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Posts Tagged ‘Netflix’

“Sometimes you know something’s coming…you feel it in the air. A voice in your head is telling you something is going to go terribly wrong…and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
John Rayburn (Kyle Chandler) in Bloodline

Todd A. Kessler,  Glenn Kessler,  Daniel Zelman created the Netflix series Bloodline which was shot in the Florida Keys.

“We were looking for a place to set [Bloodline] that had kind of an iconic sensibility for the United States, if not the world. Many people if they’ve never been to the Keys have at least heard of the Keys or most people have at least heard of the Florida Keys. Something weird goes on down there. It’s kind of like New Orleans or Las Vegas or Los Angeles, you know, places that people know of.”
Todd A. Kessler
UPROXX interview with Daniel Fienberg 

In about 10 hours as I write this post the Florida Keys are projected to be hit with category 3 or 4 hurricane. There’s no good outcome of this storm. There’s nowhere for Hurricane Irma to go that won’t wreck havoc.  We can hope that most of the people living in and visiting the Keys have already evacuated as the eye of the hurricane will go directly over the string of islands on the southern tip of Florida.

From there, there’s the strong possibility Hurricane Irma will go up the west coast of Florida hitting Naples, Ft. Myers, Sarasota, Tampa/St. Pete, and Cedar Key. My father died in 1995 while living in St. Pete Beach and he always worried about “the big one” hitting that area because—like parts of Houston—there’s nowhere for the water to go except over land. (The last major hurricane to hit the area was The 1921 Tampa Bay hurricane )

I last visited Key West earlier this year, and was in Tampa/St. Pete just two weeks ago. These are areas I’ve been exploring off and on for 30 plus years and it’s a land mixed with beauty and fragileness. I hope the people and buildings weather the storm well.

P.S. Bloodline ended its three season run on earlier this year. And even though the show didn’t perhaps find a wide audience some called it Netflix’s finest show to date. And it did give viewers one of the final looks at the talents of Sam Shepard—and did a super job of showcasing the Florida Keys.

Related posts:
Sam Shepard (1943-2017)
Postcard #111 (Captain Tony’s)
‘Burbank by the Sea’—St. Petersburg, Florida
Postcard #107 (Downtown St. Pete)
Postcard #142 (Sarasota Seahorse)
Don’t Waste Your Life (2.0)  (Written after an Iowa tornado I was hired to cover.)

Scott W. Smith

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“In this screenplay, I imagined a deadbeat father who had bailed on his kids years earlier, looking to return home to make amends.”
Writer/director Edward Burns on The Fitzgerald Family Christmas 

“It’s a good thing our father left—we needed the space.”
Sharon (Kerry Bishe) one of nine Fitzgerald children raised in a 3 bedroom house in The Fitzgerald Family Christmas 

One of the things most (all?) Catholic and Protestant theologians agree on in is that Jesus was not born on December 25. Some scholars even speculate that Christ’s birth account 2000 years ago wasn’t even during wintertime, but in the springtime because that’s when shepherds watch over their fields. (“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” Luke 2:8)

So it’s actually not that bizarre to talk about Christmas in May.  And I’ll do so by mentioning what I think is Edward Burns’ tightest script and best film, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas. (It’s currently on Netflix if you’d like to get in the Christmas spirit this spring day.)

“I knew I didn’t want to make the sappy, goofy, funny Christmas comedy. My favorite Christmas film has always been It’s a Wonderful Life, another film that has the perfect blend of light and dark, comedy and drama. George Baily has to cover a lot of tough ground to get that payoff. I also wanted my characters to go on a tough journey so that when the Fitzgerald family got together in the end, it felt earned. As I started to work on the screenplay, a theme of forgiveness started to present itself. Given that it’s one of the themes of Christmas, it tied together nicely. The script poured out of me and within four weeks, I had a first draft.”
Filmmaker Edward Burns (Sidewalks of New York)
Independent Ed; Inside a Career of Big Dreams, Little Movies, and the Twelve Best Days of My Life
page 212

If you just happen to be in the mood for Christmas music today, check out The Fitzgerald Family Christmas Album largely featuring the music of long-time Burns collaborator P.T. Walkley.

P.S. And if you want to add an indie companion Thanksgiving film to your May viewing watch Peter Hedges’ Pieces of April starring Katie Holmes. Fitzmas (2012) and Pieces (2003) cost less than $600,000 to produce—combined. And one connection between both films that I know of is John Sloss was an executive producer on Pieces and received a special thanks credit on Fitzmas (Sloss, a University of Michigan law school grad, also provided legal service on Burns’ first film The Brothers McMullen.)

P.P.S. Yes, that is the talented Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, American Crime Story) in the screen grab above. She fit in time between shooting the Nashville TV series for the small (but wonderful performance) in Fitzmas as nod/thank you to Burns for casting her in her debut movie The Brothers McMullen (1995).

Related Posts:
The Making of It’s a Wonderful Life
It’s a Wonderful Prison “Shawshank is basically It’s a Wonderful Life in a prison.”—Frank Darabont
Merry Silver Linings Christmas
Christmas & Cancer (Connected because the father in Fitzmas has cancer.)
Bedford Falls vs. Pottersville
Earn Your Ending (Tip #76)
Merry Christmas (2012) Same year as Fitzmas release and my last Christmas in Iowa.
Writing from Theme
Hope & Redemption
Filmmaking Quote #27 (Frank Capra)
Filmmaking Quote # 15 (Edward Burns)

Scott W. Smith

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“I think ultimately, when broadband comes. that there’s going to be a lot of entertainment that will be run through the Internet, and I think that’s going to be a big factor in the near future.”
George Lucas in April 2001
Interview with Joe Rice

Over the weekend I was preparing to pare down my film library and flipped through the book Digital Cinema: The Revolution in Cinematography, Post Production, and Distribution by Brian McKeran and found that Lucas quote.  It’s amazing what’s happened in less than ten years since that book was published in 2005.  In fact, when Lucas made that comment about entertainment running through the Internet You Tube was still a few years away from being launched, there were Blockbuster video stores all over the United States, and Netflix was still a decade away from announcing it was getting into the original content business with House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey.

Makes me wonder what what the world will look like in ten years. Just maybe it will look a little like this nugget I used in Screenwriting Outside L.A. 101:

“I think that the Internet is going to effect the most profound change on the entertainment industries combined. And we’re all gonna be tuning into the most popular Internet show in the world, which will be coming from some place in Des Moines.”
Steven Spielberg to Katie Couric on the NBC today show in 1999

We’re not there yet, but there are things happening in unlikely places all over the world. I’ve been saying for years that an unlikely place could be West Des Moines, West Africa, or just east of the Hollywood sign in West Covina. But since Spielberg mentioned Des Moines let me give you two examples of what I’ve seen happening there.

When I lived in Iowa I was DP on a short film where I worked with actor Brendan Dunphy. One of the sharpest, smartest, most talented, nicest and best looking people I’ve ever worked with. Check out his website if you looking an actor who looks like Tom Cruise did around age 30.  And if his looks and my praise don’t intrigue you, how about knowing that he’s a trained entomologist who when not acting or writing plays works with bugs at Iowa State University in Ames. (See article Acting Bug by Carole Gieseke.) You’re going to see more of Dunphy in the future either in Hollywood or on the Science Channel—if not from some Internet show in Des Moines that Steven Spielberg produces. (Never bet against a guy from a small town in Iowa, with Hollywood looks,  who’s also performed Hamlet on stage.)

Brendan Dunphy

Brendan Dunphy

Dunphy was also part of the team (along with Paul David Benedict, Scott Siepker) that produced Iowa Nice that received over a million views on You Tube. (It also helped them land gigs with ESPN producing videos with the same snarky–but less profane– humor.)

And back in 2005, a group of filmmakers in Des Moines did win in 2005 Best Film at the 48 House Film Festival for their short Mimes of the Prairie. (Second place was a film from San Francisco and third place was a film from Paris.)

P.S. Greatest missed opportunity in Internet entertainment?  “ [In 2000] We offered to sell a forty-nine-per-cent stake and take the name Blockbuster.com. We’d be their online service.”  Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix in The New Yorker article Outside the Box, Netflix and the Future of Television by Ken Auletta. At peak in 2004 Blockbuster had 9,000 stores, at the end of last year closed all but 50 franchisee owned stores (in Texas and Alaska), and shut down their mail-order service. The reason ?

“Blockbuster ran through a series of owners, investors and managers as it struggled to compete with Netflix’s mail-order DVDs, cable’s video-on-demand, Redbox’s vending machines and streaming services online. Blockbuster not only failed to reinvent itself; it also neglected its stores, which grew shabby and increasingly reliant upon sneaky late fees.”
Al Lewis, Wall Street Journal 2013 

Recommended reading at least once a year: Who Moved the Cheese? by Spencer Johnson. Especially for anyone in the film/video/photography business.

Related Posts:

The Prophet Ben Hecht
New Cinema screenwriting (part 2)
Putting the Bust in Blockbuster (written in 2010)
Screenwriting and the Little Fat Girl in Ohio (2.0) The prophet Francis Ford Coppola

Related Links:
Des Moines, where regular folks can live the rich life, NBC Today
The Best Places for Business and Careers, Forbes
(Des Moines tops the list in 2013)

Scott W. Smith

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“It’s all television, whether people watch on a mobile device, a tablet or a flat screen.”
Bruce Rosenblum
Chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences

Last week, on July 18, 2013 to be exact, when I heard House of Cards was nominated for nine Primetime Emmys I knew it was significant, but I needed a few days to think over writing a post about it.

Among those nominations were best actor in a drama (Kevin Spacey) and best actress in a drama (Robin Wright) and best drama. The significance, of course, being that House of Cards is the first show developed not for network or cable television, but for digital distribution (via Netflix) to be nominated for major Emmys.

“The world of 7:30 on Tuesday nights, that’s dead. A stake has been driven through its heart, its head has been cut off, and its mouth has been stuffed with garlic. The captive audience is gone. If you give people this opportunity to mainline all in one day, there’s reason to believe they will do it…..[House of Cards] isn’t TV, because we don’t have the studio, we don’t have standards and practices, we don’t have people breathing down your neck saying, ‘Remember, kids love bright colors!’ We don’t have people militating against collective disinterest. I wanted to create an environment where you go in, point at the left field wall and swing as hard as you can.”
House of Cards director David Fincher
Playing with a New Deck
DGA article by Robert Abele

And House of Cards wasn’t the only Netflix show to find itself in the spotlight, its shows Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove also received Emmy nominations for a Netflix total of 14. Netflix, like all businesses, has had its ups and downs, but the Emmy nomination is not only an up moment for the company started in 1997—but it’s now a historic milestone in the always evolving world of storytelling.

By the way, the impetus for starting Netflix has its own nice little back story:

“I got the idea for Netflix after my company was acquired. I had a big late fee for “Apollo 13.” It was six weeks late and I owed the video store $40. I had misplaced the cassette. It was all my fault. I didn’t want to tell my wife about it. And I said to myself, “I’m going to compromise the integrity of my marriage over a late fee?” Later, on my way to the gym, I realized they had a much better business model.”
Reed Hastings, Founder and CEO
NY Times article Out of Africa

“Netflix democratizes the viewing experience. It exploits a trend (DVR, on-demand, streaming), which strips execs of the power to determine when & how a show will be viewed, and it places that power in the hands of consumers. That’s chaos for networks, but out of that storm emerges a new order, one governed by viewers instead of content-providers.”
Beau Willimon, creator of House of Cards
The Hollywood Reporter

P.S. HBO led the Emmy nominations this year with 108, but I’m old enough to remember when cable TV was the new kid on the block and was thought by many as just a place for old TV show reruns, low budget productions, and a stopping ground for Hollywood movies before they hit network TV. Digital distribution/Online streaming is the new cable TV of today—but it’s gotten respect much quicker.

Related Posts:
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Part 1) 

Scott W. Smith

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“The cheapest [Netflix] show is $3.8 million an episode. ‘House of Cards’ started at $4.5 million and (executive producer David) Fincher took it way above that…The next series is ‘Hemlock Grove’ and they’re doing that for about $4 million an episode. ‘Orange is the New Black’ is just under $4 million as well. They’re huge budgets shows, doing things in a huge way.”
CAA TV literary agent Peter Micelli
Netflix Series Spending Revealed by Andrew Wallenstein
Variety 3.08.13

“It’s hard to watch Netflix’s’ House of Cards’ and not get the feeling that it’s not only great programming, but also a seminal event in the history of TV….It’s the first major TV show to completely bypass the usual television ecosystem of networks and cable operators….If there’s any doubt about the venture’s success, competitors are already rushing to emulate it.”
What Netflix’s “House of Cards” Means for the Future of TV by Greg Satell
Forbes 3.04.12

P.S. Netflix, an online rental service, was founded in 1997 and now has more than 23 million subscribers.  It’s worth noting that fifteen years ago there was a healthy groundswell of people using DVDs, and about ten years ago there were 9,000 Blockbuster video stores across the United States (less than 500 remain today). Makes you wonder what the next 10 or 15 years of change will bring in the distribution system—and what kind of opportunities it will bring for screenwriters and filmmakers.

Related Post: Content Creators=Distributors

Scott W. Smith

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“It’s unbelievable we’ve been able to do something so big, so fast.”
Joe  Herber
Million dollar Doritos commercial winner in 2009

A lot has happened in the last 20 hours. Yesterday the world celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall. Where were you in 1989? Do you even recognize the world from 20 years ago? Even if you were five at the time you have to be amazed at the tremendous about of change in the world in the last two decades.

Sure we still have problems in the Middle East and with illegal drugs (heck, legal drugs) but 20 years ago there was no You Tube, no Facebook, no blogging, no Netflix, no Guitar Hero, and most people didn’t have cell phones, cable modems, and laptop computers. (If you haven’t seen Louis CK talking about “Everything’s amazing right now, and nobody’s happy” it’s worth a view.)

Several years ago I went to Berlin for a shoot and it was a magical time to drive around and take in the city. We stayed in a old hotel on the former East Berlin side and I wondered what it would have been like to have lived through communism all those years and then to experience that day when the world changed.

And since I like to point out big things coming from small places who would have thought that someone born in an apartment in Tampico, Illinos, raised in Dixon, Illinos, and got  his broadcasting career started Davenport, Iowa would have a role in the Berlin Wall coming down? But that was the route that Ronald Reagan took before becoming an actor in Hollywood and then later the President of the United States where he uttered one of the most famous presidential lines ever, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall.”

I’m not sure was Joe Cada was born yet when Reagan uttered those words, but the 21-year-old just a few hours ago became the youngest player to win the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.  As the AP reported he, “chose cards over college” and the youngster from Michigan won $8.55 million.

Part of what made that possible is the technology that I wrote about last year in a post called Screenwriting Las Vegas Style where Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker mostly just learning how to play online.  Cada is said to sometimes plays online in up to a dozen tournaments at the same time.

Around the same time Cada was earning his millions thousands of other hopeful creatives were attempting to win millions in this year’s Doritos Crash the Super Bowl challenge where anyone can submit a commercial in hopes of having their spot air  during the Super Bowl and have a chance at $5 million in prizes.

Last year the winners were brothers Dave & Joe Herbert, aspiring filmmakers from Batesville, Indiana, who made a commercial for less than $2,000 that rated more popular  in consumer ratings than all the big budget productions. They also won $1 million. Last night at midnight was the cut off to submit  videos and I produced one and gave another idea to some college kids who produced another one. We’ll see what happens.

All that to say it doesn’t matter whether you’re in Dixon, Illinos, Batesville, Indiana, Davenport, Iowa, Michigan or a small village in Germany there are opportunities out there for you to create some things that have an impact on the world stage. But it doesn’t hurt to first try them out at your local theater.

Scott W. Smith

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