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“I set out to tell the truth. And sometimes the truth is shocking.”
Tennessee Williams

As a preface to part three of my interview with screenwriter, Clare Sera part of what I referenced was Orlando in the ’90s had a lot going on in the arts. Here’s a quick overview:

Movies— Parenthood, Passenger 57, Waterboy
TV—Nickelodeon, From Earth to the Moon, The Mickey Mouse Club
Theater —SAK Comedy Lab, Mad Cow Theatre, Central Florida Civic Theatre
Music— Matchbox Twenty, Creed, Justin Timberlake

Scott: When you were involved in improv in Orlando in the ’90s did you cross paths with Paula Pell, Aaron Shure, and/or Bob DeRosa. 

Clare: I know them all well. Yes, I love them all.

[Note: Paula Pell went to New York and ended up writing hundreds of comedy sketches for Saturday Night Live and the screenplay Sisters, Aaron Shure won an Emmy producing and writing on Everyone Loves Raymond, and Bob DeRosa is in LA where he wrote the screenplay for Killers.]

Scott: What do you think was going on in Orlando at that at that time?

Clare: Orlando was just kind of waking up at that time so it was kind of cool. And all of them were with SAK.

Scott: I didn’t know they all had a connection.

Clare: They all did. I remember making Paula improvise which she was just terrified. She was a little more comfortable with sketches and writing sketches which has worked out quite well for her. Bob DeRosa came to SAK and started his own improv team. And Aaron, of course, was an improvisor at SAK also. So yeah, there’s a big Orlando contingent out here [in LA]. A big one.

Scott: I think a lot of people believe “If I have a movie made…,” “If someone buys my screenplay….” that it will cure all. Do you have any last words on having a life beyond the movie world?

Clare: I know it is a little bit cliché, but it’s really only cliché because it’s that same truth that said over and over, but those wishes that come true or those goals or dreams [realized]—they are so fleeting. And it absolutely is fun. [The release of Blended] absolutely was joyful blip my life but it really was a blip. And it is my relationships that are my actual life, that is what my life is. For me it’s God in each one of us, that’s what I’m spending my life doing—just being in a relationship with people. And it is the most important thing so when a blip happens whether it’s a great blip like a life dream comes true and Adam Sandler makes a movie— that’s a blip. That’s great. If it’s a terrible blip like a dear friend suddenly dies, it’s your relationships that are there before and after, and you cannot sacrifice them when those blips occur. Especially the good ones.

Scott: I hope you get a couple more blips.

[Note: I did this interview in the gap between the release of Blended and Smallfoot. So she did have another blip.]

The original idea for Smallfoot began with writers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, was developed by Warner Bros. by several others writers before Clare and James Kirkpatrick ended up with co-screenwriting credits.

In a Creative Screenwriting interview with Brock Swanson,  Kirkpatrick says Smallfoot is about “the truth as we make it up to be.” In a flip of the ole bigfoot legend, Smallfoot challenges the village belief that “There is no such thing as a smallfoot.” (A human.)

Kirkpatrick said the BBC radio show The Tyranny of Story helped shape the direction of the story as they explored the concept of the power of story on a community, and ultimately the question What is truth? became a part of the film’s theme. (A question that, as I write this post today, is quite popular in the village known as America.)

I love the humanity of writing. Especially if it’s screened in an actual movie theater. We all go into a dark room and watch the flickering images and then we all laugh at the same things, cry at the same moments, and we all come out talking about this character or that theme. It’s such a shared humanity.”
Clare Sera
Creative Screenwriting

And that concludes the non-mythical journey we’ve looked at the last three days of how Clare Sera was born in Scotland, raised in Canada, cut her comedy chops in Florida, all on her way living in LA and having a hand in writing a Hollywood film that was number one at the box office on Sunday.

P.S. Since 2001, Clare has also been volunteering lead and plan workshops with WriteGirl (@writegirlLA)  Their website states, “WriteGirl is a creative writing and mentoring organization that promotes creativity, critical thinking and leadership skills to empower teen girls.”

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

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“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me. ”
Fred Rogers

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If you time it right next Tuesday you can catch the unusual double feature of Mr. Rogers  (Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and Full Metal Jacket at the Enzian Theater in Maitland, Florida.  Catch the documentary on Fred Rogers at 6:30, grab a food and a drink at Eden Bar, and then catch the Stanley Kubrick war classic at 9:30. (Therapy afterward optional.)

How many times will you get to do that in your life?

I had the opportunity to cross paths with Fred Rogers twice in my life. The first time was in 1997 when my wife was playing a piano duet in the music building at Rollins College.  As my wife and I were talking after the recital Mr. Rogers came up and said to my wide in his super nice and friendly manner, “I really enjoyed your music.”

Mr. Rogers also played the piano and went to Rollins College where he met his musician wife. She later received a book from him with a nice note.

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My second Mr. Rogers encounter was when I was taking photos at the Rollins Chapel carrying equipment and he opened the door for me. It was like having Forrest Gump open the door for you. (Speaking of…Tom Hanks will be playing Mr. Rogers in the movie You Are My Friend coming out next year from a script by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and  Noah Harpster. )

Fred Rogers received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998 and may have taken one of the more unusual routes to Hollywood Blvd. He born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania (where golfing legend Arnold Palmer was also born) and after Rollins attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and became an ordained Presbyterian minister before launching his TV class show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. 

Here’s a little Mr. Rogers inspiration for you today.

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P.S. In the early 60s (1961/1962) author and theologian R.C. Sproul was starting his training at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary just as Fred Rogers was finishing his education there. In 1971 Sproul started the Ligonier Valley Study Center in Stahlstown, PA. (Stahstown, Ligonier, and Latrobe are all neighboring towns within a ten-mile radius of each other.)

Sproul later moved to Orlando and in the 90s when I was just a few years out of film school and looking for “Hollywood East” I produced many videos and a radio program with Sproul and he told me he’d gone to seminary with Fred Rogers.

Proving once again that it’s a small, small world with many surprising twists and turns.

P.P.S.

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Won’t you be my neighbor? (“Full Metal Jacket” version.)

Related post:
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Hollywood East (written after R.C. Sproul died last year)

Scott W. Smith

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I’m back to livin’ Floridays
Blue skies and ultra-violet rays
Lookin’ for better days
Jimmy Buffett/Floridays

I still have a few more days of posts in me about The Florida Project, but today is a nod to my own childhood in Central Florida. I took the photos below this week on one of those ideal Florida days that don’t come around as often as people think—sunny, blue skies, 70 degrees.

I’ve been going to Lake Eola in downtown Orlando as far back as I can remember and it features one of the few iconic landmarks in the city (the water fountain), and is the longtime home of swans and swan boats.

 

 

Walking around Lake Eola was one of the things people did for fun before Disney World came to town. It was a simpler place. I’m not one that agrees that low wage tourism jobs is totally to blame for the homeless situation featured in The Florida Project. 

Sure it factors into the equation. But a wide variety of people have been drawn to Florida for over 100 years looking for a great vacation or a better life. Some find one or the other, fewer find both, and unfortunately some like Halley in The Florida Project find neither. (There’s a lot of truth in the t-shirt sloan that says, “Wherever you go, there you are.”)

The Florida Projects helps continue the conversation of how we’re going to address the hidden homeless that is a nationwide dilemma. (Read this article regarding the homeless “crisis” in Silicon Valley.)

P.S. I don’t know anything about the organization Hope 192/Hope Community Center, except their stated goal/emphasis “is to assist those living homeless or in motels and hotels along Osceola County’s 192 Corridor.” The real life Halley and Moonies. And the provided some research assistant to co-screenwriters Sean Baker and Chris Bergosh while writing The Florida Project. Check out their site and consider making a Thanksgiving donation.

Scott W. Smith

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Today is the first day of school at Valencia College and the film production, sound technology, and digital arts students will be walking into the newly opened School of Arts & Entertainment for the first time for classes.

I took a tour of the impressive facilities on Thursday and thought I post a few photos so give you a glimpse of what’s going on in the world outside of Los Angeles. The Valencia film program traditionally trains below the line talent and the various students over the past 20+ years have worked on 47 feature films as part of their education.

(And read my 2015 post The Perfect Ending that shows the connection between Valencia College, The Blair Witch Project, and Game of Thrones.)

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One of only three Dolby Atmos theaters in Orlando

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Scott W. Smith

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Postcard #138 (Pulse)

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6/12/17 I drove by Pulse this morning, one year after the terrorist attack in Orlando

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Today I’m going to the premiere of the doc This Cold Life at the Florida Film Festival. It will be anything but cold today in Maitland/Orlando, Florida as the mid-90 degree temps are some of the hottest in the United States.

Much of This Cold Life was shot in Longyeabyen, Norway, “the world’s northernmost town.” Darren Mann directed the doc and is someone I did camera work for years ago for TV programs he shot in Minnesota and Iowa. I look forward to seeing him at the premiere and seeing a part of the world I don’t recall ever seeing before.

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“Break on through to the other side…”
Jim Morrison

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You can file this post under “Old dog, New Tricks.”

Recently we welcomed a 9-year-old Golden-Lab rescue dog named Ginger into our home. It was just about a year after our 15-year-old Golden Retriever Lucy died, and we still had all of her tug toys and were looking forward to our new dog playing with them.

But we found out that Ginger didn’t care to play with any of Lucy’s toys. We were told that Ginger’s original owners were elderly and could no longer care for her which is why they gave her up. We realized that maybe she’d never chased a tennis ball or played with a stuffed dog toy.

But slowly we’ve introduced an old dog to new tricks. Albeit she’s a bit awkward because she is not a puppy, but she seems to be enjoying her latent retriever skill set.

Then it was my turn.

Yesterday, I completed three days of training on the Adobe Creative Cloud at Genius DV here in Orlando. I made the switch from Final Cut Pro to Premiere two years ago, but this filled in some gaps as well as gave me a better working knowledge of After Effects, Photoshop and Audition. (Way back in 2002, I also went to Genius DV when I was making the transition from AVID to Final Cut Pro.)

While I’ve learned greatly from various online tutorials over the years (paid and free), there is something special about stepping away from your regular work environment for a few days (or a week if you can afford it) and doing a hands-on workshop or class. (Some of my greatest leaps in learning have come from going to workshops/seminars in various places throughout the county.)

And here’s the secret that an older TV/video producer taught me when I was younger. I was complaining about a two-day seminar that I attended and how I didn’t learn that much. That can be a problem with any seminar, and there are usually many people there with varying degrees of knowledge and experience. So you can’t just skip a few pages forward, you have to stay on pace with the group.

Anyway, my friend told me, “Scott, you don’t go to workshops to learn everything, you go to learn a few things that make you better at what you do.” Amen. It may only be 10-20% of what’s taught, but that 10-20% can be huge in helping you create better work.

And I’ll add to that that your learning is not always what was actually meant to be a part of the training. Sometimes it’s the rabbit trail discussions, the passing conversations at lunch or break time with others taking the workshop, that are meaningful.

In my Adobe class led by Juan Carlos Santizo he taught this old dog, many new tricks. Some had to do with the nuts and bolts of Premiere (virtual reality in the next upgrade), much in After Effects, and a healthy dose of shop talk including showing the following behind the scene video of three of the then remaining members of The Doors (Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore) recording with Grammy-winning Skrillex back in 2012.  The official song on You Tube has 19 million views. Old dogs—new tricks. Keeps life interesting.

P.S. And I haven’t given up on Final Cut Pro. I just finished a project using FCP7 and started dipping into FCP-X earlier this year. I think it’s wise to be platformagnostic—to borrow Morgan Spurlock’s phrase. I started my production career as a Arri & Eclair 16mm  cinematographer and Steenbeck flatbed editor, so I’ve learned to actually enjoy the continual changes in technology.  And I’ve long cherished the sentiment of photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984) who said his one regret was that he wouldn’t be around to take part in the digital world.

Scott W. Smith

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