Fade In Fade Out – Screenwriting School in Atlanta with Michael Lucker

Mike Lucker

It’s no secret that Georgia is getting into the game when it comes to film.  When I started learning about what’s going on in film in Georgia over a year ago, I found that we were ranked at number four in the list of states for film making.  This year, I found out that we inched our way up to number two, right behind Louisiana.  The South is doing big things in film and this is so exciting!  But how can we Georgians distinguish ourselves truly as a film making town?  I believe it begins by having the educational facilities here that improve the skills of local talent to be able to meet the demands of this growing market.  This summer, Reel Focus will be showcasing educational blogs that relate to various facets of film and film making.  We are kicking off the season with a local opportunity for screenwriters and I have joined forces with a very prominent leader in the screenwriting community in Georgia – Michael Lucker – to tell us more about this unique form of writing.  For those who don’t always know the name behind screenplays for a film, Michael Lucker has brought to us films like “Vampire in Brooklyn,” “Mulan II,” and “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.”


Mr.  Lucker, I first learned about you from the Atlanta Film Festival website.  You were listed as one of the mentors for the screenwriter’s portion of the festival.  Aside from your involvement with the Atlanta Film Festival, tell us more about yourself and what you do in metro Atlanta.

ML:  Well, first and foremost, I am a screenwriter.  After ten years in Hollywood writing for DreamWorks, Disney, Paramount, Fox, Universal and anyone else who’d pay for my groceries, I happily returned home to the tall trees and green grass of Atlanta.  Here I have found a tremendous appetite for learning the craft of screenwriting and feel fortunate to pass along to the growing film community the lessons passed on to me by some of the best minds in the business.  The folks at the Atlanta Film Festival have been terrific and kindly offered to have me be part of the festival and to host my weekend workshops.  Atlanta has also served as a great home for me to write, direct and produce a good bit of television.

In your opinion, how critical is the screenwriter to Hollywood?

ML:  Of course, there wouldn’t be anything without the screenwriter.  It all starts with the idea.  However, the ability to bring that concept to life in an engaging, emotional and marketable 120 pages that will appeal to millions is where the real work takes place.  Mastering that craft takes a very talented, disciplined and passionate lot.  Once a student of mine asked “Does the screenwriter write what everyone says?”  I said yes.  “And what everyone does?”  Yes.  “And the story and all the scenes?”  Yes and yes.  To which he asked … “Then what does the director do?”   Everyone laughed, but it’s true.  We provide the roadmap.

Almost everyone’s advice regarding stardom in Hollywood involves going to LA or New York.  Is this always the case for screenwriters or can screenwriters get a start wherever they are and build from there?

ML:  You can write from anywhere.  But once it’s written, it is indeed important to have your boots on the ground in Los Angeles and New York to hock your wares to the commercial producers, networks and studios.  Agents are looking for writers to represent that haven’t just written one script, but are interested in writing script after script.  This requires them to be available to meet on a fairly regular basis with the buyers.  This is especially true for new writers building a reputation and a career.  That said, the Indy market affords writers the opportunity to base elsewhere, but then they’re faced with the task of pounding the pavement locally to find producers or financiers themselves.  Either way, you need a solid pair of kicks.

Why did you decide to develop your business here instead of LA?    

ML:  I love Atlanta – enjoy living here.  And, I like waking up to Lynyrd Skynyrd on the radio.  And frankly, there are a lot of incredible screenwriting instructors in LA — most of which I’ve learned from.  There are not a lot of great screenwriting instructors in Atlanta.  However, there is a wealth of creative talent here.  I’ve always dreamed Atlanta could serve as a home for telling great stories in cinema.  And with the incredible boom of production here now, hopefully that will be a reality someday soon.  If I can somehow play a small role in helping southerners tell their stories, better, faster and share them with the world, I can sleep better at night, knowing perhaps I made a small difference and done a bit of what I was sent here to do.

Tell fellow screenwriters how they can get more training through your school.

ML:  Right now we’re offering a weekend workshop that offers all the nuts and bolts one needs to know to write a great screenplay.  Our next workshop is May 24-25.  I’m also available for private consultation should anyone be interested.  Hope to see you soon.


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Hollywood Archives – Unveiling the New Film Museum

Academy Museum


Just when you thought Hollywood couldn’t go and reinvent itself – it has done it again.  It has created the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures which is set to open in a few years.  Why now – many may wonder – after so many decades of great memorabilia being collected from so many classics that we love.  Well that’s precisely what I aim to find out and more in this article.  I have teamed up with Bill Kramer – Managing Director of the Academy Museum and External Relations – to tell us more about the new and exciting venue that is being built in Los Angeles, California.


Thank you for this honor.  I’m obliged to showcase this marvelous museum in the Reel Focus blog.  I would like to begin with the most obvious question that everyone probably wants to know:  When will the museum be open to the public?

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is scheduled to open in 2017. Designed by architects Renzo Piano and Zoltan Pali, the Academy Museum will be located in the heart of Los Angeles in the historic Wilshire May Company building.


Besides the museum being completely awesome, what do you think will be some of the highlights that will lure people to this museum?

Designed to be a cultural center, the Academy Museum will be the best place to experience the past, present, and future of the moving image. The Academy Museum will contain nearly 300,000 square feet of state-of-the-art galleries, exhibition spaces, theaters, screening rooms, education centers and special event spaces.

Visiting the Museum will feel like seeing a great movie–it will be an immersive experience with a beginning, middle, and end. Visitors will have a chance to share laughter, be moved, and maybe even be scared–visitors will experience the same emotions they feel at the movies. The Museum will show how films are made, while preserving and celebrating the magic and enchantment of the movies.


Will this museum only include films that were nominated or awarded by the Academy in its collections or is there more in store for visitors?

The Academy Museum will have a permanent exhibition that will include elements on the history of the Academy and the Academy Awards. These areas will provide a taste of the glamour that is undeniably a part of the Academy’s history. However the Museum will explore all areas of filmmaking and will include a comprehensive array of exhibitions and programming. The Museum will be built on the foundation of the Academy’s public programs and collections. Since the 1930s, the Academy has been collecting and preserving the world’s moviemaking artifacts and creative materials, and today the Academy Collection is the largest motion picture collection in the world. The Collection includes more than 30,000 production and costume design drawings, 165,000 films and videos, 10 million photographs, and 50,000 original posters. While the Collection includes many Oscar-winning and Oscar–nominated films in all categories, the Collection also contains a wide range of films from private home movies of Hollywood legends like Esther Williams to World War II-era propaganda films.


Motion picture has been an integral part of American culture for many decades.  Why is such a museum now being built and why Los Angeles?

Momentum for this Museum has been building for a long time and now plans are falling into place to bring this project to fruition. We feel Los Angeles, the epicenter of the film industry, is the perfect home for this Museum and will be a major addition to the cultural landscape of the city.

This is obviously a museum that many generations will grow to love and cherish.  Tell us why it is important for audiences to visit this museum once it is completed.

We hope audiences visit the Museum over and over again not only for the latest exhibitions, screenings, and special events, but also for those magical, intangible moments of surprise, inspiration, and even transformation.


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Lance Robertson Shares the Story Behind the Georgia Latino Film Festival

Latino Film Festival

Film is big business and when I say big, I mean – big!  It is no longer confined to studios concentrated in southern California.  Film is everywhere – and literally in Georgia we will soon be walking out of our doors right into a whole lot of action.  Speaking of action, I have teamed up with Lance Robertson, one of the founders of the Georgia Latino film festival, to tell us more about the action he is igniting with his new organization right here in metro Atlanta.

Thank you Lance for this opportunity.  It’s great to see much more diversity in our great town with the infusion of your film festival.  Tell our readers how the Georgia Latino Film Festival in Atlanta began.

I along with co-founder Jose Marquez created the Georgia Latino Film Festival in 2012.  Our festival has been successful for two consecutive years and this year will be our third year – which we are really excited about.  One of my roles in this industry is producing documentaries.  I developed my first one straight out of college in 1994 which showcased the election of President Nelson Mandela.  I also did another documentary which was one of the last documentaries on the late Reverend Hosea Williams entitled “Un-bought and Un-bossed:  A Conversation with Hosea Williams.”  My co-founder’s claim to fame was his creation of OVN Latino Network. Jose Marquez, of Cuban descent, and myself, of African American descent, put our minds together to create a platform for African Americans and Latinos to come together in the name of Film and Television; hence, the festival was born.

How do you feel about the inclusion (or exclusion) of Latino Americans from mainstream Hollywood?

First, let me say nobody can stop a movement whose time has come. The empirical data shows Hispanic are the single-most dedicated moviegoer.  With the consistent growth of the Hispanic consumer market, if Hollywood doesn’t start catering to the Latino market share, it will be losing – and losing big.  I trust that the independent Latino filmmakers in front and behind the scenes will breakthrough and probably be more successful at catering to this general market.

What do you and Jose hope to accomplish with this festival?

Melisha, I can sum that up by providing you with three key things about our organization:  our purpose, our mission, and our vision.


The purpose of this non-profit organization is to conduct an annual film festival in the state of Georgia that features Latino produced films among other national and international entries.


The mission of the Georgia Latino Film Festival is to build awareness of independent films and film as an art form; provide educational opportunities for students and Georgia Latino filmmakers; and create opportunities for the Georgia communities to experience high-quality Latino films.


To make sure that our stories are being told in Hollywood and around the world and that our community has a place in Georgia where Latino film executives, directors, and artists at the forefront of the Latino Film and animation industry can come together to discuss the future of our industry and create a vehicle to develop the next generation of Georgia Latino film-makers.

As we approach our third year we expect to continue on our diverse growth trajectory of inclusion with all different cultures inside or under the Hispanic/Latino umbrella.  We also would like to use our platform to expand our inclusion within mainstream film and movie production companies.  Our goal this year is to unite the best and the brightest and most ambitious young and seasoned Hispanic and Latinos in the film industry in Atlanta under this dynamic form of expression that we love.  Our long-term goal is constant growth and we invite everyone to be a part of this mission.


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The New Gold Rush – Georgia’s Rise as the Next Film Capital

There was a huge event that took place in the United States a few centuries ago that changed the pace of westward expansion.  It is known to us as the gold rush of 1849.  Hundreds of thousands of people from within the U.S. and worldwide, raced to northern California in hot pursuit of gold.  No – gold hasn’t been recently discovered in Georgia so everyone, please don’t start racing here for that.  However, we do have something equally as enticing as the gold rush of 1849 that just may pique your interest.

According to Film Production Capital’s website, Georgia is number two among the states for film making.  There is only one other state that surpasses it in rank in film production.  This blog places the top two states for film production side by side and compares each one’s eligibility and incentives in order to discover how Georgia can aim for the number one spot – and remain there.



  • 20 percent base transferable tax credit
  • 10 percent Georgia Entertainment Promotion (GEP) uplift can be earned by including an embedded Georgia logo on approved projects and a link to http://www.tourgeorgiafilm.com on the promotional website
  • $500,000 minimum spend to qualify
  • No limits or caps on Georgia spend, no sunset clause
  • Both resident and non-resident workers’ payrolls and FICA, SUI, FUI qualify
  • No salary cap on individuals paid by 1099, personal service contract or loan out. Payments made to a loan out company will require six percent Georgia income tax withheld
  • Production expenditures must be made in Georgia to qualify from a Georgia vendor
  • Travel and insurance qualify if purchased through a Georgia agency or company
  • Original music scoring eligible for projects produced in Georgia qualify
  • Post production of Georgia filmed movies and television projects qualify
  • Development costs, promotion, marketing, license fees and story right fees do not qualify



  • Open to all motion picture production companies for the purpose of producing nationally or internationally distributed motion pictures.
  • Production company must be headquartered and domiciled in the State of Louisiana.
  • $300,000 minimum-spend required
  • Only work physically performed by residents and non-residents in the State of Louisiana and only tangible goods acquired from a source within the state qualify for the program.
  • 30% tax credit on qualified direct production Louisiana expenditures
  • Additional 5% tax credit for payroll expenditures to Louisiana residents
  • No annual cap
  • Tax credits may be used to offset income tax liability in Louisiana (corporate or personal), sold back to the State for 85% face value, or brokered on the open market.


Well, looking at these side by side, we can see that they both seem to be within the range of 30% for the tax credit but looking closer at Georgia and Louisiana’s minimum spend, this is a distinctive difference.  The biggest thing that stands out to me for Louisiana is that it seems to be all about protecting its residents by ensuring production is headquartered and domiciled in the state.  I’m not an economist but it seems to me that this could very well keep “robber baron” activity down.  Georgia is not too far behind with its protections by ensuring certain expenses occur within the state in order to qualify.  I also like that travel and insurance can qualify as long as you do business with a Georgia company.




The number one thing that I believe will increase our positioning will be for film professionals to bring business here.  It is not enough to simply come here, film, and leave as it only weakens the economy.  There needs to be a commitment to living and doing business in Georgia in order to gain strong positioning – not fly by night wins for the sake of improving rank.



Peripheral businesses must arise and help grow the industry.  The impact of industry growth can’t be felt if production studios come and film while the rest of us sit idly by.  Entrepreneurs and established businesses have to discover ways to drive business here that is associated with the growing industry in order to keep the interest of investors.



More research will need to be done by the commission office and entertainment office in order to create a basis for analysis of industry trends as the industry grows.  This research should encompass Georgia trends and should also include other competitor markets and trends.



Film incentives should extend to those businesses which are not production companies but at least 80% of its business clientele and mission serves the industry.

So, can Georgia do it – can it get on top and remain there?  I certainly hope so.  What are your thoughts?




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Celebrity Charity – Manifest Your Destiny Foundation




Many know Hill Harper – the former actor on CSI: NY now actor on Covert Affairs – or Hill Harper – the writer of phenomenal books such as Letters to a Young Brother: Manifest Your Destiny, The Conversation, The Wealth Cure and Letters to an Incarcerated Brother. However, many may not know Hill Harper – the founder of Manifest Your Destiny Foundation. With this blog, I would like our audiences to get to know this side of Hill Harper. I have teamed up with the Executive Director of his foundation – Akello J. Stone – to discuss how this organization is giving back to the community.

Before I begin, I want to tell our readers a little bit about Akello – who also is no stranger to film and television. Akello is a freelance content development producer who has spearheaded many digital technology integration projects on various college campuses and also has worked on promotional video production projects, including EPK (Electronic Press Kit) videos for musical artists and actor reels. He has also created promotional videos for various personalities and entities. Aside from his involvement with film and television, he has been involved in many youth development programs including some right here in Atlanta such as Hands on Atlanta, the NFL Youth Education Town, College Park Elementary Saturday School and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Atlanta.

MC: Akello thank you for this outstanding opportunity to showcase Manifest Your Destiny Foundation in this blog. It is an honor to showcase this celebrity non-profit organization that is making a difference in the community. One of our chief aims with Women in Film and Television Atlanta (WIFTA) is to also make a difference in the community, particularly with women in this industry – so I’m very honored to have you. It’s also a bonus to hear that you have had involvement in local Atlanta youth organizations but can you tell us more about the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation and its purpose?
Transcript –
So, as you said, my name is Akello Stone and I am the Executive Director of the Foundation. I actually started working with the organization back in 2008. I came on as a board member and me and several other members of the board developed the Summer Empowerment Academy (SEA) which is our flagship program and this was an outgrowth and evolution of the books Letters to a Young Brother and Letters to a Young Sister. So it aligns itself with core values and the purpose of those books.

The organization itself – Manifest Your Destiny Foundation – really is all about how we find our purpose and how we develop the potential for reaching that purpose. We are focusing a lot on youth, specifically with the SEA program – we’re focusing on youth making that huge transition from the 8th grade into the 9th grade and instilling in them attributes of empowerment. I also want to share with you how we define empowerment because it can be defined differently depending on who you are asking! We define empowerment as “observable, multi-dimensional, behavioral and attitudinal characteristics that influence the achievement of success; capitalize on the development of self-esteem, self-advocacy and self-awareness; enhance critical problem-solving skills; demonstrate the adoption of an optimistic future for perspective; and reveal the significance of personal value to both the immediate community and the larger collective.” (chuckle) That’s a lot, huh?

So, you can tell there are a lot of things going on and we are not just motivating but we’re creating a lifelong trajectory of self-advocacy and empowerment that can take them throughout their entire [school] year and future years. Ideally, I consider the program to be a way in which we can dismantle the ‘cradle to prison’ pipeline. We want to fill college classrooms, not prison cells and we are strong believers in the things that we do in order to accomplish that.

MC: Is there any chance that you plan on expanding this organization to other states, namely Atlanta, Georgia?

Our organization operates solely in Los Angeles right now; however, we had been putting extreme efforts into packaging our curriculum and content – the modules, the operational strategies, the core values – into something that we can provide to other organizations who would like to operate their own summer empowerment academies. This has been a project that is very close to my heart and very much close to Hill’s as well. Working for Hill, I can say that we’re definitely aligned in terms of what we think needs to happen and the delivery systems necessary in order to carry that out. But before we release the curriculum [to other organizations, elsewhere], in order to maintain the integrity of the program model, we want to make sure that everything is really good – really solid before we put it out there because we don’t want to put something out there that is not effective.


We have a great evaluation team and I would just like to mention that there is a number of people over the last six years who have helped tremendously and there is voluntary contributions and efforts towards developing and involving the foundation and we definitely see ourselves expanding.  In addition [to expansion efforts], we have an annual toy drive at “Supper Club. It’s a night club venue for adults and in order to get admission, you would have to bring a toy – that’s how we collect our toys; also partnering with Toys for Tots and the Westwood Transitional Village. We collect about 1400 toys that way (chuckle) which is huge – it’s the largest toy drive in southern California. So, we definitely want to expand, we want to grow, and we want to reach more young people than ever before.

MC: Tell our readers how they can donate to your organization or get involved with Manifest Your Destiny Foundation.

You can go to our website at www.mydf.org. Keep in mind that we do accept individual donations of every size imaginable. We also partner with other organizations that are doing similar work. Our biggest funders are large corporations that work with us through their community development/corporate giving divisions. We have a multi-tiered sponsorship program with a wide range of opportunities for exposure and participation in MYD-planned events. We always invite our sponsors to come and see, firsthand, the transformative work we are doing with the youth who participate.

Photo provided by Akello Stone



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Asian Film Festival

It is a great honor to be able to share with WIFTA – Reel Focus readers another interesting jewel in Atlanta.  It gladdens my heart to know that there are a lot of interesting things taking place in film right in our own backyard that many may not know about.  For this blog, I have collaborated with Li Wong – Executive Director for the Asian American Film Festival – to tell us more about this amazing event taking place annually in Atlanta, Georgia.


Thank you Li for participating in this blog.  I read on your website that your goal is to bring awareness to Atlantans about Asian Pacific culture and this is also what I aim to do with this blog.  I wasn’t aware that this event has been taking place annually for 10 years now and I’m sure there are others who are also unaware of this event.  Tell our readers more about the origins of this event and what has been taking place for the past 10 years.


[Atlanta’s Asian Film Festival originated when] a group of local Asian film enthusiasts and volunteers decided to launch a festival to create awareness of Asian films. The goal of this organization is to promote Asian heritage and understanding through films. Over the past ten years, the festival has become a platform for Asian film makers to showcase their works. The festival also provides an opportunity to young film makers to gain exposure for their work.


How do you feel about the current representation of Asian Americans in film and television in mainstream media?

Asian American representation in mainstream media are not balanced and objective. It does not truly reflect the actual shifting of changes in the American social landscapes. However, the internet does provide an outlet or platform for Asian Americans; there are several successful web series, web videos, and shorts produced by Asian Americans. It is a true reflection of the changing landscape and the future of entertainment to come.


Usually film festivals are only films to be viewed at various public venues.  Does this event incorporate other cultural events during the festival such as Asian cuisines?

Yes it does. The festival incorporates the AAFF Premiere Night , which is the opening night of the Film Festival and features a screening and “Taste of Asia” – a banquet of Asian cuisines representing food from all over Asia. “Taste of Asia” cuisines are made possible with food prepared by Asian restaurants in metro Atlanta area.


Are the films that are included in the festival produced by local filmmakers or does the festival showcase films by Asians from around the world?

Films featured at AAFF range from independent local film makers to films from Asian producers. AAFF encourage and support local film makers to showcase their work.


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Atlanta Movie Tours

Atlanta is an emerging film town, so, naturally any news – big or small – that I find out about film around town thrills me.  So, let me tell you about the next big thing that I found:  Atlanta Movie Tours!  Yes, this is one of those things that you can add to your bucket list hall of fame because it is indeed a great way to learn about film production in Atlanta.  For this blog, I have teamed up with Patti Davis, one of the founders of Atlanta Film Tours, to tell us more about this exciting opportunity for film enthusiasts.


So obviously Atlanta is becoming a film town – well at least it is obvious to some us who live here.  For our readers who don’t reside in Atlanta and for those who do reside in Atlanta but are still in the dark about this fact, tell us why you developed your company and how it relates to this booming film business.

Carrie Sagel Burns and I started Atlanta Movie Tours out of our mutual ‘fandom’ for The Walking Dead. Carrie was already taking friends from out of town to The Walking Dead filming locations and I thought that this would make a terrific business. Two years later, seeing how our business is bringing guests from all over the world to Atlanta, we are still learning how we can contribute to Georgia filming tourism and continuing to add to the economic development of the city we both love.


Tell our readers about the experience. Is this a tour of a single place or is it a combination of places to go? Or better still; whet our appetite for what a tour is like.

 While all four of our tours follow a similar format, they vary quite a bit.  They are as follows:



For Zombie Lovers. . .

  • Can’t get


    enough of the Zombies? Then our Big Zombie Tours Part 1 & 2 are just the thing for you. Board our luxury coach and enter the apocalypse with our Walker guides straight from the show. You will trace the footsteps of your favorite characters from The Walking Dead and Zombieland, while learning about being on set with the stars.


For Antebellum South Lovers. . .

  • Do you love the old South and Gone With The Wind? Then you will love Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind Tour. Miss Mitchell herself guides you through her Atlanta as you visit the important spots in her life. This tour feels like a one-woman Broadway show as Miss Mitchell regales you with stories from her past and takes you to the apartment where she wrote her only published novel and other exciting locations. Vouchers for this tour also allow you to visit the Road To Tara Museum in Jonesboro and the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum, as well as gaining you re-entry to the Margaret Mitchell House.

 Atlanta Movie Tours 1

For All the Rest. . .Lovers. . .

  • Are you a big movie buff? If so, you will want to take our Atlanta Film Sites Tour. See locations where hundreds of movies and television shows have filmed, from “Driving Miss Daisy” to “The Blind Side” and so many more. This is a great way to see the city and don’t worry if you can’t recall the scenes for the films, we show you clips to refresh your memory!

All tours are 3-hours in length, with trivia played for prizes, free bottled water on our coaches and a complimentary souvenir group photo.


Does your tour include visiting places that are currently filming on location and those that have already been filmed; and, what is the extent of your territory that the tour covers?

It is our policy to never intrude on live filming, although sometimes it happens by accident since there are so many productions around the city. When this occurs, we think of it as a happy surprise and of course, our guests love it. Our tours go as far north as the Cobb Energy Center and as far south as Senoia, GA, depending on which tour you choose.


Do you see film as a thing that is here to stay and if so, how do you anticipate your company will grow along with the growth of film?

We definitely see the growth of film here in Atlanta, and Georgia in general, continuing for quite some time and really spiking over the next few years. Pinewood Studios joining us from the U.K. will make its facility the largest film studio in the U.S. and their presence in the state will continue to draw productions and television shows to the area for many years.

We saw a 450% growth in our second year in business and our company will continue to grow as film producers continue to utilize Atlanta and the surrounding area. We have a few projects in the works that should really delight future guests and we look forward to making those announcements shortly. We’re always coming up with new and exciting things for our guests to do!




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Film, Faith & Christ – AMTC Talent Development Company

Actors, Models, and Talent for Christ Talent Development Agency Atlanta, Georgia

Lights. Camera. Action. JESUS!  Yes, I said Jesus.  There is a talent development company in Atlanta that is changing the game when it comes to entertainment.  It is a faith-based organization that helps develop the careers of local entertainers with a little bit of skill, a little bit of hope and a little bit of faith.  I am teaming up with Carey Lewis Arban, owner and founder of this organization, to discuss how Actors, Models, and Talent for Christ is bringing a positive vibration into television and film straight from Atlanta.

Carey, I appreciate the time you have taken out of your busy schedule to assist me with this blog.  I really am intrigued by the work that you do and I feel that your organization is one of those unique gems in metro Atlanta that deserves to shine.  Many people leave faith out of their public lives, especially in business but your company places it at the forefront.  Tell us more about Actors, Models, and Talent for Christ and your mission within the world of film and television.

For AMTC’s first 24 years (1982-2006), we were not a Christian company. During that period, we launched thousands of performers and hundreds who achieved noteworthy success… like Megan Fox. Our transformation to a Christian company followed my own late-in-life conversion at the age of 51. Today AMTC’s mission is to educate and launch not just stars, but positive role models in film, fashion, music and theater–because the world needs them.


Have you experienced controversy while promoting your mission?

Most people do a double-take when they see AMTC’s billboards, or just our name, ‘Actors, Models and Talent for Christ.’ Both Christians and non-Christians are intrigued. They wonder not only if it’s real, but also if it’s possible. Yes and yes! It’s not hard to see that people of faith are rising in entertainment. Sports stars and film stars are ‘coming out’ about their love for God. Matthew McConnaughey’s Best Actor acceptance speech at 2014 Academy Awards shocked the world and it gladdened my heart. That being said, there is a ‘good guy (girl)’ movement in media now. I believe we will see an increasing number of faith-based films and performers.


Are people of any faiths welcome to be involved with this organization?

People of all faiths are welcomed to AMTC with open arms. We believe in prayer, laughter, truth, hard work and encouragement. It’s also important that AMTC performers be conscious of the examples they set–both on camera and off. Every star should be aware of that responsibility and consider the effects of their actions, especially on children.


Is talent hired only for Christian networks or is your talent hired by a variety of agencies and networks in film and television?

The SHINE Conference,which is held twice yearly by AMTC to launch its performers, hosts an extraordinary combination of agents, managers and casting directors–from both mainstream and Christian media. Therein, AMTC grads are everywhere: major reality TV shows, film, fashion, television, and music. It’s quite extraordinary. Not everyone is looking for Christians, but almost everyone is looking for excellence and truth. That’s what today’s top Christian performers embody – inside and out.




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People TV – Television for Atlantans, by Atlantans

People TV Sign

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Remember this from the Bill of Rights of the Constitution that we learned back in school.  This is one of those things that we take for granted because we in the U.S. are such a free thinking, democratic society.  Many countries around the world don’t have freedom of speech, let alone freedom of press; but we do and we are a remarkable country because of it.

Ok, enough of my philosophical rambling.  The purpose of this blog is to reintroduce readers to a very important form of free speech that I feel is underutilized in this day and age.  It was developed in the 1970s – a time in America in which people were roaring with passion for the right to demonstrate their Constitutional Rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.  This development in television is known as Public Access Television.

For this blog, I am collaborating with Adrian Coleman-Tyler, who serves on the board of directors for People TV, to tell us more about this resource that many often forget about as an alternative way to “break in” to television.

 People TV Prod Room

Thank you Adrian for taking the opportunity to talk with us about Public Access Television – known in Atlanta as People TV.  Adrian, for starters, tell us more about Public Access Television in Atlanta and how it can help those of us who want to begin a career in television.

People TV, Inc. (PTV) is an Atlanta based non-profit organization that manages the public access television channel for the City of Atlanta, Comcast Channel 24.  Founded in 1986, PTV operates a media production center in Midtown Atlanta that houses two television studios, video and post production facilities.  Our mission is to empower and encourage Atlanta residents and non-profit organizations to exercise their First Amendment rights and facilitate public engagement through the medium of television.    In addition to managing the public access channel, PTV is an educational center offering low cost workshops in television and video production including non-linear editing and digital camera.

People TV is home to a diverse community of media makers.  Many come to us with little or no video or television experience; still others are award winning filmmakers or working television professionals in search of a creative platform.  Our producers reflect a diversity of backgrounds – cab drivers, broadcast journalists, graduate students, teenagers and grandmothers; but, they share the common goal to express their story, their way.


Tell us why People TV has been and is still such a big deal to the local Atlanta community.

People TV, like public access centers around the country, is where aspiring musicians, comedians, journalists, actresses, and video producers/directors come to get their start or develop their ‘reel’.  In our 28 year history, Atlanta’s notables in every field (civil rights, politics, banking, education, religion, arts and more) have connected with People TV, Inc. in some way – taken a workshop, produced a TV program, appeared as a guest or host, served on the Board of Directors or volunteered to teach a workshop.  As proud as we are of the who’s who, we’re equally proud of our volunteer producers who aspire simply to create programming to express their views, faith, art or culture and engage with Atlanta audiences.


What is the cost of producing programming on public access television or other services offered by People TV?

People TV On Stage

People TV, Inc. makes every effort to keep our fees affordable to keep our services accessible, most under $100.  Atlanta residents are given priority access to the channel and our programs including workshops.  Non-Atlanta residents may apply but availability may be limited and fees may be higher.   Persons interested in our programs should visit our website for calendar of events.


How do viewers watch programming on People TV and how can those interested in being on People TV get involved?

Before I proceed with answering that question Melisha, I just want to say thanks to People TV viewers who have supported us for 28 years!   Our goal in 2014 is to get Atlanta talking, spark dialogue and connect communities.   Now to answer the first part of this question, in order to watch People TV, Comcast subscribers in the City of Atlanta may watch on Channel 24; or, viewers can opt to watch it online at our website www.peopletv.org.

To answer the second part of your question, People TV will be accepting programming applications for next channel season in May.  Those who want to be considered can visit our website for upcoming workshops and events or check our programming guide. Viewers may also connect with People TV on Facebook at www.facebook.com/peopletvAtlanta


How is television like this sustained, i.e. through community support, sponsorship, etc.?

The City of Atlanta is fortunate to have had a history of progressive leadership who have supported public access television since the 1980’s for Atlanta residents. People TV, Inc. is supported primarily through a contract with the City of Atlanta, supplemented with community support, sponsorships and grants.

Thanks Melisha and WIFTA for your interest in People TV, Inc. In closing, I’d believe George Stoney, often referred as the “Father of Public Access Television” words best describe the value in public access television.

“We look on cable as a way of encouraging public action, not just access. Social change comes with a combination of use of media and people getting out on the streets or getting involved. And we find that if people make programs together and put them on the local channel, that gets them involved.”




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Savannah Film Commission – The Gateway to Filmmaking in Georgia


During the colonial period, a gentleman by the name of James Oglethorpe came to the United States with a small group of settlers and developed a colony near present-day Savannah, Georgia; thus beginning the history and heritage of this great state.  He is often referred to as the founder of Georgia and his work in this state revolved around providing settlers from Britain a place to rebuild and re-establish themselves after being devastated financially by Britain’s harsh rules surrounding debt and taxes, especially before the Declaration of Independence was signed and officiated in 1776.  He was a social reformer who grew Georgia from the shores of Savannah and became an emblem of growth and development in this state.

Aside from Oglethorpe’s legacy which can be seen across the state through architectural edifices, statues, and other things remaining in his namesake, there is another legacy that is being created as we speak that represents potential for growth and development in Georgia.  It is a film legacy that has been laid by the Savannah Film Commission, which I believe, will play an integral role in film production in this state.  Savannah has been a key player in the film industry here in Georgia for many years, dating as far back as 1962.

Key films that we have seen played out on Hollywood’s big screen that have been filmed on location in Savannah are as follows:

The SpongeBob Movie 2
Paramount Pictures

Cap Fear (The Original – 1962)

Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies
The Asylum

American Idol
FOX/Fremantle Media

The Fugitive
Warner Bros. Television

The Legend of Bagger Vance

Forest Gump
Paramount Pictures

Tri-Star Pictures

In order to tell us more about this film commission and its important role it will play in the future of film here in Georgia, I have teamed up with William Hammargren, Film Services Director at the Savannah Film Commission.

William, I really appreciate this opportunity to showcase you and the Savannah Film Commission in this blog.  Many great things are unfolding in the world of film in this state and this is great news for us who are developing careers in this industry.  First, tell us what the Savannah Film Commission is and its purpose.

The Savannah Film Commission is a 19 member board charged with advising and assisting the Savannah Film Office and Savannah City Council on media production related issues and activities. Most people are referring to the Film Office when the reference the Commission and they can be used somewhat interchangeably but it is good to note that they are technically two separate things. The Savannah Film Office is a department of the Savannah City Government and its mission is to weave the film and television industry into the fabric of Savannah’s social, economic and professional profile. This involves a number of activities, including marketing, and outreach, production recruitment, permitting, project management, and connecting producers with local resources and locations. Thus we serve both Savannah’s citizens and media production clients.

As film continues to grow around the state, do you anticipate that Savannah’s Film Commission will be the leading commission for any film making within the state?

The Savannah Film Commission and Film Office serve (and are funded by) the citizens of the City of Savannah and thus this is our primary area of focus; however, we work to promote and enable media production throughout southeast Georgia. We also work very closely with the Georgia State Film Office and Department of Economic Development whom I would consider to be the leaders in this area. We obviously have a keen interest in the statewide health of this industry and any policies or developments pertaining to it. Members of the Savannah Film Commission and a number of other local Savannahians have been critical in establishing the states successful programs to date and continue their involvement at many levels, locally, throughout the state, and beyond.

As you may know, the South is rising in importance in film production with Louisiana being the top location for film making, outranking California and our neighboring state of Florida.  What do you think it will take for us to get to the number one spot that Louisiana now holds?

Our current rate of growth is aggressive. In selecting where to film, producers look for a number of things. Key among these is a strong, stable and accessible incentive program, and the availability of skilled local crew, diverse locations, and infrastructure such as stages and equipment. We have all of these things and are continuing to develop them. Taking the top spot will require and ongoing commitment to all of those things and the support of a broad range of Georgia citizens and stakeholders.

There are criticisms about how film tax incentives are only disrupting economies by simply taking from them and not helping in the development of the local economies of places outside of California and New York.  Do you think that Georgia will be a victim of this trend of new “robber barons” who simply profit from this industry without developing it; or is this an important economic development within the state that is here to stay?

This is an extremely complicated issue but if you look at how much this industry has grown in Georgia since the incentive was enacted I think it is clear development is happening at that it has a positive economic impact. There have been multiple independent studies of the state’s entertainment tax incentive program and at worst they found the program to be revenue neutral, however the large majority of them found it to be revenue positive. This means that for every dollar of tax money spent funding the states entertainment tax credit, the state is making that dollar back plus some, in tax revenue.

So I would ask: what do we lose by continuing this successful program? All industries receive sizable tax incentives from states in order to attract their business. There are any number of recent stories of states offering generous incentives to attract major manufactures and the jobs they bring to their area. The film incentive in Georgia is no different. Many naysayers make the argument that manufactures provide long-term employment opportunities and that movie production companies come and go quickly. It’s true, an individual production only spends a limited amount of time in the state but that doesn’t mean the film incentive isn’t creating long-term employment. Productions are coming in record numbers and bringing more and more jobs with them. They are also supporting thousands of businesses which cater to not just the movies themselves but their employees as well. One of the biggest names in movie studios, Pinewood, is building its first studio in the US here in Georgia. Many major production studios already have facilities here.

The development is happening. The incentive is important and we are benefiting from it. Georgia has shown a strong commitment to the incentive and that is a big part of its success. In fact Georgia is even looking at ways to expand it now. Going back to the previous question, the reason Louisiana currently has the number one spot is because they were among the first to implement an incentive program and they have stuck with it through the years. Other states, such as South Carolina, which have reduced or eliminated their film incentives, have seen the industry there suffer because of it. If Georgia continues its commitment to the tax credit the film business will continue to grow here and become more and more instrumental to our economy. I believe that we are on track to do that and that the entertainment industry will be one of Georgia’s largest and most important sectors in the years to come.

Image courtesy of VisitSavannah.com


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