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Posts Tagged ‘Tales from the Script’

Every time it’s an Olympic year there are great stories of men and women who basically sacrifice their whole lives up to that point in order to have a moment in the spotlight. It’s inspiring when they win gold. Heartbreaking when they fall short. It’s amazing sometime how close these world-class athletes are in times and scores.

In the men’s Super G race yesterday the time between the Gold winner and the next seven spots was less than half a second. The top three got medals, and the rest as close as 200th of a second apart went home empty-handed. It’s no secret that the Olympics are very hard and very competitive.

The same can be said for screenwriting and filmmaking. And what’s nice about the book Tales from the Script, edited by Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman, is it’s full of screenwriters who share the ups and downs of a career in screenwriting.

“I think the most important thing you have to know is that it’s a very,very hard business, full of rejection and setbacks. If you don’t want to succeed really badly, you won’t. But, of course, if you get a movie made and it works, there’s nothing like it. Nothing.”
Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally/Julie & Julia)
Tales from the Script
page 269

“There’s a giant group of people who want to be writers, and a smaller group who actually write, and an even smaller group who are actually going to strive so hard that someone’s going to pay attention to them…I was obsessed at one point. I took every course, I read magazines, and I just kept going to movies. I remember at one point, I sat down and wrote down (copied) Rocky beat by beat.”
Steve Koren
(Bruce Almighty)
Tales from the Script
page 273

Scott W. Smith

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“I just felt like I didn’t come to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns.”
Shaun White

Watching Shaun White win a gold medal last night at the Olympics in Vancouver brought back memories of Tiger Woods’ first big win at Augusta National back in ’97 when he won by a margin of 12 shots–the most in the tournament’s history. Woods was in uncharted territory. And so it is with White and his “Double McTwist 1260.”

You don’t have to know a lot about snowboarding to know that White is way ahead of the competition. And actually the comparison to Woods at this point in his career is fitting.  White began skiing with his family at age four which is around the time Woods began playing golf. Both were mentored by their fathers. And while White’s mother was also an avid skier, it was White’s father who would literally carry White on his back at times because White was so small that he would sink into the snow walking back up to get his runs on the halfpipe. White entered his first amateur snowboard contest at seven and won. He soon had his first sponsor.

White’s dedication and  talents stood out early and by the age of 12 he turned pro and soon began winning events and gaining more sponsors. By the time he was 16 he owned three cars and three homes. These days he earns $10 million a year. And after his gold last night those earning are just going to–like him on a snowboard–soar.

It’s easy to look at 23-year-old Shaun White with his casual smile and long red hair and forget that it’s taken him 19-years of work to put him in the position where he is now. It all goes back to the 10,000 rule–which White probably hit with snowboarding before he hit puberty. But along the way he also had a few major set-backs. The first came just after he was born when he had to have two major surgeries to correct a heart defect. About ten years later as a rising star skateboarder he collided on a doubles skateboarding run with Bob Burnquis that knocked him out and left him with broken bones and fractured skull. And a desire to quit. But his mom wouldn’t let him.

Then in 2002 he missed earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team by three tenths of a point. All of those things set the stage for him to win the gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics. His money and fame haven’t seemed to diminish his passion for the sport.  But keep in mind that before he was cruising around in a Lamborghini he was cruising in a converted van/motorhome improving his skills far from his San Diego home.

“It was insane because we’d all just camp out in the motorhome. It would be my brother Jesse, myself, my sister Kerri, my dad and my mom all in a van. We’d take trips up to Mammoth and all over the place. It is funny now to fly first-class out to a mountain and stay in a nice hotel. It means so much more because of that.”
Shane White
Snowboarding Magazine

I wish White the best. But one thing we can learn from Tiger Woods (and quite a few other atheletes) is an early success does not mean there won’t be some bumps ahead in the road professionally and personally. Since this is a screenwriting blog I came across a fitting quote on that topic by Shane Black:

“I sort of slid off the map a little bit after Long Kiss Goodnight was such a failure back in the nineties, and I don’t know quite how I got back on the map. Because the turnover in these offices, the executives at the studios are now twenty-five, and they saw Lethal Weapon when they were eight—so there’s a sense of being an old-timer before I’m even an old-timer. I had to reinvent my career at age forty. That’s the disadvantage of succeeding early.”
Shane Black
Tales from the Script
Page 292

P.S. It’s funny to think that when I first started skiing in Colorado in the 80s snowboarding wasn’t allowed on some of the mountains. Times change. I’ve read in some places that snowboarders now make up more than half of the ticket sales. After watching Shaun White last night I wonder if any kids starting out want put on a set of skis.

Scott W. Smith

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“Find a bright spot and clone it. That’s the first step to fixing everything from addiction to corporate malaise to malnutrition. A problem may look hopelessly complex. But there’s a game plan that can yield movement on even the toughest issues. And it starts with locating a bright spot — a ray of hope.”
Chip Heath & Dan Heath
Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

A good thing about the book Tales from the Script is it shows bright spots. Screenwriters who have found success of some measure. And it also offers a ray of hope because any writer who has not had their day in the sun can read the common ongoing struggles that screenwriters have not only starting out (“I thought, ‘I will never get a movie made, ever.’”–Nora Ephron) but sustaining a career (“Every career is filled with peaks and valleys.”–Frank Darabont).

The one thing that shines clearly when you read about these screenwriters is that making a living as a screenwriter is hard work.

“I have written a lot of screenplays, but only two of them have actually been made into films—the ones that came directly from me, only two in sixteen years. My job, as a screenwriter working in Hollywood, is to give the producer and the studio what they want. Whether they make the movie or not, that’s in someone eles’s hands.”
Antwone Fisher

“Sydney Pollack had just done Toostie and Out of Africa, he had won Academy Awards, and he was just one of our most important directors. I said to him, ‘It must get easier for you.’ He gave me a look like I was a fool. It’s never easier. Every single movie is just as hard.”
Mark D. Rosenthal

Where’s that ray of hope? Obviously there has to be some joy in the journey. The small breakthroughs you get in your own writing and the encouraging words from someone who’s read your work (even if it’s just a friend). The times when you know you not only have a good idea but a good script.

The ray of hope is that ever writer in Tales from the Script was once an unproduced screenwriter.  The hope is that your next script (or even an older script) is optioned, and that your script is made into a film, and that that film wins an audience, and ideally after all of those things happen that it also becomes an award winner.

That’s the hope that every writer (from the beginner to the Academy Award-winner) has in common.

And perhaps the biggest hope for writers (after you’ve read all the war stories in Tales from the Script) is that people are always hungry for a good story.

Scott W. Smith

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“Really great writing always, always gets noticed in Hollywood. When I hear someone say, ‘It’s who you know,’ or ‘I couldn’t get it to the right agent,’ that is the consolation of failure. When it really works, it might not get made, because you need a Jupiter effect of a perfect director and a perfect actor–but if the writing is great, you always get into the game.”
Screenwriter Mark D. Rosenthal (Mona Lisa Smiles, The Jewel of the Nile)
Tales from the Script/ Edited by Peter Hanson & Paul Robert Herman
page 85

Scott W. Smith

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