “Kid, I think there’s something I ought to tell you. I never shot anybody before. ” Sundance replies, “One hell of a time to tell me.” And at 90 minutes into the film it is one hell of a time to tell the audience this little bit of exposition. Butch is an outlaw and a bank robber and the admission catches Sundance and the audience off guard.

Films often use exposition early in the film to set the stage as in Jerry Maguire where the Tom Cruise character explains what a sports agent does. (Speaking of Jerry Maguire, I loved how screenwriter Cameron Crowe actually used exposition to avoid the usual spill-your-guts exposition moment when Dorothy tells Jerry, “Let’s not tell all our sad stories.”)

The stuff you have to get out to set up you story is what Blake Snyder calls “laying pipe” and warns that audiences can only stand so much of that before they get bored with the technical jargon.

“Laying Pipe,” is about how much screen time you must use to set up your story. In my opinion, audiences will only stand for so much of that. A good example of “too much pipe” is Minority Report, which does not get going until Minute 40. Why? Because this adaptation of the Philip K. Dick story requires A LOT of pipe! And to me, it torques the whole movie out of shape. So we must be careful. Just because we can lean on the built-in audiences that a beloved novel brings, we have to make sure we create a movie-going experience that resonates for everyone — even those who aren’t familiar with the book.
Blake Snyder

See how well exposition is handled in Man in Black: “What you do not smell is called iocane powder. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadlier poisons known to man.” Mystery Man on Film says of this line of exposition: “Perfect.  The pipe is laid, the audience knows the name of the poison, its properties, and how it works.  More important, the audience knows how this scene is going to work — one of the men will die from ingesting the poison.”

One reason flashbacks in general are frowned upon in screenplays is because they are often put there to simply be an info dump rather than being integral to the story. But flashbacks and life recaps can be handled well.

In Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner’s character says, “Dad was a Yankees fan then so, of course, I rooted for Brooklyn. But in ’58 the Dodgers moved away so we had to find other things to fight about.” Two lines that sums up his relationship with his father.

“But you have to be careful that your characters are not talking only in order to get information out. If you need to give the audience a bit of information, make sure to give the character his own reason to tell us about it. That’s called making the dialogue organic to the character.”
Alex Epstein
Crafty Screenwriting

“Always ask yourself: Would the character actually say this, or is he only saying it because you need the audience to know some fact or detail? If the answer is the latter, you’re writing exposition and not dialogue. That’s not good.”
John August
Big Fish

Save the best exposition for last. Of course, one of the best examples of this is when Darth Vader says, “Luke, I am your father.” I was at midnight showing in Hollywood when I first heard that line uttered and it was a personal great movie moment. Other great memorable lines of powerful expo are “I see dead people” (The Sixth Sense) and “She’s my sister and my daughter” (Chinatown).

Good exposition doesn’t need to be spoken either. “Show don’t tell” is a popular Hollywood phrase. Films are visual. When Jack Nickelson’s character continually washes his hands in As Good as it Gets we get a hint that he’s a obsessive compulsive neurotic. We don’t need to have him explain to a character why he washes his hands. We don’t need to see a flashback of him growing up in a dirty household where his mother didn’t let him wash his hands in order to save on the water bill.

In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon’s character reads books in a room filled with books. We get a clue that he reads a lot. Simple visual exposition.

Sometimes you can use false exposition to lead the characters and audience astray as Norman Bates does in Psycho. Just because someone tells you something (and even believes it themselves) doesn’t mean it’s true.

Subtext is another way of masking exposition. Actors love to talk about playing subtext. That is what is being said beyond the words. Think of the many ways someone can say “I love You” and have it mean so many different things including “I hate you.”

As you’re writing and rewriting your script be aware of how exposition is being conveyed. Make ever effort to make the exposition seamless and is there for a good reason.

Copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith

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