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Posts Tagged ‘Michelle Pfeiffer’

This was originally posted in October 2012 as Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 4):

The funny thing about Garry Marshall’s book Wake Me When It’s Funny is it’s not really that funny of a book. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It has its humorous moments, but it’s more part of his story and experiences of working for decades in TV and movies, and part of it is just rock solid practical advice. In fact, today’s directing insight from Marshall is not only something I never heard taught in film school—but I’ve never heard anyone else ever mention it in regards to filmmaking:

“I saw Michelle Pfeiffer at the catering truck ordering a bagel on Frankie and Johnny. When she discovered they were all out of bagels, she started to cry. I was ready to run to the nearest deli to buy her a dozen bagels, but she said it wasn’t that important. It turned out she was having her period and everything made her cry. I didn’t try to cheer her up but made it a positive thing because she had several crying scenes in the movie. After lunch, we sat down with the production schedule and, with Michelle’s approval, plotted the crying scenes around her menstrual cycle. This made these scenes easier for everyone, especially Michelle. Yes, I’m a filmmaker and I chart menstrual cycles. Later I saw Michelle walking around the set with a sign she had pinned on the back of her bathrobe that read BEWARE PMS.

“I originally learned the importance of women’s cycles from Debbie Reynolds on How Sweet It Is! We were sitting in our big production meeting with Debbie and ten others talking about a swimming sequence. Suddenly, Debbie secretly passed me a note that said, ‘Garry, ask me when my period is.’ Now, I was a first-time producer who knew nothing and I wanted to impress the others, but didn’t know what to make of this note. Was she coming on to me in the height of the meeting? I looked at Debbie and she gave me an encouraging nod. ‘Errrr…Debbie,’ I said, ‘when is your period?’ She smiled and said, ‘Oh, what a bright producer Garry is. That’s such a smart question to ask. You all should know my menstrual cycle so you can schedule the swimming sequences around my period.'”
Garry Marshall
Wake Me When It’s Funny (written with Lori Marshall)
Pages 201-202

Now some other film director may have given that advice, but I don’t recall reading Ford, Capra, Hitchcock, Kazan, Coppola, Spielberg, Soderbergh—or even the female directors like Nora Ephron or Kathryn Bigelow—mentioning anything about menstrual cycles in terms of directing. Doesn’t mean no one else has, but regardless, it’s good practical advice. While things were less politically correct when the book was first published 20-years-ago, the fact that book was co-written by Garry’s daughter, and the two main sources are Michelle Pfeiffer and Debbie Reynolds, I hope show this isn’t some sexist and misogynistic thought.

P.S. Debbie Reynolds, most famous for her role in Singing in the Rain, is now 83 and still singing and acting and has a website—debbiereynolds.com. In 2013 she published Unsinkable: A Memoir (The definitive memoir, a story of heartbreak, hope, and survival). She’s also the real life mother of the fictional Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher).

Scott W. Smith

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The spike in views keep coming so I’m going to stay on this Garry Marshall gravy train a little while longer. The funny thing about Marshall’s book Wake Me When It’s Funny is it’s not really that funny of a book. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It has its humorous moments, but it’s more part of his story and experiences of working for decades in TV and movies, and part of it is just rock solid practical advice. In fact, today directing insight from Marshall is not only something I never heard taught in film school—but I’ve never heard anyone else ever mention it in regards to filmmaking.

“I saw Michelle Pfeiffer at the catering truck ordering a bagel on Frankie and Johnny. When she discovered they were all out of bagels, she started to cry. I was ready to run to the nearest deli to buy her a dozen bagels, but she said it wasn’t that important. It turned out she was having her period and everything made her cry. I didn’t try to cheer her up but made it a positive thing because she had several crying scenes in the movie. After lunch, we sat down with the production schedule and, with Michelle’s approval, plotted the crying scenes around her menstrual cycle. This made these scenes easier for everyone, especially Michelle. Yes, I’m a filmmaker and I chart menstrual cycles. Later I saw Michelle walking around the set with a sign she had pinned on the back of her bathrobe that read BEWARE PMS.

I originally learned the importance of women’s cycles from Debbie Reynolds on How Sweet It Is. We were sitting in our big production meeting with Debbie and ten others talking about a swimming sequence. Suddenly, Debbie secretly passed me a note that said, ‘Garry, ask me when my period is.’ Now, I was a first-time producer who knew nothing and I wanted to impress the others, but didn’t know what to make of this note. Was she coming on to me in the height of the meeting? I looked at Debbie and she gave me an encouraging nod. ‘Errrr…Debbie,’ I said, ‘when is your period?’ She smiled and said, ‘Oh, what a bright producer Garry is. That’s such a smart question to ask. You all should know my menstrual cycle so you can schedule the swimming sequences around my period.'”
Garry Marshall
Wake Me When It’s Funny (written with Lori Marshall)
Pages 201-202

Now some other film director  may have given that advice, but I don’t recall reading Ford, Capra, Hitchcock, Kazan, Coppola, Spielberg, Soderbergh—or even the female directors like Nora Ephron or Kathryn Bigelow—mentioning anything about menstrual cycles in terms of directing. Doesn’t mean no one else has, but regardless, it’s good practical advice. The book was published back in 1995 back in a slightly less politically correct time, and I can’t imagine Marshall getting some negative flack if he wrote that today. (And I imagine I’ll get some. )

But the fact that book was co-written by Garry’s daughter, and the two main sources are Michelle Pfeiffer and Debbie Reynolds, I hope show this isn’t some sexist and misogynistic thought.

P.S. Debbie Reynolds, most famous for her role in Singing in the Rain, is now 80 and still singing and has a website—debbiereynolds.com

Scott W. Smith

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“Them smokestacks reachin’ like the arms of God
Into a beautiful sky of soot and clay.”
Bruce Springsteen
Youngstown


I don’t know if it’s common for kids growing up in Poland, Ohio to dream about living aboard a yacht someday, but that’s the short life story of Mary Wells.

When I was a kid I first learned about Poland, Ohio and I wasn’t thrilled by it. It was located on my birth certificate as the place where my father was born. I knew nothing about the town, or even the country of Poland, I just knew there were lots of Pollack jokes and I wanted no part of that.

My dad left Poland, Ohio soon after he graduated from Spingfield-Township High School and went to Ohio State Univesity, which after a stint in the Air Force prepared him for a career in advertising in Orlando and Tampa.

Looking back my father had a 30+ year run in advertising and later in life for his labor he had a lovely condo in St. Pete Beach that looked over Boca Ciega Bay & the Gulf of Mexico. After he died I visited Poland, Ohio for the first time to see where he had come from. I walked around the remains of the Youngtown Sheet & Tube at Struthers and imagined what it would have been like for my grandfather to work a lifetime in a steel mill. (I must have listened to Bruce Springsteen’s song “Youngstown” a hundred times while driving around because that’s where Yellow Creek referred to in the song is located.) My father had come a long way.

But it pales when compared to Mary Wells’ journey. Born and raised in Poland, Ohio she fled to New York at 17 to study acting and where she ended up as a copywriter in the era of Mad Men.

She worked her way up from copywriter to CEO of Wells Rich Green (WRG).  In 1969 she was already inducted into the copywriters Hall of Fame. She was the driving force behind helping change the image of New York with the “I Love New York” campaign. And at one time she was the highest paid woman in advertising and sold her company in 1990 for $160. Million.  And that’s just the quick overview. You can read her story in her book A Big Life (in Advertising).

Now she has homes in New York and the West Indies as well as the little boat she likes to spend time on as she travels the world.

One of my favorite quotes by Wells; “Of course, I’m a legend. But it’s not because of any great gift I have. It’s because I’m a risk taker.”

But where did she get her creative start? She began acting in plays at The Youngstown Playhouse at the age of 5. (America’s oldest ongoing community theater.) She was only three years older than my father and I’ll always wonder if their paths crossed somewhere like the Poland Library or if she ever saw The Charles Smith Band perform.

But she’s one more example of a creative that rose up from flyover country to accomplish much.

And I also wonder when the Mary Wells story will end up on the big screen. I’m not the first one to envision Michelle Pfeiffer playing Mary Wells. I hope the movie gets made someday and I hope the opening shot is in Poland, Ohio.

Wells’ yacht is featured in Architectural Digest December ’09.

As a side note, Youngtown is where the Warner brothers (Jack & Sam)  of Warner Bros. Studios fame spent much of their childhood. And it’s where they began their own journey in the film business when they screened a copy of The Great Train Robbery.

Related post: Screenwriting & the Little Fat Girl from Ohio

Scott W. Smith

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