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Posts Tagged ‘Temple Grandin’

I think it was designer Milton Glaser who said all creativity is is connecting influences. The other day when I was writing the post on Temple Grandin called Thinking in Pictures (the title of one of her books) I seemed to recall there was an old book on filmmaking also called Thinking in Pictures. So I poked around my books and found it yesterday.

John Sayles’ book Thinking in Pictures was published back in 1987 and subtitled The Making of the Movie Matewan. (Just saw where you can buy a used copy on Amazon for $4.24.) One nice connection with the movie Temple Grandin and Matewan is both feature actor David Strathairn. Back in the day, it was hard to find much information out about independent filmmaking and Sayles’ was a beacon. It’s still a solid book that gives an excellent overview of the production process.

I flipped through the book this morning looking at my yellow highlighted sections hoping to find a quote that seemed to jump out at me and fit what I try to communicate on this blog called Screenwriting from Iowa…and other unlikely places and found this quote:

“If storytelling has a positive function it’s to put us in touch with other people’s lives, to help us connect and draw strength or knowledge from people we’ll never meet, to help us see beyond our own experience. The people I read about in the history books and the people I met in the hills of Kentucky and West Virginia had important stories to tell and I wanted to find a way to pass them on.”
John Sayles
Thinking in Pictures
page 11

So if you’re looking for a filmmaker who champions unusual people and places then check out John Sayles’ films. And tomorrow I’ll talk about how Sayles himself got his unusual start in the film business—writing the script for the 1978 Roger Corman film Piranha.

Scott W. Smith

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“I’m a visual thinker. I think totally in pictures. My mind works like Google images.”
Temple Grandin

“HBO’s Temple Grandin: The Best Telemovie in Years.”
TV Critic David Bianculli

About half way through the HBO movie Temple Grandin, Grandin is told by her high school teacher (played by David Strathairn), “Temple, you have a very special mind, do you know that? You see the world in ways that others can’t, and it’s quite an advantage. You know something,  if you weren’t such a goof and you developed this talent you could easily go on to college.”

Just finishing high school was a battle because Grandin is autistic. In fact, her mother was told when her daughter was diagnosed at age four that it would be best if Temple was institutionalized. But her Harvard-educated mother worked with her daughter and fought for her to not only to not to be institutionalized, but to attend school.

Grandin not only went to college, but…well, you really should see the movie to see all the things she’s accomplished. The movie really is extraordinary. Kinda of mix between Rain Man, A Beautiful Mind and Erin Brockovich. TV Critic David Bianculli wrote that, “Temple Grandin isn’t just a great telemovie. It’s the best one in years, and a reminder about just how good television can be when all elements of a production are absolutely perfect.”  I think it holds its own with any movie made in the last ten years.

It was nominated for 15 Emmy’s earlier this year and won seven including actress Claire Danes as Grandin and Strathairn as her teacher, and Julia Ormond as Temple’s mother. All under the fine direction of Mick Jackson, Temple Grandin won the Emmy for Outstanding Made for TV Movie. Screenwriters Christopher Monger & Merritt Johnson were nominated for their script based in part on the book Emergence by Grandin & Margret Scariano, and Thinking in Pictures; My Life with Autism by Grandin.

On the movie’s DVD commentary there is this exchange between Grandin, the screenwriter and the director;

Temple Grandin:”My science teacher absolutely got me turned around academically…I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a mentor teacher.”

Christopher Monger (screenwriter): “Almost anyone I know whose had any success in life is because there’s been a mentor somewhere along the way.”

Mick Jackson (director): “Some gifted teacher who took the necessary interest in you in just the right way and right time in your life.”

You’re fortunate if you have one or two truly impactful teacher/mentors in your life.  And the crazy thing is when never know quite when those people are going to come in our life. For me it was Annye Refoe, who I had a creative writing class with for two years of high school and one year of college.  It’s where I wrote my first script and directed my first video.

My entire career is grounded in Annye’s classes. And the foundation of this blog goes all the way back to her encouragement for a young man to think beyond just sports and girls. That and my art teacher mom who first taught me to think in pictures.

For those of you in Iowa, Grandin will be speaking in Des Moines November 19, 2010 for the Iowa Society of Autism.

Scott W. Smith

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