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Posts Tagged ‘Sherwood Schwartz’

Now that it’s almost been three years since I started the Screenwriting from Iowa blog and have written over 700 posts, I thought October 10, 2010 (10/10/10) was a fitting day to pick a mix of ten of my favorite, most viewed, and  most helpful posts that you may have missed depending when you started reading this blog or how often you check your RSS feed.

One word of warning is the first year of posts were generally longer than they are today. It was not uncommon that they weighed in between 1,000 & 2,000 words. I’ve added a quote to give you a feel of each post and hope you can take the time to read one or two links. Thanks to everyone for frequenting this blog. Watching the numbers increase really does help keep me plugging away daily. (Hope to get it in book ready shape by the end of the year.)

1) Where Do Ideas Come From? (A+B=C)
“The way to have a great idea is to have lots of ideas.”
Linus Pauling

2) Can Screenwriting Be Taught?
“I wrote screenplays as a way to get into production. I wrote six or seven before I sold one.”
Lawrence Kasden
screenwriter, Raiders of the Lost Ark

3) Everything I Learned in Film School (tip #1)
“If real estate’s mantra is location, location, location, then for screenwriters it’s conflict, conflict, conflict.”

4) Starting Your Screenplay (tip #6)
“Who is your hero, what does he want, and what stands in his way?”
Paddy Chayefsky, Three-time Oscar-winning screenwriter

5) Screenwriting & Structure (tip #5)
“Structure is the most important element in the screenplay. It is the force that holds everything together.”
Syd Field

6) Screenwriting & the Little Fat Girl in Ohio

“One day some little fat girl in Ohio is going to be the new Mozart.”
Francis Ford Coppola

7) Rod Serling’s Ohio Epiphany
“I don’t think that calling something commercial makes it stink.”
Rod Serling

8) The Serious Side of “Gilligan’s Island”
“(Gilligan’s Island) is about, people learning to live together.”

9) Re-Writing Screenwriter John August
If you write a script anywhere and send it to an agent in Chicago or Detroit or Cleveland or wherever…and if that agent sends it to an agent in Hollywood who loves it…you can sell your script.”
Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas

10) How Much Do Screenwriters Make?
“Most screenwriters are unemployed, chronically unemployed.”
Screenwriter Tom Lazarus (Stigmata)

10a—bonus) Juno Has Another Baby (Emmy)
Don’t ever agonize about the hordes of other writers who are ostensibly your competition.  No one else is capable of doing what you do.”
Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno)

Scott W. Smith

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“Everybody agreed (Gilligan’s Island) was a terrible show and it’s still running every night everywhere.”
Sherwood Schwartz
Creator, Gilligan’s Island

“I wanted to do a show about democracy, in its basic form. Seven people who have to learn to live together. I couldn’t do that with a job because you can get fired. Where could I put people where they could not get away from each other? That’s what started that show. The only place I could think of was an island, a deserted island, where a group of people were for some reason stranded there.”
Shewood Schwartz


Sherwood Schwartz is not as common a name as Gilligan, the Skipper, or Ginger, but he did create one of the most loved, ridiculed and longest running shows on television—Gilligan’s Island. He also created The Brady Bunch. I just came across an interview Schwartz did with L.Wayne Hicks at TV Party.com that provides some interesting insights into Schwartz’s career.

Schwartz graduated from NYU with the goal of going to med school.  But in the 30s in New York being Jewish was a hindrance. He was advised to change his last name to Black and put down on his application that he was a Unitarian. That concept didn’t sit to well with Schwartz;

“I said, ‘Look, I’m Jewish. I’m not ashamed of that. My name is Schwartz and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m not going to be changing anything to get into medical school.’ So as a result I didn’t get into medical school.”

Instead Schwartz moved to California and earned a master’s degree in biological sciences. So how did he go from that to Gilligan’s Island? After he got his master’s he still couldn’t get into med school. He had a brother who was a head writer for Bob Hope’s radio show and wrote some sample jokes and ended up getting hired for a five-year period until he was drafted.

His time in the military would be a fruitful time creatively as he got to work on the Armed Forces Radio Service shows with, “about everybody you ever heard of, and probably some people you never heard of but who were famous stars at that time. Because the Army had access to all stars and they all did it for nothing, so you’d do shows with anybody and everybody.”

When he got out of the service he wanted to get away from variety shows and move toward situational comedy and wrote for the radio programs Ozzie and Harriet and I Married Joan. But then he wanted his own show and created Gilligan’s Island which was rejected time after time. He said his book, Inside Gilligans’s Island, is about the struggle to get Gilligan’s Island on the air. But remember, like any good protagonist, Sherwood was used to dealing with adversity.

In the TV Party interview Schwartz was asked; What kept you going? Why didn’t you just give up?

“I thought I had a great idea. And it’s still a great idea. It’s people. Here’s a serious show. It’s serious in that Arabs and Jews have to learn to live together for they’re stuck together. North Koreans and South Koreans, they have to learn. If you don’t learn, you’ll all die. So there’s this philosophic basis — this is not an afterthought, this is in the show. When the show first came on the air I got with regularity bachelor’s degree, master’s degree thesis from people in the theatrical area explaining what’s the basis for Gilligan’s Island. Like I didn’t know. It was carefully thought out, these seven people. That took me like a year to figure out who should be on the island. And it was all with a view towards the respect that people have to learn for each other because nobody is the same as anybody else. When would a billionaire sit down and have lunch with Gilligan, except if he had to? The same is true of a movie star and a professor. There’s miles between them, but when they’re stuck in the same place they have to learn to live together. That’s what the show is about, people learning to live together.”
Sherwood Schwartz

So in the case of Gilligan’s Island,  I’m going to put Schwartz down for writingfrom theme. (As opposed to starting with an interesting cast of characters or a shipwreck. His beginning place was a show about democracy, and how seven people “learn to live together.”)

Schwartz won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy as one of the writers on The Red Skelton Hour. Born in 1916, he’s still alive and getting fan mail. The Archive of American Television has a video interview they did with Schwartz in 1997. Schwartz has said that if he was making Gilligan’s Island today he would have a multi-ethnic cast.

P.S. And in case you haven’t heard, there is a Gilligan’s Island script in the works being written by Brad Copeland (Arrested Development, Wild Hogs). You can find many humorous casting suggestions at various websites. One report had Schwartz pulling for Michael Cera (Juno) as Gilligan and Beyonce as Ginger.

Related posts:
How to Create a TV Cult Classic
The Weather Started Getting Rough…

Scott W. Smith


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