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Posts Tagged ‘Orson Wells’

“Criticism is often wrong, as we know through history. Carmen, which is now the most popular opera in the repertoire, was a tremendous flop [when it premiered]. Why did they hate it?”
Francis Ford Coppola

“What I look for with critics is more that they’re going to write about something I did and I’m gonna read it and not make those mistakes again, I’m gonna learn something from it. Often, though, they don’t do that: they say, “It’s a muddled mess.” “It’s pretentious.” I can’t learn a lot from someone saying “It’s pretentious.”
Francis Ford Coppola
Movieline interview with Kyle Buchann

Being a big name film writer/director must feel somewhat like being the head of a Mafia family.Someone is always gunning for you. I don’t know if they have a class in film school these days to equipment young people with the down side of success, but they should. After a week of blogging about the movie The Godfather and Francis Ford Coppola I’ve learned a lot about Coppola and his 40 year career.

And perhaps the thing I’ve learned most is my conformation that if you’re looking for respect, the Internet isn’t the best place to look for it. (Even if you have a handful of Oscars.) Since Saturday’s are my slowest days, I’ve decided to try something a little different and write a little Internet drama loosely based on some of the conversations I’ve read as people discussed Coppola and his work.

Blogger Post: Francis Ford Coppola is the greatest writer/director in the history of cinema.

Reply 1: Really? Are you nuts? Take away The Godfather I & II and what did Coppola really do over the last forty years?

Reply 2: REALLY? R U SERIOUS?

Reply 3: Yeah, it’s like that Orson Wells guy who everyone makes a big deal about just because of Citizen Kane.

Reply 4: Coppola is exactly like Orson Wells, fat and hocking wine in his later years.

Reply 5: Shut up.  Coppola rocks.

Reply 6: Coppola isn’t even the greatest writer/director in the greater Bay area.

Reply 7: The Godfather Part II is really just self-indulgent crap. The Godfather is his only masterpiece.

Reply 8: Yeah, and what did Neil Armstrong really do after he walked on the moon?

Reply 9: Aren’t you guys forgetting Coppola did Apocalypse Now?

Reply 10: Overrated.

Reply 11: Rumblefish, The Outsiders, The Conversation?

Reply 12: Overrated, overrated, overrated.

Reply 13: Who cares? (And for the record it’s Rumble Fish)

Reply 14: I loved Dracula.

Reply 15: Dracula bites.

Reply 16: U SUCK

Reply 17: Are you guys forgetting that Coppola has won five Oscars?

Reply 18: Yeah, but what has he done this week?

Reply 19: Besides the Oscars are meaningless and just the product of  a misogynistic, racist, capitalistic society.

Reply 20: Still The Godfather is pretty good.

Reply 21: The Godfather would have been better with Danny Thomas instead of Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone.

Reply 22: Who’s Danny Thomas?

Reply 23: Who’s Francis Ford Coppola?

Spend five minutes on the Internet and you’ll find that kind of uplifting conversation. Better to spend five minutes working on your script. But all that to say that if you’re looking to write the great American screenplay so that the world will love you and your work, think again. If you’re looking for unconditional love get a golden retriever.

From a perspective of increasing views The Godfather posts this week have been popular and I’ll compare them tomorrow with the spike I got from writing out Kevin Smith a while back. Coppola vs. Smith, tomorrow on Screenwriting from Iowa. And Monday we’ll look at Coppola, Castro and Capitalism.

Scott W. Smith



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“Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.”
                                                                           Clay P. Bedford 

“There’s really no way around it. Learning any new skill involves relatively brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher in most cases than that which preceded it.”
                                                                            George Leonard
                                                                            Mastery 

 

Can you imagine being a student in Hong Kong and taking a class where you watch a live video feed online from the United States? Last year I produced a video for a client that is using that technology and I was blown away. Think of the money saved by the fellow in Hong Kong who is willing to wake up at 3AM instead of uprooting his life to attend college here in the states. 

Over a decade ago as the Internet began to make serious inroads into the mainstream some proclaimed that eventually there would be little need for college as we traditionally know it. If that day is coming it’s still a long way off. But online education is exploding and I want to tell you about one company that I think is the single best site for creatives trying to keep up with the technology.

When I moved to Iowa back in ’03 it became clear that the overall media industry was changing. What wasn’t clear was how creative professionals would adjust to the changes. In film school we were told that you didn’t want to be a “jack-of-all trades and a master-of-none.”

But today If you go to Monster or Mandy you might see a job like this: “We’re looking for a producer/director/writer/cameraman/editor who knows AVID/FCP Suite/After Effects/Photoshop/Illustrator/Pro Tools/web compression/music composition, and a basic understanding of JAVA and open heart surgery are helpful. MBA preferred. Must be able to bench press 376 pounds. I exaggerate–slightly.

Who does all of this you ask. Every other kid coming out of college, that’s who. The mindset now is you are expected to be a master-of-all trades. While not being masters I have been amazed at the versatility of some of the young people in or just out of college that I’ve worked with. (Heck, an eighth grader came by last year to show me a documentary he did on Buddy Holly.) So where does that leave all of us who have been out of college a while (or never even went to college)? 

Which brings me to reason I have become an evangelist for Lynda.com

Tom Peters says that if you want to rejuvenate yourself move to another climate or culture than you are used to–just to shake your life up a bit. Moving to Iowa from Florida fit both of those parameters for me. And one thing I found here was because the production budgets weren’t as high as the big cities that creative people here had to wear many hats.

I realized to survive and compete I had to put on a few more hats. That’s what led me to Lynda.com. First I looked a one-day workshop in Chicago and all the expenses related to it and figured it would cost me around $500. And how much would I retain in that one-day blast? That led me to a company where I bought 36 hours of Final Cut Pro DVD instructions for around $350. Saved a little money from the one day seminar and got a lot more instruction plus I could learn at my own pace. What could be better?

Then I found out about Lynda.com’s online tutorials. Very user friendly and packed with more than 29,000 video tutorials of online training in 445 courses. You can watch thousands of segments free but if you dive into a subscription (which I recommend) it’s only $25. a month or $250 a year. (If you’d like download the exercise files to work on it’s $375. a year.)  

This is an unpaid and unsolicited endorsement of a website that can change your life. I have benefited from other training places (Creative Cow, Ripple Training, LAFCPUG, DMTS DVX User) and enjoy a trip to the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport like anyone else (I once ate a table with legendary photographers Arnold Newman and Mary Ellen Mark), but I find Lynda.com the best place to learn how to use creative software. Which is why I return to it again and again.

They kind of redefine learning for creative people. The instructions are broken down into small chucks usually between 2 and 10 minutes so you don’t feel like you have to spend an hour or two straight on a tutorial. 

I’ve done lynda.com tutorials in airports and hotels, late at night and early in the morning–it’s simply a solid and convenient way to learn. If have trouble grasping some of the technology as I do you just play the segment again. 

Sometimes it will help you out of a jam. Last year I had a friend working on a DVD for a national client and he called me at night asking where that place was that did online tutorials that I was always talking about. He found what he was looking for at Lynda.com.

Once 14 year olds realize they can get this training online they can begin to redeem time spent playing video games. They won’t have time for college because they’ll already be working pros who, at least in technical knowledge, surpass most college professors with a Ph.D.

Lynda.com is also perfect for aging boomers and retirees who feel like they’ve missed the technological boat but still have the urge to create. In fact, if you’re in that category you have to check out Lynda.com’s creative inspiration segments with photographer 70-something Douglas Kirkland. (Yes, I am aware that people still create with pen and paper, typewriters, and paint–but work with me here.)

Douglas photographed Marilyn Monroe when he was 25 and went on to shoot a who’s who list of celebrities including Jack Nicholson, Francis Ford Coppola and Orson Wells. He’s in his early seventies now and still working and reinventing himself. He was in his 50’s before he embraced digital photography thanks in part to Lynda Weinman herself. In an interview he spoke about people his age saying they were glad they were retiring before they had to learn all this digital stuff. But Douglas didn’t understand that mentality and embraced the new world and all that it offered him creatively. After all Douglas says, “You can’t live on what you did yesterday.”

I remember reading an Ansel Adams quote from later in his life where he said that the one regret that he had was that he wasn’t going to be around to see the digital changes.

If you believe in “the rise of the creative class” and that there is a “war for talent” you will embrace the changes around you. Have a passion for what you do and learn the tools that will free you to create more boldly.

I tell my editor friends to start shooting (even if it’s just their kids), I tell my cameramen friends to start editing (even if it’s just their demo reel), and I’m telling you (Mr. or Mrs. Screenwriter) that if you pick up a camera and start editing you can begin to make steps to seeing whole new possibilites for your writing.

You won’t be multi-talented Robert Rodrigez out of the gate (or perhaps ever) but remember the famous John Wooden quote, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere you from doing what you can do.” Think in terms small steps. Lynda.com can help you with many of those steps.

Will it replace college? I don’t think so. We need football teams to root for, a place where students can escape their parents who pay tens of thousands of dollars so they can party, and places where successful alumni can donate money to have buildings named after them. So, no, Lynda.com will not replace college–but it’s well on its way to replace how we learn.

You don’t have to move to Iowa to shake your life up. Just try Lynda.com for a month.

P.S. Just to prove my point here is the word by word ad for a group in St. Louis that is looking for a “writer with shooting and editing skills:” 

The duties for this position include (but are not limited to):

* Script writing
* Producing
* Directing
* Editing (rough-cutting on long form projects and complete editing on shorter videos)
* Some Graphics work
* Production work – running camera, recording audio
* Building and organizing sets
* Anything else required that goes into creating high quality productions from start to finish.

You do not need to know how to do everything, but you must have some sort of background in film or video and the ability to learn new skills extremely quickly. If you already think of yourself as a Swiss army knife, you may be the right person for this job.
 

Copyright ©2008 Scott W. Smith

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Johnny Depp is in Wisconsin this month shooting a John Dillinger film based on the book Public Enemies by Bryan Burrough. While in Wisconsin the Michael Mann directed film will be shooting in Columbus, Darlington, Madison and Milwaukee.

(You can view photos of the film at www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=21981)

Wisconsin is just over the Mississippi River from Iowa and has had a three-year legislative wrestling match for the final passage of a state incentive package to attract filmmakers. Film Wisconsin’s executive director Scott Robbe reports of an interim measure for qualified producers and should be encouraged by Depp filming in the state.

While Wisconsin’s film related history is often overlooked, it does have some legendary connections. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Thorton Wilder (Our Town) was from Madison and the man named by the British Film Institute as the greatest director of all time, Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) was born in Kenosha. Nicolas Ray, who directed Rebel Without a Cause, was from the small town of Galesville.

Actor/writer Gene Wilder (Young Frankenstein) is a Wisconsin-Iowa combo having been born in Milwaukee and was a theater major at the University of Iowa. Wilder-Depp connection: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and the remake.

Milwaukee was also the setting of one of the most popular all-time TV programs, Happy Days. (I had said Kenosha in an earlier post, but only “Al the Grocer”–Al Molinaro– was from there.) The setting for the TV program Laverne & Shirley was also Milwaukee.

One of the most well-known film characters of all time, Jack from Titanic (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) was from Chippewa Falls. And I have to add that his love interest Rose when we find her as an elderly woman is living in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

DiCapario and Depp both starred in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape that was set in Iowa and written by Des Moines native Peter Hedges.

Wisconsin news is usually overshadowed by the Green Bay Packers football team and their cheese head fans. (I once did a shoot with Packer Hall-of-Famer Reggie White, the minister of defense, and found him to be a friendly and kind man.) Wisconsin is also where Land’s End clothing, Oshkosh B’Gosh, Kohler, Harley-Davidson, and Trek Bicycle Corporation, have their headquarters, but it does have its artistic bent.

In fact, check out the work Madison interactive group Planet Propaganda is doing — not only with Trek but companies in Chicago, Minneapolis and on both coasts. And just for the record its creative director John Besmer is a screenwriter as well. He was one of the writers of the recently completed Winter of Frozen Dreams starring Keith Carradine.

The creative heartbeat of Wisconsin is Madison. It’s the Midwest equivalent of Austin, Texas. Free spirited college town, state capital, thriving businesses, and plenty of live music. (Nearby Middleton was recently voted the #1 place to live in the country by Money Magazine.CNN.)

Madison is also just two hours away from Chicago by train. And about an hour away from hidden (to people outside the area) jewel of a town called Lake Geneva, which has been called “The Newport of the West” and “The Hamptons of the Midwest” for its mansions on the lake.

The University of Wisconsin, Madison is where “America’s Finest News Source” and satire The Onion began and where Oscar-winning writer/director Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine) went to school. Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker (David, Jim & Jerry) grew up in Shorewood, Wisconsin and attended UW Madison together before hitting it big with Airplane! in 1980, and other hit films that followed. Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line) and producer Walter Mirisch (The Apartment) also graduated from UW-Madison.

I know this will be hard to believe but with a Ph.D. from UW-Madison is screenwriter/director Andrew Bergman, whose work includes Blazing Saddles, Fletch, Honeymoon in Vegas, and Striptease. Woody Allen’s co-writer on Manhattan, Sleeper, and Annie Hall is Academy Award winner writer Marshall Brickman –who, yes, attended UW-Madison.

Those also attending UW-Madison include screenwriter/director David Koepp who wrote the upcoming script for the new Indiana Jones film (as well as Spider-Man and the Depp thriller Secret Window) and Michael Mann (Miami Vice) himself. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings graduated from UW-Madison in 1918 twenty years before her book The Yearling was published. Recent Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno) wanted to attend UW Madison but says she went to University of Iowa was because she couldn’t get into Madison.

Madison has a chapter of the Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum which offers writing workshops and seminars. (There are also chapters in Milwaukee and Los Angeles.)

Elsewhere in the state many memorable movies have been shot in Wisconsin including A Simple Plan (from a novel by the other Scott Smith), Blues Brothers, Mr. 3000, Meet the Applegates, Uncle Buck, Major League, and parts of Hoop Dreams.

And don’t forget the classic scene in Wayne’s World when Wayne and Garth meet Alice Cooper in the “we’re not worthy” scene backstage at Cooper’s Milwaukee show:

Wayne: So, do you come to Milwaukee often?

Alice Cooper: Well, I’m a regular visitor here, but Milwaukee has certainly had its share of visitors. The French missionaries and explorers were coming here in the late sixteen hundreds to trade with the native Americans.

Pete (Band member): In fact, isn’t Milwaukee an Indian name?

Alice: Yes, Pete, it is. Actually, it’s pronounced mill-e-wah-kee, which is Algonquin for “the good land.”

Wayne: I was not aware of that.

Alice: I think one of the most interesting aspects of Milwaukee is the fact that it’s the only major American city to have ever elected three socialist mayors.

Wayne: Does this guy know how to party or what?

To watch the Alice Cooper scene fast forward past Wisconsin native Chris Farley’s cameo to the 3:00 mark.) 

When I was 19 I went to an Alice Cooper concert in Tampa and about 15 years later met him at a conference I was working in San Diego. Like Reggie White he too appeared to be a friendly and gentle man. (Though quite a bit smaller than White.) He’s quite the golfer and joked that his garage looked like Nevada Bob’s (a chain of golf wholesale stores).

And to come full circle if ever there was a film done on Cooper’s life I can’t think of anyone better to play him than Johnny Depp. (Though he might need to work on his golf game. For some reason Depp strikes me as the kind of guy who like sharp things in his hands versus a golf club.)

As we pull away from our little road trip to Wisconsin let me say that Depp is originally from Owensboro, Kentucky and once driving back to Iowa from a shoot in Charlotte I spent the night in Owensboro. I’m a sucker for shooting neon signs and took this photo near Depp’s childhood house.

owensboroneon2109.jpg

Who knows, maybe long before he was Jack Sparrow, Edward Sizzorhands or John Dillinger he hung out at this place. Just another reminder that talent comes from everywhere. (For what it’s worth George Clooney is also from Kentucky.)

Did you know that writer Hunter S. Thompson was also from Owensboro? The same guy Depp played in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Here’s a quote from Thompson for all those itching to leave home and run off to LA: “The TV business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

Just wanted to pass that along – just in case you were not aware of that. (Good thing for Depp that he fled the TV business early, huh?)

Oh, and back home in Iowa I received a call Saturday to work on a feature film shooting in Des Moines in April and May staring Ellen Page, the star of Juno. That’s really coming full circle for this blog since I started Screenwriting from Iowa after seeing Juno. Schedule-wise I don’t think I’m going to be able to work on that film but it’s good to see that Iowa’s film incentives are working as well.

Actors interested in auditioning for the Ellen Page thriller send pictures, resume, and contact info to PMS Casting, 2018 Hwy G28, PO Box 122, Pella, IA 50219. More info can be found on Iowa casting director Ann Wilkinson’s website www.pmscasting.com .

P.S. Anyone looking for a different place to vacation this summer? One of the great travel surprises of my life was visiting Door County in Wisconsin years ago. I was blown away by how much it reminded me of the Florida Keys. (Good place for actors to find summer stock work as well.) And if you want more of a taste of Florida in Wisconsin, Jimmy Buffett will be playing in Apple Valley on July 19.

Copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith

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