Posts Tagged ‘WME’

“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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“About rule breaking—there are no rules. Do whatever you have to do—it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares. Listen to me, I’ve read 30,000 screenplays, I work at WME, and I’m telling you anybody in this business who reads scripts doesn’t given a flying f*#k about the rules. All they care about is a really great script. And as a writer you have to do what you have to do in order to communicate your story to the reader.”
WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart
Final Draft Webinar

Related post:
Screenwriting’s One Unbreakable Rule
Everything I Learned in Film School (Tip #1)
“Everything Was Perfect…”
Neil Simon on Conflict
Getting Your Script Read (Tip #51) Another Lockhart quote.

Scott W. Smith


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“I’ve done a lot of crazy things in my career. I’ve been invited to be with emperors, kings and prime ministers, but I can tell you right now from the bottom of my heart, being here in Iowa Falls is something I will never, ever forget.”
Actor Hugh Jackman
September 21, 2013

Would you pay $100 for a movie ticket? And one that’s not even in 3-D? (Isn’t this what earlier in the year George Lucas and Steven Spielberg predicated what would happen?) Well just a few days ago people in Iowa did pay $100 and sold out the theater in 35 minutes. What would make people pay $100 to see a movie in the small town of Iowa Falls?

Answer: Hugh Jackman.  Not just a Hugh Jackman movie, but Hugh Jackman the person. The actor fresh off of starring roles in Les Miserable and The Wolverine was in Iowa Falls for the rural premiere of his newest movie Prisoners.  Now you may wonder why what ended up being the top box office movie this past weekend had a red carpet premiere in a town of under 6,000 people.

Answer: Patrick Whitesell. A guy who grew up in Iowa Falls who just happens to be Hugh Jackman’s agent—and co-CEO (with Ari Emanuel) of William Morris Endeavor (WME). Some of the talent represented by WME includes Denzel Washington, Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarnatino, Christopher Nolan, Lady Gaga, and Charilize Theron.  Now for a guy who writes a blog titled Screenwriting from Iowa I find that pretty darn interesting.

Interesting that one of the world’s largest & oldest talent agencies with headquarters in Beverly Hills has a co-CEO from Iowa Falls. And according to Jackman, Whitesell is one of the good guys in Hollywood.

“I met [Patrick Whitesell] about 15 years ago. Patrick became my agent. I’ve only had one agent, and that’s him. And I would not be where I am in my career today without this man. To you guys, someone with a good sense of humor, who tells the truth, who works hard, and is genuinely a good guy who understands ethics—that’s a normal thing, right? In Hollywood—not so normal.”
Hugh Jackman speaking to the audience at Prisoners premiere in Iowa Falls

Patricks father, Jack Whitesell, is a retired attorney in Iowa Falls and recently bought (along with Patrick I believe) and spent $500,000 to upgrade the Metropolitan Opera House (movie theater) in Iowa Falls. It’s a beautiful building that according to Wikipedia opened in1899 as the Metropolitan Opera House with 800 in attendance and the event proclaimed as “biggest social event in the history of Iowa Falls.” The other film playing last week at the theater’s reopening was The Wolverine. That’s right it was double feature Hugh Jackman night in Iowa Falls.

Now if you’re new to this blog check out my WME-related post centered around WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart.

Screenwriting Quote #172 (Christopher Lockhart)
Christopher Lockhart Q&A (Part 1)
Christopher Lockhart Q&A (Part 2)
Christopher Lockhart Q&A (Part 3)
Christopher Lockhart Q&A (Part 4)
Christopher Lockhart Q&A (Part 5)
Writing “Flight”

A few days after the premiere, Jackman was photographed riding a bike in France. Iowa Falls one day, Paris the next—the glamorous life of a movie star. BTW—I learned a new phrase doing this post; “rural premiere.” Never read those two words together until I read Kyle Munson’s article in his Des Moines Register blog on Jackman’s visit to Iowa. Kind of has a nice ring to it doesn’t it? Maybe rural premiere’s will be the next fad for Hollywood to reconnect with audiences. It fits right in with the old Hollywood marketing question, “Will it play in Peroria?”

P.S. I used to live in Cedar Falls about an hour from Iowa Falls and once shot part of a video there for a regional economic development group. One of the things I learned while producing that video is many companies like that area because it is at the crossroads of Interstate 35 and Interstate 20 (and not far from Interstate 80) with direct routes to Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Omaha and Kansas City. Food, tractors, and Hollywood agents are made or grown in Iowa and shipped all over the world.

Related Posts:

Screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski (“Prisoners”)
Nobody Reads Query Letter —Myth (Tip #82)
Query Letter Strikeout  (2011 post about me contacting WME)
Query Letter Strikeout (Part 2)

Scott W. Smith

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(Opening scene of the Little Miss Sunshine script (PDF dated 10.9.03) written by Michael Arndt.)

“I didn’t really expect that the script [Little Miss Sunshine] was going anywhere. I mean, I was hoping to get an agent out of it but I didn’t bother to register it just because I didn’t think anyone was going to see it. And then I had a friend of mine who was represented by the Endeavor Agency [now WME] and that was sort of my one hope. She read it and liked it and said, ‘Can I give this to my agent?’ so I said, ‘Yes, please do.’ And like six weeks went by and I thought no one had read it and it had falling through the cracks. And I was really unhappy because I’d spent a whole year writing it and I thought I’d have to go back and get a day job again. It was a Saturday afternoon and I got a message on my machine saying, ‘We read your script, we really liked it.’ And I called them on Monday morning and basically they said, ‘We think we can do something with this.’ And I still have those agents today. They basically saved my life. I said it at the Writer’s Guild Awards, the thing that’s standing between me being up here and me being in my basement was this agent who read my script.”
Screenwriter Michael Arndt  (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3)
2007 talk at Cody Books (at the 33:31 mark of the FORA.tv video)

This single post/Arndt excerpt—sums up everything I’ve been writing about on this blog for the past five years. Here’s a sweeping overview of Michael Arndt’s career path:

—Graduated from NYU Film School
—Read 1,000 scripts as a script reader of which only “three or four” were turned into good films
—Wrote 10 scripts before breakthrough where he sold one
—Wrote first draft of Little Miss Sunshine in three days, but took a year—full time— to do rewrites
—Was fired off Little Miss Sunshine project—then rehired a few weeks later
—Won an Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine
—Wrote Toy Story 3, Hunger Games: Chasing Fire, and most recently hired to write Star Wars Episode VII

P.S. To register your film script—which is a good idea— contact the WGA East  or the WGA West.

P.P.S. I finally set up a Facebook page under “Screenwriting from Iowa & Other Unlikely Places” so you can track me down there where I’ll link to posts from the past you may not have read as well as share links from other blogs and websites. (If you decide to “like” make sure it says “Screenwriting from Iowa & Other Unlikely Places.”)

Related Posts:
Screenwriting the Pixar Way (Part 2)
Insanely Great Endings
How to Become a Successful Screenwriter (Tip #41)
Beatles, Cody, King & 10,000 Hours 


Scott W. Smith

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“Producers and directors buy a property because they like the story. Actors buy it because they see them­selves in a part. ”
Jerry Lewis
The Total Film-Maker

“If you want to attach a star, then you really need to have a great protagonist. A protagonist who is really active, who is really initiating the action of the movie, who’s responsible for the forward momentum of the narrative. And perhaps there’s a transformational arc there, because that’s what actors want to play. They don’t necessarily want to play the same note through the whole movie, so it’s about exploring those layers and really creating an emotional resonance to the character. Because, remember, we experience the story through the characters and because we really care about their experience and what it is that their journey entails—that’s where the emotional element is going to be.”
WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart
Script magazine, January/February 2012

November 3, 2012 update: Just saw the movie Flight starring Denzel Washington. If you want to see Lockhart’s words in action see Flight. It’s not hard to understand why two-time Oscar-winner Washington was attracted to the script by John Gatins. In an interview with The Root Washington said of his pilot role, “The complexity was wonderful to play…this was an adventure. Starting with the screenplay and the collaboration with the filmmaker, getting a chance to fly around in flight simulators, hanging upside down in a plane and playing a drunk.” That article by Miki Turner also mentions that this was one of the last projects Washington’s agent Ed Limato gave him before he passed away. Limato’s client list included Russell Crowe, Meryl Streep, Sylvester Stallone, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Marlon Brando—so he had a long track record of picking the right roles for his stars. Lockhart worked with Liamto for more than a decade.

Related Posts:
Christopher Lockhart Interview (Part 1)
Christopher Lockhart Interview (Part 2)
Christopher Lockhart Interview (Part 3)
Christopher Lockhart Interview (Part 4)
Christopher Lockhart Interview (Part 5)
“The Inside Pitch”
40 Days of Emotions
Writing Quote #22 (Dara Marks)

Remembering Ed Limato by Christopher Lockhart


Scott W. Smith

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