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Posts Tagged ‘O.J. Simpson’

“The most powerful and essential documentary on race, class, and gender, in America in years.”
Anne Helen Petersen
BuzzFeed article on O.J.: Made in America

“The Juice is loose” was a phrase used back in O.J. Simpson’s pro football days when the running back would break into the open field on the way to another touchdown. It’s a phrase you’ll undoubtedly hear and read a lot in the coming days since Simpson was freed from prison in the middle of the night.

He’s been incarcerated since 2008 and has expressed a desire to return to the state of Florida. If he does, he could just end up another Florida Man (@_FloridaMan).

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But because this is a screenwriting/filmmaking centered blog—this is a good time to spotlight the ESPN produced documentary O.J.: Made in America, a film by Ezra Edelman. The film won an Academy Award Award for Best Documentary Film earlier this year.

There’s at least a final chapter to be written on the life of O.J. Simpson. Various reports have said Simpson led a Bible study in prison and even has hope of becoming an evangelist.

“If you’re really reformed and rehabilitated, if you’re really remorseful, if you’re really a born-again Christian, then let’s move this discussion forward. Admit your sins.”
Chris Darden, former prosecutor in O.J. Simpson murder trial
Today, June 17, 2017

Way back in 1989 Chuck Swindoll wrote a book called Living Above the Level of Mediocrity in which  he dedicated one of the chapters  to retelling the story of a man who’d overcome poverty, Rickets, and gang life to become a “fine and refined gentleman…[who] lives in the exclusive Brentwood district of Los Angeles, drives a luxurious car, and has his elegant office in an elite bank building. He is now a busy executive with his own production company. ” That man was O.J. Simpson.

In the movie The Natural when asked “what happened?” the baseball player Roy Hobbs says, “Life didn’t turn out like I expected.”  To that I’m sure Simpson–the former football great, Hollywood celebrity— would say “Amen.” We’ll see if Simpson’s last chapter—some how, some way—is a redemptive one.

Related posts:
The People v. O.J. Simpson
An Earthquake of Interests

Scott W. Smith

 

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“I think it’s great to have the Rams back in Los Angeles. Not having football in L.A. has been missed for the past 20 years, for sure.”
Eric Dickerson
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Yesterday while I was eating lunch at a restaurant I saw that former Los Angeles Rams running back Eric Dickerson was on ESPN. I couldn’t hear the sound, but figured it had something to do with the NFL draft.

It turned out that the LA Rams not only had the first pick in the draft last night, but it was the first time in more than 20 years that the LA Rams where in the draft. Though the team was found in Los Angeles in 1946, they moved to St. Louis in 1995 where they became the St. Louis Rams.

There are a few things special about the above photo: first I took the photograph. I moved to LA in the early 80s and began working as a freelance photographer for Yary Photo while I was in film school. After I graduated I became director of photography there and was part of a small team of shooters who set up the portable bleachers and lights for the shot. When it came time to take the photo, I was the one pressing the release on the Mamiya RZ67 .

Two years later I was a 16mm cameraman working for Motivational Media in Burbank and shot an interview with Eric Dickerson at his Calabasas home and I took the 16X20 team photo that I shot and Dickerson was kind enough to sign it.  It’s one of my favorite mementos over the years. One of the things that makes it timeless is Dickerson is still the single season rushing leader. (A record he’s held for over 30 years.)

Another thing special about the photo is a fellow I played football with in high school is in the photo (Chuck Scott, on the end next to #3). He was playing his rookie year after being a second round pick out of Vanderbilt. (Today Chuck’s son Caleb Scott is a wide receiver at Vanderbilt, and another son Chad Scott is a WR at Furman.)

Another item of interest is Yary Photo was started by Ron and Wayne Yary who both played  football at USC. Ron Yary was the Outland Trophy winner in 1967 (top offensive lineman) where he blocked for the eventual Heisman Trophy winner—O.J. Simpson.  He went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings and was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001. The football field at Bellflower H.S. (where he played high school ball) is named Ron Yary Stadium.

And that’s the rest of the story…

Scott W. Smith

 

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Since Diablo Cody is my poster child (female) for a screenwriter coming from outside L.A. (and the original inspiration for this blog)  then I think I’ll name Lawrence Kasdan as the poster child (male) screenwriter from outside L.A. Kasdan was raised in Morgantown, West Virginia. Quick, name another screenwriter from West Virginia.

(While Morgantown is the second largest city in West Virginia it only has about 30,000 residents not including the students at the University of West Virginia. My lasting memory of Morgantown goes back to 1994 when I was there for a video shoot and the news broke of O.J. Simpson’s famous low-speed police chase. I remember walking down the main drag and seeing restaurant/bar after restaurant/bar having the same helicopter shot of the Simposn’s white Ford Bronco on their TVs.)

Kasdan left Morgantown to attend the University of Michigan where he was an English major. A gifted writer he would go on to win Hopwood Prize at UM for creative writing. In his 30s he became  one of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood with a string of box office hits— Star Wars: The Empire Strikes, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Body Heat and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. He has also had  three Oscar nominations for his screenwriting —Grand Canyon, The Accidental Tourist, and The Big Chill.

But what I think you’ll be interested in is that little period between college in Ann Arbor, Michigan and his first sale as a screenwriter. While reading The First Time I Got Paid for It, Writers’ Tales from the Hollywood Trenches I found this retelling by Kasdan when he would have been a 28 year old advertising copywriter:

“One summer day in 1977 my agent asked me to lunch, which was so unusual it made me nervous. It has taken me a long time to get an agent, so naturally, I was worried about hanging on to him. For two years now he had been trying to sell a thriller I had written for my favorite star Steve McQueen, who didn’t know I’d written this thriller for him. Originally, the agent thought he wouldn’t have much trouble selling the script, so he agreed to represent me. But after sixty-seven rejections he was getting discouraged.”

But his agent didn’t want to part ways with Kasdan, but he did want Kasdan to try his hand at writing for television, specifically Starsky & Hutch. Kasden reluctantly agreed to give it a shot. Soon he heard back from the powers that be at Starsky & Hutch that he didn’t have the goods to write for the show. He told the agent not to give up on him that he had a new screenplay in the works that was almost done. He thought that would buy him a little more time to breakthrough.

Then Kasdan writes, “But when I came into my job the next day, there was a message that my agent had called. Could he have changed his mind overnight? Of course he could. After nine years of writing screenplays without success, I believed only bad things were going to happen to me. But what he had to tell me wasn’t bad. It was kind of miraculous. After two years and all that rejection, suddenly two different parties were interested in my thriller—which was called The Bodyguard.”

So while you dream of writing the next  Raiders of the Lost Ark or Return of the Jedi (or get discouraged in your own career) remember Kasden’s line, “After nine years of writing screenplays without success.” And also keep in mind that while that first sale came in 1977 it was fifteen years before the film The Bodyguard was produced and released into theaters. (The film starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in roles that were originally thought would star Steve McQueen & Barbra Stresisand. The movie made over $400 million worldwide.)

Related posts: Beatles, Cody, King & 10,000 Hours

Screenwriting from Michigan

Raiders Revisted (part 1)

Scott W. Smith

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