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Posts Tagged ‘Moneyball’

“I believe science might offer the answer to the Curse of the Bambino.”
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt)
Moneyball

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Babe Ruth when he played for the Boston Red Sox

My love for traveling is rooted in not traveling much until I was 19-years-old, and following baseball as a kid. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Boston were linked in my mind to baseball teams. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to go to baseball games in all of those cities.

On a flight to Boston yesterday, I starting reading the novel Shoeless Joe which the movie  Field of Dreams is based on. It didn’t occur to me until then that two of my top ten sports movies have scenes in Boston’s Fenway Park.

Field of Dreams came out in 1989 and Moneyball in 2011, and though I’ve watched them both many times over the years I just never aligned them like I did on my flight to Boston. I’ll give an asset to The Rewatchables podcast for putting them on my radar again.

If you don’t know either film, the following scenes will be out of context. But both scenes at Fenway Park play an important role in the stories they are telling.

And as a Fenway Park bonus track—from a non-sports movie—here’s Sean (Robin Williams) talking about his Red Sox memory in Good Will Hunting.

P.S. Aaron Sorkin who co-wrote the screenplay for Moneyball says that he is drawn to stories about key times of transition and Moneyball qualifies. Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane embraced Sabermetrics based on the work of statistician Bill James.  A new way of mining data on ball players to evaluate talent and productivity. It’s credited with helping the Boston Red Sox winning four World Series titles since 2004. “The curse of Bambino” was what some called the effect of the Boston Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to New York Yankee back in the day.

Scott W. Smith 

 

 

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When you have a clear idea of a plot, write out the entire story as interestingly as you can. Keep in mind that the audience is not interested in seeing actions which people do generally, but in seeing what specific actions specific persons do in specific circumstances.”
Screenwriter Frances Marion 
How to Write and See Film Stories (1937)

Moneyball is a movie I adore and return to often. Here are two scenes from that movie that show something specific about the game of professional baseball. But they are also  scenes that are universal. Since people throughout time have had to do some kind of work to survive and be productive in this world —getting fired or firing people is a part of life.

And Office Space is another work related movie that comes to mind as unpacking specifically what Peter (Ron Livingston) does in a given day to avoid being fired. It’s a great scene because of the twist at the end.

And another scene that comes to mind dealing with specificity is from Breaking Bad.

You don’t have to be a fan of baseball, work in a cubical, or have an interest in chemistry/meth to enjoy the stories of Moneyball, Office Space, and Breaking Bad because the writers drilled deep into the specific aspects of the characters.

P.S. Speaking of work . . . over the weekend I made significant progress on lining up details for the release of my book this month.

Scott W. Smith

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“At the end of the day, we all hope that what we’re doing will be of some value.”
Producer/actor Brad Pitt

On this repost Saturday I’m reaching back to a post I just wrote two years ago. I know many people in the sporting world are in a football state of mind this week since the 2013 college football season began this week.

But I’m in a baseball state of mind because I went to a memorial service yesterday for Coach Mike Ferrell. He was my JV baseball coach my freshman year of high school. Some people only come into your life for a season but still leave an impact. Coach Ferrell was one of those people in my life.

I can’t remember what our record was that year I played on his team. I can’t even remember a single game. But I remember Coach Ferrell. My defining memory of him was when I was going through a batting slump and he allowed me hit extra in batting practice. Next game I got two hits. Little things like a coaches confidence in you to do better and a lesson about perseverance go a long way in life.  (Passion, patience, practice and persistence are a great combination any endeavour.)

He was a good man. A fair man. And he loved the game of baseball–and it showed in his affections for his players and wanting them to play the game well. I learned at the memorial service that he “mowed his lawn every four days.” That made sense. He was a man of precision, of detail.

Looking back I realize that Coach Ferrell would have only been 25-26 years old when he was coaching that year.  Young, but every bit the leader.  And while mowing your lawn every four days won’t change the world, it does reveal a glimpse into the character of a man who would invest 37 years in the public school system teaching and coaching young men and women.

Character building stuff that impacts lives in positive ways. And there’s great value in that.

A special thanks to the teachers and coaches out there investing in the lives of others. And may peace be with Coach Ferrell’s wife and family.

Here’s the post that first ran September 30, 2011—then titled Filmmaking Quote #24 (Brad Pitt):

“It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.”
Billy Beane (Brad Pitt)
Moneyball 

Today I saw Moneyball starring Brad Pitt and loved everything about it.* It completed a week where by happenstance I followed the Brad Pitt trail.

Last Saturday while on location shooting a video project I drove by Shawnee, Oklahoma where Brad was born. A few days later I drove through Springfield, Missouri where he was raised and went to high school. The next day I was on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia where he went to college.

The first time I recall seeing him act was in Thelma & Louise in 1991 and it was one of those scene stealing performances where I wondered, “Who the heck is this guy?” Within four years, and after his performances in A River Run Through It, Legends of the Fall, and Se7en—everyone knew who Brad Pitt was. And while he’s a tremendous actor, personally I haven’t appreciated many of the movies he’s been in the past 15 years.

Moneyball goes down in my book as the perfect Brad Pitt movie.  (I haven’t seen Tree of Life yet, but I’m guessing it’s going to be a solid film, but a solid Terrance Malick film.)  That’s not to take anything away from Moneyball’s director (Bennett Miller) or screenwriters (Steven Zillian and Aaron Sorkin), it’s just that their talents all came together to tell a great story that is driven by an actor in his prime. And my guess is that they’ll all be rewarded when the Oscar nominations are announced. (Update: Moneyball received six Oscar-nominations and won the AFI Award for Movie of the Year.)

“(Moneyball) is about how we value things. How we value each other; how we value ourselves; and how we decide who’s a winner based on those values.  The film questions the very idea of how to define success. It places great value on this quiet, personal victory, the victory that’s not splashed across the headlines or necessarily results in trophies, but that, for Beane, became a kind of personal Everest.  At the end of the day, we all hope that what we’re doing will be of some value, that it will mean something and I think that is this character’s quest.”
Brad Pitt
Moneyball: Interview with Brad Pitt

* I will admit that baseball was my first love which is part of what is so special to me about this movie. From rooting for Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine and to going to spring training games at Tinker Field in Orlando as a kid, to playing the game through high school, and as an adult going to games at Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, and Yankee Stadium, the idea of baseball has been a constant companion even though I don’t follow the game much any more. But even if baseball is foreign to you, I think Moneyball works on so many levels you can enjoy the movie even if you’re not a fan of the game.

Related posts:

Brad Pitt & the Future of Journalism
Writing “Se7en”
Writer Jim Harrison (Part 1)
Writer Jim Harrison (Part 2)
Off-Screen Quote #20 (Rod Carew #29)

Scott W. Smith

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“I [write] everyday: bankers’ hours—10 a.m. to 4:00—5:00 p.m. It’s a job…On a script that goes well, I’d say I spend three months outlining and two months writing. That’s ideal.”
Oscar-winning screenwriter Steve Zaillian (Shindler’s List)
Script Magazine
Interview with Ray Morton

P.S. And for what it’s worth, Zaillian writes on a legal pad sitting at his back patio. He also wrote Moneyball, Searching for Bobby Fischer Awakenings The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

P.P.S. You may not be able to write bankers’ hours, nor able to dedicate 6 or 7 hours to writing, but it is beneficial to think of screenwriting as a job and to do it everyday—even if you just chip away at it an hour a day.

Scott W. Smith

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