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Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Reagan’

“It’s unbelievable we’ve been able to do something so big, so fast.”
Joe  Herber
Million dollar Doritos commercial winner in 2009

A lot has happened in the last 20 hours. Yesterday the world celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall. Where were you in 1989? Do you even recognize the world from 20 years ago? Even if you were five at the time you have to be amazed at the tremendous about of change in the world in the last two decades.

Sure we still have problems in the Middle East and with illegal drugs (heck, legal drugs) but 20 years ago there was no You Tube, no Facebook, no blogging, no Netflix, no Guitar Hero, and most people didn’t have cell phones, cable modems, and laptop computers. (If you haven’t seen Louis CK talking about “Everything’s amazing right now, and nobody’s happy” it’s worth a view.)

Several years ago I went to Berlin for a shoot and it was a magical time to drive around and take in the city. We stayed in a old hotel on the former East Berlin side and I wondered what it would have been like to have lived through communism all those years and then to experience that day when the world changed.

And since I like to point out big things coming from small places who would have thought that someone born in an apartment in Tampico, Illinos, raised in Dixon, Illinos, and got  his broadcasting career started Davenport, Iowa would have a role in the Berlin Wall coming down? But that was the route that Ronald Reagan took before becoming an actor in Hollywood and then later the President of the United States where he uttered one of the most famous presidential lines ever, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall.”

I’m not sure was Joe Cada was born yet when Reagan uttered those words, but the 21-year-old just a few hours ago became the youngest player to win the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.  As the AP reported he, “chose cards over college” and the youngster from Michigan won $8.55 million.

Part of what made that possible is the technology that I wrote about last year in a post called Screenwriting Las Vegas Style where Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker mostly just learning how to play online.  Cada is said to sometimes plays online in up to a dozen tournaments at the same time.

Around the same time Cada was earning his millions thousands of other hopeful creatives were attempting to win millions in this year’s Doritos Crash the Super Bowl challenge where anyone can submit a commercial in hopes of having their spot air  during the Super Bowl and have a chance at $5 million in prizes.

Last year the winners were brothers Dave & Joe Herbert, aspiring filmmakers from Batesville, Indiana, who made a commercial for less than $2,000 that rated more popular  in consumer ratings than all the big budget productions. They also won $1 million. Last night at midnight was the cut off to submit  videos and I produced one and gave another idea to some college kids who produced another one. We’ll see what happens.

All that to say it doesn’t matter whether you’re in Dixon, Illinos, Batesville, Indiana, Davenport, Iowa, Michigan or a small village in Germany there are opportunities out there for you to create some things that have an impact on the world stage. But it doesn’t hurt to first try them out at your local theater.

Scott W. Smith

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Obama Speaking in Waterloo, Iowa 2007
Obama Speaking in Waterloo, Iowa 2007

 

There is some speculation about what President-elect Obama’s howdy factor will be. They don’t call it that, but that’s what it’s known as in some screenwriting circles. (I’m not sure who I learned this from, but when I remember I’ll give them credit.)

The howdy factor (or howdy trait) is the thing that every President has to have to seem more down to earth. (Maybe for Obama we should call it The Aloha Factor.)

John F. Kennedy; Pick-up football games on the White House lawn
Richard Nixon; Bowling
Gerald Ford; Skiing and golfing
Jimmy Carter; Softball
Ronald Reagan; Cowboy
George Bush Sr; Fishing
Bill Clinton; Jogging 
George W. Bush; Mountain biking  & kid’s baseball games on the White House lawn
 
Now Obama is already a pretty cool cat, but he still needs a howdy factor. And while he does play golf, I think he’s going to be the first President with a penchant for basketball. That’s part of his regular workout these days so as long as his knees and legs hold out I think that’s what he’ll be about.

“Hey, M.J. can you can swing by around 2:00 for some hoops? And see if Magic and Bird are available so we can roll two on two.”

George Clooney said that he liked the character he played on E.R. when he read the first script. Though his character was flawed, at one point he saves a dog and knew that he was a complex character that people would embrace.

Blake Snyder would call that a “Save the Cat” moment. A little trick of the trade that sometimes up pops in films where a character does something — like saving a cat (or a dog in Clooney’s case) — that makes him or her more likable. Once you become aware of these howdy traits you see them everywhere. (Blake and his readers have been known to yell out “Save the Cat” when they see it occur at the theaters.)

Of course, it doesn’t have to literally be a save the cat scene, but it can be. In I Am Legend, Will Smith’s character is on a hunt for food when he comes upon a lion that looks like quite a few meals. He raises his gun to shoot, but doesn’t pull the trigger when he sees a baby lion come around the corner. He decides to let the animals go (save the large cats) and it’s meant to convey he’s a good guy. 

In the Fugitive Harrison Ford’s character is falsely convicted of killing his wife and is sent to prison. On a bus ride to the prison with other prisoners the bus is hit by a train and the prisoners flee the wrecked bus and escape in the night. But before Ford escapes he takes his time to save an injured prisoner. A save the cat moment to prove that he is a good man setting up that he really is innocent of killing his wife.  

It’s best to show a howdy trait as early as possible. They are usually found in the first act if not in the first 10 pages in many screenplays because they are a shorthand way of establishing character.

Do you have any howdy factors in the script you are working on now? Now that I think about it there is also a “kill the dog” scene in I Am Legend, but even that is a compassionate act.

Oh, and by the time Obama finished his tour of the White House today, I bet he knew exactly where he was going to put the b-ball court. 

Related Posts:  Politics, Power & Screenwriting (tip #3)

 

Photo and text copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith

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