Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘University of Texas at Austin’

Last year Matthew McConaughey starred in The Gentlemen looking every bit a movie star.

But last year—while making The Gentlemen— he was also Professor of Practice and teaching the class Script to Screen (RTF 367Q along with Scott Rice) at the University of Texas. Here’s a small part of the syllabus for the class held in the spring of ’19.

Here’s an idea for the UT Radio/Film/TV program: Why not create a MasterClass-like production of Matthew McConaughey leading a class and sell it for $99? It’d be a big seller and it would give some students/recent graduates a project to produce.

P.S. In the past week or so I’ve listened to McConaughey read/perform his book Greenlights and at least seven one-hour interviews that he’s done on various podcasts. I wish there was a Matthew McConaughey app that changed all audio books to McConaughey’s Texas drawl.

Related posts:
Matthew McConaughey’s Red Lights, ‘Greenlights,’ and Forced Winters
Matthew McConaughey Reaches the End of His Rope

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

Read Full Post »

“Create structure so you can have freedom.”
—Matthew McConaughey

Today I started listening to the audio version of Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights. His Texas drawl is worlds away from Orson Welles’ voice, but they share that gift in that their voices could make reading the federal income tax code sound interesting. Or an ad for a Lincoln.

At 38 minutes into the first chapter of McConaughey’s storytelling memoir I was inspired to get back in the saddle. My original goal in writing the book Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles was to have the audio version released last month with the book. I failed.

Just getting the book done and out was a marathon. I had trouble getting getting psyched up for the the audio version. All the more so because I’m the voice talent, the audio engineer, the director, and the editor. I have a simple basic audio recording setup in my home office closet, and know how to use the gear, but being mentally prepared to record has proven difficult.

But after listening to McConaughey I’m ready to just say “Alright, alright, alright”—and am setting a goal to record a chapter a day. Or to finish recording by November 14 at the latest.

“Creativity needs borders.”
—Matthew McConaughey
One of his “bumperstickers” (one word) in Greenlights

Yes, that music stand does say “Bitch” in the corner. I bought it a Minneapolis antique store and was told it was from an area public school. (Who hates the music teacher?)

Now I’m not going to sound as cool as McConaughey, but you do what you can, with what you have, where you are, right?

Funny thing about the McConaughey vibe is he feels like an old school friend no matter your age or where you grew up. Just someone you liked to hangout with. Then there’s the Texas thing on top of that. Even before he came on the scene in Dazed and Confused (1993), Texas was on my radar.

I was conceived in San Angelo, Texas where my father was stationed as an Air Force pilot. In the early 70’s (in Florida) I pulled for the Dallas Cowboys even though the Miami Dolphins where heading for a undefeated and Super Bowl winning season. As a high school football player in the late ’70s I read Gary Shaw’s book Meat on the Hook: The Hidden World of Texas Football and oddly dreamed about playing football in Austin.

I first spent a little time in Austin in the ’90s and thought it was an ideal down. Part hippy town, part college town (with a top film school at UT—Austin), part political town, part tech town, and part musicians town. I bought an cool old piano stool there for my pianist wife because I was told it came from a “Hacienda in Mexico.” No shortage of storytellers in Austin. And no shortage of people wanting to move there.

McConaughey calls Austin “the blueberry in the tomato soup” and the influx of Californians won’t change that politically, but come back in 2030 and see who’s changed who the most. One thing that can stop the Californication of Texas is the Minster of Culture—Matthew McConaughey. Who also has a side gig teaching at class at UT called Script to Screen.

And, I should end this post mentioning that Austin is home to the Austin Film Festival which just happens to being going on this week.

P.P.S. Here’s a famous example of Orson Welles showing how difficult recording audio can be.

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

Read Full Post »

I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am women

I Am Women
Written by Helen Reddy & Ray Burton

“I couldn’t find any songs that said what I thought being a woman was about. I thought about all these strong women in my family who had gotten through the Depression and world wars and drunken, abusive husbands. But there was nothing in music that reflected that.”
Helen Reddy

The movie Whip It owes a lot to the 1970s. Not only were Whip It screenwriter Shauna Cross, director Drew Barrymore and supporting actress Juliette Lewis born in the 70s— the movie’s theme of girl power rises from the Gloria Steinem version of feminism that came to fruition in the early 70s. (The National Women’s Political Caucus and Ms. Magazine were both founded in 1971 with Steinem’s guidance. A year before Helen Reddy sang I Am Woman in which would become a catchy powerful feminist anthem.)

And while there are probably a zillion different views of feminism today (and plenty of strong women who don’t care for that label) most would look at the role women have in culture today and agree with the popular 70s Virginia Slims ad champaign, “You’ve come a long way baby.”  (Of course, not everyone would agree on the interpretation of that phrase. Some would say a long way good and others a long way bad.) In the 1970s there was a shift in the roles that women would play in business, education, politics, military and sports. I was raised in the 60s-70s by a single mother and two of the best athletes on my street were girls, so I can’t say I felt the shift and only knew the traditional world by watching old reruns of Leave it to Beaver.

(Growing up in Central Florida I have burned into my memory the blarring 70s radio ads for drag racing events, “Big Daddy Don Garlits, and Shirley ‘Cha-Cha’ Muldowney this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Gainesville International Speedway. BE THERE ! BE THERE! BE THERE!” I never did get there but I remember being amazed that there was a female drag racer. Muldowney was the first women to receive a NHRA licence and won NHRA top fuel championships in 1977, 1980 and 1982. Her story was made into the excellent 1983 film Heart Like a Wheel starring Bonnie Bedelia.)

Of course, as women sought more independence, freedom and accomplishments outside the home this would impact how children were raised and as a result our entire culture effected.  Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) was one of the first films to deal with this changing world. And The Fight Club (1999) dealt with the lingering effects. But honestly, things haven’t exactly been a picnic ever since that incident with the fruit in the garden of Eden. We live in a broken, fallen world and everyday the news confirms this. We go to movies for the hope of a little sliver of restoration.

Which brings us back to Whip It. The movie’s poster with a great shot of star Ellen Page says, “Find your tribe.” It’s about finding your place in this world even if you live in a little town like Bodeen, Texas. I became aware of the story when Cedar Falls, Iowa had a shot at becoming both Bodeen and Austin when I received a call from Mandate Pictures to do some location scouting in the Cedar Falls, Waterloo and Cedar Rapids area here in Iowa.

Iowa’s film incentives were the main reason they considered shooting a story set in Texas. (It would have been a nice payback since the Johnny Depp/Leonardo DiCaprio/Juliette Lewis film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was set in Iowa but shot in Texas.) When I got the call last spring, Ellen Page was already in Iowa making another Mandate Picture called Peacock which was shooting in the Des Moines area.

I ended up doing two days of scouting and thought we had a good shot. One of the biggest problems though was they were really looking for a 50s style ranch home made of brick. We had a good deal of 50s ranch homes in the area but brick for whatever reason was not commonly used. They also wanted the yards to be a little worn down. Maybe it’s because the soil is good in Iowa or the neat German heritage, but there aren’t many lawns in disrepair in this part of the county.

I took hundreds of pictures for the various locations they needed including the Oink Joint where Page’s character worked. My best find was the town of Vinton, Iowa (between Cedar Falls & Cedar Rapids) that I thought made a fitting small Texas town like the ones I’ve driven through before. But at the end of the day they shot most of the film in Michigan. (Apparently, they don’t take care of their lawns as well as Iowans.) I was bummed when I found out they weren’t shooting in Iowa because it would have meant a lot to the community and I would have loved having a small part in bringing the first Hollywood film here since they shot Country in Black Hawk County back in the mid-80s.

But I’m glad the film got made and will write specifically about it tomorrow. The script was written by Cross based on her youth book Derby Girl. Since I write a blog that’s focused on writing or writers that come from outside of L.A. I enjoyed reading an interview where Cross stated, “It’s easier to be more original writing about Texas than New York or L.A.” But it should be noted that while Cross went to film school at the University of Texas at Austin, she did get her breakthough while living in L.A. and bumping into film people.

Whip It (Part 2)

Scott W. Smith



Read Full Post »

Part of the legacy that writer James Michener left behind (other than more than 40 books) is the writing program at the University of Texas. The program that Michener helped start is now known as The James A. Michener Center for Writers and according to their website is “An interdisciplinary Masters of Fine Arts program in fiction, poetry, playwriting, and screenwriting of the University of Texas at Austin.”

But Michener did not start out with a grand plan. 

“I didn’t say, ‘I’m going to be a writer.’ All I knew was, that I was able to write better than a lot of the stuff I was reading, and I was going to take a shot at it. That it turned out the way it did was accidental — purely accidental. Not a matter of design at all. I had a great start. Everything hit me favorably at the beginning. It was five years before I had the courage to become a freelance with all that start because I knew what the facts were. I had been an editor myself, and I knew that people do not make a living writing books. ”
                                                  James Michener
                                                  Author of more than 40 books
                                                  Pulitzer Prize in fiction for Tales of the South Pacific 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: