Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Books (Page 1 of 19)

Two Screenplay Wins for THE COLOR OF EVIL

Just received word that my screenplay based on Book #1 of THE COLOR OF EVIL trilogy (series) has won another Los Angeles Screenplay competition, this time the L.A. Edge Film Awards. Having also just gone out to see “Hereditary” with Toni Collette, which I will review momentarily, I want to quote the June 18th issue of “Time” magazine which heralded “Hereditary” as “among the films forming the swell of a new wave in horror, pictures that are smart, subtle and artfully made.”

The article goes on to say that this is not to put down the “Saw” or “Halloween” more overtly horrific films of yesteryear, but that those who say they don’t “like” horror movies means “you have haven’t met the right one yet.”

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SXSW proved this to be true with the smash opening of “A Quiet Place,” which, in Mexico, they described as “alien on a farm.” My interview with the two young writers of that film (Scott Beck and Bryan Woods) convinced me that I should go home and write a screenplay based on THE COLOR OF EVIL, which I did in 3 weeks, while reviewing SXSW.

My script (whose ending I reworked 3 separate times) was checked over by producer John Crye for content and looked over for formatting errors (up to page 57, anyway) by founder of the Chicago Screenwriting School and AFI Film School graduate Dan Decker and then off it went to many festivals, which are now weighing in on (yet another) horror film that taps into the zeitgest of the nation right now. It has won two, is a Finalist in several, and is running above a 75% acceptance rate. (Woot!)

CONGRATULATIONS!

We would like to thank you for participating in The LA Edge Film Awards. There were a.lot of great submissions. It was very difficult to choose this month, but we are now excited & proud to announce the winners for MAY 2018!

Best Narrative Feature

It’s Just a Game
by Wilder Troxell
in Narrative Feature
Runner Up
Aakashee Pullover
by 24 OURS
in Narrative FeatureBest Documentary Feature
Crownsville Hospital: From Lunacy to Legacy
by Richard Stevens
in Documentary Feature, Additi

Runner Up
The Bateman Lectures on Depression
by Scott Bateman
in Documentary Feature2nd Runner Up
A Piece of Germany
by Ela Beken
in Documentary Feature

Best Narrative Short
Help Wanted 
by Michael Madden
in Narrative Short 

Runner Up
A View from The Mountain
by Anthony Stoppiello
in Narrative Short2nd Runner Up
No Wonder!
by Anjani Pandey
in Narrative Short

3rd Runner Up
The Projection
by Oleksandr Herasymenko
in Narrative Short

Best Documentary Short
Namibia
by Matthieu VINEL
in Documentary Short

Best Director
The Bateman Lectures on Depression
by Scott Bateman
in Documentary Feature

Best Screenplay
THE COLOR OF EVIL
by Connie Wilson

Runner Up
The Serum
by Tom Thorpe

2nd Runner Up
Joseph (4th)
by Ian Davies

3rd Runner Up
Diu
by Haritrushi Purohit

Best Actor –
Mac Estelle“Mac”- ‘Help Wanted’

Best Actress –
Aloknanda Roy“Subha” – ‘Aakashee Pullover’

Best Supporting Actor –
Virgil Apostol “Kade” – ‘A View From The Mountain’

Best Supporting Actress –
Rene Michelle Aranda “Lucy” – ‘A View From The Mountain’

Best Cinematography –
Namibia
by Matthieu VINEL
in Documentary Short

Best Score –
Crownsville Hospital: From Lunacy to Legacy
by Richard Steven

Best Visual FX –
The Bateman Lectures on Depression
by Scott Bateman
in Documentary Feature

Best Editing-
The Bateman Lectures on Depression
by Scott Bateman
in Documentary Feature

 

Time” said of “Hereditary”, “It’s a movie about feeling small and inconsequential in the larger pattern of danger churning all around us.” Those who have been horror afficionados for years will remember that “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was often said to be a film about Communism and the cold war threat, although that was denied by the writer and director. Nevertheless, it was films like that one (which was remade several times to varying degrees of success) that captured the mood of the moment.

Whatever your opinion of it, horror is hot, right now.

If anyone out there is reading this: I’ve got literally hundreds of short stories that can be made into great onscreen movies, part of my 50+ year love affair with film and residing in such collections as “Hellfire & Damnation” (Books 1, 2 and 3) and “Ghostly Tales of Route 66.”.

I also wrote THE COLOR OF EVIL, 3 novels that follow a young boy with the paranormal power of Tetrachromatic Super Vision (a real thing, by the way) and put him in peril because others don’t understand that it isn’t necessarily a predictive power. By book three, when we’ve followed Tad (McGreevy) and Stevie (Scranton) and Jenny (SanGiovanni) and Janice (Kramer) through their junior and senior years of high school and on into adulthood, you’ll feel that you know them well.

Set in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in 2003-2005, the books are right in touch with today’s mania of the moment, and I hope those of you in a position to see for yourself check out the e-book boxed set (THE COLOR OF EVIL series by Connie Corcoran Wilson) and find out for yourselves.

Director William Friedkin Screens “The Devil & Father Amorth” in Austin, Texas

William Friedkin came to town (Austin, TX) to show his 70 minute documentary, “The Devil and Father Amorth.” (Photo by Connie Wilson)

Acclaimed Director William Friedkin came to the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, May 12th, at 7 p.m. with his 70 minute documentary “The Devil & Father Amorth.” It screened to a packed house that came as much for the Q&A that followed as for the dry examination of the Vatican’s exorcist, whom Friedkin described as “the most spiritual man I ever met.”

The film, shot in 2016, was the first time an actual exorcism was allowed to be filmed, but the permission came with restrictions: only Friedkin could be present. No cameramen. No lights. And little action, as it turned out, except for the exorcism of a 31-year-old Italian architect named Gabriela Amorth, who had been unsuccessfully treated 8 times previously.  The actual exorcism, on May 1, 2016, was filmed by Friedkin using a small handheld camera and what he termed a GoPro, which, he said, is often used with drones. He certainly has experience in actually shooting scenes himself, as he proved during the shooting of “The French Connection” when he wrapped himself in a mattress in the back seat of a car driven at 90 mph and shot on the fly through the streets of New York City, (with no formal permissions to do so).

 Amorth was 91 at the time of the filming and Friedkin said he did not set out to film an exorcism. “I had no intention of making this film. I was in Lucca, the birthplace and home of Puccini, getting the Puccini prize for filming his operas. I was just there for 8 days in Lucca and I learned that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was only 30 miles away. From there, you could get a direct flight to the Rome airport, a one-hour flight.” Friedkin said he sent an e-mail asking if it would be possible to meet with Father Amorth, the world’s most famous exorcist, and he received the tentative yes, with conditions. Graydon Carter of “Vanity Fair” magazine (the recently retired publisher) urged Friedkin to go to Rome and interview Amorth and write an article for the magazine.

Friedkin at the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse on Saturday, May 12th, with “The Devil and Father Amorth.” (Photo by Connie Wilson)

Friedkin did, in fact, write a 6,500 word article for “Vanity Fair” and shot the film we saw this night, which was far from the fiction of “The Exorcist.” He stressed that the Vatican has a very “hush hush” policy about exorcisms, so there really is no way to find out the truth of whether they work or not. But, after observing the 9th such attempt to rid the pretty architect of her demon, this film, dedicated to William Peter Blatty, who died in 2017, was the result. Asked if he thought Blatty would like the film, Friedkin said, “I think he would love it, which is why I dedicated it to him,” but he also noted that Blatty thought Amorth was a charlatan.

With 62 million people in Italy, 500,000 of whom ask for an exorcism to be performed annually, Blatty is not as quick to throw out the idea of an exorcism being ineffectual. Far from being an agnostic, as Wikipedia says he once was, Friedkin professed to believe in Jesus and said, “Who is anybody to say there’s no God?  We don’t know.  There are so many myths in the Bible, but there are billions of people who believed Jesus Christ was the son of God, because emotion trumps logic every time.” Friedkin went on to cite non-believers like Christopher Hitchins, who spoke out against the canonization of Mother Theresa, but, asked if he would banish religion and replace it with rational thinking if he could, he repeated,“Emotion trumps reason every time.  It’s why you have religion.  You cannot banish religion.”

During the Q&A, in addition to sharing that Father Amorth was an avid critic of the Vatican, but never experienced blowback from the Holy See because he was so popular, he was asked about the state of filmmaking today.

Said Friedkin, “They’re not for me,” of today’s movies, calling them spandex movies.  “There’s never any real danger or real suspense. It’s opium for the eyes.  There’s very little being done that I like.” He did, however, cite “A Quiet Place” as one of the few movies he’s seen that he liked very much.

William Friedkin at the Alamo Drafthouse, Austin, Texas,on May 12, 2018. (Photo by Connie Wilson)

When asked if anything weird or supernatural occurred during the filming of the 1972 classic “The Exorcist” Friedkin recalled how he received a phone call at about 4 a.m. from his D.P. (production manager) saying, “Don’t come to work tomorrow. The set burned to the ground about 2 hours ago.” Friedkin said that insurance did pay for the catastrophe and that some theorized that a pigeon (there were birds flying about in the area and on the set) may have flown into a light box, but, he noted, “there was a watchman sitting outside” and he thought the entire set burning down was unusual.  “I did not make the film as a doubting Thomas,” he said.  “I made the film as a believer.”

The chatty Friedkin (whom the interviewer/moderator referred to as “Billy,” which struck me as odd, since the man is 82) probably would have stayed and talked to us for hours, or so it seemed, but the staff needed to clear the hall for the influx of theater-goers coming to see the original “The Exorcist” on the big screen.

Meeting William Friedkin in person (and giving him a copy of “It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now was a real thrill for me. The man has made 15 films in 53 years and given us such classics as “The French Connection” (he was the youngest director to win Best Director at age 32 and the film also won as Best Picture), “The Exorcist,” “Sorcerer” and many, many more. I hope he continues to thrive in life.

The film ended with film of the funeral of the subject of the film, 92-year-old Father Amorth, who caught pneumonia and died very shortly after this documentary was made. The testimony of various psychiatrists and psychologists and the news that the very condition of being possessed is now termed ‘disassociative personality disorder- demonic possession’ was mentioned several times. Said Friedkin, “After I filmed it, it occurred to me that I should take it to 2 or 3 of the best brain surgeons in the world and let them debunk it.  The psychiatrists now recognize demonic possession, although they’ve removed a few disorders from the books, like homosexuality and narcissism.” He noted, with a nod to the current political climate, “I guess they feel that everybody from the top on down in this country has that.”

One thing that came out of the evening was that Blatty’s book was sheer fiction, because Blatty couldn’t find any way to break the church’s policy on letting anyone witness an exorcism and the only two reported ones in this country occurred in the 1922 in Early, Iowa, and in 1949 in College City, Maryland, which is the one that “The Exorcist” was based on. Said Friedkin, “The church does not really want people to know that there are people out there who have gone through it (an exorcism) and it has not been successful.” He described his own emotional experience while witnessing Gabriela’s exorcism as “terrifying” saying, “The fits come and go, like epileptic fits.” He also shared the fact that John Paul II was an exorcist in Poland before he became Pope and passed on 2 cases to Father Anorth when he ascended to the top position in the church hierarchy. And, said Friedkin, his life was threatened for the only time in his 82 years when Gabriela’s boyfriend demanded all the film he had shot of the exorcism back and Friedkin refused, causing her boyfriend, a member of the sinister Pyramid Cult, to threaten to kill him and all of his family. (Friedkin did not return the film.)

As a parting thought, Friedkin said, ‘There is a far deeper dimension to the Universe.  If there are demons there must be angels.”

Teachers in Austin Can’t Afford to Live in District, Says Study

(Book above by Connie Corcoran Wilson & Joseph K. Hasenstab)

Yesterday, while sharing wisdom acquired at the nail shop, I mentioned  short articles to come (about soy beans and teachers.)

I could write a really LONG diatribe about teachers and how it’s about time that teachers, nationwide, rise up and demand to be treated like professionals, but that isn’t this article.   (Indications are that  the movement is already escalating nationwide.)

As the author of “Training the Teacher As A Champion” (Performance Learning Systems, Inc. of Emerson, NJ) and a veteran teacher with approximately 200 teacher years in the immediate family (mother, sister, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, niece) it is a field about which I know a fair amount. I generally say I had a 37-year teaching career, since the Sylvan Learning Center I founded also involved teaching, and I also taught as adjunct faculty at all Quad City area colleges or universities at various times.

This is a short piece, basically lifted from page A7 of the Austin American Statesman, that notes:  “National Council on Teacher Quality data on teacher salary, qualifications, and home affordability reveals that even with 5 years of experience and a master’s degree, Austin ISD teachers cannot afford the median mortgage payments in the city.

Even more shocking, if a local teacher with those qualifications saved 10 % of his  or her income annually, it would take more than 10 years for the individual to generate enough for a 20% down payment on a home.” 

And, notes the Statesman, that is with today’s median home price, which is bound to go up, as it has steadily in Austin in recent years. The report was put together by Ku, Sikes and Edwards, all doctoral students in the College of Education at the University of Texas.

They also noted:  “For 2017-1028, Austin ISD lost 1,600 students in enrollment compared with the prior year—the 5th consecutive year of enrollment decline.  About half of the students are leaving the city to move to neighboring suburban districts because housing is more affordable. However, teachers get left out of the conversation with such gentrification taking over the affordable options.”

At a time when the President of the United States is seriously suggesting that teachers be issued guns to protect themselves and their charges, possibly even laying down their lives to protect the students in their charge, and wanna-be presidential candidates like Scott Walker (of Wisconsin) are destroying unions, in general, (especially those for public employees, including teachers) and Illinois is grappling with keeping promises made through the years, contractually, to retired teachers whose pensions are now coming due (when Illinois did not put in its fair share of that money in years past and is now trying to figure out where to come up with it), it is worth noting that teachers cannot even afford to live in the districts in which they teach, if those districts are popular destination cities like Austin, Nashville, etc.

I had a Master’s + 30 and never made more than $25,000 my best year  teaching in Illinois, with 17 and 1/2 years of experience in the field. I did try to help my SEA (Silvis Education Association) teachers’ organization unionize and gain recognition, in the hopes that our salaries and our working conditions could, at the very least, be negotiated, but whether that 3-year endeavor, which was ultimately successful,  has helped future generations of educators in that district is a question I cannot answer.

It is hard to tell your sons and daughters, your best and brightest, to go into teaching, if they are going to be a primary support of a family unit with sobering facts like those above. Lord knows that the students of today are not getting more respectful and better-behaved and some will argue that the teachers of today “don’t deserve as much respect,” but those are the very individuals I’d like to see do the job for just one semester in the trenches.

It gets even worse for college faculty, who, in Illinois, anyway, sometimes qualify for food stamps because they are squeezed like a sponge and given just enough hours to bring them up to full-time status where they would qualify for benefits like health care, but not enough to pass that threshold. I know this from teaching at 6 IA/IL colleges or universities.

And, since marriage as an institution seems to be on the ropes, too, many girls must face the fact that they may be supporting themselves without a second paycheck for their entire lives. Therefore,those individuals of either sex need to think long and hard about how much they need to live comfortably, and whether the field(s) they have chosen, no matter how rewarding personally, are going to meet their financial needs. It’s not a new question: it’s been one that is relevant to musicians, artists, filmmakers and any number of other occupations. It is now becoming a fact of life for teachers at a time when they are being asked to do much more with much less.

ssuu.com/shelfunbound/docs/shelf_unbound_april-may_2018

“Shelf Unbound” magazine has named THE COLOR OF EVIL boxed set to its list of the BEST INDIE E-BOOKS of 2017. (p. 44).

All 3 books are currently touring as a boxed set in e-book formatbut the  also are available in paperback and audio book.

 

Type in The Color of Evil by Connie Corcoran Wilson to go to the Amazon ordering site for the 753 pages that comprise “The Color of Evil” (Book 1), “Red Is for Rage” (Book 2) and “Khaki = Killer” (Book 3).

In the Notes from the Author section on page 44 of “Shelf Unbound,” Connie mentions that the inspiration for the series came from a short story that appeared, originally in Volume I of her short story series “Hellfire & Damnation” (Books 1, 2 & 3).

For trailers and reviews of each of these series go to www.TheColorOfEvil.com and www.HellfireAndDamnationTheBook.com. Enjoy!

Stanley Tucci’s “Final Portrait” Brings Armie Hammer to SXSW

 

“Final Portrait” is Stanley Tucci’s writing/directing tour de force, the sixth such venture for him. Tucci is a veteran character actor whom we have seen in many movies since 1985, including one Oscar-nominated role as the killer in “The Lovely Bones” and his continuing role in “The Hunger Games” as the colorful Caesar Flickerman.

He was to have been on the Red Carpet for “Final Portrait” on March 9th at the Stateside Theater in Austin, Texas, at SXSW, but only Armie Hammer, the film’s co-star appeared. Fresh off of “Call Me By Your Name,” some interviewers asked him about his high profile in Hollywood at this time. He praised the great work ethic of co-star Geoffrey Rush (whom I met in Chicago at the premiere of 2013’s “The Book Thief.”)

Armie Hammer and wife at the Red Carpet for Final Portrait, Stanley Tucci’s film. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

The cast included co-star (and Oscar winner) Geoffrey Rush, Clemence Poesy, Tony Shalhoub, and Sylvie Testud. It is the story of the touching and offbeat friendship between world-renowned artist Alberto Giacometti and American writer and art-lover James Lord. It is based on Lord’s memoir.

We waited in the small lobby of the old Stateside Theater for quite some time until, finally, I tried to sneak in and be seated. I was told that they “weren’t quite ready” setting up. Later, we learned that 2 projectors had gone down. A young man was seen carrying a laptop into the theater, in the hopes that the film could be streamed.

“Final Portrait” Red Carpet at SXSW. (Photo by Connie Wilson for WeeklyWilson & The Movie Blog).

Stanley Tucci, who did not show this night, is married to Felicity Blunt, the older sister of Emily Blunt. His first wife died of cancer in 2009 and Tucci and Felicity got engaged in 2011 and were married in 2012. It was Emily who introduced Tucci to Felicity when Emily and Stanley were co-starring in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Since Emily Blunt’s movie with her husband John Krasinski was premiering right next door at the Paramount at the same time, and it was unclear whether “Final Portrait” was really going to be shown, I made an executive decision to go see “A Quiet Place.”

For me, the thought of creatures that might kill you if you make a sound was more intriguing than Alberto Giacometti. I think I made the right decision, as “A Quiet Place” was one of the best movies I’ve seen in ages. Still, had Tucci shown up, it would have almost been like a family gathering, as his sister-in-law appeared on the screen next door, where she defended her family in a harrowing dystopian world.

“A Quiet Place” was the place for me.

“A Quiet Place:” If You See Just One Suspense Thriller, Make It This One

AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 09: Director/Executive Producer/Writer/Actor John Krasinski attends the ‘A Quiet Place’ Premiere 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 9, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

I’m here at SXSW Film Festival (for the 3rd year) and the Opening Night film, “A Quiet Place,” written by two Hitchcock-loving Bettendorf, Iowa, 34-year-old filmmakers, (with some contributions from Director and Star John Krasinski of “The Office” fame), is wowing the critics and the crowds.

I was fortunate enough to grab a few minutes to speak to Scott Beck and Bryan Woods about this big-budget Paramount film the day after it premiered. It is not difficult to see how these two young Iowa graduates, who have been collaborating since junior high school (and throughout college at the University of Iowa) have helped create a suspenseful thriller that is destined to become a classic. It’s the start of something big, career-wise. Their next film “Haunt,” currently in post-production, is one they both wrote and directed.

 

AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 09: Emily Blunt and Director/Executive Producer/Writer/Actor John Krasinski attend the ‘A Quiet Place’ Premiere 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 9, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

The filmmakers were articulate, congenial, diplomatic and enthused about the audience’s 100% Rotten Tomatoes response to their film about a family of four that must remain totally silent in order to keep some scary underground-dwelling creatures from killing them. They’ve  survived in a dystopian world (no further explanation) where any loud noise will bring these “things” down on the family of Krasinski, his wife Emily Blunt, their deaf teen-aged daughter Millie (played by a lovely young actress, Millicent Simmons, who is deaf in real life), a son of about 10 and a younger boy who looks just about ready for kindergarten in a normal world.

But, when the film opens, they are not in a “normal” world, but are searching for drugs in a ruined drugstore, where the youngest of the brood finds a noisy toy that he’d really like to keep. You know this bodes ill for the family, which has resorted to using sign language to communicate, has sound-proofed their dwelling and has an extensive camera and light set-up to try to protect themselves from the blind, armored creatures in an attempt to try to stay alive. There is also a tower that the father (Krasinski) lights a fire atop at night. We see two other fires in the distance, so we know there are at least a few other survivors. The set design and special effects are extraordinary, reminding of the “Alien” days, (when we finally see this threat—which isn’t for a long time). Marco Beltrami’s score is great and–most importantly—the acting from all is terrific.

(Left to Right) Scott Beck, Connie Wilson and Bryan Woods at SXSW (Austin, TX) on March 10, 2018.

The log line for the film is: “A family lives an isolated existence in utter silence, for fear of an unknown threat that follows and attacks at any sound.” That is an original premise that has not been done before. It leads to one of the most spare scripts in Hollywood history. Not only do the actors seldom speak (they sign or whisper or mouth the words), we don’t get to “see” the monster(s) until quite late in the film. And they are “Alien-” quality when we do.

There is not one “down” or boring scene, always the goal for a screenwriter, but difficult to achieve. No unnecessary exposition or wordy speeches. Just good old-fashioned Hitchcockian suspense from a screenwriting team that mentions “Vertigo” as one of their favorite movies and have been making films since they were six years old.

 

AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 09: Writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck attend the ‘A Quiet Place’ Premiere 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 9, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

I met up with them at a Starbucks the day after the film and wrote a piece giving the local ties to the Quad Cities of Iowa, which appears above this one. To achieve that, I  had to embarrass myself and climb over about 8 other movie-goers in my row to go to the microphone during the Q&A.  Where, exactly, were these two talented young men? Fortunately, my willingness to go that extra mile led to a brief but informative meeting the very next day.

The film’s extraordinary quality is leading to this recommendation: if you like suspenseful, well-acted, well-directed films, beautifully-shot films where you care about the characters and root for them to escape, even against overwhelming odds, you’re going to love this movie.

Bryan Woods (left) and Scott Beck at SXSW in Austin (TX) on March 10, 2018.

Most of those present on Opening Night did, and the remark I heard made most often in the lobby following it was, “This was so much better than last year’s Opening Movie.”

Last year’s opening film was Terrence Malick’s “Song by Song” with Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman and some other “A”-list talent. Perhaps Malick should have hired Beck & Woods to script the thing, as that renowned filmmaker’s work, which was often wonderful, was not well-received because of its meandering storyline.

AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 09: (L-R) Actors Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and director John Krasinski attend the Opening Night Screening and World Premiere of ‘A Quiet Place’ during the 2018 SXSW Film Festival on March 9, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

The film opens wide in the U.S. on April 6th and, yes, it IS that good. Take it from someone who’s been reviewing film for 47 straight years.

Beck & Woods Conquer the World: Quad Citians Script Opening Night Film “A Quiet Place” at SXSW

https://images.sxsw.com/txr5Jy7uqnAWEdS-8Oche5yI0x8=/229x0:2787x1827/x/images.sxsw.com/45/48759c2a-f8af-4ef7-9cfc-8584c2da23a1/a-quiet-place-127650Emily Blunt in “A Quiet Place,” the Opening Night Film at the 25th SXSW Film Festival, which is now SXSW Festival and Conference(s).

How in the world did two young men from Bettendorf, Iowa, wind up scripting the Opening Night film of one of the most prestigious film festivals and conferences in the country, SXSW, with a blockbuster film (“A Quiet Place”) from Paramount Studios? I asked the pair exactly that question in an interview conducted at a local Starbucks the morning after their film triumphed at the SXSW Opening Night Premiere on Friday, March 9th, 2018.

(Left to Right) Scott Beck, Connie Wilson and Bryan Woods at SXSW (Austin, TX) on March 10, 2018.

 

The two filmmakers, thirty-four year old Scott Beck (the redhead) and his childhood friend Bryan Woods have been making movies “since we were six years old.”

They told me this in Austin, Texas, the day after their film, “A Quiet Place,” (starring and directed by John Krasinski of “The Office” and his actress wife Emily Blunt) wowed audiences at its Paramount Opening Night.  Both have been interested in film since they were very young, but it was junior high school at Bettendorf Middle School that paired the dynamic duo.

Scott Beck is the son of Ken and Linda Beck of Bettendorf, and Bryan Woods (the redhead) is the son of Dennis and Lynn Woods of Bettendorf, although Scott’s IMDB profile notes that he was born in Denver, Colorado, on October 22, 1984, while Bryan was born in Davenport on September 14, 1984.

Before meeting at Bettendorf Middle School, Bryan attended Armstrong Elementary, while Scott went to Mark Twain Elementary. Each gave credit to teachers they had at Bettendorf Middle School (“We were just kind of allowed to do it”), naming Ethel Hagemann of the Tech area of their middle school and Roger Wilming, who, said Scott, “really connected and bonded with his students.”

After high school, they attended and graduated from the University of Iowa.  Scott described taking a lot of writing courses as an undergrad. He said the criticism he received in those classes was helpful, noting, “Every now and then you can distill it.  Critical feedback is helpful.” Scott also noted that, speaking diplomatically, in the world of Hollywood “You have to learn to back your opinion up with evidence. Within the politics of the industry you have to make sure that whatever your vision is, you can work with the producers and director.” During his college career, Scott continued his interest in film He placed in the 2004 Project Greenlight Top 50 director’s competition, sponsored by Miramax and Bravo and was a finalist in the MTV Best Film on Campus competition in November of 2004. He won MTV’s Best Film on Campus competition in December of 2005 (his junior year), resulting in a development deal with MTV Films. In the intervening 13 years, Scott wrote “Nightlight” (2015).

AUSTIN, TX – MARCH 09: Writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck attend the ‘A Quiet Place’ Premiere 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Paramount Theatre on March 9, 2018 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)

Bryan Woods was born on September 14, 1984 in Davenport, Iowa, USA. He is a writer and producer, known for The Bride Wore Blood (2006), Yearbook (2002) and Her Summer (2004).He placed in the 2004 Project Greenlight Top 50 director’s competition sponsored by Miramax and Bravo, was a finalist in the MTV Best Film on Campus competition in November of 2004 and also won MTV’s Best Film on Campus competition in December of 2005, which resulted in the development deal for “Beck and Woods” (as Krasinski referred to  them from the stage).

What kind of movies did they admire, as they were growing up?

Favorites were Alfred Hitchcock, especially “Vertigo” for Bryan. He said, “I love how mysterious and gorgeous “Vertigo” is. It’s about obsession and that’s something Hitchcock knew a lot about.” Scott singled out Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and more recent directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and added, “I like stories that conceptualize,” mentioning films that focus on artificial intelligence.

It was tough finding the two to interview them in person.  Although they were on the Red Carpet, [as shown in the photos with the SXSW backdrop], it wasn’t listed that they would be present, and I could not initially find the correct representative for them, even after calling the SXSW press office. The failure to honor those who  created nearly the entire concept (Krasinski also contributed and gets a writing credit) is not atypical in Hollywood. Max Allan Collins described his difficulty in getting enough tickets for him and his family to attend the Oscars when he had written “Road to Perdition,” which was up that year. As Rodney Dangerfield might put it, “Writers don’t get no respect.”

After the showing of “A Quiet Place” film, I went to the microphone and announced to the assembled audience, “I’m from Bettendorf, Iowa, (the crowd whooped loudly and shouted “Yay, Bettendorf”) and I’ve come a long way to interview Beck and Woods, but I can’t find them. Will you meet me in the lobby after this is over?” To be brutally honest, my former business (Sylvan Learning Center #3301) was located in Bettendorf, while I reside in East Moline. But Scott’s bio says he was born in Denver and Bryan’s says he was born in Davenport, so it was a  bit misleading, but it got a big shout-out to Bettendorf from the crowd. I found the two and their P.R. representative and I conducted a whirlwind interview Saturday morning, as they were scheduled elsewhere almost immediately.

Their film was extremely well done. It is an original concept, which I will write about in a separate review when the film’s release date nears. The spare film dialogue was top-notch.  It is definitely one of the films with the least dialogue ever, because of the nature of its plot.

Bryan Woods (left) and Scott Beck at SXSW in Austin (TX) on March 10, 2018.

As I left the theater I heard more than one filmgoer say, “This was so much better than last year’s film.” Last year’s film was Terrance Malick’s “Song by Song” with Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman and a host of “A” list celebrities. Word from the front was not good. I ended up attending Sam Elliot’s “The Hero” instead, but not until I waited 2 hours in the rain, sat on a cactus while lounging on a planter near the entrance (by accident, of course), and hired a rickshaw driver to transport me from the Paramount Theater to the Zach Theater.

The word about THIS film: there is not a single “dull” moment onscreen. I’m predicting it will take off like a rocket, helping “Beck and Woods” receive even more (deserved) recognition.

The two are currently in post production on “Haunt,” a script which they both wrote and will direct.

When I asked how their parents were handling the news that their sons may well become the next Steven Spielberg after “A Quiet Place”  (Spielberg is premiering a film here tomorrow, “Ready Player One,”  that was literally announced at the last minute),  both said, “They’ve been so supportive all along.  They’ll be at our New York City Premiere on April 2nd.”

Well-deserved congratulations to two former Quad City natives making it in the big leagues. I hope we meet again.

 

All Five Christmas Cats Children’s Books on Sale Through 2017

I have a series called “The Christmas Cats in Silly Hats” (www.TheXmasCats.com), ;which I began writing for my granddaughters when they were three years old. The books are “throw-back” books to what I learned in elementary schools of the fifties when early readers featured Dick and Jane and the policeman on the beat was always your friend. The books resemble Dr. Seuss books in that they rhyme and the cats of the title are a troupe of hardy do-gooders who go about helping other animals in distress.

The first book ‘s illustrations were drawn by Andy Weinert of East Moline (IL), a friend of my daughter’s, when I had two cats that were constantly fighting. I learned that Andy’s mother was Rita Mankowski, one of the smartest 7th graders I ever had in nearly 20 years of teaching 7th and 8th grade Language Arts at Silvis Junior High, and that sealed the deal. Andy was then a high school student who showed much artistic promise. (He has gone on to earn a Master’s in graphic design). When I asked him to draw a series of cats wearing “silly hats” he did a wonderful Grandma Moses-style treatment and the rhyming text shows the cats learning to get along with others, rather than constantly fighting with them (Lesson #1). However, AuthorHouse lost one-half of Andy’s original drawings (a bad lesson learned about dealing with AuthorHouse) and, when it came time to try to make the book just from the scans in my computer, years had passed and I drafted the girls’ Venezuelan nanny, Emily Marquez Vlcek to help finish the message and do some additional drawings linking the story to the season.

The second book, “The Christmas Cats Chase Christmas Rats”, featured the intrepid cats checking in on lab rats at Green Laboratories, to make sure they were being treated well. The message was “Do not judge others without knowing, or prejudice you will be showing” So, DON’T BE PREJUDICED. A good lesson for all time, but especially for these times.

Book #3, “The Christmas Cats Encounter Bats” featured bats wreaking havoc at South Park Mall (there is one in Moline, IL, as well as in the Dallas/Fort Worth area) and the cats teach the lesson that all life has value and every creature has a place in the Universe. Hallmark artist Gary McCluskey can also take credit for creating the first upside-down Christmas tree, far ahead of this year’s fad. (Bats hang their Christmas trees upside-down, you know.) Austin people, you’ll love this one!

Book #4, “The Christmas Cats Fear for the Deer“, featured beautifully drawn deer in Scott County Park (Davenport, IA), who, although well within the city limits, were in danger from hunters allowed to “thin the herd.” The Cats came to the rescue, spiriting them from the park by means of the CatCopter and ferrying them to the North Pole, where they were fitted with prosthetic antlers and fly with Santa. This book exists in hard cover format as well (although only available by contacting me, only in limited quantities, and costing $25 plus $3 postage). The color copies were run by ColorWise Press of Indiana and are gorgeous. The back of the book contains interactive activities for children, including puzzles and coloring book pages and we encouraged children to send them to the series dedicated website, www.TheXmasCats.com. Because only limited copies were run, the books were among the most beautiful in terms of color and quality, but paying $19 a book (the publisher’s price) means that one of these books in hard cover, plus postage, is going to set readers back $28, so it remains something that is only able to be purchased by contacting me via ConnieCWilson.com or WeeklyWilson.com or on LinkedIn. It is available through Amazon in paperback and e-book, however, and the e-book copies are only $1.99 for five days.

The final book in the series (so far) is “The Christmas Cats Care for the Bear” and it has an anti-bullying message, as the cats spring into action to help a little bear who is being bullied by others because he is pudgy and has funny hair. It is a book made for today’s youth and the interactive pages at the back of the book were increased, while the cost of running the book dropped dramatically as we transferred the book’s publication to Ingram Spark. The hard cover book of the most recent title is in the $12.95 range, from Amazon, while, paperbacks and e-books are also available.

[Book Number One has been permanently priced at $ .99 since it was drawn by a student, and finished by my granddaughters’ Venezuelan nanny, who took over duties from Andy when he was involved in completing his Master’s degree in graphic design at Northern Illinois University.]

I always said I would write the books until the girls turned 10, which is fast approaching. I did not have a book this year because we were too involved in building a house near the son, daughter-in-law and granddaughters in Austin, Texas, but “The Christmas Cats Flee from the Bee” may be coming for next Christmas, if Gary McCluskey is still available to lend his fantastic illustrations to another story with a message. That story will be about a golden-haired bee that hates the Queen Bee and does everything he can to destroy her, but soon faces his own come-uppance when the rest of the hive unites to drive him from their colony.

I hope you enjoy the e-book versions of ALL of the existing books, on sale for 5 days at $1.99 or, in the case of the very first book, 99 cents, from today (December 27) through the end of 2017. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

(Constance Corcoran Wilson, M.S.; www.ConnieCWilson.com)

 

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THE COLOR OF EVIL Series on Tour Through November

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