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Posts Tagged ‘Leonardo DiCaprio’

This one is for the quitters out there…or at least the ones thinking about quitting their screenwriting journey. The following quote is from a writer who last year had a script of his land on the 2011 Black List (The Imitation Game) before it sold for a reported 7-figure deal, and then he was attached to write the script for Devil in the White City set to star Leonardo DiCaprio.

[Writing partner Ben Epstein and I] were living in New York and had just written a spec script that didn’t sell…our fifth or sixth. I felt so dejected and thought that there is no way I’m going to be a professional writer. I said, you know what, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I called my manager and told him I was going to do something else with my life. I can’t keep handling this. I can’t keep going through this rejection.”
Graham Moore (@MrGrahamMoore)
Spec Sale Spotlight article by Zack Gutin
Script magazine

A few things to add to the mix. Moore graduated from Columbia University (religious history) and working with friend (and NYU film student) Ben Epstein he began writing screenplays. They wrote five or six and one was good enough to land them a manager (Tom Drumm at The Safran Company) and almost resulted in a sale.

Moore moved to LA where Drumm lined up some re-writing assignments and he started writing scripts on his own. In 2010 his novel The Sherlockian became a NY Times best seller, and his mom also just happened to spend over two years in the White House as Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, which provided Moore the opportunity to meet Hollywood insiders on trips to the White House.

Moore is originally from Chicago which is where Devil in the White City is set. A story surrounding a doctor who is believed to have killed as many as 200 people during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

“My high school was 50 yards away from where the Chicago World’s Fair was held, and I played soccer on a field near where Holmes murdered about 200 people. It was a truly horrible crime, but it’s a very Chicago story. Though I moved to LA, I think of myself as fundamentally Mid-Western, and in a weird way, this is a dark and twisted tribute to my hometown.”
Graham Moore
Collider article by Dave Trumbore 

Yet, another screenwriter from Chicago. (William Goldman, David Mamet, Diablo Cody, John Logan, etc. etc.)

So don’t forget to read “the rest of the story” when you hear about a first time writer making a 7-figure first script sale. But more importantly the lesson here is — if you want to be a writer, keep writing through the rejection.

Related Post: Screenwriting da Chicago Way

Scott W. Smith

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I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am women

I Am Women
Written by Helen Reddy & Ray Burton

“I couldn’t find any songs that said what I thought being a woman was about. I thought about all these strong women in my family who had gotten through the Depression and world wars and drunken, abusive husbands. But there was nothing in music that reflected that.”
Helen Reddy

The movie Whip It owes a lot to the 1970s. Not only were Whip It screenwriter Shauna Cross, director Drew Barrymore and supporting actress Juliette Lewis born in the 70s— the movie’s theme of girl power rises from the Gloria Steinem version of feminism that came to fruition in the early 70s. (The National Women’s Political Caucus and Ms. Magazine were both founded in 1971 with Steinem’s guidance. A year before Helen Reddy sang I Am Woman in which would become a catchy powerful feminist anthem.)

And while there are probably a zillion different views of feminism today (and plenty of strong women who don’t care for that label) most would look at the role women have in culture today and agree with the popular 70s Virginia Slims ad champaign, “You’ve come a long way baby.”  (Of course, not everyone would agree on the interpretation of that phrase. Some would say a long way good and others a long way bad.) In the 1970s there was a shift in the roles that women would play in business, education, politics, military and sports. I was raised in the 60s-70s by a single mother and two of the best athletes on my street were girls, so I can’t say I felt the shift and only knew the traditional world by watching old reruns of Leave it to Beaver.

(Growing up in Central Florida I have burned into my memory the blarring 70s radio ads for drag racing events, “Big Daddy Don Garlits, and Shirley ‘Cha-Cha’ Muldowney this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Gainesville International Speedway. BE THERE ! BE THERE! BE THERE!” I never did get there but I remember being amazed that there was a female drag racer. Muldowney was the first women to receive a NHRA licence and won NHRA top fuel championships in 1977, 1980 and 1982. Her story was made into the excellent 1983 film Heart Like a Wheel starring Bonnie Bedelia.)

Of course, as women sought more independence, freedom and accomplishments outside the home this would impact how children were raised and as a result our entire culture effected.  Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) was one of the first films to deal with this changing world. And The Fight Club (1999) dealt with the lingering effects. But honestly, things haven’t exactly been a picnic ever since that incident with the fruit in the garden of Eden. We live in a broken, fallen world and everyday the news confirms this. We go to movies for the hope of a little sliver of restoration.

Which brings us back to Whip It. The movie’s poster with a great shot of star Ellen Page says, “Find your tribe.” It’s about finding your place in this world even if you live in a little town like Bodeen, Texas. I became aware of the story when Cedar Falls, Iowa had a shot at becoming both Bodeen and Austin when I received a call from Mandate Pictures to do some location scouting in the Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Cedar Rapids area here in Iowa.

Iowa’s film incentives were the main reason they considered shooting a story set in Texas. (It would have been a nice payback since the Johnny Depp/Leonardo DiCaprio/Juliette Lewis film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was set in Iowa but shot in Texas.) When I got the call last spring, Ellen Page was already in Iowa making another Mandate Picture called Peacock which was shooting in the Des Moines area.

I ended up doing two days of scouting and thought we had a good shot. One of the biggest problems though was they were really looking for a 50s style ranch home made of brick. We had a good deal of 50s ranch homes in the area but brick for whatever reason was not commonly used. They also wanted the yards to be a little worn down. Maybe it’s because the soil is good in Iowa or the neat German heritage, but there aren’t many lawns in disrepair in this part of the county.

I took hundreds of pictures for the various locations they needed including the Oink Joint where Page’s character worked. My best find was the town of Vinton, Iowa (between Cedar Falls & Cedar Rapids) that I thought made a fitting small Texas town like the ones I’ve driven through before. But at the end of the day they shot most of the film in Michigan. (Apparently, they don’t take care of their lawns as well as Iowans.) I was bummed when I found out they weren’t shooting in Iowa because it would have meant a lot to the community and I would have loved having a small part in bringing the first Hollywood film here since they shot Country in Black Hawk County back in the mid-80s.

But I’m glad the film got made and will write specifically about it tomorrow. The script was written by Cross based on her youth book Derby Girl. Since I write a blog that’s focused on writing or writers that come from outside of L.A. I enjoyed reading an interview where Cross stated, “It’s easier to be more original writing about Texas than New York or L.A.” But it should be noted that while Cross went to film school at the University of Texas at Austin, she did get her breakthough while living in L.A. and bumping into film people.

Whip It (Part 2)

Scott W. Smith



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Last Friday the writer of the novel The Basketball Diaries, Jim Carroll, died in New York. His novel was made into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio  as a youth who is a basketball player with a heroin addiction . It’s a story of crime that Carroll lived first hand. But along the way he also developed a desire to write.

“I made up my mind right then that I was going to be a poet. No matter how difficult it was to live or anything, that’s what I was going to do. And that sort of opened me up in a whole different way, Because I was always kind of withdrawn and looking at things from a distance. I told Leonardo [DiCaprio, who plays Carroll in the movie] to lay back at certain times. When the action’s really happening, of course, stealing a car or something, you’re involved in it completely. But sometimes you just withdraw yourself. Because they called me Daisy, since I was always in dazes. In fact, my parents took me to doctors because they thought I had some form of epilepsy. But it was determined that I just had a vivid imagination. I’d just go off. Even before I was into writing, I’d be waiting for a three-on-three game to end and they would have to shake me. But when I was into writing, I was not only thinking about strange things; I was formulating them on the page as well.”
                                         Jim Carroll 
                                         1995 Interview with Jon Stewart

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