Posts Tagged ‘Oscar-nomination’

“I have a theatrical temperament…. I think it comes out of being a ‘daughter of the Golden West.’ A lot of the stories I was brought up on had to do with extreme actions-leaving everything behind, crossing the trackless wastes, and in those stories the people who stayed behind and had their settled ways-those people were not the people who got the prize. The prize was California.”
Joan Didion
NY Times/Staking Out California

Congrats to writer/director Greta Gerwig on he Best Director Oscar nomination this morning for her work on Lady Bird.  I don’t think Gerwig wrote the screenplay for Lady Bird in literally Sacramento (she’s based in New York these days), but Sacramento is where she emotionally wrote this movie.

And that’s central to what I’ve been trying to convey for the past decade on this blog.  A sense of place. That’s what I’ve tried to encourage. The same way Horton Foote wrote about the Texas he knew, and Tennessee Williams wrote about the South he knew.

After reading and listening to interviews with Gerwig there were many things that informed the look and feel of her story set an partially shot in Sacramento, California.

Besides growing up there there is the writing of Joan Didion (who also was raised in Sacramento), there was the John Huston film movie Fat City about two boxers heading in different direction in their lives (Which was shot in Stockton, CA), the paintings of William Eggleston, Greg Kondos, and Wayne Thiebaud (who once taught at Sacramento City College).

“I think California in general in terms of ghosts, it’s got some lost dreams. And the quality of lost dreams is different depending on what place your in. Los Angeles has a lot of lots dreams of a certain kind, but so does northern California, so San Francisco definitely. And Sacramento does, too. Sacramento is a place that came up because of the gold rush and later the dust bowl. There’s got to be a better life, and maybe I will strike it rich. Maybe I will be a gentleman farmer, or get gold. And I think these mythologies about places actually seep into how people think about themselves and their lives. And it’s an different kind of mythology that California has than say Connecticut has…. When we were working on figuring out how to shoot [Lady Bird] there was a whole discussion ‘Can you write it as a different city?’—just because of tax breaks. It would be cheaper to shoot it in Ohio, and I was like, ‘But I don’t know the mythology of Ohio the way that I know the mythology of California. This is a California story in its bones and if I shift it it’ll just feel arbitrary.’ And I feel like the more specific something can be the more universal it can be.”
Writer/Director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird)
Crew Call 18/The Deadline Podcast

P.S. If you’re not familiar with Joan Didion’s work check out her collection of essays at We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, and the Netflix documentary Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold.

Scott W. Smith

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” I don’t know why I’m so hard on you Beth, when you’ve always been the daughter of my dreams. We’re almost the same person, except I don’t have your weight problems.”
Joy (Patricia Clarkson) in Pieces of April

Happy Mother’s Day.

I picked today to round out my set of posts on Pieces of April (2003)  because even though it’s a film set on Thanksgiving Day—it’s kind of a Mother’s Day film as well. And of the six posts I’ve written on the movie (starting with this post on April 1) I needed to give a special mention to actress Patricia Clarkson.

Clarkson plays Katie Holmes’ mother, Joy, in the film written and directed by Peter Hedges. Clarkson’s had a solid 30+ year career (which followed getting a Master’s in theater from Yale), yet her sole Oscar-nomination is from Pieces of April.

So if you know Clarkson from one of her many film, Tv and/or theater roles, including her role in Six Feet Under where she won two Emmys, her 2015 Tony Award-winning Broadway performance in The Elephant Man—or even from the so wrong Motherlove music video featuring Justin Timberlake and Adam Sandler—but haven’t seen her in Pieces of April check it out.

(And if you’re estranged from your mother, really check it out.)

Related Posts:
Pieces of April (Part 1)
Pieces of April (Part 2) 
Pieces of April (Part 3) 
Pieces of April (Part 4) 
Pieces of April (Part 5)
Pieces of April (Part 6) 



Scott W. Smith


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“Don’t go through the system. Do it yourself. Do something you believe in.”
Oscar-nominated  writer/director John Singleton (Boyz in the Hood)
2013 Filmmaker Magazine article by Allan Tong

Some of you weren’t even born in 1991 when John Singleton’s Boyz in the Hood hit the theaters. It’s a different kind of coming of age story than Boyhood that I wrote about yesterday. Singleton was fresh out of USC film school when at the age of 23 he directed his first featured from his screenplay and received two Oscar-nominations.

P.S. Singleton’s quote is reminiscent of the Edwards Burns quote, “Don’t try and compete with Hollywood.”

Related posts:
25 Links Related to Blacks and Filmmaking
The First Black Feature Filmmaker

Scott W. Smith


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“We basically pounded out our first draft in six days.”
Annie Mumolo, co-writer of Bridesmaids

Because I write so much about screenwriters who wrote 6-13 screenplays before they sold a script, it’s always nice to point out the anomalies. (It’s much more encouraging to new writers, right?) Here’s the story of a first screenplay that was good enough to get an Oscar-nomination:

Bridesmaids was our first screenplay. I knew how scripts worked, but I didn’t know what should generally happen on page 30, or in three acts, so we bought one of Syd Field‘s book on screenwriting. When Annie and I turned in our original draft, she was seven months pregnant—and then she was seven months pregnant again when we shot the movie. We joked that when her babies came out, their first words were going to be ‘Judd’ [Apatow, who produced the movie] and ‘rewrite.’ There are a lot of sad moments in the film, which we really wanted. In the end, the story is the most important thing, It’s a story first and funny second.”
Kristen Wiig
Co-writer, Bridesmaids
The Hollywood Reporter; How Top Screenwriters Hone Their Craft 

Of course, to be totally fair, I should point that while Wiig says they pounded out the first draft in just under a week, it was really a five year process to get script polished and the movie on the big screen. (And that’s with Judd Apatow in their corner.) Plus the 38-year-old actress/writer began taking acting classes in college at the University of Arizona, moved to L.A. where she was joined the improv group The Groundlings (where she met Mumolo), joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2005 (and would later win a Primetime Emmy), and she got her first feature film role in the 2007 Judd Apatow film Knocked Up.

So like Diablo Cody (who also had Oscar success with her first script) Wiig had been at the creative game fifteen plus years before her Oscar success. (Cody said she’d been writing everyday since she was 12-years-old, had a Media Studies degree from the University of Iowa, had a book published, had been a guest on David Letterman, and a good enough blogger to interest a Hollywood manager before winning an Oscar for her first script—Juno.)

Mumolo took her own long road to screenwriting success. According to IMDB, she performed her first comedy in seventh grade, got a degree in history from U.C. Berkeley, trained at the South Coast Rep in Cosa Mesa, is a Groundling member, and has been working steadily in TV as an actress for almost a decade.

Oh, and about that script written in six days— just the first draft. It went through many layers before its Oscar-nomination. There we just a few notes from producers and the studio on how to improve the script.

“Since we’ve been in this since 2006, the amount of notes that we’ve gotten over the years, on so many different subjects, and on so many levels—it is overwhelming and it is hard to sift through…It’s a hard thing to swallow because you get excited that you sold something, and then you turn in your first draft, and they go ‘great, we love it—here’s 25,000 page of notes.'”
Annie Mumolo
Script Mag podcast with Jenna Milly

And also factor in that there was not only a heavy dose of improv on the set, but Mumolo pointed out that the improv carried over into the ADR session, which is dubbing lines of dialogue in the post-production end of the process. So the other actors and actresses had a hand in the dialogue, and director Paul Feig, along with editors William Kerr and Michael L. Sale (and their editorial team), all had a hand in going through the mound of footage crafting together a cohesive story.

So call it basically a six days “plus” script, before the equation leads to the Oscar nomination and a worldwide box office gross of $288 million.

P.S. Similarities between Bridesmaids and Juno? Both are female-driven comedies set in the Midwest (one Minnesota and the other Wisconsin/Chicago) — and both are one word titles.

Related post: First Screenplay, Oscar—Precious

Scott W. Smith

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