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“I approached it with the idea that he was a cavalier, not a hairy-legged slob. The plume feather adds class, I think. I put the dagger in his mouth to add aggression and then had him wink. It is a half wink and half sneer.”
—Artist/cartoonist Lamar Sparkman (on creating the original Tampa Bay Bucs logo)

Way back on August 21, 1976 I went to the very first Tampa Bay Buccaneer home football game ever. It was a preseason game against the Miami Dolphins. They lost. They lost a lot that first season. And the second season. In fact, they lost their first 26 regular season games. (A modern NFL record.)

But it didn’t matter. I was one of the 71,718 fans welcoming a new franchise taking their first baby steps. I was 15 years old and it was my first professional football game to see in person. And I was with my dad. My mom and dad got divorced in the ’60s when I was seven, and when it was far less common than today. He lived in Tampa and would make the hour and a half trip to Orlando occasionally to spend the day with my sister and me.

But the memories I can count of my dad and I alone doing something could fit on one side of a 3X5” index card—without having to do the small handwriting thing. So that first Buccaneer game was a big deal on many fronts. I still have the program and the ticket. It was magical.

What stands out all these years later is Bruce the Winking Pirate on the cover. In case you’re unsure, he’s the one with the funky hat with a feather, long hair, hoop earring, Vincent Price pencil-thin moustache (in his younger, more dashing days), and a knife clutched in his teeth—and did I mention he’s winking? Menacing isn’t he? You’d hate to run into him in a dark alley in Barbados. He’s kind of a cross between swashbuckler Errol Flynn and one of the Village People. He had a few nicknames over the years, but let’s just stick with Bruce the Winking Pirate.

Bruce retired in 1996 for a more threatening skull and swords logo.

As quarterback Tom Brady leads Tampa Bay into the Super Bowl 55 Sunday, several versions of Tom Brady the Winking (or non-winking) Pirate have popped up online. It’s just one more feather in his cap (pun very much intended) as he heads into his 10th Super Bowl game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

I wish I could make the game Sunday because that Super Bowl ticket and program would make a nice bookend to my game one experience. Since I’ve bought Buccaneer tickets in recent years, the organization was kind enough to shoot me an email last week informing me that tickets were still available. Lucky me! But there was a catch, tickets started at $19,126—and you had to buy them in groups. (I read where a sideline ticket was going for close to $60,000.) Tickets may have gone up or down depending on demand. But one of my friends joked that the players on the field were the only ones who could afford to be in the stands.

I’ll be watching on Tv and pulling for the Buccaneers. We’ve got history together.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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“I just kept working,..You just have to keep your nose to the grindstone.”
NFL football player Austin Reiter

My favorite story coming out of Super Bowl LVI was regarding Austin Reiter.  He was cut by the Cleveland Browns in 2018. When he played for the Browns during the 2017 season they did not win a single game (0-16). And the year before that the Browns were 1-15, meaning over a two year period Reiter’s team record was 1-31.

The 2016 and 2017 Browns became the first NFL franchise to have back to back seasons of losing 15 or more games each season. Even though your partly hampered by an injury,  if you’re cut after not even starting for from arguably the worst team in NFL history you may be at the end of the line.

“Reiter didn’t have much of a pedigree to argue. He was a two-star recruit out of high school before signing with South Florida. Washington drafted him in 2014, but not until the seventh round. He then spent his entire time in Washington on the practice squad. Obviously no one in Cleveland thought much of him.”
Dan Wetzel
Yahoo! Sports 

But Reiter, as Wetzel points out in his article,  wasn’t at the end of the line. He was picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs for the 2018 season where he even started four games and signed a two -year contract at the end of the season. Then he started every game for the Chiefs this season as offensive center and is now a Super Bowl winner.

It’s rare to see that kind of life reversal in such a short time. And while I don’t know how Reiter delt with the various transitions he’s faced in his life, here are few words from the head of Disney who I heard on a podcast today describe his style of leadership and outlook on life.

I talk about optimism often, but I want to make sure that people understand what that means. I think it’s important to be a realist. So I’m not one of these that think everything will work out fine all the time. But I do believe that making sure that the possibility of something working out fine is very apparent—is right there. Instead of the opposite, this will never work out, or there’s no way we’ll accomplish this, or there’s no way we can do this. 

It’s being able to be persistent. Really working hard. Trying hard to get something done or accomplished, instead of immediately concluding that, well, this can’t happen, or this won’t happen. That’s in part aimed at being productive. At getting things done. But I think it also applies to outlook on life, or aspects of your life. 

If you look at everything through a dark and gloomy lens, I think it becomes a deterrent to having the energy to be happy, or having the energy for things to actually workout right.  It creates a negative energy as opposed to the opposite. I think you need a positive energy for your life to be positive.”
Bob Iger—Chairman and CEO of Disney
The Tim Ferriss Show 

Scott W. Smith

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Since the Super Bowl is tomorrow I thought I’d try to find a quote that tied filmmaking and football together. Mission accomplished from not only a former college football player but one who has a film up for seven Oscars this year— including Best Picture.

“A lot of the things I’ve learned, I learned from playing football. You gotta lead a group of people against sometimes insurmountable odds. Every week, you’ve got to prepare for an opponent. You watch game tape. You prep. You get all your players up. But you get out there, you never know what to expect. I’m 31 years old … this is a high-intensity job. You’re responsible for a lot of money. You’re responsible for a lot of people’s livelihoods, and more importantly, you’re responsible for the audience’s dreams and expectations. There’s no way I’d be able to do this job if I hadn’t had the experience I have from playing organized sports. I’d be a different person.”
Writer/Director Ryan Coogler (Black Panther)
The Undefeated article by Kelley L. Carter 

Related post:

Screenwriting & the Super Bowl

Scott W. Smith

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Well she was an American girl
Raised on promises
She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there
Was a little more to life
Tom Petty/ American Girl

You’ll probably never watch a double feature one night of Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and Silence of the Lambs (1991), but one thing that connects those movies together is the Tom Petty song American Girl.

And for good measure here’s Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers playing the song during the NFL Super Bowl half-time show in 2008.

Scott W. Smith

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Screenwriter Damien Chazelle didn’t really write Whiplash straight out of Harvard University—he’d actually sold a few spec scripts after he graduated with a degree Visual & Environmental Sciences. He’d even had a couple of features produced from his scripts. But it wasn’t until after he tapped into his own experience as competitive jazz ensemble drummer in high school that he became an Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

“[Whiplash] was the most personal thing I’d ever written—the most embarrassing in that sense as well. It sounds very cliche to say this but it was that kind of pouring out on the page sort of thing. And wrote it very quickly and kinda put it in a drawer, and was too embarrassed to show it to anyone for a while because I didn’t like what it said about myself. And then tinkered with it a little bit and finally got up the courage to show it to a few people and then it sort of became, ‘okay, let’s try to actually make this.’ But it started out more as just a, ‘This [other script’s] not working I need to just do something completely different, I’m going to write what happened to me as a drummer.”
Screenwriter Damien Chazelle on his screenplay Whiplash
DP/30 Interview

P.S. The day after the New England Patriots won their fourth Super Bowl it seems fitting to have a Boston/Cambridge related post. If you go back to 2008 post Screenwriting from Massachusetts you’ll find that Chazelle joins of list of at least 20 writers who attended Harvard and had their work end up as movies. 

Other Massachusetts related posts:

‘The Verdict’ Revisited
Tony C
Screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski (‘Prisoners’)
Will Simmons’ Road to Hollywood
Mad Men (and Women) Writers
Screenwriter Thomas McCarthy
Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg
Writing ‘Good Will Hunting’
(Yawn)…Another Pulitzer Prize
Screenwriting Quote #3 (Charlie Kaufman)

Scott W. Smith

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“I grew up in the Compton/Lynwood area of Los Angeles. My family has no connection with the entertainment industry at all except that I had a very beloved aunt named Denise who was a lover of the arts, of film and music and theater and literature. She gifted me with an appreciation for it all. But she was truly a ferocious movie watcher and fan with an encyclopedic knowledge of film. How she got it is really just through the atmosphere, because there was no one ahead of her to introduce her to the arts, but luckily she was there for me. I spent many an afternoon, getting picked up from school going straight to a movie. Long conversations about film and books and art. It was really all a gift from my aunt to me.”
Director Ava DuVernay (Selma)
Interview with Scott Myers/Go Into The Story

P.S. I’ve said before that you can live not far from the Hollywood sign in West Covina, California and feel like you’re in West Des Moines, Iowa. The Compton/Lynwood area only about 20 miles south of the Hollywood sign would be low on the list for places in Los Angeles County where you’d bet on someone rising to a filmmaking career in Hollywood. (Though an abundance of rappers and professional athletes are from the area. NWA/Straight Outta Compton.  NFL great Richard Sherman playing for Seattle in the Super Bowl this Sunday was born in Compton.)  I spent some time in and around Compton/Lynwood in the early 80s while working as a photographer in nearby Cerritos. Gritty would be a word to describe it then. At least back then—and when DuVernay was in high school— the area was known for it’s heavy presence of African-American and Hispanic gangs.

I’m guessing the area was different in the 1940-50s from what I saw in the 1980s, because actor/director Kevin Costner was born in Lynwood in 1955 and future Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush lived in Compton briefly in 1949.

I hope Ava DuVernay’s (@AVAETCfilmmaking success is an inspiration to all of you who come from or live in “unlikely places.” But make sure you read the full interview at the Go Into the Story blog  (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) to see the many steps she took to write and direct movies.

Related posts:
Postcard #82 (Selma)
25 Links Related to Blacks & Filmmaking
Martin Luther King Jr. & Screenwriting 

Related LA Times Article: WME talent agents go from A-List to ABCs in Compton mentors program. Very cool.

Scott W. Smith

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“Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.”
Jasmine (Cate Blachett) in Blue Jasmine
Written by Woody Allen
Nominated for 3 Oscars

“The art of survival is a story that never ends. ”
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) in American Hustle
Written by Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell
Nominated for 10 Oscars

“I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”
Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) in 12 Years a Slave
Written by John Ridley
Nominated for 9 Oscars

I was looking for an Oscar-nominated song this year to add an exclamation to the above quotes and decided to settle for a now formerly nominated Oscar song. The song Alone But Not Alone was disqualified a couple of days ago by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Science—but if you read related backlash articles in the LA TimesDeadline, and The Hollywood Reporter  on the song’s historic rejection you’ll know it’s a survivor.

The indie film hasn’t even been released and the song seems to have a life of its own. The producers of the Alone Yet Not Alone movie have to look at the controversy and be thinking—like Bill Murray in Scrooged— “You can’t buy this kind of publicity!”

The perfect Hollywood ending would be during the Super Bowl half-time show tomorrow that Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers were joined by quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada (carried on stage, of course, by Tim Tebow) as they all sing Alone But Not Alone. The crowd joins in like a version of We Are the World. Cut to close up of Payton Manning crying just before completing his own personal neck injury comeback by winning the game’s MVP. Followed by world peace.

P.S. Gravity, Captain Philips, and Dallas Buyers Club add at least 22 more survival-related movies to this year’s Oscar nominations.

Update: 2/1/14: “I owe quite a debt to Capt. Richard Phillips, who survived something I know would have killed me.” Screenwriter Billy Ray accepting the WGA award for writing Captain Philips.

Related posts:

What’s at Stake? (Tip #9)
Goal. Stake. Urgency. (Tip #60)
“Unbroken” One great true story of survival that will be released as a movie this year.

Scott W. Smith

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I don’t know what the odds are for one of your sons becoming a head coach of one of the 33 NFL football teams, but there odds of having two sons as NFL head coaches has to be pretty much against you. And the odds of those two sons coaching opposing teams in the Super Bowl has to be on par with dropping a football from an airplane from a few thousand feet and a dog catching it with his teeth.

So it wasn’t historic enough that brothers Jim and John Harbaugh both became NFL coaches, or that they even faced each other when the Baltimore Ravens (John) and the San Francisco 49ers (Jim) played each other in 2011. But this past Sunday they faced off again with the stakes a little higher for Super Bowl 47.

The parents said they were neutral on who they wanted to win, but I’m sure they were proud of both of their sons. In case you don’t follow football the Ravens defeated the 49ers in a game that wasn’t decided until the final two minutes when the 49ers couldn’t score on the Ravens five yard line.

I wanted to do a post on this before the game but was traveling and had limited time and access to Internet. While I was packing to move last month—and doing some house cleaning—I came across a photo I was part of a photographic team with Yary Photography that took the photo below of the 1986 University of Michigan football team that played in the Rose Bowl when none other than Jim Harbaugh was the starting quarterback. I’ll file this one in the “It’s a small world after all” file. (Jim wore #4 at Michigan and is in the top right area of the photo.) I didn’t even realize I had that photo. It was just rolled up in a tube in my basement and had suffered a little water damage.

Michigan Rose Bowl

Anyway, like screenwriters, I don’t believe people are born NFL coaches. I imagine both Jim and John had many influences in their lives that helped put them on the path to being head coaches in the NFL, but I’m sure their parents played a key part. In fact, in a much reported story that goes back to when Jim and John, their sister Joan were little kids and lived in Iowa with their parents, their father would shout, “Who’s got it better than us?” In unison they’d shout, “Nobody!”
“At the time they lived in a tiny two bedroom-house in Iowa City, where Jack was an assistant coach at University of Iowa. Sometimes they had a car. If not, they were walking — what a terrific opportunity to work on basketball dribbling skills! Jack convinced the boys how great it was that they could bunk together in a tiny bedroom and talk philosophy and share each other’s dreams.”
Ann Killion
Sports Illustrated.com

Do you really think that when Jim and John shared each others dreams that they ever dreamed they would be coaching against each other in a Super Bowl? Sometimes, somehow there are times when you can’t dream big enough.

Don’t be surprised if next year Jim leads the 49ers to a Super Bowl victory making both brothers Super Bowl winning coaches in a feat that will probably not be reached in your lifetime.

P.S. In case you wondered where my blog was yesterday, I don’t usually posts on weekends and holidays—and the day after the Super Bowl is one of the most called in sick days of the year so I think “Super Bowl Hangover” is  like a holiday. Where people stay home to clean their houses the day after the Super Bowl, of course.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“It’s really a huge opportunity for our career— which we’ve been struggling with for a long time. I’ve been dreaming of this my whole life.”
JR Burningham
Utah native interviewed before his Doritos Super Bowl spot won $1 million


You know, I’m all about the little dogs doing big things, and the Dortitos commercial that aired during the Super Bowl last night not only featured a pug—but was a total underdog itself. The spot was directed by JR Burningham for $500. and ended up earning him $1 million in a Doritos/PepsiCo competition in which more than 5,000 commercials were submitted.

Burningham’s commercial featured a small pug knocking a door down on top of his master in his quest for Dortios. The spot tied for first on the Super Bowl Rating Meter even beating out the VW Star Wars spot in popularity. And while the 31-year old Burningham has been called in some articles “a part-time web-designer”—there’s a little more to the story.

Burningham is originally from Salt Lake City and after he graduated from the University of Utah with a B.S. degree in computer engineering & computer science, he went on to get an MFA in film production at USC in 2008. At USC one of his films received an honorable mention at the Student Emmys and he also met Tess Ortbals who became his partner at Mythmakers after they graduated.

Ortbals, who has an MFA from USC on the producing side, wrote the script Terra Incognita with Burningham which recently finished in the top ten of both the Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition and The Script Department’s Silver Screenwriting Competition. Ortbal’s undergraduate work was in ancient storytelling and mythology, and she graduated with a BA in anthropology. Producing a winning commercial wasn’t just blind luck.

Burningham & Ortbals set-up their shop in Burbank, CA and while their dreams are big , so is the debt from their student loans. So it wasn’t beneath them to gather some film school friends together in hopes of creating something that could bring them a little attention.

“This commercial was a last-ditch attempt to make something happen. It’s just a very difficult industry.”
JR Burningham

Mission accomplished.

They rented a Cannon 7D camera package, gathered some film school friends together, and shot  for a day in Ventura. And the rest is history. A history that is beginning to repeat itself. A trend that began a few years ago when major advertising production outsiders began to make inroads in the granddaddy of advertising venues.  In fact, this year 3 of the top 5 rated commercials during this year’s Super Bowl were made from people that represent Main St. more than Madison Ave.

In fact, when I last checked the most  watched ad of all time was the Doritos ad Snack Attack Samurai that ran during last year’s Super Bowl. It was made by a couple filmmakers (Ben Kruger & Cole Koehler) in Minneapolis. (I was fortunate to work with one of the actors in that spot, Mike Rylander, last year on a production I was producing/directing.) Kruger & Koehler spent less than $1,000.  for a :30 spot that was viewed by 116,231,920 people. Big return on investment as they won $25,000.

And don’t forget the two unemployed brothers (Dave and Joe Herbert) of Batesville, Indiana who also won $1 million for their Doritos commercial that was chosen as the best commercial during Super Bowl XLIII.

“As digital media continues to expand, entrepreneurial filmmakers like ourselves must blaze a new model that includes making great movies for less money while expanding distribution avenues. It has to change on both ends. The true masters of the 21 century filmmaking will be those who can be extremely business savvy without compromising the quality of the craft or the meaning of their story.”
JR Burningham

Entrepreneurial filmmakers—that has a nice ring to it.

Congrats JR & Tess, I look forward to seeing your feature films in the not to distant future. (And I read where they just got engaged.) And congrats to the team just east of Iowa, the Green Bay Packers, for the big Super Bowl win.

And just for fun here’s a Doritos spot that I did last year as a one man crew (producer/director/writer/cameraman/editor)  for the total cost of less than $8 (two bags of Doritos). It didn’t win anything, but it was a nice experiment. (Best to double click on it as WordPress frames it kind of funky.)

February 9, 2011 Update: The spot I made with spray paint artist Paco Rosic fit my creative temperament, but doesn’t quite fit the commercials that usually win the Super Bowl challenge. Those usually have to do with pain, hulliliation. (Using sophomoric humor is a plus if you want to rise to the top.)   “The thing about the Crash The Super Bowl contest is that you’re not playing to ‘your’ audience. Meaning, this commercial isn’t about what you necessarily think is funny or what the people you show your work to thinks is funny. Quite simply, it’s about what is formulaic AND funny AND plays to the widest demographic of people.” Ben Krueger  (who along with Cole Koehler, won $25,000. for their Doritos spot in 2010).

Febraury 10. 2011 Update: The Chevy Camero ad during the 2011 Super Bowl became the most watched ad according to Nielsen Co. beating the 2010 Doritos with 119.6 million viewers.

Scott W. Smith


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Though Iowa’s own Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals came up a little short yesterday was another case of the Super Bowl being super. Congrats to the Pittsburgh Steelers—champions once again.  And that game winning ballet catch in the closing seconds of the game by Santonio Holmes brought memories for me of Lyn Swann. 

The game being played in Tampa this year also brought back memories to 2001 when I was hired to go during Super Bowl week there and videotape pro football hall-of fame great Reggie White for a promotional video. For some reason what I remember most about that shoot was it was the first time I had seen a stretch Hummer limo. What kind of gas milage do you think they get?

And there was one more experience that popped into my mind while watching the game and listening to John Madden. I once had a shoot in San Luis Obispo, California with Madden and dozens of pro football players for a celebrity golf tournament.  Madden has a Midwest connection in that he was born in Austin, Minnesota which is just over the border from northern Iowa (and where the Spam museum is located).

He played college ball in San Luis Obispo and when his pro career was cut short by an injury he turned to coaching eventually becoming the youngest head coach in the NFL at age 32. He won a Super Bowl a few years later and in 1979 turned to broadcasting where he has won 14 Emmy Awards. And he was an early part of the video gaming industry with his part with EA Sports John Madden Football. 

Quite a career, right? Because opportunities are growing in the gaming industry for screenwriters (and the gaming industry is now bigger than the film industry) I thought you’d be interested in knowing how Madden followed his passion into video games.

I started the videogame before there were videogames. When we first started, we were going to make a computer game. When I got out of coaching, I had taught a class at the University of California, an extension class on football for fans. I was looking for tools. I was showing them films. I was going to write a textbook. Trip Hawkins came to me about making it a game for computers. I said there has to be 11 guys on a team. I figured it would be a good teaching tool, a good coaching tool. I didn’t know anything about computers then, where they were going. No one did. Anyway, we started and worked on this game for a few years. It came out in a computer version. Then, boom, lo and behold, here comes the hardware for videogames and we already have the software. There we go. To say when I started I knew it was going to happen, I didn’t know. But no one else knew. It was just something that we happened to be there first. We stumbled upon it. We’re still going. It just gets bigger and bigger.
                                                     John Madden
                                                     Interview with Jon Robinson 

 

Scott W. Smith

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