Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another win for my screenplay.

I was very happy last month to win "Best Dramatic Short" at the Action on Film International Film Festival in Pasadena. I was really hoping to get to attend this years event as the festival has grown over the last couple of years and is fast becoming a premier west coast festival. Heck, I was even in California with my family for nearly two weeks before the festival, but we had to fly home the day of the Writers Awards dinner.

Fourtunately for me, Holly Hughes, a high school friend living in the Los Angeles area, was happy to attend the dinner in my stead. Thankfully, of the four nominations my script received, it won one! Holly called me after the dinner and made my day! Or should I say night. Our plane had literally just landed and it was nearly midnight when the phone rang. Holly enjoyed the awards dinner and festival experience and I got another pat on the back that I'm doing something right in my efforts to learn screen writing. The ride across the Causeway at midnight was a good one, even as the hours of travel were catching up with me.

Now....if I can just come up with that feature screenplay....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Short sceenplay "A Night Full of Blues" garners my first win.

I've been attempting to write screenplays for about three years now.  After an aborted attempt to scribe a feature length comedy, I made a decision to try to write a really solid crime noir short. I suceeded somewhat and got good feedback from a couple of actors and writers here in the New Orleans area. My first short was a 25 page story, "The Caper",  about three New Orleans low lifes who decide to pull off an ill conceived heist. After I polished it up, I submitted the script to seven screenwriting competitions to see if I could get some feedback from people who read a lot of scripts. "The Caper" received "Official Selections" in four competitions and the script was a finalist at the 2008 Vail Film Festival in the short screenplay competition. This limited success prompted me to write another short to continue my efforts to learn the craft of screenwriting.

Last year, after a multitude of re-writes, and some sage advice on the ending from my good friend Holly Hughes out in California, I finished a 20 page short titled, "A Night Full of Blues". This script is set in a small juke joint in 1954 Mississippi and tells the story of two brothers wrapped up in racism and blues music. Again the story was well received by my friends in the New Orleans acting community and I decided to fork over a few more dollars to get some feedback/coverage from a few film festivals and screenwriting competitions. I submitted this one to nine festivals and so far it has been an "Official Selection" in three and is currently a quarterfinalist in the highly regarded "FadeIn Magazine" scriptwriting competition.

The good news is, the script actually won for "Best Short Screenplay" at the 2010 Bare Bones Film Festival in Oklahoma! I was very pleased to see at least someone out there thought the script was above average!
I know that Oklahoma isn't the hotbed of screenwriting and movie making, but I have enjoyed the accolade and it has given me some validation that I can write a decent feature length script if I work hard at it.

I have three or four good story ideas for my next script which will definately be a feature. I hope that I have learned enough over the last three years to be able to put down enough words in the right order to make 120 pages of a good story!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Delicious Hidden Gem on Magazine Street!

Ok, so its been a little while since I've posted on here. I've been busy! Plus, I really didn't have much to write about. But, this Friday evening, my wife Cindy and I had the great pleasure of attending the opening of the theater production of "Wicked" down in New Orleans. It was a terrific play with a wonderfully talented cast. We stayed in the city over night and then on a suggestion from a friend, had brunch on Magazine Street at a funky little place by the name of Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar.

It was nice to get away from the French Quarter and all of the restaurants that cater to the tourists. I have to say, it wasn't much to look at from the outside, but its one of those smaller old historic houses you see in the Garden District and  Uptown New Orleans that just look so cool when kept up. We got there around 11 and the place was packed with locals. Our wait was 20 minutes and we shared the side walk (no room to wait inside) with some young twenty somethings and their dog, an African-American couple and their small daughter and a group of ladies who were heading further down Magazine to do some shopping after lunch. We also realized that the space above the restaurant is small apartments. While we were waiting, one of the tenants came out of the door adjacent to the restaurants front door carrying his laundry in a large basket. His car was right there curbside, so he loaded in the basket and took off down the street to his local laundromat!

Once we entered the place, we realized how small it really was. It probably only seats around forty-five to fifty people at a time. The walls are covered with funky art work, photos and even a mannequin in a hammock! The menu is robust with an emphasis on breakfast foods and sandwiches. Many of the choices are on the very healthy side too! They also have a wide variety of fresh squeezed juices. They only catch here is they only take good ole cold cash! That's right, no checks and no plastic! Not convenient, but its ok if you know that before you get there!

Since we were there for brunch, we decided to go with the breakfast menu rather than a sandwich. I chose the Bananas Foster French Toast. This is a great dish! The toast is actually french bread sliced thickly, filled with cream cheese and bananas, topped with rum sauce and powdered sugar. A side of creamy grits and a side of bacon a few cups of coffee and a glass of Orange/Mango/Pineapple juice topped off a wonderful meal. Cindy had the Eggs and Salmon. She said it was a delightful mix of spices, eggs and a good helping of tasty salmon. She also added the cheese grits, coffee and juice.

We both really enjoyed the food, atmosphere and service at this funky little hidden gem. So next time you're in the city and are looking for a truly local place to have breakfast or lunch, forget the chains or busy tourist haunts and give Surrey's a try! I think you'll enjoy it as much as we did!

 You can check out the restaurant at their web page here Surrey's Cafe and Juice Bar

One disclaimer....and I only found this out AFTER we ate there, Surrey's may not be quite as "hidden" as we thought. The restaurant was actually in the film "Failure to Launch" starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker. It's also been highly reviewed/recommended by GQ Magazine, The Times-Picayune and featured on the TV series "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" on the Food Network. So maybe "hidden gem" doesn't quite fit Surrey's.....but DELICIOUS sure does!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Super Saints!

It's been five days since the New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 44. I think I've calmed down enough now to write a few words about this historic event.

First let me say, I was a bit surprised. I knew the Saints would play their hearts out and keep the game close, but  I actually thought the Colts would come out victorious. I know, I know, I should have had faith. I should have believed in this team. I did, all year long! I just figured the fairy tale would end on the field in Miami with Peyton Manning directing the Colts passing game to a slim victory over the Saints. Man, I'm glad I was wrong! When Tracey Porter stepped in front of that Manning pass and high stepped his way into the end zone, I screamed at the top of my voice, "It's over! Saints win the Super Bowl!" After that I was kind of in shock.

I'm not going to recap the entire game, we all saw it, at least most of the country did. The game set a television record for the most viewers ever. It knocked off the 1983 series finale of the great M*A*S*H, with over 106 million households tuning in to see if the once lowly Saints franchise could step on the NFL's biggest stage and make history.

The energy that is pulsing through New Orleans and the entire gulf south region is amazing! As fans of this team, we know the Saints have become tightly woven  into the fabric of this city and region for the last forty plus years. Now the rest of the world can see that as well. They can see it in the faces of the fans that made the trip to Miami and attended the Super Bowl, in the joyous revelers partying on Bourbon Street, the jubilation of fans in the still hurting 9th ward, the elation along the still unrecognizable Mississippi gulf coast and the celebrations of the Who Dats's going on in cities like Houston, Memphis, Atlanta and other cities where huge blocks of Katrina exiles now call home. The energy has indeed reached across the nation.

The Black and Gold "Bless You Boys" have given this city more than they may ever realize. It's not a stretch to say they have given the city its pride back. They have brought joy to people who at times thought they may never experience happiness again. They brought much needed positive exposure to a region still reeling from a natural disaster that has made the region unattractive to business and investors. This team has given the city its soul back. New Orleans, although still in need, has come full circle since Katrina blasted through the region and caused the levees to send the waters of Lake Pontchartrain surging through the Big Easy. All this thanks to a group of hard nosed, tough as nails, New Orleans loving football players!

Finally, my family and I were able to witness first hand this wonderful exuberance Tuesday afternoon. We made our way through the gridlock of traffic from the Northshore where we live, down into the city. A trip that normally takes forty-five minutes took us over two hours. But it was worth it. We stood amongst the throngs of revelers on Poydras Street in front of the Super Dome and celebrated "Lombardi Gras"! The city leaders and the Times -Picayune proclaimed Tuesday February 9th as "Dat Tuesday"! The fans didn't care what it was called, they just wanted to celebrate this amazing season with their beloved Saints in the best way they know how, a Mardi Gras style parade! And what a parade it was! From the first float carrying owner Tom Benson and his wife, to MVP Drew Brees on his Bacchus ride, to Garret Hartley signing autographs from atop the huge shoe float, to the final jewel of of a float with coach Sean Payton still waving the gleaming Lombardi Trophy to the screaming crowd! What an evening! What a team! What a city!

Can I get a "Who Dat?"

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mardi Gras and The Saints!

Beer, check. Chips and dip, check. More beer, check. Little smokies, check. 50" Plasma TV, check. Did I get any beer? Oh yeah, check! Ok, I'm ready for Super Bowl 44!

In two days my New Orleans Saints will take on Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the big game. It will be the first Super Bowl appearance for the Saints franchise and it will be smack dab in the middle of the start of Mardi Gras! Wow, what a party this city and the gulf south region is in for! From Mobile to Lafayette, from Jackson, MS to Grand Isle the "Who Dat" nation is preparing for a Super Bowl party unlike any ever seen in the south.

The parades are rolling already and black and gold throws are all the rage. More so than at anytime before, anything with a Fleur De Lis is a prized possession this Mardi Gras season. Every newspaper article and TV story about a parade includes at least one reference to the glorious Saints season and the love the city and region has for the team! The parade goers are decked out in Brees, Shockey, Sharper and Bush jersies or the prolific Who Dat shirts, hats and purses. Elementary children are having Saints parades around the parking lots of their schools and every bar, hotel, flower shop, car dealership and liquor stores are allowing their employees to sport their Saints swag during the work week.

It has been a long strange trip from the Saints inaugural 1967 season to the 2010 Super Bowl, but if you ask most Saints fans today, they will tell you its all been worth it. From the hapless early years of expansion, to the hope of Archie Manning, to the bag wearing 'Aints fans. From the Dome Patrol to the Bless You Boys and the current golden age of the Who Dats of Sean Peyton and Drew Brees. Throughout it all, Saints fans have remained a loving and loyal bunch. The entire state has always been enamored with the team from day one and over the years they have become the team of an entire region. So it seems so fitting that such a magical Super Bowl season should culminate during Mardi Gras.

If the Saints pull off the upset and are crowned the NFL's best, the city will celebrate like no other city ever has for their Super Bowl Champions! But, I don't think it will matter one bit if the Saints win or lose, this city and these fans will continue to revel in this wonderful season and the amazing relationship of this team and their loyal followers.

Thanks you Saints! Bless You Boys! Geaux Saints! Who Dat!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Southern Writers

As a southerner, I'm always proud to hear people from around the country talking about the history of great southern writers. Being from Mississippi, I'm always particularly proud when I hear William Faulkner and Eudora Welty extolled as two of the finest writers to come out of the tradition of southern writers. But too often it's those two giants along with Mark Twain, Tennessee Williams, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Margret Mitchell, Robert Penn Warren and Thomas Wolfe that are the main authors included in the discussion. Now, I would never argue the merits of these wonderful writers, all are more than worthy of the highest praise we can give them. All have various styles but yet retain their true southernness regardless of their subject. (With the possible exception of Capote) But most of these great authors, especially Faulkner, have been relegated to being enjoyed only in high school and collegiate class rooms. The thought of a teenager today intentionally picking up As I Lay Dying or Absalom, Absalom to read without it being a course requirement stretches the imagination. Sure, there are many teenage girls that will probably endeavor to read Margaret Mitchell's masterpiece Gone With the Wind, but most will probably prefer to watch Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh spar on DVD. And who could blame them, it's a terrific piece of cinematic history. But it's still not as good as the book.

Sadly this is typical of todays teens and in fact a lot of Americans. Reading a novel or collection of short stories is far down the list for most Americans in the fast paced Twenty-First Century world. But in a Harris Poll from 2008, over one-third, 37% to be exact, claimed to read over ten books a year! That's wonderful news to my ears. I average about 14 and encourage my kids to read at least a book a month. I grew up being encouraged to read by my parents and have always enjoyed the great pleasure I derive from getting lost in a book or story. I find reading possibly the most rewarding hobby I have.

So what's the point to this blog you ask? Well I'll tell you. There are many, many more fine writers in or from the south today. Many are far more "accessible" to the general reading public as well. Obviously names like John Grisham, Pat Conroy, Tom Wolfe, Cormac McCarthy and Anne Rice are world renowned, but there are others that should be as well known. I thought I'd share a few of my favorites that if you, like me, enjoy reading, then you should check them out.

Now I'll make no claim that the following writers are "literary giants" like the ones I've listed above, but if you enjoy reading stories set in the south or with a southern twist, that are not difficult reads, then I highly recommend these fine authors.

1. James Lee Burke - Ok, so Mr. Burke is a well known commodity in some circles, but it still amazes me that more people from LOUISIANA don't know who this gifted writer is. Sure, I know his novels are mostly crime fiction, but the man writes like a painter. You can smell the damp humus of the Louisiana swamps and feel the deep orange sunsets as he weaves his prose through the pages. His novels have not translated well to the big screen, but skip those and go straight to the novels. Recommended: Neon Rain, Black Cherry Blues, A Morning For Flamingos

2. Greg Iles - A fellow Mississippi native, Iles stunned me with his debut novel Spandau Phoenix, a story based on the mysterious story that Nazi commander Rudolph Hess flew to Britain during WWII to meet with and possible provide information to the British. Greg's more recent books are all set in or near his home town of Natchez, Ms. He writes tight stories that make Natchez, New Orleans and Mississippi major characters in his work. He has not allowed himself to become formulaic in his stories and has stretched himself  as a writer in some of his more ambitious tales. Recommended: Spandau Phoenix, Mortal Fear, Dead Sleep

3. Stephen Hunter - Most folks consider Maryland in the south, I don't. But for today's exercise I'll include it because I love Hunters work! He's a well known movie critic, but has made his bones as a writer of tough guy novels with his main characters Bob Lee and Earl Swagger. His stories are not all set in the south, but his characters retain that southern culture wherever he may base them. Recommended: Dirty White Boys, Hot Springs, Pale Horse Coming

4. Steve Berry - Berry writes what I call historical mystery novels. Most of his stories are based on some well known historical unsolved mysteries that his characters look to solve. He writes nice fluid stories interwoven with true historical fact and characters beside his fictional plots and twists. He doesn't write traditional southern stories, but since he's a writer I like and from the great southern state of Georgia, he's on my list. Recommended: The Amber Room, The Romanov Prophecy, The Charlemagne Pursuit

Others to check out: Fannie Flagg (Fried Green Tomatoes), Ace Atkins, Tom Robbins, Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees), Richard Ford, Tim Gautreaux, Ernest Gaines, Nevada Barr, 

I hope you will look to grab a novel by one of these fine writers in the near future. Happy New Year and happy reading!

Friday, January 8, 2010

New blogger

Ok, I have finally decided to begin blogging. Why? I have no idea. I write screenplays, short stories and have even tried my hand at song lyrics. So why I think I have time to blog is a mystery to me.

I have opinions on lots of things ranging from music to sports, politics to movies and travel to books. I figure I can find a few topics to write about, even if its only to entertain myself.

For those of you that don't know me, I'll give you the brief low down.

My name is Scott. I'm a mid-forties, middle class, Mississippi born, Christian white guy, living in southern Louisiana in the shadows of New Orleans. I have a wonderful family including my lovely wife and two amazing boys. I love to write, read, ride my motorcycle, play golf, tennis and practice karate. I have various interests in art, old cars, movies (watching and writing them), Southern Miss football, Saints football, poker, history, conspiracy theories, unsolved mysteries and paranormal stuff. Weird huh?

Anyway, I may toss around some thoughts on any of these subjects as well any other strange or mundane topics that may peak my interest at a certain moment.

So I hope I can write something that may entertain others as well as myself, but if not....oh well.

Thanks for checking me out. I already have an idea for my first topic, so check back soon.