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Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Goldstein’

What are the odds of two people being born on the same day in the same year, meeting in second grade in a Detroit suburb and growing up to be not only best friends but screenwriting partners in Hollywood? And add to the mix that this summer that this writing duo will have writing credits on two big budget films in theaters that were produced by Jerry Bruckheimer?

The odds may be astronomical—up there with the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl next year— but that’s the short story of screenwriters Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard. And I have to think there are some good Midwest sensibilities at work here. After college, Miro and Bernard ended up in L.A. working as production assistance for Chicago native Michael Mann on some high-profile films. (The Insider, Heat. The Last of the Mohicans.)

Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times writes of that experience;

“They credit it as a hugely influential experience, since if you worked for Mann, you not only saw a world-class filmmaker at work but got to read every great script in town. Writing at night and early in the morning before work, they penned “Motor City,” a film noir script set in 1950s Detroit. It sold to George Clooney’s Section 8 production company. It was never made, but it became an important calling card for the duo.”

Their work eventually got the attention of Bruckheimer, who like the duo, is originally from Detroit. Maybe it has nothing to do with their success, but don’t underestimate the bond of a school or city when you are strangers in a strange land. How many people in L.A. can talk about Lions, Tigers and Red Wings with Jerry?

Before when I’ve written about the importance of networking I’ve mentioned  a freelance editor I work with here in little Cedar Falls, Iowa who did an internship last summer with Entertainment Tonight that was set up by Mark Steines. Every year Steines provides internship opportunities for three students from the University of Northern Iowa where he started his journey in broadcasting. And now that I think about it, Bruckheimer also used two screenwriters from Michigan (Jack Epps Jr. and Jim Cash) way back on Top Gun.

And Miro and Bernard’s writings also connected them with another former Midwesterner, a fellow from Cincinnati named Steven Spielberg.

“We wrote a script he liked and he called us, and I think we still have that on our answering machine somewhere. Like ‘Steven would like you to come in and meet with him.'”
Doug Miro

Miro and Bernard ended up writing two scripts for Spielberg’s Tintin based on the comic strip The Adventures of Tintin by Belgian artist George Remi who wrote under the pen name Herge. While Tintin is not that well-known in the United States, the comic strip and its film, theater, TV and radio adaptions are a cultural phenomenon in Europe. Below is a video where Miro and Bernard talk about collaborating with Spielberg.

(Note: Sorry, that video dispeared this morning as I was writing about it. But basically they said it was cool to kick ideas around—and talk about Raiders and Jaws—with Spielberg at his house. But try Collier.com for a video where Miro and Bernard talk about working on Prince of Persia.)

So two more writers from Michigan doing well in Hollywood. Hat tip to Scott Myers over at Go Into the Story for the orginal LA Times link about Miro and Bernard.

Related post: Screenwriting from Michigan
There’s Something About Jerry

Scott W. Smith

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Screenwriter/director John Lee Hancock earned an English degree at Baylor University and a law degree from Baylor Law School, both in Waco, Texas. His first credited film was in 1991 with a film called Hard Time Romance. In 1993 he wrote the script for A Perfect World which starred Kevin Costner and was directed by Clint Eastwood. He considers Eastwood his mentor and went on to write the script for the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which Eastwood also directed. Among other films Hancock worked on include The Rookie which he directed and My Dog Skip which he was a producer.

But almost 20 years after his first film credit he had his biggest success critically and at the box office with the 2009 film The Blind Side which he both wrote and directed. The movie which he wrote and directed is up for best picture and Sandra Bullock is highly favored to win her first Oscar as best actress for her role as the feisty Leigh Anne Tuohy.

The film which takes place in Memphis is what I would qualify as a regional film. Based on the book The Blind Side; Evolution of a Game, by Michael Lewis based on the true story of Michael Oher, who made the journey from an under educated homeless youth to playing football in the NFL with the help and guidance from a family in Memphis. If the story wasn’t based on a true story I think I might have walked out of the theater because the story is so unbelievable. Truth is stranger than fiction. And after seeing interviews of the real Tuohy family, I think the real story is even better than the movie as they really talk about how hard the work really was bringing Oher to the point where he could just graduate from high school and be prepared to attend college at Ole Miss.

“I didn’t see it as a sports movie at all, any more than you’d call ‘Jerry Maguire’ a sports film. It was two equally involving stories, one about Michael and the Tuohys, the other about the left tackle position, but they both turned around the same question — how did the stars align so brightly around this one kid from the projects?”
John Lee Hancock
The Blind Side, written by Patrick Goldstein, LA Times

Note: The Blind Side had a $29 million budget and to date has made $250 million domestic. Julie Roberts reportedly turned down the role for which Sandra Bullock received her Oscar nomination. Hancock is at least the third law school grad turned screenwriter that I’ve written about; Sheldon Turner (who is nominated for an Oscar for his part in writing Up in the Air) and John Grisham (though primarily a novelist whose books have been made into many fine movies, but he did write the screenplay for the 2004 Mickey). And from the odd connection category, Grisham graduated from Ole Miss law school, part of the University of Mississippi in Oxford where Michael Oher (the real Blind Side guy) played football.

Scott W. Smith

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It’s January in Iowa, it’s cold and snowing outside, and I’m blogging about a screenwriter from Minneapolis—-so what else is new? What’s new is the screenwriter is not Diablo Cody. She’s so ’08. No this Twin City screenwriter is not a former stripper…he’s a former construction worker/liquor store clerk/fruit truck driver who likes to ice fish.

The newest Minneapolis screenwriter on the scene is Nick Schenk. Nick who?

Nick Schenk, the screenwriter of Gran Torino starring Clint Eastwood.  The film won the best original screenplay from The National Board of Review. (The same award Cody won the year before for her Juno Script. (No, The National Board of Review best original screenplay award does not go to the best screenplay from a Minnesota screenwriter.)

At age 43 Schenk is old enough to have watched Starsky & Hutch in its original TV show version that featured that funky red with white stripped Gran Torino. While he sold his first script almost 15 years ago this is his first produced screenplay. He does have a writing credit on B0Dog Fight, a mixed martial arts TV show. He’s told several reporters that he “was too stupid to quit” (writing screenplays).

But he did get some help. Sharing Gran Torino story credit is another Minnesotan Dave Johannson, who sells furnaces for a gas company. (That sound you hear is the sound of people dropping out of film schools in L.A. and taking up odd jobs in Minnesota. The hottest trend to break into the movies.)

Of course, the big question is did Schenk use the screenwriting software Final Draft or Movie Magic Screenwriter to launch his career? According to Patrick Goldstein’s blog at the LA Times, “Schenk says he wrote the script, using a pen and a pad of paper, sitting at night in a bar called Grumpy’s in northeast Minneapolis.”

So I thought you’d enjoy reading what Schenk told Goldstein was the process that led him to writing a script that attracted the attention of  Clint Eastwood (a four time Oscar-winning director who has his pick of projects);

“I just scribbled away every night. …The bartender there is a friend, so sometimes I’d ask him questions about where I was going with the story as I was writing. When it came, the words just came. One night, I knocked off 25 pages right there in the bar….They said it would never get made, because you’re not supposed to write about old people, especially a guy that sounds like a super-racist. But I’m not the kind of person that listens to that stuff. I just knew this character well. When I was working construction, I’d meet a lot of guys like Walt Kowalski. Because I liked history, I’d always be the one that the older guys on the site would tell their stories to.”

Let’s recap Schenk’s 10 simple steps to success because it’s at the core what Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places is all about.

1) Write everyday
2) Don’t move to L.A. (At least wait until your screenplay sells)
3) Always be looking for stories (It doesn’t hurt to listen to old people)
4) While 40 is old for a screenwriter in Hollywood terms, keep writing anyway
5) Hang out with friends who aren’t screenwriters
6) Don’t quit your day job (because that’s a good source for stories—-and paying bills)
7) Screw complaining about not having a computer (or screenwriting software) and grab a pen and note pad
8 ) Regular writing develops your craft and helps you write something good enough that attracts producers who believe in the story enough to get a Hollywood icon interested, who in turn gets the film made
9) Collect awards
10) Continue writing

I look forward to finally seeing Gran Torino this weekend as the film that’s getting some Oscar-buzz has finally made it to my neck of the woods.

To read more about other writers from Minnesota read the post The Oscars Minnesota–Style.

Other related posts: Juno Vs. Walt
                                      Screenwriting Post Card from Minneapolis


copyright 2009  Scott W. Smith

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