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Posts Tagged ‘Whitney Houston’

DSC_0572Proving that all beautiful sunsets aren’t only found at the beach I took the above picture yesterday in Villa Rica. I was in route yesterday from Orlando, Florida to a shoot in Athens, Alabama  when I pulled off Interstate 20 in Georgia between Atlanta and Birmingham because I was intrigued by the name of the historic town. The area was originally Creek Indian territory and received the name Villa Rica in the late 1800s during a gold rush. Villa Rica is derived from Spanish for “rich village.”

I used the street lights and the hood of my rental car to add some design elements to make the sunset shot less pedestrian.

Actress Maidie Norman (1912-1998) —who in 1977 was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame—was born in Villa Rica, and the movie Randy and the Mob (2007) was filmed mostly in Villa Rica. But perhaps most of all, Villa Rica is known as “The Birth Place of Southern Gospel Music.” Thomas A. Dorsey known as the “Father of Gospel Music” was born and raised in Villa Rica.

Dorsey is featured in the 1982 documentary Somebody Say Amen. He wrote the song Take My Hand, Precious Lord which was recorded by Aretha Franklin and  Whitney Houston, and Mahalia Jackson sang it at the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr.  (It was said to be King’s favorite hymn):

Here’s the Elvis version:

Scott W. Smith

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Marcus Coral Ridge Cinema—Coralville, Iowa

Oops, I did it again. This weekend I watched both Hugo & The Artist in the theaters—just like I did last month to start the new year. (Saw Hugo at the Coral Ridge Cinema which has a nice movie tribute in their lobby—pictured above. Directly off Interstate 80 in the Iowa City area. )

I love those movies. Apparently others do as well. Yesterday, The Artist picked up seven BAFTA awards including Best Picture and for Michel Hazanavicus’s script, and Hugo picked up four awards and its director, Martin Scorsese, received the Academy Fellowship—”The highest accolades bestowed upon an individual in recognition of an outstanding and exceptional contribution to film.” (Hugo leads the Oscar pack with 11 nominations, followed by The Artist with 10.)

In my January 4th post Hugo & The Artist  I wrote, “I can’t remember when I’ve been as impressed seeing two films back to back.” Seeing them a second time allowed me to see more how they overlap and contrast each other.  They are similar in that parts of both of the stories occur in 1931 and represent a tribute of sorts to the history of cinema—and both represent broken characters. But they are also quite different in that The Artist is a black and white silent film in 4X3 format and Hugo is a colorful widescreen 3-D visual feast full of seamless special effects. Both have gotten great reviews, but unfortunately neither blazed any trails at the box office.

Those films (and their love of movies) have also set the tone for this blog this year, to weave in the history of film with more specific and contemporary issues related to screenwriting and filmmaking.

And since Valentine’s Day is tomorrow—a day to celebrate love— I thought I’d give you a few options other than roses & chocolate to give your loved one (or yourself).

1) Hugo: The Shooting Script published by Newmarket Press/Harper Collins will be made available tomorrow. I was fortunate to get an early copy and read it this weekend. The book features the John Logan screenplay, an introduction by Logan, a forward by the author Brian Selzick who wrote the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret (from which the film is based), various production notes and 23 photos from the production. Over the years I’ve purchased about 10 of The Shooting Scripts and find them wonderful additions for those who love movies in general and screenwriting in particular. I’ll write more about the Hugo: The Shooting Script tomorrow, but you can order it at Amazon or perhaps find it at a bookstore tomorrow.

The other two Valentine specials are L.A.-centric, but I’m sure with a little creativity you can find something similar in your area.

2) Walt Disney’s Lady and the Tramp is currently playing (February 3-16,2012) at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. This theater was built in 1926 and restored in 1991. It’s where Citizen Kane had its world premiere in 1941. Across the street, and later this month is where the Academy Awards will be held at The Kodak Theatre. And for a total Hollywood evening (if you can get a reservation) eat at The Musso & Frank Grill which has been serving meals in Hollywood since 1919. According to its website, its literary guests over the years have included; F.Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, T.S. Elliot, John Steinbeck and many others, and Raymond Chandler is said to have written part of the The Big Sleep in the Back Room bar.

3) F.W. Murnau‘s classic 1927 silent film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans will be playing at  The Cinefamily theater in LA on Valentine’s Day (2/14/12).

4) In Chicago at the Music Box Theatre they are showing The Princes Bride on Valentine’s Day. Inconceivable!

5) Or you can always stay home and watch The Bodyguard. The Lawrence Kasden written and Mick Jackson directed film starring Kevin Costner and the late Whitney Houston.

“I hope life treats you kind
And I hope you have all you’ve dreamed of.
And I wish to you, joy and happiness.
But above all this, I wish you love.”

I Will Always Love You
performed by Whitney Houston in My Bodyguard
written by Dolly Parton

What interesting film related things are going on in your neck of the woods this Valentine’s Day?

P.S. If anyone in LA goes to Lady and the Tramp, Sunrise, or The Princess Bride shoot me a note about the experience.

Related posts:
The Secret to Being a Successful Screenwriter (Seriously)–Insights from Hugo screenwriter John Logan
Writing “The Artist” (Part 1)
Writing “The Artist” (Part 2)
Writing “The Artist” (Part 3)

Scott W. Smith

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Since Diablo Cody is my poster child (female) for a screenwriter coming from outside L.A. (and the original inspiration for this blog)  then I think I’ll name Lawrence Kasdan as the poster child (male) screenwriter from outside L.A. Kasdan was raised in Morgantown, West Virginia. Quick, name another screenwriter from West Virginia.

(While Morgantown is the second largest city in West Virginia it only has about 30,000 residents not including the students at the University of West Virginia. My lasting memory of Morgantown goes back to 1994 when I was there for a video shoot and the news broke of O.J. Simpson’s famous low-speed police chase. I remember walking down the main drag and seeing restaurant/bar after restaurant/bar having the same helicopter shot of the Simposn’s white Ford Bronco on their TVs.)

Kasdan left Morgantown to attend the University of Michigan where he was an English major. A gifted writer he would go on to win Hopwood Prize at UM for creative writing. In his 30s he became  one of the most successful screenwriters in Hollywood with a string of box office hits— Star Wars: The Empire Strikes, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Body Heat and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. He has also had  three Oscar nominations for his screenwriting —Grand Canyon, The Accidental Tourist, and The Big Chill.

But what I think you’ll be interested in is that little period between college in Ann Arbor, Michigan and his first sale as a screenwriter. While reading The First Time I Got Paid for It, Writers’ Tales from the Hollywood Trenches I found this retelling by Kasdan when he would have been a 28 year old advertising copywriter:

“One summer day in 1977 my agent asked me to lunch, which was so unusual it made me nervous. It has taken me a long time to get an agent, so naturally, I was worried about hanging on to him. For two years now he had been trying to sell a thriller I had written for my favorite star Steve McQueen, who didn’t know I’d written this thriller for him. Originally, the agent thought he wouldn’t have much trouble selling the script, so he agreed to represent me. But after sixty-seven rejections he was getting discouraged.”

But his agent didn’t want to part ways with Kasdan, but he did want Kasdan to try his hand at writing for television, specifically Starsky & Hutch. Kasden reluctantly agreed to give it a shot. Soon he heard back from the powers that be at Starsky & Hutch that he didn’t have the goods to write for the show. He told the agent not to give up on him that he had a new screenplay in the works that was almost done. He thought that would buy him a little more time to breakthrough.

Then Kasdan writes, “But when I came into my job the next day, there was a message that my agent had called. Could he have changed his mind overnight? Of course he could. After nine years of writing screenplays without success, I believed only bad things were going to happen to me. But what he had to tell me wasn’t bad. It was kind of miraculous. After two years and all that rejection, suddenly two different parties were interested in my thriller—which was called The Bodyguard.”

So while you dream of writing the next  Raiders of the Lost Ark or Return of the Jedi (or get discouraged in your own career) remember Kasden’s line, “After nine years of writing screenplays without success.” And also keep in mind that while that first sale came in 1977 it was fifteen years before the film The Bodyguard was produced and released into theaters. (The film starred Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston in roles that were originally thought would star Steve McQueen & Barbra Stresisand. The movie made over $400 million worldwide.)

Related posts: Beatles, Cody, King & 10,000 Hours

Screenwriting from Michigan

Raiders Revisted (part 1)

Scott W. Smith

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