Atlanta’s New Mavericks

New Mavericks march 27 2014

Written by Melisha “Mel” Childs, Senior Blog Contributor

Atlanta is shaking things up in the world of film with two new executives on the block – Janlatae Mullins and Gabrielle Pickle. Janlatae is a director and Gabrielle is a producer at Brothers Young Production (BroYoPro) – a production company owned by Matthew and Jared Young located in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Georgia. Along with their production company, these women have worked with quite a few stars: Mo’Nique, Burt Reynolds, and Tom Sizemore to name a few. At present, they are working rigorously on their first film together – Untapped – a moving story about overcoming inner demons through contemporary dance. These ladies are on the rise in the Atlanta film community and we are certainly looking forward to more from them.

MC: What motivated you to pursue a career in film?

Janlatae Mullins: Ever since I was a child, I can remember being inspired by images and interactions between people. I called it “moment watching”. A grandfather sitting on a bench holding his crying grandchild with a scraped knee; a husband and wife holding hands; a child and his pet running in a field as the sun shone on their backs, the wind rippling through their hair, and their laughter squealing in the air. Those are the moments that inspired me. I felt like people needed to see what I was seeing – they needed to feel this heightened sense of awareness.

I believe that film has the power to change lives. When I watched movies like The Color Purple, Boys in the Hood, Singin’ in the Rain and West Side Story, I felt changed – I felt alive and well. Every sense in me stood at attention and wanted to live. I want people to feel the same thing when they watch movies I make.

I went to my parents when I was about 6 or 7 and I told them what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said I either wanted to be a director or a maid. I realize now that my desire to be a maid was just my inner desire to take care of people; to make sure that they’re happy. Over the years, I’ve realized that my desire to serve others is one thing that has made me a good director. You can’t be a good leader without knowing how to serve first.

Gabrielle Pickle: I’ve always been a storyteller. As a child, I used to weave intricate stories together for my siblings and I made short films every Sunday afternoon on our huge VHS camcorder. Years later, while pursuing my Master’s degree, I spent time living in northern Indonesia helping to coordinate education, healthcare and co-op programs. I distinctly remember sitting in the dirt across from the pregnant wife of a former rebel soldier, hearing her explain the struggles of growing up during a war and of giving birth to her first born in the woods while hiding from approaching soldiers. Her story was unique, but her fears and joys were those that every woman shares. As I sat across from her, I was overwhelmed with the realization that stories have the power to unite us across backgrounds, races, nationalities, and income levels. I knew then that storytelling was my calling. Shortly thereafter, a job with a non-profit introduced me to film and a year after that I produced my first project. And that was all it took – I was hooked!

MC: What challenges have you faced as a “woman in film?”

JM: Thankfully, I’ve never really faced challenges as a woman in film. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that I won’t face any in the future. I just grew up with wonderful parents that fostered an environment in which the buck stopped with me. I was taught that any challenges that anyone faces – male, female, black, white – it’s their job to break them down. I’ve never let me being a woman or other people’s ideas of what a woman filmmaker should be define me. I just see myself as a person that has a unique voice – someone that has something to say.

GP: I’ve faced prejudice as a female in other job fields, but never in film. I think the biggest challenge I’ve faced, and still struggle with, is producing with excellence while not losing who I am as a woman. I am a workaholic, like most women I’ve met in this industry, and I absolutely love what I do. It’s a constant struggle to protect time for the things that make me who I am, like my faith, my family and friends, and my quirky hobbies.

What advice would you give to women who are pursuing careers in film?

JM: Make friends! Make tons of friends. Your success in this business is truly based on the circle you know. People want to be a part of a team that inspires them – that pushes them to do more. When you make your epic first romantic comedy, thriller, or heart wrenching drama, your “friends” will be the ones to support you. Friendship is however a give and take. Give your heart, time and creativity to other people’s projects and it will pay off in the long run.

GP: Find a people who believe in you and share your dream for film – then stick with them! Jan and I would not be where we are today if it weren’t for the team at Brothers Young Productions. Those guys have challenged us to grow, paid for us to get training, pushed us to excellence, and fought side by side every day to help us achieve our collective dream of making quality films with an important message.

Why did you choose Atlanta to pursue your career as opposed to other places more popular for film?

JM: I was born and raised here. I believe in the filmmaking culture that exists in Atlanta. There’s a real sense of “We’re just here for the art. If you have a dream, we’ll support it.” I’m not saying that this feeling doesn’t exist in other places, but I’ve seen it best here in the South. Southern hospitality is our birthright (along with sweet tea and family).
I’ve grown up alongside some really talented filmmakers and want to see them succeed. I want to be a part of their journey. Brothers Young Productions has been integral to my growth. They’ve challenged me in every way to be a better filmmaker, a better visionary and a better business woman. If I had not stayed in GA, I would not have had that amazing opportunity.

The Brothers Young team are the most talented people I’ve come across. With such great hearts, integrity, and character not just for the art, but for people, they’ve not only made their dreams come true, but helped others achieve their own. It’s hard to walk away from that. Their friendship and leadership is part of the reason I am sitting here today and I am so thankful for that. That love and sense of family is definitely a perk of being in Atlanta. It’s a southern thang.

GP: I didn’t move to Atlanta for the film scene. It’s more like the Atlanta film community found me and won me over! As soon as I uttered the words, “I’m interested in film,” local actors, screenwriters and directors invited me on set, gave me opportunities to learn the craft and offered me jobs. The past few years have been a wild and incredible ride into a full-time film career. The opportunities for a Producer in Atlanta are many and I simply can’t fathom being anywhere else!

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Pickle.

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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.

 

 

 


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.

 

 


 

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So You Wanna Be an Indie Producer?

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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.

 


 

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Lorielle Broussard On the State of Film in Atlanta

Lorielle Broussard

Revenue for film began to grow here in Georgia as early as 1972. As film began to generate a substantial amount of revenue – former Governor Sonny Purdue – revised the House Bill 610 (originally passed by Governor Roy Barnes) incorporating the revised Entertainment Industry Investment Act that we now have today. After that act was passed, Georgia began to change the game in the world of film. From being one of several top contenders vying for a number one spot outside of California and New York for film, it has outpaced the competition and is leading the way amassing over 5.1 billion in the last fiscal year alone.

Film is big Georgia business but as of 2013, it has become big Atlanta business. In order to step up efforts for film in the City of Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed called upon the expertise of LaRhonda Sutton, Director of the City of Atlanta Office of Entertainment, “to support the city’s rapidly expanding film industry.” This week, one of her dynamic team members, Lorielle Broussard – Marketing & Communications Manager – will share with Reel Focus readers what is going on in film with the City of Atlanta and how this office will help usher in developments in this industry.

Lorielle, it is an honor to have you on Reel Focus blog speaking to readers about the exciting things taking place in film in Atlanta. Tell our readers about how the office was started and what its vision is.

The Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Film & Entertainment was started in July 2013 to provide a one-stop-shop for productions interested in filming in Atlanta. Our office acts as a facilitator for productions to usher them through the city of Atlanta offices that they need to go through in order to make their projects happen. In doing this, it was created to streamline the permitting system for film and TV productions, assist with facilitating employment of local talent, create production-related educational and training opportunities, and work with community leaders to safeguard the interests of residents and businesses affected by film productions.

Georgia has several cities within it, vying to be the film capital within Georgia. Does Atlanta plan to become the premier place for film in Georgia and if so, what initiative is it taking to become as popular for filming as Fayetteville, or Senoia, or Covington.

As of right now, 75 – 80% of filming already happens in the city of Atlanta but part of the vision for this office is for Atlanta to be the cultural, economic and entertainment center of the Southeast, the nation and then the world. I think several of the new developments that are creating connectivity and walkability within the city of Atlanta like the new streetcar, the beltline, redevelopment of the Underground, the new stadium, the National Center for Civil & Human Rights, Buckhead Atlanta, etc. are really making Atlanta the place to film in Georgia. I think one of the major attractions to film in Atlanta is that there are several locations within the city that can look like any other city in the world, which is a huge draw for productions and producers.

As we all know, Georgia is growing rapidly in film. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development website, television, film, music, and gaming and digital media are attracting many to Georgia, generating 5.1 billion dollars in FY 2014. Tell us how much of this can be attributed to the city of Atlanta and how the Atlanta Office of Entertainment plans to become an even more substantial part of Georgia’s earnings in this fiscal year.

I know that we had a hand in the increase in the revenue generated for the city and the state. We do provide all of the permits for every production that films on public property in the City of Atlanta. In FY14, the revenue generated from permitting was at about $494,070.00 and since filming is tripling this year in Georgia, I know that there will be a significant increase in the amount generated from permitting for FY15.

 

 


 

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Director & Actors: Getting the Right Performance

DIRECTORS & ACTORS:  GETTING THE RIGHT PERFORMANCE

The technical aspects of being a director are challenging enough but it’s the human element that can make or break a project.  

Talented director Carrie Schrader hosts a vibrant and helpful discussion on how directors can work with actors to get the end result they need.  She will focus on how to create a shared language between the director and the actor – utilizing active verbs and clearly articulated through lines in order to create engaged, active characters who aredoing.  Every actor can emote (hopefully) but a great director can use impelling language that leads the actor beyond simple expression and into a deeper, more dynamic vulnerability that captivates the audience.  Two of Atlanta’s top working actors, Mike Pniewski and Karen Ceesay will join Carrie for this informative program.

Actors are encouraged to attend to better understand the director’s process.

February 22nd, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at GPB Studios – register HERE

Carrie Schrader3

Carrie Schrader is a Writer/Director whose short films and screenplays have won film festival audience awards internationally. She directed an award-winning short written by Ethan Coen (Coen bros.) and her feature-length documentary The Founders recently won the audience award for “Best Feature Film” at the Atlanta Film Festival.  Her short films and screenplays, such as “Boys and Dogs and Kids Are Weird”, “Mine”, and “First Date”, have won film festival audience awards internationally and she was labeled one of the “Top Ten Directors To Watch Out For” by IndieWire.com. Her most recent work has included spots for Netflix, WE TV, TLC Networks and Dominos.  She has an MFA in directing from Columbia University and is co-founder of Mighty Fine pictures.  

 

 

Mike Pniewski

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mike Pniewski has been one of the busiest actors in movies and TV for more than 30 years. Most recently you’ve seen him in the Emmy Award winning CBS drama “The Good Wif”e, “Madam Secretary”, “Blue Bloods”, “Halt and Catch Fire” and “The Red Road”. Mike’s other recent credits include “Army Wives”, “Devious Maids”, “Nashville”, “Drop Dead Diva”, “Red Band Society”, the Cinemax Original Series “Banshee” and the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ “Safe Haven”.  Mike was also in the new film “The Founder” with Michael Keaton and in 2017 Mike will appear with Tom Cruise in the film “Mena”.

 

 

karen ceesay

 

Karen Ceesay was born as Karen Renee Mauldin. She is an actress, known for  her film work in “The Internship” (2013), “Last Vegas” (2013) and “Rings” (2017) as well as television appearances in “The Walking Dead”, “Satisfaction”, “Resurrection” and “Army Wives”.