Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Robinson Crusoe’

It looks like 2011 is going to be the year of the clones. Not in terms of movies in the theaters (because that’s always the case), but in terms of my exploring the topic from a screenwriting perspective.

“You don’t get to be a Hollywood hitmeister like (Michael) Bay — 200 Zillion Tickets Sold! — without indulging in formulas, and the characters Star Warshero Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation) play in The Island bear a striking resemblance to the hyperactive narcs of Bad Boys, the tireless Earth-savers of Armageddon, and the dashing flyboys and selfless nurse of Pearl Harbor. Bay watchers know the king of the big-budget directors has been in the cloning game for a decade now, and that he knows a good thing when he repeats it.”
Bill Gallo
Send in the Clones
SF Weekly July, 20, 2005

And though Gallo’s quote from a critic’s perspective is meant in the pejorative sense, for the screenwriter inside you it is should make you sit up and take notice. Time and time again it’s been said that getting a feature produced and released into theaters takes a minor miracle. (Getting people to see the film and then to win awards takes a major miracle.) So it’s worth it to at least take a look at what kind of films are being made because most screenwriters would rather be writing movies rather than just scripts that are left unproduced.

Again don’t be turned off by the word clone. Don’t think of it as a mere copy, but as containing similar DNA. If it’s good enough for Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese, etc.—maybe there’s something to it. Yes, of course, there are bad clones (Pasadise two years after Blue Lagoon*) but keep in mind that Castway was a modern retelling of Robinson Crusoe and (as Lee A. Matthias points out) Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet was updated into West Side Story.

In fact, there were 13 Oscar nominations between Castaway and West Side Story. Take what you want and make it your own. And just for the record Robinson Crusoe was first published in 1719 and Romeo and Juliet circa 1560. With reports of similar stories of both being told even before those authors were born. The quest for love and survival are as primal and universal as you can get.

*Of course, I haven’t seen it since in came out in 1980, but Blue Lagoon starring Brooke Shields was probably just a retelling from a youth perspective of Robinson Crusoe. Toss in the TV shows LOST and Gilligan’s Island and you can see the stranded on an island concept is never going away. Here’s a trailer you may have never seen from a movie called Horrors of Spider Island about “eight beautiful girls” and one man stranded on an island (Hmmmmm):

Scott W. Smith

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

“I did have a dream once that Alan Hale, the skipper of Gilligan’s Island, chased me through the streets of Hollywood.
Johnny Depp

“The creators of Lost must have watched and dissected every episode of good ole Gilligan’s isle and took the craziest parts from it to use in their new show.”
Shawny Nevill
Six Original and Creative Conicidences Between Lost and Gilligans Island

There is no question that Gilligan’s Island has had its shared of critics.  Rick DuBrow of UPI once summoned up a lot of people’s view of the show by writing, “It is impossible that a more inept, moronic or humorless show has ever appeared on the home tube.” But there is also no question that the same show has more than its share of fans—even though the TV show was cancelled over forty years ago. (Of course, it’s never really gone off the air.)

And from a writer’s perspective you have to realize that the concept of being stranded on an island is fertile ground. Long before Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) there have been stories of living on deserted island. Hayy ibn Yaqzan (Alive, Son of Awake) by a Spanish Muslim in the 12th century is said to be one of the first known deserted island stories.

I imagine the Greeks and Romans had deserted island plays and there is the shipwrecked story of the Apostle Paul in the Bible, Shakespeare  touched on the concept in The Tempest, there have been true stories of related events like the one that inspired the original Robinson Crusoe story. And there have been several film versions of Robinson Crusoe including Luis Buñuel’s Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954) and the more recent version Cast Away starring Tom Hanks. There’s the long-lasting reality TV program Survivor, and of course, LOST—well, you get the picture. The whole idea of being stranded on an island brings up so many primal themes to explore; life & death, time, food, economy, community, sociology, psychology, theology, purpose & meaning, etc.

But let’s not forget we are talking about Gilligan’s Island here. To bring things a little more down to earth it was Dawn Wells (who played the wholesome girl from Kansas, Mary Ann) who said about the lasting affinity for Gilligan’s Island; “It’s really kind of fun how it holds up – nonsensical silly slapstick humor is what it was. Escapism is all it was, but it was one of the best there was.”

I thought it would be fun to dig a little deeper into the cast of Gilligan’s Island knowing there would be a quirky surprise or two.

Gilligan—Bob Denver was actually a political science major at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and before getting turned on to acting had thoughts of becoming a lawyer.

Mrs. Lovey HowellNatalie Schafer was 63 years-old before she shot her first scene for Gilligan’s Island. She was a Broadway actress from New Jersey and didn’t do a film until after she was 40-years-old. Because of wise real-estate investments she was a multimillionaire. Because most of the cast did not get paid residuals for all those re-runs I imagine Schafer ended up the wealthiest of the entire cast.  (Well, of the regular cast. Kurt Russell had a cameo as Jungle Boy in one episode and he’s had some $10-12 million dollar paydays on films, so unless he invested with Bernie Madoff he’s probably the wealthiest of all cast members.)

The Professor—Russell Johnson was born and raised in Pennsylvania and flew 44 combat missions for the Air Force during World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart for being shot down in the Philippines. He used the GI bill to study acting and was in the Sci-Fi classic It Came from Outer Space.

Mary Ann—Dawn Wells was from Reno, Nevada where she became Miss Nevada and competed in the Miss America pageant in 1960. She attended Stephens College in Missouri where she studied chemistry and transferred to the University of Washington where she graduated with a degree in theater. Wells once said in an interview,”One of the hardest things starting the acting was eliminating the chemistry side of me and just concentrating on the emotional, artistic side of me.” For the past 50 years she has been a working actress is film, TV, and theater.  She has a website DawnWells.com.

Ginger—Tina Louise who attended Miami University in Ohio, studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse and the Actors Studio in New York.  (She studied with Lee Strasberg who also taught James Dean, Dustin Hoffman, and Al Pacino.)  She also was a Broadway actress, a model and a night club singer before Gilligan’s Island.

Thurston Howell IIIJim Backus was born and raised in Cleveland where IMDB reported that one of his grade school teachers was Margaret Hamilton who went on to play the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz. Backus once had a top 40 song on the pop charts, was the voice of Mr. Magoo in cartoons, and in Rebel without a Cause was James Dean’s father.

The Skipper—Alan Hale’s father was an actor so he started acting in roles as a baby and had his last credit just two years before he died in 1990. He racked up over 200 Tv credits in his lifetime.

Wow, it’s like I won a bet to get Johnny Depp,  Luis Buñuel, Shakespeare, the Apostle Paul and Mary Ann all into one post. Now if I could just find a version of the Gilligan’s Island theme sung by Jimmy Buffett I would know all is right in the world.

P.S. If you’re stuck between stories—or between scenes—just remember these magical worlds;”The weather started getting rough…”

Related post: The Serious Side to “Gilligan’s Island”

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

“I kept saying to over and over to myself that God would probably lead me home.”
Nadia Bloom
(11-year-old girl who was found in swampy woods after missing for several days)

“We’re looking forward to the whole story. It’s got to be awesome.”
Jeff Bloom (Nadia’s father)

The story of Nadia Bloom’s rescue from the swampy woods in Florida gets more interesting the more we learn. It’s a little in the great adventure tradition of Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway mixed with Alice in Wonderland.  A mixture of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Robinson Crusoe,  Tarzan, Rain Man, Dorothy, and a little less known but much more contemporary literary character named Lanie. (“She’s an energetic girl who discovers the world in her own back yard.”)

Nadia’s story is also a story of faith, hope and a lot of determination by a large team of people. It’s the stuff of great stories.

It turns out that she had been missing for 90 hours and the Winter Springs Police Chief said that six more hours of searching was the point where it would have turned from a rescue mission to a recovery mission.

And though there were 150 searchers in the area, the foliage is so thick that machetes are needed to proceed and visibly at times was only 20 feet.

There were 30 dog search team that couldn’t find a trail due to knee deep and waist deep water —that at times dropped to fifteen feet of murky water.

ATV, horses, divers, side scan sonar machines, helicopters and a few days time turned up nothing. It had to be discouraging.

Then early Tuesday morning James King, a church going man with five children of his own, set out at sunrise believing that God would lead him to the girl. (Granted, when the press and many people hear that— the soundtrack to Deliverance kicks in, but in this case it appears to be just a real deal person of faith. The Blind Side kind of person who is just trying to do the right thing.)

King found Nadia near the shoreline of Lake Jesup. The lake that I mentioned yesterday that is estimated to have 10,000 alligators.  It took a team of 15 men to daisy chain carrying her out of the swampy woods.

The 85-pound girl was reported to be shoeless and covered from head to toe with mosquito bites, but otherwise doing “remarkably fine.”

Nadia said she prayed to be rescued and recalled the Bible verse,  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The sheriff’s office has her camera and those pictures will be sought after in the coming days as people will want to know what Nadia saw in her own version of Wonderland with skunks, snakes and such.

In many ways Nadia is an average elementary school girl who likes Webkinz. She or her younger sister was reading the American Girl book Lanie. (Either way I bet the story was familiar to her.) I found this description of the book at Amazon:

Ten-year-old Lanie loves science and nature, but she has a problem: she’s an “outside” girl with an “inside” family. She longs get out and go camping, but they all want to stay home. It wouldn’t be so bad if her best friend was around, but she’s halfway around the world, living out their dream of studying wildlife. Lanie feels she never gets to have any adventures-anywhere. But when her favorite aunt comes to stay, Lanie discovers that the wonders of nature are everywhere-even in her own backyard.

An adventure in her own backyard? Sound kinda familiar? Nadia’s younger sister and father at the time of her disappearance were actually on a camping trip with a Brownies troop in the Everglades.

Lanie was written by Jane Kurtz and just published at the end of 2009. Kurtz has a website and a blog and it sounds like she has had an interesting and adventurous  life as well. She was born in Portland, Oregon but moved to Ethiopia with her parents when she was just two. Speaking engagements have taken her to Uganda, Nigeria, Romania, Indonesia and many other places, and she lives in Lawrence, Kansas. (Here in the adventurous Midwest.) She also helped start Ethiopia Reads, a nonprofit group that is “planting the first libraries for children in Ethiopia.”

But what may have led Nadia into the woods more than anything was her mild Asperger syndrome. Something that can lead to a preoccupation with one subject of interest. A simple desire to take a picture on the edge of the swampland could have led to another step, and another photo, and another step until she was deep in the woods.

Nadia is not the first child for this to happen to in Florida.  Back in 1996 the NY Times reported a 10-year-old autistic boy named Taylor Touchstone disappeared four days in a black water swamp area in the Florida panhandle. That search included “Army Rangers, Green Berets, marines, deputies with the Okaloosa Country Sheriff’s Department and volunteers.”

The NY Times article said the boy went for a swim and “just felt compelled to keep moving” and was found unharmed four days later by a fisherman farther down the river than search teams imagined was possible. One thing that both Taylor and Nadia have in common other than great adventures is they both share mild forms of autism which has been reported can make them hyper-focus and times and be fearless. Perhaps the things that both led them into their adventures and helped them survive.

I’m glad James King didn’t do the sensible thing Tuesday morning and sleep in or perhaps Nadia wouldn’t have been found in the dense brush. But know from the public’s fascination to this story, as well as the literary output of the “lost in the woods/stranded on an island/on the yellow brick road” themes that it is fertile ground for writers to explore.

P.S. To add to the odd connection file, I just saw online a video at CBS News with Rev. Jeff Dixon who is the pastor at Covenant Community Church where Nadia and her family attend church. I know Rev. Dixon from my days in Central Florida and once used him as a cameraman for a video I was producing.

One last thing, if you’re ever in Central Florida and want to get a taste of Florida before Disney, visit the Black Hammock Restaurant located just a couple of miles from where Nadia was rescued.

Scott W. Smith

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: