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Posts Tagged ‘You Tube’

“Science has failed this world.”
From the H+ trailer

“Humanity goes offline. Survival goes on.”
Tagline on H+: The Digital Series website

Back in the good old days of 2005 a new website emerged on the Internet called You Tube. The user-generated website quickly became a place to upload everything from young people lip-syncing songs, to dogs chasing their tails, to teenagers complaining about their parents. A year after it was launched Google bought You Tube for $1.65 billion. A good return on the initial $11 million investment.

I remember in 2007 trying to convince a client to put a video we produced on You Tube and them saying, “We don’t want to be associated with that.”

Fast forward to today—August 8, 2012—a whole seven years after the first short video aired on You Tube and see how the website has evolved. Is there any group, any brand, any business, any company, any politician who doesn’t want to be assoicated with You Tube? You Tube has launched careers. Where would Justin Bieber be today without You Tube? It’s even damaged a few careers. The bottom line it has impacted our culture and its influence can’t be ignored.

Today happens to be the launch of  H+:The Digital SeriesA big budget series developed specifically for You Tube. In a day and age when more people would rather give up their TVs than their computer, this appears to be a glimpse into the future. And the producers are not just looking at a North America audience.

“Through YouTube we have a potential worldwide base far greater than any other content platform. I want anyone with an internet connection to be able to experience this world.”
Producer Byran Singer
Indiewire article by Valentina Valentini

Yes, that’s the same Bryan Singer  who directed The Usual Suspects and X-Men. We’re a long way the “Evolution of Dance” and “Charlie bit my finger.”

 “When you watch something on TV or in a theater, you have to wait to go to the fan boards to speculate. The YouTube channel platform allows us to centralize the viewing experience so the audience can simultaneously watch, comment, question, and even re-watch along with a worldwide audience.”
Bryan Singer

That quote would make David Lynch roll over in his grave—if he were dead. Lynch has been vocal against movies being watched on cell phones. I can’t imagine he’d like the idea of people commenting and interacting with each other during one of his movies.

Commenter 1: That is one ugly dude
Commenter 2: They need to apologize to elephants for calling him the elephant man
Commenter 3: LOL
Commenter 4: I know what I’m wearing next Halloween
Commenter 2: You’ll have a better chance at picking up a girl

No one said the future would look pretty. (In fact, can you think of any futuristic film where the future looks bright? Mad Max, Logan’s Run, Blade Runner, Metropolis, Children of Men, Fahrenheit 451. )

I don’t know how many viewers H+ will get today but I’m going to put Lynch down as a no-show. Will you be watching? Personally, I’m interested in seeing what the future looks like.

P.S. If you want some positive news for the future, I think these kinds of online shows will grow. And they’ll need screenwriters, directors, actors—the whole nine yards. Who knows what You Tube will look like in seven more years? Perhaps something like what Steven Spielberg predicted way back in 1999:

“I think that the Internet is going to effect the most profound change on the entertainment industries combined. And we’re all gonna be tuning into the most popular Internet show in the world, which will be coming from some place in Des Moines. We’re all gonna be on the Internet trying to find an audience.”
(Steven Spielberg in interview with Katie Couric on the NBC Today Show in 1999/ From the post Screenwriting Outside L.A. 101)

Scott W. Smith

 

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“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.”
President Obama
State of the Union Address 1/25/11
(Referencing the Soviet’s rocket launch in 1957 which fueled the USA in the space race.)

“The piece of advice that Walter Gretzky gave (his son) Wayne Gretzky was this…’don’t go where the puck’s been, go where it’s gonna to be.’ The philosophy was simple, if you puck chase you’re always going to be behind the game…You want to be the person that’s where the puck’s going to be.”
Filmmaker Kevin Smith
Sundance 2011

Back in the good old days of 1994 filmmaker Kevin Smith sold his $27,000 film Clerks at Sundance. A year later Edward Burns’ $25,000 film The Brothers McMullen was sold. Both Smith and Burns have continued carving out careers since that time and if you want to see which way the wind is blowing take a look at the direction they are heading as independent filmmakers.

A few months ago Burns’ self-produced Nice Guy Johnny (for again $25,000) and released it on iTunes. And earlier this week Kevin Smith announced that for his latest film, The Red State, he will not be selling the film at Sundance, but instead self-distributing the film first taking it on the road to large venues across the county where he will be speaking after showing the film.

His rational is he has a large fan base that follow his podcasts, Twitter feeds, etc. and he (or a studio) doesn’t need to spend $20 million advertising the film. We’ll see how it plays out. But it’s a good indicator of where the puck is heading for one group of filmmakers.

If you wanted to pinpoint indie film’s modern Sputnik moment I think it’s fitting to point to 1999 when The Blair Witch Project showed Hollywood the power of the internet. More than 10 years later we live in a digital world that has altered the music industry and now well into altering the film and Tv industry.

Five years ago we were watching poor quality short videos on You Tube and today you can stream feature films in high quality directly to your computer or TV via Netflix or the like. It’s no surprise that the last Blockbuster video store in my area announced this month that it was going out of business (following Hollywood Video stores that are long gone).

If independent filmmakers can raise their own money, make their own films AND can control the distribution—that is truly independent filmmaking. It’s a new game for filmmakers everywhere—from LA, to Iowa, and even the former Soviet Union. Heck, I can even see hockey great Walter Gretzky making his own films with his actress wife Janet Jones. (Still remember her role in The Flamingo Kid.)

The old Hollywood expression was it takes an army to make a film, these days you just need a camera—and an army of Twitter/Facebook/You Tube followers interested in the stories you tell. (Some of them won’t just be watching your films, but helping you raise funds as well.)

P.S. Speaking of Sundance & the Internet, I received a form email today from Oscar-winning director Kevin MacDonald saying, “Today we are unveiling Life in a Day at Sundance for the film’s World Premiere. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you for participating in this extraordinary experience….” I was part of the You Tube community who on July 21, 2010 submitted one of the 80,000 clips that they were gathering for a 90 minute film. (Edited down from 4,500 hours of footage. So close. I can always say, “I was this close to having a film in Sundance this year”.)  It will be interesting to see the final film.  Here’s a teaser:

Scott W. Smith

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“The world needs a new culture around creativity…Being Creative makes this planet a better place.”
Chase Jarvis

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”
Genesis 1

About ten years ago I read a Tom Peters quote that off the top of my head was something like;  “Sometimes to rejuvenate yourself creatively, you need to move to another climate or another culture.” Seven years ago I moved to Iowa (“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by”—Frost) and that has made all the difference. Long story short, it turned out to be the change I needed to rejuvenate myself creatively. In a sense it was a step back from the track I had been on.

I had been on the traditional track, doing traditional things, with a traditional mindset. Even the places I lived were somewhat traditional for somebody with a creative mindset—Miami, Los Angeles, Orlando. And along the way I got to work with some good people on good productions, traveled a good bit, and kept up with the creative changes by embracing new technology as it came my way, like shooting stills and video digitally and going from editing film on a Steenbeck flatbed to editing with an AVID. (And now FCP, Motion, Soundtrack, etc., etc.)

But I ways also looking for something different. Something that tapped into that creative ideal I had when I was 18-years-old. Along the way I was also reading Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, and Seth Godin. Turns out the same people Chase Jarvis*, a Seattle-based photographer, has been reading. Jarvis is a piece of the puzzle of bridging the gap between the old traditional creative guard and a new way of doing things that is well on its way. This new thing, this wave of change, Jarvis calls “social art.”

What is social art? Jarvis says, “I can’t say exactly what it is, but I can tell you that it’s creating content and context. It’s interdisciplinary, it’s participatory, it’s interactive, and it’s symbiotic. Everybody can win. Most importantly I think social art is incomplete if there’s not another person on the end of the pipe in some way, shape or form participating in that art with you. “ (Have you ever written a screenplay that didn’t get produced? Yeah, me too. That’s a good example of an incomplete art.)

Social art could be a communal dinner where someone is sharing their art of cooking, while another is sharing a song, and others are showing photographs, paintings, and films. What a wonderful world, right?

And despite all of the negativity associated with the Internet there is an amazing amount of sharing of creative content. Dare I say communities connecting via Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and the like. Today people are connecting and freely sharing information with the same zeal that the old tradional guard tried to hide.

Last week Jarvis spoke in New York City at the Photo Plus Expo and said, “I’m asking you to put yourself at the center of a new art, a social art where you’re creating something and sharing it with those around you…Take more picture, be fearless, put yourself out there, shoot more films, build tools—the iPhone app is a great tool, and educate. At the end of the day what I’m talking about is the democratization of creativity.”

It’s an exciting time to be in the creative arts. I have a first hand view of young creative people (some with no traditional arts education) who are carving out niches taking pictures, producing music videos, making films, painting, creating animation, and designing graphics and websites. And they’re earning a living not even aware of the fading traditional way of doing things.

“This is the most exciting time in the history of the world to be a photographer…It’s the first time in the history of the world that content creators are also distributors. Anybody in this room, if you took a picture of me in the hallway you have— within five minutes—you can have a blog, a Facebook account, Twitter and be sharing your work. The content creators are the content distributors. And the best thing about this is we don’t have to ask anybody’s permission.

Until now everything previous to this you had to have permission if you wanted to show your work on any sort of scale. Sure you could show your work to your friends, you could walk around New York with a portfolio, walk into five ad agencies in a day, sure—that’s that scale. You needed permission from the gallerist, you needed permission from the magazine editor, the photo editor, you needed to get tapped, selected by the ad agency to be able to show your work on any sort of scale. Those days are over. Any person in here can share what they create, with scale, right now.”
Chase Jarvis
PDN PhotoPlusNewYork

This may not be the most exciting time in the history of the world to be a traditional screenwriter. But to be a screenwriter with a “social art” mindset it’s an incredible time. Imagine writing a script, doing an online reading, gathering a following, rasing money through a Kickstarter campaign, making your film, generating interest via your blog,  and distributing it via DVD sales on your website and iTunes rentals and sales. That is not the future, these are tools that are at your disposal right now.

Over the weekend we’ll look at how writer/director/actor Edward Burns is a great model for independent filmmakers. For his latest film,  Nice Guy Johnny, Edwards is both the creator and the distributor.

*Jarvis has a blog and you can follow him on Twitter @chasejarvis.

Scott W. Smith

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Have you ever seen a one-legged dog making its way down the street?
If you’ve ever seen a one-legged dog then you’ve seen me
Then you’ve seen me, I come and stand at every door
Then you’ve seen me, I always leave with less than I had before
Bruce Springsteen
The Wrestler

“Credit card debt is a major problem in America.”
Dave Ramsey
The Truth About Credit Card Debt


Americans love a good success story. We love good myths as well.  And the model of financing your film via credit cards has given us some wonderful success stories and a myth as well.  The truth is most credit card  filmmakers (99% would be a good guess) are like the one-legged dog that Springsteen sings about in The Wrestler—they leave with less than they had before. And the one thing worse than being broke, is being in debt.

The problem is we usually only hear the success stories. Robert Townsend was the first person I ever heard about who financed a feature film using credit cards. Back in 1987 Hollywood Shuffle was released and it launched his career.

“There was nothing I couldn’t get with a credit card. And what I couldn’t pay for with credit card I would get a cash advance on the credit card. I couldn’t pay people but I said, ‘I could put gas in your car.’ So I said, ‘All of you follow me to the gas station. I would tell the dealer, ‘See those 20 cars out there? Put it on my American Express.”
Robert Townsend
Jet magazine Jun 1, 1987

Kevin Smith’s Clerks is another film said to be funded on credit cards. Again, it launched a career. The documentary Spellbound was not only nominated for an Academy Award  but grossed over six million dollars and was funded by credit cards.

“We hit the road, using our credit cards to fund the project. Then we’d come home between shooting the film, pay down some of the debt and resume shooting,”
Spellbound producer Sean Welch in a Money magazine article.

So there you have three examples of success stories that solidify the myth of credit card filmmaking. But the truth is best summed up in a Charles Lyons 2005 article in The New York Times called Join a Revolution. Make Movies. Go Broke. Seriously, every filmmaker needs to read that article. Arin Crumley and Susan Buice were filmmaking darlings five years ago as their film Four Eyes Monsters was well received at film festivals and garnered lots of press. But the film did not find a distributor and left Crumley and Buice with $55,000.+ in credit card debt.

“It’s not O.K. for our film to have been mildly successful on the festival circuit. But otherwise, it was just a jaunt into the abyss and now we have financial hell to pay.”
Susan Buice (2005)

Filmmakers using credit cards to self-finance their films is another reason why Kelley Baker is The Angry Filmmaker;

“Too many people finance their films on credit cards, and they go broke! Their films end up not getting a distributor and they’re left paying 30% interest on a film that no one wants. Heed the words of noted financial consultant and former NBA player Charles Barkley, ‘Credit cards exist to keep poor people poor.’

DON’T USE YOUR DAMN CREDIT CARDS FOR ANYTHING!!!”
Kelley Baker
The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide

With that said, Four Eyed Monsters filmmakers Crumley and Buice got creative and kept finding ways to get people to see their film. One of them was in 2007 when their film became the first feature length film to be shown on You Tube. As I write this on October 29, 2010 there have been 1,256,401 views. They also made a plea on You Tube for people to join spout.com and that company would give Crumley and Brice $1 for each person who joins up to $100,000. Fast forward a few years and I read on the blog Distribution 2.0 that Crumley and Buice got $50,000. from the You Tube/Spout deal, and that exposure not only added DVD sales, but the online attention got them a $100,000 broadcast and rental deal. Does that add to the credit card myth or fall under the category of a crazy success story?

The entire film is linked below. (As a quirky side note, A few years ago I did a documentary shoot in Russia with DP Jon Fordham who was a cameraman on Four Eyed Monsters.)

Scott W. Smith


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“I was really beginning to question if I’d ever catch my proverbial big break. I drifted away from film work and started applying for police jobs.”
Chris Sparling, Buried screenwriter

“(Chris Sparling) went directly from struggling indie director to successful Hollywood scribe when the screenplay for his horror thriller Buried was picked up, cast with a major up-and-coming star, and thrown before the cameras in just six months. And now it’s receiving its U.S. première at the Sundance Film Festival.
Melissa Silvstri
Filmmaker Magazine Winter 2010

Until this morning I had never seen or heard the name Chris Sparling. Then I read on Scott Myers’ screenwriting blog (Go Into The Story) about a movie Sparling wrote called Buried that sold at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival for between $3 & $4 million. Sparling is from Providence, Rhode Island and has made short films and one low-budget independent feature five years ago that had little distribution.

He was looking to write a movie that could be shot quickly and cheaply when he stumbled upon the idea for Buried.

“Stealing a page from Hitchcock’s playbook, I decided on writing a story that takes place entirely in one small location. In my case, this was inside an old, wooden coffin.”
Chris Sparling

While his sudden rise is rare, the process that he took to be a screenwriter in demand is a familiar story. One of dedication and hard work.

Sparling was asked in an interview with Carson Reeves at Script Shadow, “How many scripts had you written before Buried? Which script did you realize that maybe you were getting the hang of it?” Sparling said, “Before Buried, I think I’d written about nine or ten features and two TV specs. Truth be told, it didn’t start to click for me until about my seventh feature script.”

I think to pull off writing a 90 minute story in a coffin one has to have a solid handle on the craft of screenwriting. You have to think that having a story set in a coffin would cut down on crew, cast, wardrobe,  lighting, etc.. The film was directed by Rodrigo Cortes and shot in 21 days in Barcelona, Spain. With Ryan Reynolds in the lead role it couldn’t have be too low a budget film.

Renyolds plays a  U.S.  contract driver in Iraq who is attacked and placed in a coffin with a flashlight, a cell phone and a lighter and must find someone to pay a million dollar ransom or he’ll soon die. A primal survival story reminscent of low-budget success stories of past years; The Blair Witch Project, Open Water and Paranormal Activity.

Is there a Midwest angle? Of course.  The character Renyolds plays says that he’s from Hastings, Michigan. Below is the promo for the movie that is said to being released this spring. If you do a little homework you can find a version of the script online.

Scott W. Smith

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Screenwriting from Iowa, huh?

That’s how I started my first blog two years ago today. The first time I had ever posted anything anywhere. I started out in 2008 writing two or three times a week with posts between 1,000-2,000 words. Really, mini essays. In 2009 I shifted over to daily post usually under 500 words and sometimes just a quote.

The results of the shorter daily post were a double number of views. Now for 2010 how can I fine tune it a little to be more helpful? I welcome any suggestions, but on Monday I’m planning at least one new twist.

Looking back on the last two years there have been a lot of changes. Just in the original 2008 post I see where I quote Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. He left that gig, but is now on his way back. I mentioned Kevin Bacon & John Edwards who have both had significant reversal. Bacon losing a sizable amount of money in the Madoff scam, and Edwards–who was a presidential candidate in ’08–has since fathered a baby with a woman who is not his wife.

And for a couple years there was actually a relative boom in features being made in Iowa due to Film Incentives which were recently discontinued because of mismanagement and accusations of fraud by recipients. The economy has gone into a deeper recession and the US is still in Iraq (and now back in Afghanistan). The Internet continues to change the life in general, and the media specifically. Most noticeably the decline of newspapers and magazines as readers look elsewhere for their news and information.

And just has Hollywood box office seemed in decline, James Cameron lead the charge for ’09 to be the best ever dollar intake in movie history. But from a production side, perhaps the biggest change in the past two years is the rise of people everywhere making films and videos. Fifteen years ago secretaries became graphic designers as Photoshop became a common tool. Now Final Cut Pro, digital cameras, and You Tube have opened the door for the production pyramid to be much bigger.

But there is still a pyramid with the best talent at the top and the beginners at the bottom. There are still fine films being made and a larger crop of junk being produced. All in all, it’s an exciting time to be in production. One thing I’m sure about more than when I started this blog two years ago is more and more people outside of the L.A. and the Hollywood system with continue to find ways to make better and better films and will continue to find distribution means to get people to watch there films (and hopefully recoup their funds and ideally make a little money to keep the train moving forward).

In the meantime, keep writing, networking and learning–because once the economy kicks back in there are going to be some crazy opportunities out there. Thanks for stopping by the blog. As the views continue to grow that is an encouragement to me to keep encouraging you in your creative journey. And just for nostalgia here is the very first post for “Screenwriting from Iowa…or wherever you live outside L.A,”

Life Beyond Hollywood (Original post on January 22, 2008)

Screenwriting from Iowa, huh?

No, it’s not a joke or an oxymoron.

Screenwriting from Iowa isn’t really just about Iowa or limited to screenwriting. But that is the starting point. And I hope this on-going blog encourages writers who feel like they live in the middle of nowhere. And if you hold on a moment you’ll learn that the hippest and hottest screenwriter in Hollywood today has some Iowa roots.

It’s ten degrees below zero and snowing as I begin this first blog compounding the barren wasteland fears people have about the state of Iowa. But I think you’ll be surprised at the creative talent growing beyond them there cornfields.

On January 3, 2008 all eyes were on Iowa (at least for a quick glance) as the first presidential caucuses took place. Jay Leno joked on The Tonight Show, “Many people don’t know this, but the word caucus is Indian for the one day anyone pays attention to Iowa.”

Iowa may not be New York or LA but where else can you see 13 presidential candidates up close within a ten-mile drive of your home as I did in the last couple months? There was plenty of drama, and enough material for a couple screenplays.

Iowa is a metaphor for any place that represents life beyond Hollywood. (That could be West Virginia, West Africa, or even West Covina.)   Iowa is where I live and write and is also a state that most people in the United States would have trouble pinpointing on a map. Quintessential “fly-over country.”  What good can come from Iowa? Can you get any further from Hollywood? You’d be surprised.

Forget that six degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon thing. Bacon was right here in Cedar Falls earlier this month stumping for presidential hopeful John Edwards.  Cedar Falls is also where Nancy Price wrote the novel that became the Julia Roberts’ film Sleeping with the Enemy, and where Robert Waller wrote the book that became the Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep film The Bridges of Madison County.

And since this is the first blog let me also mention that entertainment icons Johnny Carson & John Wayne were both born in Iowa. This site is dedicated seeing the depth of talent that can from a remote place and will provide you with practical advice on screenwriting and digital filmmaking.

As I write this, the independent film Juno continues its strong box office run and has already won the Critics’ Choice Award for screenwriter Diablo Cody.  (And I don’t think that will be the last award she wins.) Film critic Tom Long of the Detroit News wrote, “Juno’s the best movie of the year. It’s the best screenplay of the year, and it features the best actress of the year working in the best acted ensemble of the year.” Roger Ebert wrote, “The screenplay by first-timer Diablo Cody is a subtle masterpiece of construction…The Film has no wrong scenes and no extra scenes, and flows like running water.”

The 29-year-old Cody’s own life story of spending a year as a less than exotic dance in Minneapolis is well documented, bit to learn where she honed her writing skills we must go back a couple years to when she was a college student in…you guessed it, Iowa. The University of Iowa  in Iowa City has long been sacred writing grounds and home to one of the richest traditions in creative writing. Tennessee Williams and John Irving are among its alma mater.

“They have the writer’s workshop there. They have an undergraduate workshop, and I got in,” Cody said in this month’s Written By. “I focused mainly on poetry. I laugh about that now. I actually think it wound up helpful because as a poet you develop a certain efficiency with language that I think you use as a screenwriter.” (The entire article by Matt Hoey can be found at the Writer’s Guide of America’s website: www.wga.org/writtenby/writtenbysub.aspx?id=2693)

Though Cody couldn’t wait to get out of college she did earn a degree in media studies and was known for her excellent writing. And I believe that excellent writing will always be discovered wherever you live.

So over the course of this blog I will offer insights gleaned from my film school days, various workshops I attended and given, over 100 books read on writing and the creative process, as well as more than 20 years of experience as a video producer/director/writer (www.scottwsmith.com), and most importantly quotes from successful screenwriters.

Scott W. Smith

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If you think Iowa is a long way from Hollywood, where would you put Uruguay? Can you find it on a map? Which continent?

One thing is for sure, it’s a long way from Hollywood. Yet here is what Fede Alvarez says happened to him back in November after he posted an under five-minute video Araque de Panico! (Panic Attack!) on You Tube :

“I uploaded (Panic Attack!) on a Thursday and on Monday my inbox was totally full of e-mails from Hollywood studios.”

As of today the video has been viewed more than 5 million times and according to a BBC article, Alvarez has been offered a multimillion dollar contract to produce a sci-fi film.

“If some director from some country can achieve this just uploading a video to YouTube, it obviously means that anyone could do it.”
Fede Alvarez

Scott W. Smith

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Happy Thanksgiving.

Before I take a circuitous route to point out yet one more connection between Youngstown and Hollywood let me first thank everyone for reading this screenwriting blog as it’s given me much encouragement in my quest to post daily. It’s not easy to write something original daily and finding odd connections really is a fun part of the process. Today is a good example.

My favorite movie with a Thanksgiving theme is Pieces of April. Granted, I don’t think there is a long list of films with Thanksgiving themes. So let me add that it’s also one of my favorite low-budget films of all time.  Odd or relevant connection to Screenwriting from Iowa? Number one: Pieces of April writer/director Peter Hedges grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. Number Two: My recent posts have centered around Ohio, and Pieces of April stars Katie Holmes who grew up in Toledo.

But can I get from Toledo to Youngstown which has technically be the focus of recent blogs? Yes, but I have to take the indirect route via Cincinnati. Katie Holmes is married to Tom Cruise who lived for a time in Cincinnati as a teenager. The agent that got Cruise his breakout role in Risky Business was raised in Youngstown. That agent Paula Wagner, eventually became Cruise’s producing partner including all the Mission Impossible movies, Vanilla Sky and The Last Samurai.

What prepared Wagner to become one of the most powerful women in Hollywood?  Being born Paula Kaufman in Youngstown back in 1946 didn’t hurt. Just this month she returned to Youngstown for the first time in 30 years to give a talk at Youngstown State University and said, “I really attribute so much of what I’ve done to having grown up in this city…Youngstown is very much a part of me.”

Her father was a fighter pilot in World War II and also a prisoner of war, and went on to run a steel mill in Youngstown. “Youngstown was founded on steel and we all have a spine of steel,” said Wagner at her Youngstown talk. It was at the Youngstown Playhouse where Wagner began acting as a child. (The same place advertising giant Mary Wells began acting at age 5.) She was known as a talented actress at Hubbard High School and then earned a BFA in theater at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh (just a little over an hour’s drive from Youngstown).

Wagner performed on Broadway and off-Broadway before heading to Los Angeles with $500. to her name. She ended up being an agent at Creative Artists Agency where her clients included  Demi Moore, Val Kilmer and Oliver Stone. She formed Cruise/Wagner Productions in 1993 and the films they have produced together have earned around $3 billion at the box office.

And I thought it was impressive that former Youngstown resident and current producer/director/writer Chris Columbus (The Goonies, Home Alone, and the first two Harry Potter movies) had a box office total over $1 billion. Is there another small city in America where people raised there went on to have a key role in movies that have earned around $4 billion?

Most recently Wagner has started a new company Chestnut Ridge Productions and is slated to produce the film version of Miss Saigon. What’s the significance of the name of her new company? Guy D’Astolfo reports, “Paula Wagner’s Hollywood career has taken her around the world, but she keeps coming back to Chestnut Ridge. That’s the road she grew up on in Hubbard Township”

So if you’re a screenwriter from the Youngstown area use that back of steel to get connect with Wagner. Remember, there’s no place like home.

By the way, if you’d like to see what Youngstown looked like back around the time Wagner was born watch the 15 minute movie Steel Town that Mike Gaunter, a news producer in Youngstown sent my way via You Tube.

Scott W. Smith

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“It’s unbelievable we’ve been able to do something so big, so fast.”
Joe  Herber
Million dollar Doritos commercial winner in 2009

A lot has happened in the last 20 hours. Yesterday the world celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall. Where were you in 1989? Do you even recognize the world from 20 years ago? Even if you were five at the time you have to be amazed at the tremendous about of change in the world in the last two decades.

Sure we still have problems in the Middle East and with illegal drugs (heck, legal drugs) but 20 years ago there was no You Tube, no Facebook, no blogging, no Netflix, no Guitar Hero, and most people didn’t have cell phones, cable modems, and laptop computers. (If you haven’t seen Louis CK talking about “Everything’s amazing right now, and nobody’s happy” it’s worth a view.)

Several years ago I went to Berlin for a shoot and it was a magical time to drive around and take in the city. We stayed in a old hotel on the former East Berlin side and I wondered what it would have been like to have lived through communism all those years and then to experience that day when the world changed.

And since I like to point out big things coming from small places who would have thought that someone born in an apartment in Tampico, Illinos, raised in Dixon, Illinos, and got  his broadcasting career started Davenport, Iowa would have a role in the Berlin Wall coming down? But that was the route that Ronald Reagan took before becoming an actor in Hollywood and then later the President of the United States where he uttered one of the most famous presidential lines ever, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall.”

I’m not sure was Joe Cada was born yet when Reagan uttered those words, but the 21-year-old just a few hours ago became the youngest player to win the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.  As the AP reported he, “chose cards over college” and the youngster from Michigan won $8.55 million.

Part of what made that possible is the technology that I wrote about last year in a post called Screenwriting Las Vegas Style where Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker mostly just learning how to play online.  Cada is said to sometimes plays online in up to a dozen tournaments at the same time.

Around the same time Cada was earning his millions thousands of other hopeful creatives were attempting to win millions in this year’s Doritos Crash the Super Bowl challenge where anyone can submit a commercial in hopes of having their spot air  during the Super Bowl and have a chance at $5 million in prizes.

Last year the winners were brothers Dave & Joe Herbert, aspiring filmmakers from Batesville, Indiana, who made a commercial for less than $2,000 that rated more popular  in consumer ratings than all the big budget productions. They also won $1 million. Last night at midnight was the cut off to submit  videos and I produced one and gave another idea to some college kids who produced another one. We’ll see what happens.

All that to say it doesn’t matter whether you’re in Dixon, Illinos, Batesville, Indiana, Davenport, Iowa, Michigan or a small village in Germany there are opportunities out there for you to create some things that have an impact on the world stage. But it doesn’t hurt to first try them out at your local theater.

Scott W. Smith

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I want to feel, sunlight on my face
See that dust cloud disappear without a trace
I want to take shelter from the poison rain
Where the streets have no name
Bono/U2

I’m going to break up my posts on Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to point out the significance of the U2 concert last night that was live-streamed via You Tube to seven continents.

I’m sure we’ll hear in the coming days how many people participated in watching the concert online, but I’m guessing into the milions. I started just watching to see and hear the quality and to see if they could pull it off technologically. They did and I stuck around for the entire concert. It was a late night here in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

For the last four days I’ve been posting a mini history of the Hollywood film industry. They film industry is in a lull now connected to the economy and I wanted to show how it’s always been an industry in flux.

But there are new technologies emerging that will provide many opportunities related to how we shoot and view movies and other forms of entertainment. Last night’s concert was a tour de force of current technologies mixed with great talent and creative energies giving us a foretaste of what is to come.
As a personal side note the concert brought back a few memories of my L.A. days back in the 80s when I did several photography, film and video shoots at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena where the concert was held last night. The concert itself reminded me of Bruce Springsteen’s last Born in the U.S.A. concert at the L.A. Coliseum back in ’85 which I attended with around 100,000 other people.

And as Bono started into The Streets Have No Name I couldn’t help but recall a missed opportunity. I was a writer/director/cameraman and editor with a Burbank production company when their Joshua Tree album came out. On the morning of March 27, 1987 we got wind that U2 was going to be playing on a rooftop in downtown L.A. and thought that would be pretty cool to shoot and experience. Then we decided we didn’t want to deal with all the traffic and the crowd. Watch the You Tube video below to see the security risks involved. The police were doing their job, and the rockers were doing theirs. (Also this was back in MTV’s heyday when record labels dropped a lot of money producing music videos. One more example of how things change.)

Sure wish I would have gone. Life is full of regret and missed opportunities and what I’ve been trying to show in the last couple days and will show in the days to come is that the film industry has been through many bumpy roads in the past but there are new opportunities coming— but it’s going to require you embracing a new way of doing things.

Just keep in mind that five years ago You Tube hadn’t even launched. Can you even imagine what kinds of distribution channels there will be five years from now?

Scott W. Smith

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