June 26, 2012

Scott Silver: The Floor of Heaven film: Part 7.

Screenwriter Scott Silver laughs as he gives his keynote speech
for the North Words Writers Symposium at Poppies.
photo by Katie Emmets

cott Silver, the writer who has been working on the screenplay for The Floor of Heaven, based on the book of the same name, was the keynote speaker during a recent trip to Skagway, Alaska. It was perfectly timed visit that surely helped Mr. Silver gather an authentic perspective on the landscape, considering little has changed since the days of the gold rush.  

The following article was published on June 8, 2012 by the Skagway News.

Symposium showcases screenwriter
By Katie Emmets

The third annual North Words Writers Symposium included panel discussions, train rides and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

This year’s keynote speaker was Scott Silver, who wrote 8 Mile and co-wrote The Fighter, which was nominated for best original screenplay.

Right now, Silver is adapting The Floor of Heaven, a gold rush book by last year’s symposium keynote speaker, Howard Blum.

Since getting the contract for the adaptation, Silver has been in contact with local publisher Jeff Brady to check facts and ask historical questions.

Brady and symposium co-founder Buckwheat Donahue thought it would be a great idea if Silver came from his home in New York City to see Skagway up close, so Donahue invited him to be the keynote speaker.

And he came – with his wife, stepson and daughter, who enjoyed Skagway streets and played with husky puppies on the Denver Glacier.

Although he was already adapting another book for the silver screen at the time The Floor of Heaven contract became available, Silver said he fought hard to get it.

“I thought it was great,” Silver said of Blum’s book, adding that his adaptation will be nothing like it.
“There will be some similarities,” he said. “But when I read it, I found certain things I really liked that I am going to expand on.”

Although it was great to be in Skagway this year, Silver said, he wished it was 1898 so he could interview the men who he will be writing about: cowboy turned Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo, Jefferson R. “Soapy” Smith, and, to a lesser extent, George Carmack.

“I can’t make up things,” Silver said. “I have friends who can make up characters from their heads, but I can’t. I like being able to talk to people when I’m creating a character about them.”
Because he can’t talk to Siringo or Smith, he uses music as an avenue to get into each character’s head.
In his iPod, the characters have their own playlists filled with music that reminds Silver of what he thinks they’re like.

“For Soapy, I listen to a lot of the score from “There will be Blood,” he said. “And for Siringo, I listen to a lot of the “Assassination of Jessie James” soundtrack. Siringo also has a western vibe, so I’ve been watching a lot of “The Unforgiven.”

After giving his keynote speech at the banquet at Poppies on June 1, Silver asked faculty and participants if anyone had tips or opinions they wanted to share about his in-the-works adaptation of The Floor of Heaven, It opened up a more than 20-minute conversation about negative impressions of the book, mostly about the author’s lack of understanding of the north country.

“After his keynote speech, people were really slamming him for something someone else wrote,” Donahue said. “But he took control of what could have been a potentially dangerous conversation and turned it around.”

Donahue has since talked to several faculty members, and they have applauded Silver for asking for suggestions and sticking out criticisms.

“They said they have never seen a keynote speaker stand up and say ‘if there is anything you guys want to tell me about, go ahead,’ ” Donahue said. “Most speakers give their keynote speech and stand in line and shake everyone’s hand, but he stood in front of everyone and said ‘hit me with your best shot.’ ” ... [The remainder of the article had to do with future meetings of the symposium.]

As some of you already know, Mr. Silver has been working with me on the Soapy Smith character. I found out from Jeff Brady that Mr. Silver was speaking with him as well. Above, Mr. Silver asked his audience for tips and opinions. I found this to be very refreshing. He's not pretending to know everything, and does not have the big ego of so many of his peers. I have a great feeling about this film, IF it is completed.

Like Mr. Silver, I too listen to "mood music" when writing about Soapy. His choice comes from the film, There Will Be Blood. You can hear some of this music playing back-to-back here.

I have a variety of tapes and CD's I listen to, but perhaps the two songs that remind me of a Soapy Smith related film come from the PBS film, The Way West, which has fueled my imagination for several years now. In my movie fantasy I imagine that the film is ending. Soapy has been shot dead and people are running about when the first of the two songs begins to play. The camera begins to pan back from the gunfight scene at a slow, even pace, until all of Skagway comes into view. The camera keeps moving back until finally Skagway is but a dot on the screen and the star of the scene is the majestic scenery of the bay, the mountains, and glaciers. The two songs are to be played back-to-back as they sound like they are one song.

Disc #2
1. Native American Theme 1:12 min.
2. Native American Theme (Orchestral) 2:42

If you really want to hear the two songs you can find them online but most are pay to hear. Rhapsody appears to have a free trial in which you can hear music. I have not signed up for this so please use your own judgement. While there on the site (HERE) you can see all the songs of the 2-disc album. Scroll down to song 22 and 23, the names are above. Let me know what you think!

The Floor of Heaven: The film
April 22, 2012: Part 6
March 26, 2011: Part 5
March 9, 2011: Part 4
March 8, 2011: Part 3
February 4, 2011: Part 2
October 3, 2009: Part 1

1804: The Lewis and Clark Expedition reach the mouth of the Kansas River after completing a westward trek of nearly 400 river miles. 
1819: The bicycle is patented by W. K. Clarkson, Jr. 
1844: John Tyler takes Julia Gardiner as his bride, thus becoming the first U.S. President to marry while in office. 
1867: A detachment of the 38th Infantry battle Indians near Wilson's Creek, Kansas. 
1867: A detachment of the 7th cavalry fight with Indians on the south fork of the Republican River, Kansas. Members of the 7th also battle Indians near Fort Wallace. 
1868: Ben Thompson begins a two-year sentence in the Huntsville, Texas penitentiary after being found guilty of "intent to kill." 
1870: The first section of the boardwalk in Atlantic City, NJ, is opened to the public. 
1872: The town of Tucson, Arizona Territory is established. 
1876: Lt. Bradley and his Crow Indian scouts are the first to learn of General Custer's Massacre in Montana Territory from smoke signals sent by Custer's Crows, Harry Moccasin, Goes Ahead, and White Man Runs Him. The scouts had been dismissed before the battle. 
1876: Major Reno and his portion of the 7th Cavalry are still under attack in Montana Territory. The Indians end their attack at sunset. 
1894: The American Railway Union calls a general strike in sympathy with Pullman workers. 
1900: The United States announces that it would send troops to fight against the Boxer rebellion in China.

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