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Posts Tagged ‘Moonlight’

The first book I ever read in creative writing class was Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, and my favorite chapter from that is ‘Shitty First Drafts.’ So I have no problem writing a terrible first draft. I pretty much journal until I get to the point when I say, Okay, now there needs to be a first draft of this….Once I’m in the writing phase of something, I do try to write something every day, seven days a week, even of it’s terrible. I think it’s important to stay in the world of the characters.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)
Written by February/March 2017 
Interview with Ernest Hardy

Related posts:

Bird by Bird
Writing Quote #27 (Anne Lamott)
Screenwriting Quote #58 (Anne Lamott)
La La Liberty City 

Scott W. Smith

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“There are only two possible stories: a man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town.”
Unknown (Though often attributed to Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky)

I’ve always been fond of the above quote, and over the weekend I realized that the last two Best Picture Oscars were examples of each.  Moonlight being “a man goes on a journey,” and Spotlight representing “a stranger comes to town.”

Moonlight and Spotlight are not only one word titles with nine letters that end with “light,” but there is a Miami connection as well. Moonlight is about a boy raised and Miami, and the stranger coming to town in Spotlight is when the Boston Globe hires Marty Baron (Liev Schreiberwho was the executive editor at The Miami Herald.

As the editor at the Boston Globe, Baron oversaw the investigative team that earned a Pulitzer for their coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. If the movie version is true, it was Baron’s being a stranger to Boston culture that helped him pursue truth at whatever the cost.

“Over the course of 2002, we probably did almost 1,000 stories on the topic. We went to the court to have documents unsealed that the church had hoped to keep secret, documents that addressed the fact that the church knew these priests had abused and continued to abuse children. It forced the church to address issues that had essentially been swept under the rug for 40 or 50 years.” 
Marty Baron
Leigh University / Department of Journalism & Communication

P.S. Baron is currently the editor of The Washington Post and says, “I see a lot of people getting out of law school who can’t get jobs, but the ones with journalism majors still can. The people who have learned the tools and who are open to working in a variety of different media will find opportunities, and they will succeed.”

Journalism may have hit a wall around 2008, but it’s being revamped offering opportunities for storytellers with multimedia skills. So if you’re a film school grad looking for work, don’t ignore the chance to use your producing, shooting, writing, and/or editing skills in journalism.

Scott W. Smith

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“We’re two boys from Liberty City representing the 305.”
Tarrell Alvin McCraney
(305 is the area code in Miami)

“Liberty City, one of the poorest sections of Miami and almost entirely black, is geographically tiny, little more than the housing projects and the blocks surrounding them.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones/ New York Times


liberty-city

What’s more unlikely than an Oscar-winning screenwriter being from the Liberty City section of Miami? That’s easy— how about two Oscar-winning writers being from there. Barry Jenkins and Tarrell Alvin McCraney collected the Best Adapted Screenplay Award Sunday for their Moonlight script. Both are from the same housing project in Liberty City.

And to top it off, Moonlight had a surprise upset of La La Land to win Best Picture Oscar.

Allow me take you on a quick tour of greater Miami to explain what’s so special about being from Liberty City.

Less than ten miles east of Liberty City is Miami Beach with its beautiful Art Deco hotels, glamorous night clubs, and high-end cars. Here’s a map of homes in the South Beach and surrounding islands listed on Zillow that are listed for three million or more. (Make note of one listing for $65 million.)

Homes for sale .png

A little over 10 miles to the south of Liberty City you’ll find Coral Gables. It’s home to the Miracle Mile, the University of Miami, and the beautiful and historic Biltmore Hotel.

And lastly on our little tour, just 10 miles to the west of Liberty City you’ll find the Trump National Hotel Miami, a country club where PGA tournaments have been held every year since 1962. Tiger Woods won four times there.

You get the picture. Liberty City is surrounded by some of the finest and upscale places in the United States. I won’t speak for Liberty City (or its next door neighbor, Overtown) in terms of today, but back in 1979 when Barry Jenkins was born Liberty City was  a just under six square miles low income and high crime zone.  (Tough but not as many guns on the street as there are today according to Jenkins.) In 1980 riots broke out there amidst racial tension over a police shooting and acquittal.

This is how Time magazine wrote of the area in 1981 article titled Paradise Lost?:

“Even in Liberty City, the black enclave in North Miami where 18 people died in last year’s riot, the Latin influence is apparent. White store owners who abandoned their businesses are being replaced by Latin landlords. ‘The only things blacks have in Miami are several hundred churches and funeral homes,” says Johnny Jones, a former Dade County school superintendent. ‘After a generation of being Southern slaves, blacks now face a future as Latin slaves. ’”

This is how this New York Times explains the Liberty City journey of both Jenkins and McCraney:

Both men were born to mothers who had their first children when they were teenagers. Both saw their mothers become H.I.V. positive after falling victim to the crack epidemic that overtook their community. Both were taken away from their mothers and bounced around; caregivers, related and not, took them in. They both knew what it was like to have the water turned off for lack of payment, to go to school without deodorant because there was no money to buy it.”

So, yeah, it’s an unlikely place for two Oscar-winners to be raised. And in a nutshell, that’s what the Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places blog is all about. To give a little hope to the creative Outliers in unlikely places around the world.

Related links:
A Liberty City Oscar Watch Party Reacts to Moonlight win/ Miami Herald
Watch Moonlight Director Barry Jenkins Revisit His Hometown/Vanity Fair

Related posts:
The First Black Feature Filmmaker
Postcard #24 (Coral Gables)
Postcard #25 (Miami Beach)
Cocaine Cowboys & the Future of Film (Doc on Miami in the 70s & 80s)
25 Links Related to Black & Filmmaking (2017 Oscar-Edition)

Scott W. Smith

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“My first student film, written/directed shortly after 9/11. A reminder to myself to channel this energy, to create.”
Barry Jenkins (@BandryBarry)
11/10/2016 Tweet

Before Barry Jenkins wrote (with Tarell Alvin McCraney) and directed Moonlightwhich won the Oscar last night for Best Picture and for Best Adapted Screenplay—he was a film school student at Florida State University. My Josephine was his first short film. (A good example of Start Small…But Start Somewhere.)

According to The Guardian, while at Florida State his tastes turned toward art house films listing fimmakers from France, China, and Scotland as influences;  Claire Denis (Vendredi Soir),  Hsiao-Hsien Hou (Three Times), and Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher).

According to Florida State News, a total of seven FSU graduates worked on Moonlight.

Four days after graduating from FSU, Jenkins moved to Los Angeles to pursue a filmmaking career. He spent two years working as a production assistant on various projects, then quit to concentrate on his own movies. His first feature, 2008’s ‘Medicine for Melancholy,’ was shot for $13,000 in San Francisco, where Jenkins was living.”
Rene Rodriguez/Miami Herald

 

Florida State’s film program has a long legacy of turning out talent. So it’s not a total surprise to have an Oscar-winner emerge from that program. (Not sure if that’s the first or not for FSU.) But where Jenkins was before FSU is a little unusual and we’ll look at that tomorrow.

Scott W. Smith

 

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