Script brings you behind the scenes to get to know our family of contributors on a more personal level. Meet Monty Hayes McMillan & Pamela Jaye Smith, authors of Show Me the Love. Pamela also wrote the series Inner Drives: What’s My Character Motivation?
Pamela Jaye Smith & Monty Hayes McMillan, co-authors of SHOW ME THE LOVE: All Kinds of Love for All Kinds of Stories, have worked in all aspects of the media industry for 35+ years, in Hollywood and around the world on features, TV, commercials, documentaries, corporate and military films, music videos, and web series. Pamela is a mythologist, author, international consultant/speaker, award-winning producer/director, and author of five books for media-makers. Monty helped establish TV-3, Malaysia’s first Public Television Network in Kuala Lumpur. His team included experts in directing, editing, camera, art direction, and sound. Credits include Disney, Microsoft, Universal, Fox, RAI-TV Rome, UCLA, STORYexpo, AFI, Film Institute of Denmark, LA and Marseille WebFests, and many more.
What was the first movie you ever remember seeing or the one that made the most impact on you as a child?
Monty: Days of Wine and Roses made the most impact because it reminded me of my family. It said a lot about family values that weren’t the happy TV family like the Cleavers, Ozzie and Harriet, or Donna Reed. It was the first truly adult movie I had ever seen and it was so realistic, at a time when I was moving from childhood to adulthood. What I took away from that theatre taught me that movies could change the world a little bit at a time.
Pamela Jaye: It was Lawrence of Arabia for me. The idea of a handful of people making such a huge difference in the world was really inspiring. Maurice Jarre’s score inspired me to take up the French horn and though I’ve ridden horses a lot I still want to race across the desert on a camel sometime, to that sound score.
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Monty: Zulu. Having watched Zulu prepped me to watch Apocalypse Now. It took me a long time to understand the military side of it. It was the outrageousness of being in the middle of Africa, or SE Asia in the case of Apocalypse Now. It was about being where you thought you’d never go and then being in the middle of a bad situation. You’re all going to die, because of something other people far away are ordering you to do. Both the British and the Zulus had worthy opponents in the other force. For the Zulus, you had to be in a bloody battle to enter manhood and be able to marry. Those young men had missed the earlier battle and this was their chance to prove themselves. In the end when the Zulus come back and this one guy raises his spear and his shield, it was praising the British soldiers for being worthy warriors. That mutual respect was very moving.
Pamela Jaye: Apocalypse Now. It’s a gorgeous, entrancing, horrifying love story – man’s love of war. If you’ve seen it, you know why. If you haven’t seen it, do. [And then see Tropic Thunder for some fun spoofing of its deadly seriousness.] Plus, A. Now is a film full of quotable lines for all occasions: “Charlie don’t surf!”, “I asked for a mission and for my sins they gave me one”, and “The horror…. The horror….”
What word or scenario do you never want to see in a screenplay again?
Monty: “Saigon. Shit…I’m still in Saigon.” [Apocalypse Now] “But you live with your mother.” [Galaxy Quest]
Pamela Jaye: The one where something happens that could have hurt someone and they pop up and say, “I’m okay.”
What profession did your parents want you to have?
Pamela Jaye: They were always supportive as my young aspirations ranged from lawyer to musician to archaeologist to journalist to doctor. But they were clever enough to have me work at the hospital my first summer home from college studying pre-med, to see if I was cut out for real-life medical practice. I immediately switched my major to music, then later to English and Film.
What profession, other than your current one, would you like to try if you could have a do-over?
Monty: Photo reconnaissance.
Pamela Jaye: Astrophysicist-archeologist-geologist… or a nuclear brain surgeon…. or an off-planet terra-former. Surfer?
What drew you to the entertainment industry and specifically, why did you want to help writers?
Monty: What got me into movies was going to the movies and realizing somebody has to make these things. I took a communication class, a film class, and it all sort of fell together. Once I got into it I realized the power behind what we were doing and that validated everything I’d been thinking.
I don’t have the ego drive that most writers have, but I’ve always been good with narrative and that is what led me to go further into the field of writing. I can come up with motivation and drive which augments the dialogue my co-writers come up with.
When we started writing our book Show Me the Love, I realized I had the ability to remember movies in detail. I had a better understanding of a moving image than I thought I did, and saw that it could be helpful to pass that on to other writers and filmmakers.
Pamela Jaye: The entertainment industry offers instantaneous creativity and intense camaraderie. It’s seldom boring, you get to travel the world, choose what you work on, and learn things you’d never even be exposed to otherwise. Plus sometimes you get nicely paid for it all.
Growing up in a small town hearing various versions of the same stories, I quickly understood that everybody has a different perspective on things and they’re all pretty interesting. Having personally experienced the exhilaration as well as the introspection writing can offer, I like to encourage others to try it, too. Even if they don’t want to be a professional writer, writing can be a valuable tool to help us make some sense of the chaos and confusion as well as the incredible beauty and natural order that is life. Plus, the more people who are writing the better the odds are of getting more good stories out there for the rest of us.
Tell us something we don’t know about you.
Monty: That I’m a spelunker and I make really great barbecue – Texas style. Oh, and I’m allergic to coleslaw.
Pamela Jaye: Oh, just ask the NSA.
What do you wish you knew about the industry before you jumped in?
Monty: It’s less about talent and more about making the deal. That good projects can get shoved into the shadows when a new boss comes along who doesn’t want anything the old boss did to see the light of day.
Pamela Jaye: That it’s made up of illusions, favours, and hidden motives all the way up and down the process, and that includes deals, relationships, projected sales, promises of future work, payments. Nothing’s real until it’s over and even then sometimes you can’t be absolutely certain it ever happened, at least not the way you think it did.
If you could impart only one piece of knowledge onto writers, what would it be?
Monty: Pursue your bliss.
Pamela Jaye: Artistic advice – always keep your core story point at the center of anything that happens. Business advice – No free options and get as much money up front as you can, because too often even with the best of intentions there isn’t a ‘back end’.
If you could go back in time and talk to your 18-year-old self, what advice would you give?
Monty: Yeah, you were right.
Pamela Jaye: Pay very close attention to your intuition because it’s usually going to be spot on.
If you have any other fun tidbits you want to add, go for it!
Monty: Write because you enjoy it because that may be the only reward you get.
Pamela Jaye: This is a fabulously challenging and rewarding business and offers exposure to widely diverse people, places, ideas, technologies, food, fashion, etc. Try to say “yes” to most offers, and make wonderful friends and memories that’ll last your entire life.
A script of ours, The Cuban Circuit, was one of five Finalists [out of 850 scripts] at the Bahamas International Film Festival Screenwriters Residency Program in December. We highly encourage writers to enter screenplay contests – sometimes the rewards can be amazing – like a trip to the Bahamas!
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