Posts Tagged ‘Scott Porter’

“I was a big math and computer geek.”
Brian Acton
(Lake Howell High School grad and now billionaire)


I know there’s a big football game today in Minneapolis, but just to mix it up a little here are some photos and memories surrounding an alumni baseball game I played in yesterday at my old high school. And the story of two graduates from my high school who made it big.

The mascot of Lake Howell High School is the Silver Hawks. The hawk statue in the above photo was part of a $4 million dollar donation that also included renovating the school’s air conditioning, updating the football field, building a swimming pool, and new computers.

It was an anonymous donation, but most figure it came from Brian Acton who was one of the founders of the WhatsApp and also a graduate of Lake Howell High School. Brian and Jan Koum sold their WhatsApp to Google in 2014 for $22 billion dollars. It’s estimated that Brian’s net worth today is around $6.7 billion.

Last September, Brian announced he was leaving WhatsApp.

 I’ve decided to start a non-profit focused at the intersection of nonprofit, technology and communications. It’s something I’ve thought about for a while, and now it’s time to just focus and execute.
Brian Acton

When Brian was on the Lake Howell math team his coach was Mike Bouch.

 “You wonder in your career whether you’ll ever touch the life of someone who goes on to make it really big. But this, uh, this is just beyond belief.”
Mike Bouch
Orlando Sentinel article 

Though I was more than a decade ahead of Brian, Coach Bouch was also a coach of mine when I played football there. And just a two years behind me at Lake Howell was Dave Martinez. He went on to play pro baseball for 16 years, and won a World Series ring two years ago as a bench coach for the Chicago Cubs.

This year as MLB spring training gets on its way, Dave is the new manager (what they call head coaches in baseball) of the Washington Nationals. In November, The Washington Post announced his contact was worth a million dollars a year.


That puts a Silver Hawk in Washington, D.C. and one in Silicon Valley. And in previous posts I’ve mentioned screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall) and actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) are also Sliver Hawks flying high in Hollywood.

If you’ve follow this blog for long, you may have noticed that in many phots of me I have a hat on. It’s not because of the older I get, the less hair I have (which is true) it’s just that I grew up loving and playing baseball and wearing baseball hats as far back as I remember. Here’s a photo from yesterday’s game.


Scott W. Smith

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“Anyone who buys the idea that great athletes are dim should have a close look at an NFL playbook.”
David Foster Wallace

By far the most read post on this blog is How Much Do Screenwriters Make? In fact, I just Googled that phrase and out of the 1,070,000 results, my 2009 post was on the first page. In that post I contrasted working screenwriters and NFL football players and made this observation:

“While reading over the WGAw report I made another connection between screenwriting & the NFL. On the film side there were 1,553 male writers employed in the last year of the report. That’s about 150 less writers than players in the NFL any given year.”

Perhaps someone else made the connection before, but I’d never read or heard it if they did.  And perhaps the reason I did make that connection is before I went to film school I played 11 years of organized football. Didn’t come close to making the pros, but have more than a casual understanding of the game. (I’ll write an extended post script if you’re interested in me unpacking how I may of had the shortest career of any University of Miami football player.)

Now 6 years after my original post John August and Craig Mazin picked up that football verses screenwriting on their Scriptnotes podcast (Episode 215) and ran with it some. They added some insights and based some of their thoughts on a photo about the odds of making it in the NFL. No matter how you tweak the metrics, the odds of a player making it to the NFL are small.

The shorthand facts are there are a million high school football players any given year and only 6.5% of those will play NCAA college football, and only 1.6% of college football players will ever play pro football. And of those that make it that far, only 150 will have careers that reach the four year mark. And while the 2014 league minimum of $420,000 makes a nice salary for anyone (especially when you’re in your early 20s), that chart estimated after taxes that’s a take home pay around $252,000. Still good money if you don’t squander it—which many pro athletes are famous for doing.

Quarterback Tom Brady is one of the best players in the NFL and let’s call his contract $9 million a year (the actual number is higher but getting into the structure of his contract is complicated, so let’s just stay with $9 million). Brady’s teammate Malcolm Butler was the hero of the Super Bowl last year when his interception in the end zone sealed the New England Patriots Super Bowl win. Last year Butler made the league minimum salary with no signing bonus—$420,000.

I don’t see it as self-defeating to talk in terms of the odds in making in as a pro football player or as a high paid screenwriter. Just shows you how high the bar is to make it. A few years ago I wrote the post How to Be a Successful Screenwriter where I unpacked screenwriter Michael Arndt‘s journey to becoming an Oscar-winning screenwriter. (Basically he wrote ten screenplays before selling one. And that one took five years to get made.)  The 99% Focus Rule has another great quote by Arndt for aspiring screenwriters.

The other thing is even if you fail in your dreams others opportunities come out of those ashes. Every once in a while the consolation gig is superior to the original dream. When I was at Miami the back-up quarterback to Jim Kelly was Mark Richt who never had pro career, but he’s now the head coach at the University of Georgia. (I bet the number is pretty small of athletes his age who had NFL careers and can match his million dollar plus annual salary these days.)  David Chase never became the feature screenwriter he wanted to be, but he did okay with a little show called The Sopranos. (Not sure his net worth would be in the $80 million range if he’d been a feature film screenwriter.)

You might still get work in other aspects of film, TV, or Internet productions. And there are many other opportunities in theater, education, churches, non-profit organizations, and in the corporate world where you can earn a living off of your talent and creativity. And, of course, there is no expiration date on writing screenplays. Arndt made the decision before his success that he was going to be a screenwriter for life. If you still have ideas, desire, and passion to write—then write.

Just don’t forget to have a life.

P.S. (A longer than average postscript for those really interested in football.)

On Friday night I did something I hadn’t done in 20 years— I went to a football game where I used to play high school football. While years ago they tore down the old Lake Howell High School buildings and rebuilt new ones,  the football stadium is essentially the same from the day it was built back in the ’70s.

While the game wasn’t very good, it was fun to take in the atmosphere and watch the various cliques in stands like a live version of a John Hughes film. On the field, sidelines, and surrounding track I found the players, coaches, cheerleaders remarkably similar to when I was in high school. The two schools bands as much as anything stirred my sense I was back in high school. And after the game I met Coach Ken Kroog who was my receiver coach in high school when I scored three touchdowns one game.

They also had six or seven posters displayed of Lake Howell players who had made it to the NFL including Chuck Scott who played for the L.A. Rams and the Dallas Cowboys. Chuck and I were the two starting receivers when I was a senior year and he was a junior.

His senior year he became an all state player, and a few years later while playing at Vanderbilt became an All American tight end. Currently, his son Calab Scott plays receiver at Vanderbilt and his son Chad Scott plays football at Furman. Smart and talented family. And Chuck’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. (And I actually was working at Yary Photo in Southern California and took the rookie photo of him below when the Rams were based out of Anaheim.)

Scan 5

Chuck Scott

Perhaps the greatest football player to come out of Lake Howell is Brandon Marshall who scored the game-winning touchdown yesterday for the New York Jets. He’s a five time pro bowl player and this is his tenth year in the league. Actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) also played football at Lake Howell, and screenwriter Jamie Linden who wrote the football centered film We Are Marshall also graduated from Lake Howell.

Here’s my entire football career summarized in three photos. An all-conference photo, a letter from Miami’s head coach Howard Schellenberger, and an article on being injured. It really wasn’t career ending injury, but after I had surgery on my shoulder I decided to focus on school in L.A. since that’s where people seemed to head after they graduated. The reason I say I may of had the shortest career of any Miami player is I was injured the week after dressing for only one game. A game in which I played exactly zero plays. Not exactly going out in a blaze of glory.

Scan 1

Scan 13


But I do have one fond memory of playing at Miami. When you’re a walk-on you are mainly on the scout team (when not standing around) meaning whatever team the varsity is playing, you are running that teams’ plays.  There was one particular practice where I caught a lot of passes and Stanely Shakespeare (who was a freshman then, but would later start at wide receiver on Miami’s first National Championship team, and play one season in the NFL) said to the JV coach, “You gotta start Scott, he catches everything.” That was validation that I at least belonged there. But at 5’9″ 160 pounds—even before my injury— I realized my shelf life was limited.

Related posts:
The Perfect Ending (One of the reason I went to Miami was the film program.)
Postcard #24 (Coral Gables)
Tinker Field: A Love Letter
‘If you want to write, write’—Guillermo del Toro
The Secret to Being a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously) John Logan spent 10 years working in a library and writing plays, but eventually found screenplay success co-writing the football-centered movie Any Given Sunday with Oliver Stone.

Scott W. Smith

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” I wanted to minimize the locations and there are really only four locations in the movie so we designed the production to allow us to go from one location to the next.”
Writer/director Jamie Linden (10 Years)
article by Stuart OldhamBride and Groom 2

There’s nothing quite like high school friends.

Yesterday I missed writing a post on a weekday for the first time in a long time. But it was just one of those crazy 15 hour shooting days. I’m working on a video version of the Mike and the Mechanics song The Living Years that will be used in symphony concert settings.  The budget’s tight so I had to reach out to some friends for some assistance with props and people.

The video is an arc of life concept shot in silhouettes and I needed a bride and groom and just put it out there on Facebook and a friend from high school said his nephew got married earlier this year and thought they’d be game to help. So Chris and Danielle were kind enough to drop by yesterday and allow me to shoot the above shot. (The finished shot will be more stylized, but I do like the simplicity of this shot.)

Turns out that Chris went to the same high school I did (many years after, of course) and two of his classmates just happened to be actor Scott Porter (Friday Night Lights) and screenwriter Jamie Linden (We Are Marshall). Small world, huh?  A few years ago Linden and Porter returned to Florida for their 10-year reunion of Lake Howell High School.

“I went to [my high school reunion] with my friend, Scott Porter, who is an actor.  We grew up in Orlando, Florida, as far away from this business as you could be.  I have a couple other friends who live here in L.A. that went to high school with us, and we went back as a group ‘cause we don’t get a lot of chances to go home and definitely not together, so it was an excuse.  And I don’t think I was disappointed by it, but just was underwhelmed by it all.  But, I found it interesting, just purely on a sociological and anthropological level.”
Jamie Linden
Writer/director of  10 Years
article by Christina Radish

That experience was the beginning of Linden writing and directing the feature 10 Years.  If you didn’t see (or even hear of) the 2011 film that’s because it was a small indie film. But the ensemble cast included Channing Tatum (who both Porter and Linden worked with on Dear John),  Rosario Dawson and Chris Pratt.

Two days ago Variety reported that Linden, “will write the screenplay of Lionsgate’s franchise starter Chaos Walking: The Knife of Never Letting Go.” George Clooney and Jodie Foster are set to co-star and Robert Zemeckis attached to direct. Porter plays George Tucker on the TV program Hart of Dixie. Linden and Porter are kind of the Matt Damon/Ben Affleck of Orlando.

And speaking of Lake Howell High School, last week I dropped off two boxes of my screenwriting and filmmaking books at the school in hopes that they would inspire the next crop of Scott Porter’s and Jamie Linden’s. Go Silver Hawks.


P.S. Yesterday’s shoot was the first time I’ve done a 4K shoot. Used the little Lumex GH4 which for the price may end up being the hottest camera to come along since the Canon 5D. Here’s Philip Bloom’s review of the camera.

Related post:
Remembering the Friday Night Lights
The 10 Film Commandments of Edward Burns Low-budget indie film tips
Screenwriting from High School (Back in 2008 I went back to my old high school to give a talk.)

Scott W. Smith


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“Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose.”
Dillion High Motto

Okay, I know I’m late to the game but just last night I finally watched the pilot to Friday Night Lights that first aired in 2006.  Really great stuff. I’m so far behind that just over a month ago the series just finished airing its fifth and final season.

I was a fan of the Friday Night Lights book by H.G. Bussinger when it first came out in 1990, and enjoyed the 2004 film that was based on the book, so I don’t know what took me so long to getting around to the TV program other than I don’t invest too much time into television. From the start what I like about Friday Night Lights is it has a rich sense of time, place and people.

The TV version of Friday Night Lights was created by Peter Berg who wrote and directed the movie version and also the show’s pilot. In an interview with Jeffrey Brown, Berg had this to say about the program that over its five year run had a relatively small but faithful following:

“I think it’s become pretty clear in the last couple of years — I don’t know, four, five years — that mainstream audiences are looking for escapism in their films and in their television programs. They’re not looking to and I certainly understand why, they’re not being asked to work a lot emotionally or often times I think intellectually. That’s not to say that we’re lazy emotionally and intellectually, it just says that when we watch TV or go to the movies as a culture, we generally want to have fun and escape. And for “Friday Night Lights,” for a variety reasons, is not always a lot of fun and it’s certainly not an escape. I think that’s a similar problem to films like “The Hurt Locker” have encountered when trying to find and connect to, you know, large mainstream audiences.”

Berg was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series for the pilot. And apparently the program stayed strong under the showrunner Jason Katims because Friday Night Lights picked up several nominations in 2010 including one for Outstanding Writing by Rolin Jones for his episode The Son.

Berg is also an actor who had roles in Chicago Hope and Collateral. I did a little digging and sure enough found a nice Midwest connection with Berg. Though born in New York City apparently he started taking acting classes in Saint Paul, Minnesota at Macalester College where he graduated in 1984 with a degree in theater.

Berg set the emotional and intellectual tone early in the opening show when the star quarterback who has his sights set on playing college ball at Notre Dame is paralyzed in the first game of the year. The show ends with Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) saying this prayer;

“Life is so very fragile. We’re all vulnerable and we will all at some point in our lives—fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts that what we have is special, that it can be taken from us, and that when it is taken from us we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls.”

In my book, that’s pretty fine writing. And words that resonate beyond the football team at Dillion High School.

By the way, the star quarterback who is injured in that first program was played by actor Scott Porter.

“I played wide receiver for Lake Howell High School in Florida. We had a great team, went to the state semi-finals my junior and senior high, and had three future NFL players.”
Scott Porter

I happen to have played wide receiver at Lake Howell High School in Florida as well. (As did current Miami Dolphin wide receiver Brandon Marshall.) Doesn’t mean much, but still fun to make those little connections.

Here’s one last little connection that comes full circle to this blog. Diablo Cody (many of you know my inspiration for starting this blog three years ago) wrote her Juno script in Minneapolis not far from where Berg started taking acting classes. Turns out that Cody is a big fan of Friday Night Lights (“one of the best shows on television”) and even featured Kyle Chandler on her webshow Red Band Trailer.

Scott W. Smith

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Yesterday I returned to Lake Howell High School in Winter Park, Florida where I graduated from years ago to talk to five classes and around 350 students total. The groups were a mix of students in video and TV production, radio, graphic design, journalism and entrepreneurship.  Since Lake Howell was where I took my first photography class and wrote and directed my first videos I was thrilled with the opportunity to speak to them about much of what I write about on this blog.

I believe that high school students today who are interested in various forms of production are in a great position. And so this post will be an abridged version and recount of my talk yesterday.

When I was 18 years old there was a place called Fotomat where I used to take my still photography film (Not one student could tell me what Fotomat did). It was cutting edge for that time period. You would drop your film off and the next day you’d get it back. (Lots of mock “oohs” and “ahhs” from the students.)  At its peak there were over 4,000 Fotomat booths throughout the United States.

I asked them why all of those Fotomat booths if they still existed were no longer Fotomats and they correctly pointed to one-hour developing and digital photography. That is the technology changed the game.  

A photographer friend from San Diego tells me that in 1980 the president of Fotomat gave the keynote address at a big convention in Las Vegas where he basically said that Fotomat had nothing to fear from the new “mini lab” industry.  The next year they lost 50% of their business to mini labs. 

Technology is a two edged sword in that it opens news opportunities while at the same time closing the door on older ways of doing things (usually resulting in jobs loses…like the whaling industry in days of old, and more recently the newspaper business). 

Today digital technology offers amazing opportunities for high school students. It is common today for students to be editing video projects on non-linear editing systems. And not unheard of for students to be editing on Final Cut Pro which is the same editing system that the Coen Brothers edited “No Country for Old Men” on which won an Academy Award for Best Picture last year.

There are also DVD and Internet tutorials available to ambitious students. (Sometimes for free in the case of tv.adobe.com) Movies can also be studied on DVDs and there are filmmaker commentaries for additional insights. There are plenty of instructional books and magazines on screenwriting and other areas of production.  The quality of even consumer cameras has improved greatly. There are free versions of screenwriting software kicking around and even the top of the line programs only cost around $200. And there are places on the Internet where you can pitch your ideas and scripts and try to connect with producers.

Years ago when I made my video projects they were watched by a class and then eventually lost or the master tapes recycled for another class. Today a young person can make a video that can be watched by hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of people via You Tube or other places on the Internet. (Speaking of You Tube, I just discovered  some Rod Serling interviews of him talking about writing.)

It  is crazy and stunning what a teenager can learn today before they even graduate from high school. (And most of it probably outside the classroom.) Stuff that even graduate students just a few years ago were not exposed to. 

And all of this is not limited to high school students. Not long ago I had an eighth grader show me a documentary he did on Buddy Holly. Nikki Reed was 13 when she co-wrote the movie Thirteen. The Hollywood Reporter recently announced that 9-year-old Alec Greven’s book How to Talk to Girls was recently picked up by Fox to become a movie.

Of course, those are the exceptions. And as it’s been said, while it only takes a few hours to learn how to play chess it takes many years to learn to play the game well. Alfred Hitchcock said it only takes about two days to learn what you need to know about the technical aspects of making films, but making good films is obviously a different story.

I told the students yesterday about one of my favorite quotes, “We tend to overestimate what we can do in one year, and underestimate what we can do in ten” (Richard Foster). And that while I had traveled to all 50 of the United States and over 15 countries that, in fact, when I graduated from high school I had only been to a total of 3 states in my life. (Only if you included the Atlanta, Georgia airport.) With that said I told them to dream big, but take little steps in working toward their goal. To borrow from a phrase from Anne Lamott, the way I traveled to all 50 states was state by state over several decades. And the way you build a career in production is  script by script, film by film, short story by short story, photograph by photograph, video by video, and/or blog by blog.

So if you’re in high school (or even middle school) student know that there is no better time to be learning these skills. So keep writing scripts and making films and getting better at what you do. Use all that  youthful energy to work those long hours needed to hone your skills. I do believe that today you are better position than any group that has gone before you to have a career in production.

And for the teachers out there my challenge to you is to take you most talented and focused students and make a feature film over the school year. You have a huge set full of props (the school), you have actors (students, teachers, parents, school workers), you have the time of the school year, all you need is a script. Maybe one semester students write the script and the second semester have some students shoot the script and some edit it and then have a big screening the last week of school. It doesn’t have to be that good, the learning comes in the doing.

I would like to thank the teachers, administration, tech crew and students for giving me  the opportunity to speak yesterday and I hope some of it sticks.

*LAKE HOWELL TRIVA…After speaking I was given a tour of the school and saw for the first time my name listed on a wall as some kind of special mention for playing wide receiver back in the day. Actor Scott Porter who plays injured quarterback Jason Street in the tv program Friday Night Lights also played wide receiver at Lake Howell. And I graduated with Claude McKnight who is the Grammy winning founder of the group Take 6. Go Silver Hawks!


copyright 2008 Scott W. Smith

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