Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘My Space’

Just a quick thank you to all the people that stopped by this blog last week and helped make it the single biggest week view-wise since I started this blog just over a year ago. Those kinds of things are always encouraging. Also, Sunday I ran into a short film director I worked with a year or so ago said she didn’t know you could win an Emmy for a blog. (Technically the category is Advanced New Media.)

But that got me wondering if “Screenwriting from Iowa” is the first screenwriting blog to win an Emmy. If you know of another let me know, because if this is the first then I’ll market that a little more. (It’s always good to be the first.) 

One of the great thing about all the social networking going on the Internet is you can watch a movie like Transsiberian (like I did over the weekend) and do a quick Google search on the writer/director (Brad Anderson) who made this amazing, fresh and original film. And within a few seconds I was directed to Anderson’s  My Space page.

There I will found several questions he’d been asked by various people online. And here was his answer to a question about starting out in the business:

“In regard to finding a good story you have to have a level of curiosity and desire to go out there and see the world—do things. Find interesting, provocative, unusual fresh kinds of stories to tell because those are the kinds of stories that get noticed and more likely get the kinds of financing you need to realize it.  This movie here, Transsiberian, evolved out of a trip I took 20 years ago, after graduating from college, on the Trans-Siberian. That trip became the seed for the script and the movie like 20-odd years later. So gathering experiences is more important to me, at least in the early stages of your career, than trying to stratagize and think of clever ways to break into the industry. Go out there see the world. Try to use your curiosity to pull in interesting ideas into your brain that are later going to translate later into movies….So my advice is find a good story and don’t be surprised if it takes you five years to get it off the ground, get the financing together to make it.”
                                                                               Brad Anderson
                                                                               On Getting Started/My Space 

Of course, I must also add that when Anderson wanted to find a naive, goofy, and square American as protagonist in Transsiberian for some reason he chose a church-going protagonist (Woody Harrelson) from Iowa, complete with a minor John Deere power mower injury. “If she likes cold, she’d like Iowa because it gets cold there.”

(Update: Turns out the co-writer of Transsiberian, Will Conroy, spent five years living in Iowa City where his father, Frank Conroy, was the director of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. If you read the post The Juno-Iowa Connection you’ll see how in many ways this blog is an extension the work Frank did there. I was glad that Will contacted me in the response section as it’s part of that whole circle of life stuff)

When I started this blog it was simply because Iowa is where I live now and because it’s where screenwriter Diablo Cody went to college before writing Juno. I didn’t really know it was the center of the world.  Now I know why Obama spent so much time here in ’06-’08.

And just for the record Woody Harrelson must have been tapping into his Midwest roots for the role. In real life spent his teen years in Lebanon, Ohio (a Cincinnati & Dayton bedroom community) and was a theater & English major at Hanover College in Indiana.  He made his feature film debut in Harper Valley PTA which happened to be filmed in Lebanon.

Anderson for the record was born in Connecticut, went to Bowdoin College in Maine (where he majored in anthropology and Russian) and lived for a while in Boston. He also applied to but didn’t get into USC and NYU film schools. So he studied film in London for a year and then went off and did his own thing and has done pretty well. He’s doing his part to show a world outside NY & LA. Loved the photography from China & Russia in Transsiberian. And if nothing else get the movie just to watch Ben Kingsley.

It’s a solid movie and it must be frustrating for Anderson and Conroy to see their film get a great 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and yet only see it bring in $2 million in the box office. I hope it is one of those films that gets a following in the DVD world.

Transsiberian also took me back in memory to a documentary I shot in Samara, Russia back in ’05. If I recall correctly after 13 hours of traveling they almost didn’t let us into the country because of some mixup in visa’s.We happened to be there when Russian was celebrating it’s 60th anniversary of defeating Hilter. It’s when I realized that they had a long way to go but they were on the rise as a nation. Our translator told us that many Russians “hate Americans and want to be just like them.”

Other cultures offer so much to explore from a creative aspect. And just to bring it back home, I’m sure there are interesting things worth exploring creatively  in Moscow, Iowa (yes, there is such a place) and Moscow, Idaho.  

Nostrovi!

russiashootdsc_1597

 

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“I work in a business that is run by middle age men who make films for teenage boy fantasies.”
Meg Ryan
In Style magazine
October 2008

“In 2005, (Tyler) Perry said, a Hollywood Pooh-Bah told him that ‘black folk who go to church don’t go to movies.’ Yet from that group he’s carved out a strong niche fan base.”
Perry Hagopain
Time Magazine
March 20, 2008 


shrimtruck0866 

About once a month (in season) a shrimp truck comes to my area in northeast Iowa and parks at a strip mall and sells shrimp and other seafood that were in the waters off Texas a just a few days prior. The truck is only in town for half a day before it moves on to the next town. And the same company has been doing this for over 30 years. 

That’s what I’d call a niche market. What a great idea to load up shrimp and make a little route where you go each month and build a steady market base for seafood lovers in the Midwest. I’m sure things like this happen all over the world. Niche markets are the result of supply and demand.

According to the World Dictionary the word niche means:

1.a position or activity that particularly suits somebody’s talents and personality or that somebody can make his or her own

2.an area of the market specializing in a particular type of product

The feature film Facing the Giants was made for only $100,000 yet opened in over 400 theaters in 2006. It was funded by members of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia who wanted to make a Christian film. Made with largely amateur actors and a mostly inexperienced crew the film went on to  gross over $10 million dollars.  A niche market with a faithful audience.

The church people made their first feature film Flywheel in 2003 and rented a local theater to show the film one weekend. The first night the film sold out and ended up having a six-week run and then got picked up by Blockbuster Video stores, aired on several Christian TV stations and went on to sell 85,000 DVDs.  Not bad for a virtually no-budget film.

But to prove that those first two films weren’t a fluke the writers (brothers Alex, who also directs, and Stephen Kendrick) recently produced Fireproof starring Kirk Cameron that is still in the theaters and was made for $500,000. and so far has grossed over $25 million. It’s safe to say that they have tapped into a niche market and done well.

(To put this in perspective Lions for Lambs released earlier this year starring Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford only had a domestic gross of $15 million. It cost $36 million to make. Though it did better worldwide, with marketing costs marketing included it is estimated that the film lost $50 million.)

And also in Georgia  Tyler Perry has his own niche market. Last month the former New Orleans native who grew up in poverty recently built the 200,000 square foot Tyler Perry Studio on 30 acres in Atlanta. Guests in a attendance at the grand opening included  Will Smith, Sidney Portier and Oprah Winfrey.

According to Wikipedia, Tyler’s “best-known character is Madea who is a physically imposing and overbearing, but well-intentioned, woman who serves both as comic relief and as the loud voice of conscience for the protagonists of Perry’s works.”

The former high school dropout was inspired one day watching The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1992 and wrote a musical dealing with child abuse. While working as a car salesman he staged his first play which was not a success but he continued to hone his writing over the next six years. He began finding success in 1998 with a solid African-American audience and since then has made over $150 million with his plays, DVDs, and feature film releases.

Perry is also producing for TV (Tyler Perry’s House of Payne) and also has written a novel (Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea’s Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life) that was number one on the New York Times Best seller list in 2006. Many in Hollywood are reportedly confused by Perry’s success.

Perry told Scott Bowles at USA Today, “I’m not sure why no one wants to admit there’s a viable audience out there that believes in God and wants to see a movie with their family. The demand is there. The supply is not.”

 

You may not have seen any of Tyler Perry’s movies (or have even heard of him) but he has had four number one box office movies and this year he was named in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. 

What niche markets do you think you could tap into? What niche markets could Meg Ryan tap into if she shifted her focus around? (Time magazine March 14,2008-suggests we are living in “The Post-Movie-Star Era.”)

It’s one reason why screenwriters and filmmakers are embracing social marketing like My Space and Facebook to build a base of people interested in their work. (Join me at Facebook under Scott W. Smith in the Waterloo, IA network and please mention Screenwriting from Iowa as a reference.)

I first learned about social marketing from Nathan T. Wright at Lava Row not that long ago and now see it everywhere. It’s a natural fit for those wanting to tap into a niche market. (Did you know there is a website just for people interested in people with Mullets? Mullet Passions.) Screenwriter Diablo Cody has more than 18,000 friends on My Space. Do you think that might help her post Juno career?

Both Perry and the Kendrick brothers are once again proof that you can have success in the film industry outside of the traditional Hollywood route –out there in fly-over county. And that it doesn’t hurt to not only have faith in your screenwriting, but faith in your movies.

Side note: Back when Kirk Cameron was on Growing Pains I did a shoot with him on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank for a show called Bridges. It was a three screen multi-media program sponsored by Pepsi and shown to hundreds of thousands of high school students across the county. If I can find a clip I’ll post it later. Kirk seemed like a one of the good guys and I’m glad to see him still making films verses being in the news as another example of a child actor gone bad.

Side note 2: If you live in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Oklahoma, Illinois, Indiana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas or Texas and would like to know if the shrimp truck comes to your area contact Fabian Seafood or call 409.765.9522 in Galveston. (They are fully licensed and inspected and the food tastes great.)

Photo & text copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: