Written by Melisha “Mel” Childs, Senior Blog Contributor
You may be one of many people who live in Atlanta who has a dream of getting into film or television but you are not sure of how to get started. Well, rest assured that you are not alone and that there are some people around town that are in the same predicament as you. However, rather than simply dreaming and wishing they can be in the industry, these people are doing something about it.
One such group that has formed and is spearheading stardom for several Atlantans is the Atlanta Screenwriter’s Group. This group, under the leadership of Martin Kelley, is a group that meets twice a month, providing support to screenwriters who are paving a way to Hollywood from Atlanta. Martin Kelly, is no stranger to Hollywood. He has and is still achieving success without a California zip code. He is not only successful in his own right, but is also helping other screenwriters in Atlanta to achieve success.
MC: Thank you Mr. Kelley for taking time to share your group’s story with Reel Focus. Congratulations on your success as a screenwriter and most importantly, thank you for reaching back to show other aspiring screenwriters how to achieve success in the industry. First, tell us what is your background in the film and television industry?
MK: I’m a screenwriter and producer primarily but I have worked on independent film sets for over 15 years now in nearly every capacity except cinematography. I have had six feature scripts produced and released; my last two Immigration Tango and Step Off were released by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate respectively a couple years ago and enjoyed a nice run on cable since then. My latest feature film blackhats will be released later this year so I hope everyone will be on the lookout for that. I founded the Atlanta Screenwriters Group let’s just say “over 10 years ago” to help screenwriters connect and help each other improve.
MC: What was the motivation behind developing such a group?
MK: The original goal was just to connect with people who shared an interest in screenwriting in Atlanta. We started as five guys meeting at a bar in the Highlands and have grown into an organization that has had hundreds of members attending throughout the years. Early on, we decided that the best way we could help each other is by offering a workshop environment designed to allow writers to improve their craft through a supportive group that was willing to give constructive feedback.
Over the years, that commitment has paid off for many writers. We’ve had a lot of success stories in terms of script sales, contest winners, and members getting their films made and released. But I think the main testament to our success is that we’re still going very strong after “over 10 years”. We meet twice a month and attendance is consistently solid.
MC: Paint a picture for our readers. What is it like to attend your meetings?
MK: At most meetings, we have a table read for a feature length screenplay – all the parts assigned to different readers and someone responsible for narrating the action. After the script read is completed, we provide feedback to the writer. The feedback is structured to address aspects like Characters, Dialogue, Structure and other considerations. The feedback is designed to be constructive and related to the script that the writer has set out to write rather than give the writer opinions on what they should have written.
MC: Where do you see your organization in the future as it relates to this booming local Atlanta industry?
MK: Well, our organization will remain a valuable resource to writers who want honest and constructive feedback on their work in order to improve their craft. How it relates to the current boom in production in Atlanta isn’t clear. In fact, there are likely no correlations to be made as long as the GREENLIGHT power for content remains in Los Angeles and New York. What will make a difference and has for some of our members is if creative content originates from Georgia. The more we get content creators like Tyler Perry to headquarter their production companies here, the more likely local writers will have access to getting their material in front of the creative executives. Otherwise, it remains a pretty daunting task to make waves in the industry from Atlanta. It’s certainly not impossible but the degree of difficulty is higher. Should Atlanta continue to grow in that area, the prospects will certainly improve for local screenwriters.
For more information about Atlanta’s Screenwriter’s Group, visit http://www.atlscript.org.
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