So You Wanna Be an Indie Producer?

Photo courtesy of Alex Orr



About a week ago, I – as did other WIFTA members and non-members alike – had the opportunity to listen to the zany presentation by Alex Orr. He filled the room with laughter about making it in independent film but his topic was no laughing matter.  Despite the humorous comments, Alex was spot on when it came to educating the audience about the ins-and-outs of being an Indie producer. One of the first most memorable statements that he made about being a filmaker in general is:

“You do what you want and you don’t have anyone telling you what to do”

From there, he went on to explain some not so positive sides of producing Indie films but still critical to the role. “An Indie film producer wears many hats and may have to perform most if not all of the jobs that may be delegated to others for big budget films.” As he made this statement, he then pulled up a sample film budget, complete with all the detailed line items from a big budget film. This was followed by his reasoning for why most of these things are NOT NEEDED by and Indie producer.

Lecture Photo
Event photo taken by Mel

“Minimal location changes and few scene changes in your film can take costs down tremendously,” said Alex. Many blockbuster films like James Bond films and Fast and Furious films have countless scene changes but these scene changes can drive up costs. Another significant point that Alex made is “if you wait on financing for your film, you will never get it made. Set a date and move forward with what you have.” Many have a tendency to go into analysis paralysis especially when analyzing budgets but going with the flow and not waiting on everything to fall into place is the way to go, according to Alex. “Get friends and family involved in order to keep down the costs of the film but compensate them with things such as providing meals,” Alex pointed out.

As Alex continued down the list, striking out a host of irrelevant line items for Indie producers, he responded to someone’s question about cameras to use. He mentioned the Arie Alexa camera as the one he often uses but he also shocked us when he told us that an Apple iPhone can be used. “With a zoom nearby you can sync the sound while you capture the image and cut it in editing software like iMovie,” explained Alex.

Alex ended the night by reminding us about how short an Indie budget should be. “While a big film budget will be generally 44 pages, Indie budget should be somewhere around 4.” He also reminded us that legal fees is one of those things that can be striked from the list of things needed in the budget; however, Indie film producers should make some serious considerations with regard to payroll or this could result in unwanted legal action. The audience digressed into this topic of payroll in film. One important point that was made is that it is important for an Indie producer to decide whether to use a payroll company to pay crew as independent contractors or to pay crews as employees using a 1099. Interchanging the two inadvertently can result in actions taken by the Department of Labor. This can be a really sticky issue as one audience member pointed out from her experience.

We ended the night on a great note. Alex took some questions from individual audience members and the remaining lingering audience members mingled. Those who were leaving also enjoyed a great treat, courtesy of WIFTA, from a place called Vintage Frozen Custard. Mmm. What a night filled with treats indeed – both Alex’s advice on Indie film and the custard.



Read more Reel Focus blog articles


Become a member of WIFTA


Become a WIFTA Sponsor


Donate to WIFTA


Attend an upcoming WIFTA event or workshop


Tinashe’s World of Acting

Photo courtesy of Tinashe Kajese


Tinashe Kajese is no stranger to the world of acting. She is known for many acting roles on television and on stage.  Born in Zimbabwe, this sensational lady has been embracing the challenges of stage and screen for several years and she is giving back to her local community by helping others to hone their acting skills. For this Reel Focus blog, we will explore Tinashe’s world, both on and off stage.

Tinashe, for those of our readers who are not familiar with who you are in the world of acting and entertainment, tell us the roles that you have played in film and/or on television.

I would say the majority of my television work has been in the form of National Commercials like McDonalds, Homegoods, Hilshire Farms, Ford, and many variations of banks!! People may have also caught a glimpse of me in the HBO show ENLIGHTENED or on CBS’ Cold Case.

What brought you to Atlanta?

My husband, Keith Arthur Bolden, was offered a professor position in the Theater Department at Spelman College just over a year ago. We have a young son and felt like there were so many exciting things happening in Atlanta not just in our industry but also culturally speaking that we decided to make the move and explore our opportunities in this up and coming market. Having lived in NYC and Los Angeles, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that Atlanta was never on our radar in terms of a career move but we have been so blessed personally and professionally I can’t imagine living anywhere else at this time in our lives.

Tell us what Tinashe’s world is like outside of the limelight.

As I mentioned, I have a 2 year old son, so motherhood is the center part of my life. I am also a certified Interior Architect Designer – I had gone back to school for my Masters so that I could fully explore my passion for design. I mostly do commercial design and some residential remodeling. Having this other outlet of artistic expression is so rewarding and I love the process of reconstructing spaces into functional works of art that can remain long after I leave.

Photo courtesy of Tinashe Kajese

Tell our readers more about your acting classes and what you do to develop talent for stage.

Theater is huge part of my background and career. I do believe that craft and talent is developed through practice and ‘exercising’ that muscle of effortless storytelling. Also, knowing how to adapt your performance for different mediums is so critical if you want to be successful in this business. There are so many classes out there that teach actors how to audition but what happens AFTER you book that role and are expected to recreate what you did 3 months ago on tape for casting? I teach a very specific technique on how to break down scripts and create the most dynamic performance which not only makes you a memorable actor but also a marketable one. Being on set can be extremely nerve racking so I give actors tools that take them from the initial audition, thru the table read and into a successful filming experience. See the link below for details.

What can be expected from you in the future?

Photo courtesy of Tinashe Kajese

I have a couple national commercials running for Haverty’s, a furniture store, and some projects lining up in the near future. I just finished a production of DETROIT ’67 at True Colors Theater Company and am now at the Alliance Theater in BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY alongside Atlanta’s fabulous Crystal Fox (April 15th-May 10th). The fact that I am able to still pursue my love for the theater while having the opportunity to do television and film gives me so much excitement about living here in Atlanta and what the future holds!




For more information about Tinashe’s acting classes, email email

Read more Reel Focus blog articles


Become a member of WIFTA


Become a WIFTA Sponsor


Donate to WIFTA


Attend an upcoming WIFTA event or workshop


Spelman & Morehouse College – Paving Pathways to Hollywood

2014 photo
Photo courtesy of Keith Arthur Bolden


There is a lot of film activity taking place in Georgia. From Vampire Diaries, Madea, Anchorman 2 to the latest edition to film and television chronicles – The Originals – Georgia is getting into the game. It’s one thing to be in the game and another thing completely to stay in the game. How does anyone sustain growth in any successful market? Well, one pertinent way is to have useful and timely information and this usually comes from education.

As Georgia continues to film on location, build new production companies and other activities related to film, it can’t forget about training locals to fill positions in the local market. Spelman and Morehouse College is doing its due diligence and helping to create future stars. This week, Reel Focus will explore Spelman and Morehouse’s contribution to film and television by speaking to Keith Arthur Bolden – Assistant Professor in the Department of Drama and Dance at Spelman College – about their theater programs.

Keith, welcome to our blog. Tell us in general, about Spelman and Morehouse Theater programs and what it provides to students.

2014-09-27 14.51.27
Photo courtesy of Keith Arthur Bolden

The Drama and Dance program at Spelman College provides students with a real world theatre experience in a liberal arts setting. A lot of people don’t know this but Morehouse doesn’t have a drama program (they do have a wonderful film and emerging media program). So the young men at Morehouse actually earn their acting chops at Spelman College. We are giving our young people a taste of everything that the art has to offer from front of house to technical aspects to actually acting in full productions. My focus since being here has been to prepare our students for graduate school if they want a future in the arts. We prepare them exceptionally well for further study as well as real world application.

How did you get involved in theater and eventually begin teaching theater?

Keith Full length
Keith Arthur Bolden

I was a freshman at Fresno State University as a journalism major. They had just recruited a young professor – Thomas Whit Ellis – to establish a black theatre program. His first production was George C. Wolfe’s, The Colored Museum. Thomas had to recruit folks for this production and he’d come to University 101 classes to do this. I auditioned and I was hooked after being cast. I had no idea what theatre was or how to achieve it. Ironically I wrote a play about the birth of Christ when I was 8 years old and I did that never having seen a play. So I guess it’s always been there, but it was never nurtured. Theatre/acting has given my life purpose. The only reason I was a journalism major was to be a film critic because I never thought that I could actually be onscreen doing what I know I loved…little did I know.

Are Spelman and Morehouse preparing students for opportunities in the local market along with opportunities in places like California and New York?

I think that we give our students some tools to make a choice about what direction they want to go in the field. But they should always know that the training never stops. Just like a doctor or lawyer, there is always studying and training to be had. Even I still get coaching some times. Some of our favorite artists still receive coaching and they should know that. I am still a working actor and have work consistently since relocating here to Atlanta. I have lived in New York and Los Angeles and I am very aware of the temperament and landscape of each market and how rapidly it changes, specifically with emerging new media.

A lot of film and television shows are being shot on location here in Georgia as you know and there are a few schools around town that have had the opportunity to have their campus as a backdrop for production. Tell us what would be great features for Spelman and Morehouse, making it a great location for filming.

We have several locations that are excellent of course for classroom scenes, but we also have apartment style dormitories, cafeterias, executive meeting rooms, labs, theatres, parking structures and lots, stadiums, gyms and workout facilities, the list goes on and on. Anyone can film almost any type of scene here at Spelman or throughout the entire Atlanta University Center.




Read more Reel Focus blog articles


Become a member of WIFTA


Become a WIFTA Sponsor


Donate to WIFTA


Attend an upcoming WIFTA event or workshop


Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael On Lady Edith’s Emotional Season 5

Photo courtesy of Rosemary Jean-Lewis

Written by Rosemary Jean-Louis, Guest Blogger

Season five of “Downton Abbey” had the melodrama of a telenovela with no character being untouched by conflict and troubles.

But Julian Fellowes heaped the heartache on the Crawley middle sister, Lady Edith.

At the beginning of the season, Lady Edith had taken back her daughter Marigold and hid her away with tenant farmer and adoptive couple the Drewes.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, should have been the tagline for this scheme. Lady Edith planned on checking in on Marigold as much as possible. But Mrs. Drewe, unaware of Marigold’s true identity, made the Crawley sister miserable with each visit. At one point, she denied Lady Edith seeing Marigold during one stopover. By midway through the season, Mrs. Drewe banned Lady Edith from seeing the little girl altogether.

Add the confirmed death of Mr. Gregson, Edith’s lover and Marigold’s father, and what an emotional rollercoaster ride for the character and the actress who plays her.

That would be Laura Carmichael and at the second annual “Downton Abbey” themed weekend at the Sea Island Resort this past January, she shared how she navigated playing so many scenes with such a heightened sense of emotions.

“Really when you’ve got a day which is a lot of your big storyline (days), those are kind of easier. You’re in it,” she explains. “They tend to schedule them together if they can. So they’ll put all of your big scenes in one day which can kind of help the concentration.”

“It’s a performance. So much of what happens to Edith is that she has to show that she’s fine even when she’s not. So it’s my job to always keep it in my mind and be on top of that.”

You can watch Carmichael discuss it in this video snippet of a panel discussion she appeared on during the weekend event alongside Kevin Doyle (Mr. Moseley) and Raquel Cassidy (Baxter) moderated by Jessica Fellowes, niece of Julian and “Downton Abbey” book author.


If you’re suffering from “Downton Abbey” withdrawal, here’s a fix. Visit Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Downton Abbey” store to stock up on t-shirts, mugs and other swag.



Read more Reel Focus blog articles


Become a member of WIFTA


Become a WIFTA Sponsor


Donate to WIFTA


Attend an upcoming WIFTA event or workshop


Genre Mashup: Screening a Lynching & The People vs. Leo Frank

Photo courtesy of Marietta History Museum


Over a century ago, a tragic case gripped the state of Georgia and still seems to haunt its history. This was the case of Mary Phagan and Frank Leo, both of which were subjected to horrible deaths. Mary was a young lady believed to be raped and murdered by Leo Frank and he was a young man who was believed by some to be wrongly accused but brought to justice by brutal lynch mobs of the south not just for the crime itself but due to Antisemitism. I discovered the facts of this case some time ago while perusing channels on my television. What interested me the most is where the events connected to the case took place – Marietta, Georgia – which is near my home. Curious, I took a trip to the Marietta History Museum and found a little more information about the case. My inquisitiveness then led me even further to two incredible men from two different worlds who have also taken interest in the case and have made it a part of their life’s work.

Ben Loeterman is a director for the film The People vs. Leo Frank and owner ofBen Loeterman Ben Loeterman Productions, Inc. – an independent documentary film production company based in Boston, Massachusetts. His production company’s programs have aired on the PBS’s Frontline and American Experience and both BBC and Discovery Channel. Prominent works include The War That Made America, Golden Gate Bridge, The Long Road to War, and Inside the Terror Network.

Dr. Matthew Bernstein is a distinguished Emory University professor in the Film and Media Studies department who has written a book entitled Screening a Lynching – The Leo Frank case on Film and Television. Dr. Bernstein’s research and teaching is focused on the history of Hollywood. He also serves on the National Film Preservation Board, advising the Librarian of Congress on matters of film preservation and has received numerous awards bernstein_matthewincluding the 2008 IMAGE (Independent Media Artists of Georgia, Etc.) Award; the 2006 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Award; and the 2013 Emory University Faculty Creativity and the Arts Award . This week’s Reel Focus blog is something that I call a “genre mashup” in which I combine the works of two individuals who have the same interest in this case but have portrayed it in their respective genres.

MC: Ben, I am a Georgia film enthusiast so I have to ask this question. As a director you know all too well that some films are shot on location where the story is set and some are shot elsewhere and made to look like the setting. Aside from the event actually taking place The People vs. Leo Frank Filmin Georgia, what influenced your decision to film on location here in Georgia?

BL: Accents. First and foremost, I wanted the film to sound right, and that meant deciding up front to film in Georgia. It’s a big leap of faith in documentaries to include acting—recreations have become more familiar, but full-frontal naked faces—and then voices coming out of them—are still a rarity. So there’s a responsibility one feels to get the details right: the accents, the heat, the gestures. There is a long list of intangibles, from the obvious to the nuanced that you get from shooting on location. It was the first smart decision we took.

MC: Dr. Bernstein, in your book Screening a Lynching you draw conclusions based on two theatrical films and two television treatments of this case. Let’s pretend that The People vs. Leo Frank had been included in this list. Give a brief critique of how this film maker “researched and understood the case and why the production took the course that it did?”

MB: If there is ever a revised edition, I would insist on a new chapter on Ben’s excellent documentary (Ben, I’d be calling you for extensive interviews and access to your papers, if they are available). All the moving image treatments of the case are shaped not just by the filmmakers’ vision, but by the constraints placed upon them. But what struck me is how well researched each version was.

Ben’s is no different in this regard, but The People v. Leo Frank, in just 75 minutes, provides the most accurate and rounded treatment of the case to date. Aside from Ben’s considerable gifts as a visual storyteller, the film benefits immensely from the input of Steve OScreening a Lynching Bookney, author of And the Dead Shall Rise, a superb, novelistic account of the case that Steve painstakingly researched. One of the key figures Steve brought forward for our attention was the attorney William Smith, who defended black defendant/witness for the prosecution Jim Conley and ultimately became convinced of Leo Frank’s innocence, to the extent that he was still obsessing about it on his deathbed. In addition, Ben’s film is innovative in its use of documentary form—what he calls “dramatized documentary.” He got some excellent performances from the lead actors portraying Leo Frank and Jim Conley in the re-enactment scenes, but he also chose to have the film narrated by the William Smith character. I’m not sure I’ve seen that done before.

MC: This question is for both of you. In both of your mediums – Ben, yours being film and Dr. Bernstein, yours being non-fiction books – tell our readers what you are trying to convey and why books and films on this topic and ones similar to this are so critical to be told to mass audiences.

BL: In film, we’re trying most to convey a visceral, emotional, intimate telling of the story. Books can be better at portraying the power of facts, but nothing conveys emotion to a mass audience like film. And it’s critical to tell these kinds of stories to a mass audience for two reasons: 1) their underpinnings are universal and, 2) stories like this have a way of being bound to the places they happen. I was so stunned as a West Coast, reform Jew that I had never heard of the story of Leo Frank growing up. And that so many people in my present hometown of Boston have never heard the story. That seems criminal to me, and the critical reason to tell them in a big way to big audiences.

MB: As a Long Island, New York reform Jew, I too had never heard of the Leo Frank case until I came to Atlanta in 1989. And I agree with Ben—the moving image still has a power and immediacy that supersedes any other form. Look at the heated attacks that greeted Alma DuVarney’s Selma, over the depiction of LBJ. People are criticizing the film, wrongheadedly in my opinion, because of the medium’s power to communicate the history of the Civil Rights Movement at this juncture. Actually documentarians like Ben and historians like myself have a great deal in common. Ben presents the history of the case; I present the history of the screen versions of the case. Historians and filmmakers like Ben and I both undertake research and construct a narrative interpretation of what happened in the past. Books do have the latitude to provide more historical context, but then, Ben’s film expertly provides a good deal of it through the talking head historians (Dan Carter, Melissa Faye Green, Nell Irvin Painter) who comment on the case.

MC: Fun question for both of you. If the two of you had to work together on a film based on a true story and Ben, you of course being the director and Dr. Bernstein you serving as a consultant on set – helping the director and crew develop the storyline as realistically and creatively as possible – what would that film be?

BL: The film I’m sorriest not to receive funding for is another criminal justice tale about Clarence Darrow, known as the ‘lawyer for the damned.’ The 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times (in my home town) put Darrow at the center of a large social drama then gripping the nation: the titanic struggle between labor and management as personified in the struggle between Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis and the labor movement led by Samuel Gompers. With such protean issues at stake, Darrow cracks under pressure and decides that, to achieve the greater good, he is willing to bend the means and attempts to bribe two jurors in the LA Times bombing case.

So much of the story turns not on the facts, but on Darrow’s internal state of mind in reaction to the facts, that it becomes a Rashomon story. And why it would be so critical to have people like Matthew to speculate on the egos, emotions and states of mind that propelled the major players in the case…
MB: The film I’d like to see produced is a biopic or documentary about the subject of my first book, a major Hollywood “independent” producer from the 1930s through the 1960s. He made films at the time of David O. Selznick and Samuel Goldwyn. He’s forgotten now, but he made some major Hollywood classics from the 1920s through the 1960s: Greta Garbo in Queen Christina, John Ford’s Stagecoach, Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street, the original invasion of the Body Snatchers , and the 1963 Liz Taylor-Dick Burton Cleopatra. He understood the power of film to influence people, was president of the Academy during World War II, but also shot his wife Joan Bennett’s lover in a parking lot in Beverly Hills in the early 1950s and served a jail sentence. Just a fascinating man full of contradictions. I would need Ben’s expertise on how to handle the story, how to frame it, what to leave out and what to leave in, but I do think we begin in that parking lot and then flashback to his privileged childhood . . . . .

The People vs. Leo Frank Film Trailer


Read more Reel Focus blog articles


Become a member of WIFTA


Become a WIFTA Sponsor


Donate to WIFTA


Attend an upcoming WIFTA event or workshop


Atlanta Film Festival 2015

Atlanta Film Festival 2015 (2)
Logo courtesy of Cameron McAllister


It’s that time of the year again when stars are born and dreams are turned into reality.  I’m referring to movie-making magic at its finest brought to you by one of the best film festivals in the world:  Atlanta Film Festival.  Ok, I am being a little braggadocios but I’m excited about this film festival and here to get you equally excited about it is Cameron McAllister, Marketing Director for the Atlanta Film Festival.

Thank you Cameron for joining us on the Reel Focus blog.  Tell our readers what makes the Atlanta Film Festival a distinctive film festival compared to some really great ones taking place across the nation and worldwide.

The Atlanta Film Festival is a cultural institution for the city. We are one of America’s oldest film festivals and only two-dozen other US festivals are Academy-Award qualifying. But I think our biggest asset is the experience we offer. First of all, Atlanta in the spring is a beautiful place. We bring in filmmakers from across the globe and show them the best of what our city and our industry has to offer. We don’t want to put on airs, but be real with people and showcase the character that this city possesses. Not just for filmmakers, but for our members and patrons, we offer year-round programming through film screenings, educational opportunities, parties, and partnerships with local businesses, artists and organizations that share our goal of enriching Atlanta.

Can you name some famous film professionals who got their start right here with the Atlanta Film Festival?

Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez, Ray McKninnon, James Ponsoldt, David Gordon Green all showed their first works at our festival and have gone on to be paramounts in the directing community.

With all the growth in film taking place statewide, have you seen an enormous amount of growth with the Atlanta film industry as a result?

Absolutely! It’s not just the big Hollywood productions that are aplenty, Georgia’s indie film scene is booming too. One sign of that is that we have 12 Georgia-tied features and 17 Georgia-tied shorts. We’ve never had that high a number of local films in our program and we are so excited about every single one.

As the industry grows here, what does AFF have in store for expansion?

Just as Atlanta grows in the industry, we’ve seen growth for our festival too. It isn’t just the number of local films that are submitted, it is also the local interest. People get excited when they encounter film productions on their street or in their neighborhood. That fuels a desire to get involved, and what better place to do so than the Atlanta Film Festival? We are almost 40-years-old (next year!) and I can’t think of a better time to celebrate a big birthday than with the film boom happening right as it is. We’ve reached out to studios and they’ve reached out to us… we can’t reveal our plans just yet… but I can assure you that they are exciting!

Why should people come out to this year’s film festival and what is in store for the general public?

Off the top of my head, there are a few reasons that people should come out… 1. Because they love Atlanta. 2. Because they love movies. 3. Because they love BOTH! Seriously, there are a myriad of great films, television programs, events, parties, movie stars, musical performances and other great things people can expect from this year, but our goal is to use all of these things to enrich our community and give our city a valuable resource. Not to mention, there are nearly 30 productions with Georgia ties in our lineup this year, so you will be supporting the local industry as well!

Photo courtesy of Cameron McAllister
Man Playing Guitar
Photo courtesy of Cameron McAllister








Read more Reel Focus blog articles


Become a member of WIFTA


Become a WIFTA Sponsor


Donate to WIFTA


Attend an upcoming WIFTA event or workshop


Women’s History Month – Women Breaking Through Barriers in Hollywood

Michelle Paradise
Photo courtesy of Michelle Paradise


Susan B. Anthony…Elizabeth Cady Stanton…Olympe de Gouges…Michelle Paradise?

Yes you read the list of names correctly. Michelle Paradise is a part of this legacy of strong women too listed above and reasonably so. Just as these other women broke down barriers and created opportunity for women that followed them, Michelle is doing something very similar for women entering Hollywood. Everyone in this industry knows that this is a difficult industry to break into whether you are a man or a woman but it’s always great to know that there are women who are paving a way for other women to follow. In celebration of Women’s History month, I invited actor and writer Michelle Paradise to Reel Focus blog to tell us more about a topic that will never get stale on Women in Film and Television Atlanta’s site: women successfully making it in Hollywood.

M.C:  Thank you Michelle for accepting my invitation. I first would like to begin by allowing you to tell everyone about your more popular roles that you have played either as an actor or writer in Hollywood. Ie. What would people know you for?

MP:  I’m probably best known for the series Exes & Ohs, which ran for two seasons on Logo in the U.S. and on Showcase/SuperChannel in Canada (it’s now available via iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix). It was based on a short film that I wrote and acted in, and I also wrote and acted in all the episodes of the series itself. It was an amazing project to be part of, and the fact that I got to wear so many hats – writing, acting, and producing – was a great experience all the way around. I’m currently writing on The Originals, which airs on the CW and it is one of the network’s biggest hits, so some folks might know me from that. Of course, if you look at my face and feel a sudden compulsion to brush with Crest toothpaste then it could also be that you recognize me from my commercial work (I’ve done dozens of commercials as an actor).

MC:  Tell us more about Michelle Paradise – the “outside of Hollywood limelight” woman? What do you do to “normalize” your life off set?

MP:  I’m not sure how to answer that, actually. My life is incredibly normal. I go to an office every day – but in my case, the office just happens to be a large room where the writers for our show gather to talk about the stories for the season or the particular episode we’re working on. It’s a normal workday with fairly typical hours and then I go home to my family, spend time with my daughter before she goes to bed, that sort of thing. The only time that we, as writers, go to set is when the episode we’ve written is being filmed. The Originals shoots near Atlanta, so we fly out there for our episode and help oversee the process of prep and shooting. On our show, we’ll typically write or co-write 3-4 episodes per season; other than those times, we’re in the Los Angeles office working with the other writers.

MC:  What was it like for you to break the glass ceiling in Hollywood and make your mark?

MP:  I’ve certainly had an unusual career path (not many people get their short film turned into a television series!) but I don’t feel I’ve broken any glass ceilings along the way. The fact that I’m a woman working in this business at all is thanks to the many talented and determined women that came before me. Writers like Frances Marion and Anita Loos, directors like Dorothy Arzner, comedians like Lucille Ball. They all paved the way many years ago but there are still plenty of women who are paving the way today… Kathryn Bigelow, Laverne Cox, Shonda Rhimes, and my own boss Julie Plec, just to name a few. The fact that these women have proven so successful makes it that much easier for those of us coming after them.

MC:  What advice do you have for aspiring actors/writers? What advice do you have for career changers who are thinking about quitting their current jobs and getting into Hollywood?

MP:  The best advice I can give is to hone your craft before leaving your current job. Acting and writing are both skills that must be learned (and the best actors and writers never stop learning, even after they’re doing it professionally). Take classes, attend workshops, study great performances and/or great scripts. If you want to be an actor, audition for local theater productions, student films, or indie films; take a scene study class or an improv class. Don’t rush to get an agent. Get the training you need so that when you do get an agent or an audition for a big project, you’re ready. If you want to be a writer, write. There are great books on screenwriting that can help you along the way (just do a google search and you’ll find them). Start watching films or television shows with a critical eye. Find a writing class, get involved in a writers’ group. Ask friends to read your work who will give you honest – if hard to hear – feedback. And again, don’t rush to get an agent. You might only get one shot at having them read your material so make sure your material is ready to be seen. Lastly, you’ll need to decide if you want to stay in the Atlanta area or move to Los Angeles or New York. As an actor, there are so many productions shooting in and around Atlanta that a trained actor can probably work fairly steadily – but keep in mind that the larger roles are almost always cast out of L.A. or N.Y. Whether or not to move is a question of balancing career goals with lifestyle choices, and only you will know what’s right for you. As a writer, it depends on whether you’re interested in film, theater, or television. For film or theater, it doesn’t matter as much where you live; for television, there are a handful of writers’ rooms in New York but the vast majority of them are in Los Angeles. It’s also worth noting that acting and writing are both highly competitive industries. The harsh reality is that most actors and writers in Hollywood are out of work at any given time, so if you want to change careers – and possibly make a move – I’d strongly suggest having a solid job opportunity before doing so.



Read more Reel Focus blog articles


Become a member of WIFTA


Become a WIFTA Sponsor


Donate to WIFTA


Attend an upcoming WIFTA event or workshop



A Night Remembered in Atlanta

Photo courtesy of


On February 22, 2015, the 87th Annual Academy Awards aired on WSB-TV in Atlanta.  In support of film professionals who were nominated and awarded on this special night, Women in Film and Television Atlanta hosted an Oscar Party at Studio No. 7 in downtown Atlanta.  It was truly a night to remember and this is what I remembered. . .

DSC00930Our bartender provided us with some great drinks throughout the night. . .



. . .many were engaged in conversation and enjoying the ambiance. . .


DSC00954. . .some were exchanging information and networking and really having fun doing so. . .



. . .the red carpet show on TV kept some of us entertained. . .



. . .while the actual awards ceremony kept the rest of us occupied as winners were announced at the Oscars. . .




. . .let’s not forget about those Oscar trivia games that kept us guessing during commercial breaks. . .



. . .and when games weren’t being played, we were moving and grooving to the talented musical crew. . .


DSC00986. . .still others were simply satisfied with looking good for the evening and indeed there were a lot of well-dressed, good-looking men and women at the event.


Did you miss out on all the fun we had?  Click here to see the video. 


Event photos by Mel.

Video courtesy of Angela Wingers of


Read more Reel Focus blog articles


Become a member of WIFTA


Become a WIFTA Sponsor


Donate to WIFTA


Attend an upcoming WIFTA event or workshop


A Glimpse into the Production World – EUE/Screen Gems Atlanta

Photo courtesy of EUE/Screen Gems Atlanta


Just the other day, I read a statistic that Georgia’s film industry has “grown from a $250 million-a-year industry in 2007 to more than $5 billion in 2014.”  This is something that is not to be taken lightly.  Investment potential is high and there are many who are coming here to take advantage of the newfound Georgia “gold.”  One such company that has seen Georgia’s film opportunity is EUE/Screen Gems Atlanta.  For this blog, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with Sharon Cooney Shuttleworth, Co-Owner and Director of Marketing for EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington NC and Atlanta.  This, for me, represents a colossal opportunity because due the confidential nature of film in general, it is very rare to get a glimpse into this world.  Therefore, I am glad to share this information with our readers.

MC:  Sharon, thank you so much for taking time to share with Reel Focus readers more about EUE/Screen Gems Atlanta. Tell us more about what a production company does, particularly when productions are NOT taking place on your grounds.

SS:  First, EUE/Screen Gems Studios is so pleased to be part of the film industry in Atlanta. We renovated the Lakewood Fairgrounds property and opened the first studio complex in Atlanta in 2010. It’s hard to believe that was almost five years ago!


EUE/Screen Gems Studios provides infrastructure and support for production companies producing feature films, television series and commercials. When you “host” a production, you provide the power, the electricity, the security, the buildings, trailers, wardrobe space, wood shop, paint and mill space, offices, the digital network and the systems that allow a creative team to come in and make movie or television magic.


In Atlanta, we also provide the lighting and grip for the productions that shoot with us. We offer our clients access to an extensive network of contacts, and in Atlanta, we also house the offices for a payroll company.


The to-do list at the studios can range from making sure the garbage cans emptied to ramping up security for talent that is constantly in the international press.


Having a strong studio infrastructure allows large productions to shoot as if they were on the lot in Hollywood. With the strong Georgia Film Incentives, the production studios can work here at a competitive price and stimulate the economy with the jobs and spending they bring to the area.


Photo courtesy of EUE/Screen Gems Atlanta

We’re constantly marketing the studios to executives in Los Angeles, looking to book the next feature film, television series or pilot so the next production will be ready to come in as the present production wraps. Our marketing efforts include visits to Los Angeles to meet face-to-face with executives, hosting decision makers on the lot, email campaigns, media outreach to the West Coast trade press, and collaboration with the Georgia Film and Television Production Office.


We also spend significant time educating lawmakers so they understand the economic impact of the industry and the role of studios in attracting productions to Georgia. We’re very grateful for our colleagues in the legislature who support our Georgia Film Incentives and see the jobs and small business opportunities that the productions bring to us.


MC:  What is EUE/Screen Gems Atlanta most notable for in the entertainment world? What are some of the most popular productions your company has hosted?


SS:  We’re proud to say that the top-grossing domestic film of 2014, “Hunger Games: Mockingjay” was shot here in Atlanta with us. During its tenure here, we weren’t allowed to discuss it with anyone to ensure the security of the cast. Other film productions have included “Insurgent,” “Flight” and “The Watch.” Television is a significant part of our business.  In 2010, BET Networks was one of our first clients, and we hosted productions such as “Read Between the Lines,” “Sunday Best,” and “The Game.” Other series have included “Resurrection,” “Red Band Society,” “Satisfaction,” “Necessary Roughness,” and the first season of “Devious Maids.”

MC:  In general, what does a production company gain from hosting film crews at their sites besides a mention in the credits?


SS:  Just like a hotel is paid for allowing you to spend the night, our company is paid for providing the column-free shooting space, electricity, and extensive support needed to shoot a feature film or television series. We’ve been in the business for 50 years, now, so continuing to build on our reputation for outstanding client service, security and confidentiality is also important to us.  


MC:  What is EUE/Screen Gems Atlanta working on now?


SS:  We’re usually talking to four or five productions at any one given time. Confidentiality is a big deal in this business, as I said before; so, I can’t tell you who we’re talking with, now [specifically], but I can say that Georgia is continuing to attract outstanding productions and talent!


Sharon Cooney Shuttleworth
Photo courtesy of Sharon Cooney Shuttleworth








Photos courtesy of EUE/Screen Gems Atlanta.


Read more Reel Focus blog articles


Become a member of WIFTA


Become a WIFTA Sponsor


Donate to WIFTA


Attend an upcoming WIFTA event or workshop


A Night to Remember – Noelle Marozeau

Noelle Marozeau


Tomorrow, many Atlantans will be headed to Studio No. 7 for their opportunity to shine on WIFTA’s red carpet and to watch the Oscars live from Los Angeles, California.  Don’t miss out on your opportunity to be a part of this big event in film taking place here in Atlanta.  Come out and meet new friends and local celebrities and enjoy some great food and games with WIFTA.  Also, mix and mingle with one of our celebrity hosts, Noelle Marozeau.


Noelle Marozeau is a former CNN Anchor for their segment “De Modas” and diligently operateNoelle Marozeau 2s her own local business entitled Marozeau International Communications which is a communications and PR firm.





Still haven’t purchased your tickets?  Don’t miss the opportunity to be in great company on the biggest night in film and to show off your fashion sense on our red carpet.  Hurry and get your tickets at and help us make this a night to remember!



Read more Reel Focus blog articles


Become a member of WIFTA


Become a WIFTA Sponsor


Donate to WIFTA


Attend an upcoming WIFTA event or workshop