Film Production is Booming in Atlanta

Pinewood Studios

“Need I remind you, 007, that you have a license to kill, not to break the traffic rules.” Goldeneye

“Well, you see, I uh, I sort of have a problem seeing through lead.” Superman

“. . . Bruce Wayne why are you dressed up like Batman. . .Because he is Batman you moron.” Batman Returns

See a common pattern yet? Well if the quotes aren’t ringing a bell and the large sign above isn’t stimulating your mental energy then I will tell you. These are quotes from some of our all-time favorite films and Pinewood Studios is the production company that brought them to us. So what’s the big deal about me blogging about them? I will tell you what the big deal is. . .they have a new location here in Fayetteville, Georgia! Can’t you feel the excitement pulsating from me to you through cyberspace?

I have been in Georgia for approximately 18 years now and I’ve seen trends ebb and flow but one thing that seems to be here to stay is the growth of film in this state. This is exciting news for those of us who are involved in the film industry because we are witnessing the birth of a new trend – very powerful, top-billing production studios springing up all over metro Atlanta. Pinewood Studios is indeed a sight to see; however, I could only capture this picture for your viewing while I was out on one of my urban escapades because it is a heavily secured area. Nonetheless, every time I look at this photo, I breathe a sigh of relief that after traveling 30 miles to my destination, I was at least able to capture this image for all to see.

What does this mean for Atlanta? Well it is hard to tell; but, it certainly seems to me that the tax incentives in this state seem to be increasing the interest of film producers across the nation and around the world. Please share with us your thoughts on this trend? Do you think that this trend will go boom or bust?

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Campbell, M. (1995). Goldeneye [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: MGM/UA. Retrieved from www.imdb.com on April 2, 2014.

Donner, R. (1978). Superman [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: Warner Brothers. Retrieved from www.imdb.com on April 2, 2014.

Burton, T. (1992). Batman Returns [Motion Picture]. United Kingdom: Warner Brothers. Retrieved from www.imdb.com on April 2, 2014.

Photo courtesy of Melisha Childs


 

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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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SEEING ATLANTA THROUGH THE “EYES” OF ATLANTA MOVIE TOURS

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.

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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.

amtshopinterior

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 DISSECTION: Wolf of Wall Street – A Producer’s Perspective

How bad to you want? Well, Leonardo DiCaprio wanted it real bad and he beat out Brad Pitt for it. “It” is the rights to the story of Jordan Belfort, the Wall Street investor who made millions illegally while on drugs, drinking heavily, and exploiting women. The actual production would take place nearly a decade later and turn into the story of “debauchery and debasement” that is the film The Wolf of Wall Street.

DiCaprio was committed to reuniting with director, Martin Scorsese, for this film. He shared with Hollywood Reporter why that was important, “… I had gone down the road looking for other filmmakers, but I didn’t think there was anybody that could quite capture the dark, sadistic humor in Terry’s screenplay.

The film secured financing from Red Granite Pictures, an indie company, after searching from quite some time and realizing that because of the subject and nature – this wasn’t a studio film. With financing in place, creative choices had to be made to keep the integrity of the story while staying in budget. The infamous hair-shaving scene is one such instance when the team and a good friend of DiCaprio made some brave choices to help keep the budget tight. Read all about how they prepared and accomplished one of the wildest scenes in the film.

The producer’s list plus films they are known for:

Riza Aziz, Producer, Out of the Furnace

Richard Baratta, Co-Producer, Spider-Man

Marianne Bower, Associate Producer, The Departed

Leonardo DiCaprio, Producer, Inception

Danny Dimbort, Executive Producer, The Expendables

Joel Gotler, Executive Producer, Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Ted Griffin, Co-Producer, Ocean’s Eleven

Georgia Kacandes, Executive Producer, Hugo

Joey McFarland, Producer, Out of the Furnace

Alexandra Milchan, Executive Producer, Street Kings

Martin Scorsese, Producer, Goodfellas

Adam Somner, Co-Producer, Gladiator

Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producer, The Departed

Irwin Winkler, Executive Producer, Goodfellas

Rick Yorn, Executive Producer, Gangs of New York

Paramount Pictures Domestic Theatrical Distributor

Appian Way Production Company

Sikelia Productions Production Company

Red Granite Pictures Production Company

EMJAG Productions Production Company

Budget:   $100,000,000 (estimated)
Latest gross: (as of March 2014)
Worldwide: $391,942,727
Non-USA:     $116,866,727

**Information from IMDB.com.

Extras:

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awarded The Hollywood Reporter in Focus: The Wolf of Wall Street with a Los Angeles Area Emmy Award. This was a first for the show which airs on A&E.

The real Jordan Belfort tells how Wolf of Wall Street changed his life…for the good and bad.


 

 

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FILM DISSECTION: Wolf of Wall Street – A Sound Engineer’s Perspective

While many people wouldn’t consider a film like The Wolf of Wall Street to feature complex sound design, supervising sound editor Eugene Gearty actually had a team of over 40 people who were tasked with making the sounds of Wall Street come alive.

One of the primarily techniques which was utilized throughout the film was the use of minimal background noise in settings that are otherwise quite loud. Most films set in New York have a very distinctive sound of the cityscape, but if you watch this film carefully, you will see that scenes that take place in restaurants, offices and even outdoors have the sound of the surrounding background noise mixed very low. This is an effective technique because it makes the conversations between characters seem very intimate and intense, as if the world of the virile stockbrokers was the only one in existence.

Another recurring sonic theme was that of banging. There were several instances where characters either banged rhythmically on their chests or on tables which was symbolic of archaic, almost animalistic and warrior like nature of the characters as they fought to gain more and more materialistic wealth and power. The chest banging scenes symbolized their war cry.

In addition to the sound design, the music used in the film was one of the most important elements in terms of developing the story, establishing the timeline, and providing emotional and comic assistance. For a film that was initially set in 1987, it was an interesting choice by music editor, Jennifer Dunnington, to use classic, twangy rock and blues and jazz standards to introduce the film and characters to the audience. This could have been done to illustrate the masculine tone of the film. As the characters move from the 80’s to the early 90’s, we are introduced to the scene by first hearing the Cypress Hill classic, “Insane in the Membrane” which was used to establish time and also context, since our main characters were heavy into drugs and debauchery by this point in the film.

A particular scene where music was used to emphasize comic relief occurred when main characters Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) were having a drug induced fight on the floor. When Donnie begins choking on a piece of turkey, a sluggish Jordan has to figure out how to fix the situation and does so by abruptly taking cocaine, all while the theme song to “Popeye” plays on a TV in the background. This was done to show that cocaine was like his spinach and to also cut the tension of the otherwise suspenseful situation.

Wolf of Wall Street featured a very minimal sound job that subconsciously helped to tie all of the visual elements of the film together. Even though it may not seem like there was very much happening, the sonic craftsmanship that helped to shape the movie was all done with a purpose and was as effective in telling the story as it was entertaining to listen to.


 

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FILM DISSECTION: Wolf of Wall Street – An Overall Perspective

  

For someone that hasn’t watched The Wolf of Wall Street, the storyline unfolds very similar to these scenes that I photographed as I was watching it:

The Wolf of Wall Street

Scene 1 – Man on top of the universe

Scene 2 – Man down

Scene 3 – Man judged

Scene 4 – Man sentenced and humiliated

Scene 5 – Man jailed

~The End~ 

This is basically the storyline; however, one important element that I failed to mention before is that this is a Martin Scorsese film.  That being said, you and I both know that this film is anything but as simple as this storyline is.

Needless to say – Wall Street is a wild place.  One can see this every day on any given news channel:   when the bell rings and the floor opens, it is filled with brokers making calls, running around, shouting and engaged in all types of commotion.  This is the sophisticated Wall Street that we see on CNN, CNBC, Fox and other news networks.  Mr. Scorsese brings us into his world – his genius mind translates the unseen world of Wall Street as only he could imagine it.  Sex, drugs, lies, intrigue – everything sordid you can imagine is included in this film; everything except murder, unless you would like to consider ruined reputations as murder.

One of the first things that piqued my interest as the film opens is the lion strolling around the office.  For me, this symbolically lays the foundation of who Jordan Belfort would become to his constituents – a lion in charge of his pride.  Ironically, the director chose the title of wolf to describe Jordan, which is the same description in the title of the book. The opening scene, which is in stark contrast with the title, implies to me that even though Jordan may have seen himself as a lion or a regal, charismatic person before his pride; the outside world saw him as a vicious wolf leading a pack of vicious wolves. After this opening scene, came countless scenes of wild, reckless and carefree behavior, all at the investors’ expense.  Nobody was safe or innocent in Mr. Scorsese’s interpretation of Wall Street, except maybe Jordan’s young children.  Everything and everyone else were savages who basked in the essence of greed whether it was Jordan’s father – who was a co-conspiring accountant who tried to cover up his son’s wretched lifestyle in order to protect the family name; or Jordan’s wife’s sweet ol’ aunt who was just as much a shady villain, helping him launder money in offshore accounts.

I could go on and on about the good, the bad, and the ugly on Wall street; however, this is not my aim in this blog.  Everyone can draw their own conclusions about the largest and most powerful “invisible” trading firm in the world.  Instead my focus is on how Mr. Scorsese took the taboo nature of what he believes goes on behind the scenes on Wall Street and turned it into an ongoing extravaganza of drug induced chaos, not just on the business floor but in how these people live.  The rogue characters, the wild music, the abrupt changes in scenes all really give you not only the visual cue that this is a crazy world but you can also feel that this is a crazy world.  It is an incredible 3 hours of satire and propaganda at its finest and it’s no wonder that it racked up on Academy Award nominations for the following: Best Picture, Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Adapted Screenplay (Terrance Winter), Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), and Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill); and has gone on record as Scorsese’s highest grossing film to date.

 

Photos taken by Mel from screen shots of The Wolf of Wall Street.

 


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Local Performing Arts School – Callanwolde

Local Performing Arts School - Callanwolde

I remember that my first glimpse into the world of film and television – well, at least outside of watching my favorite actors and shows on television and at the movies – was in middle school when I attended a performing arts school. I still recall my drama teacher reminding us that whenever we feel paralyzed by stage fright to simply look above the audiences’ heads instead of at their eyes to avoid feeling nervous. I also recall the countless dance and band recitals that I attended, making me no stranger to the stage.

All of us in the film and television world started somewhere, whether it was a performing arts school or a place where acting, dance or writing classes are held. I’m sure as you read, this is probably taking you back to a time when your favorite teacher, or not so favorite teacher, pressured you into being your absolute best on stage so that you could have a career in entertainment. Some of us have made it big while others of us, like myself, have made many detours in the process; but, nonetheless, we are still passionate about this industry.

In this blog, I have decided to pay homage to one of Atlanta’s finest art centers, which is designed primarily for the purpose of helping those of us in the entertainment industry to get our start. My niche in this industry is writing and often it is very hard for us writers to find places that support our talent; therefore, it is for this reason that I am placing emphasis on educational opportunities offered at this venue. I have collaborated with Peggy Johnson, Executive Director of Callanwolde, to tell us more about this enchanting mansion of budding talent in metro Atlanta.

Peggy, I have to admit, I wasn’t aware that this place exists in Atlanta. It is through my involvement with the Atlanta Film Festival that I found out about this jewel of Atlanta. I discovered that the screenwriter’s retreat for the Atlanta Film Festival has been held here historically which piqued my interest. For readers who also may be just as baffled as I am that such a place exists here in Atlanta, tell us the great things about this art center, both historically and currently.

Callanwolde is a beautiful historic site built in 1917 by Charles Howard Candler (son of Asa Candler, founder of the Coca Cola Company.) Charles Howard Candler was also a President of Coca Cola and a trustee of Emory for over 30 years. His family loved the arts and they always wanted the estate to be a fine arts center. Today DeKalb County owns the estate and the Callanwolde Foundation’s mission is to preserve the estate and offer fine arts to the community via classes, concerts, festivals, gallery exhibits and more. Today we also offer tours Monday thru Friday from 11 a.m. til 4 p.m. Our Callan Café is open Monday thru Friday from 11 a.m. til 7 p.m.

Tell us what you offer budding artists in terms of education at your facility.

Our classes range from dance to music to pottery to the visual arts. We also offer classes in fiction and poetry writing and partner with many nonprofits and organizations in Metro Atlanta. In January 2015 we will start our music recording program and our Director of Recording will be Grammy Award winner Phil Tan. Our programs are portfolio and certificate based so you can take a class here and there or be on a path to achieve more.

Why is it important for us in the film and television industry to pledge our support for organizations such as yours?

[The reason is because] Callanwolde is embracing what is happening in Atlanta with the music and film industry. We have had 4 filmings this past year, offer classes in film, photography, and of course now offer classes in music, songwriting, composition and music recording. We are growing to reflect Atlanta and offer instruction and scholarship programs to teach all ages from children to adult. We want to teach skills, technique, and give our community the arts. Many of our classes are not taught in the public or private school systems and these are classes that are very important in the arts.

Are there any exciting events coming up that you care to share with our readers?

We have a marvelous Halloween Concert Event on October 31st – Night on Callanwolde Mountain. There will be trick or treating, a costume contest, pumpkin carving contest, food trucks, cash bar, and a concert by the Callanwolde Concert Band and Atlanta Braves Organist Matthew Kaminski playing the Callanwolde priceless organ.

http://callanwolde.org/event/halloween-night-callanwolde-mountain/

Of course we also have the very well known Christmas at Callanwolde – A Christmas Destination and Designer Showroom. This will be a 16 day event beginning December 1st. There will be a VIP Party, Cocoa and Caroling, Family Movie Night, Tours, Breakfast with Santa, Teddy Bear Tea and more.

For more info, visit http://callanwolde.org/christmas-at-callanwolde/


 

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SAG-AFTRA Atlanta: Mel Interviews Mel

Melissa Goodman Interview

Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to be in the presence of greatness. I had an opportunity of a lifetime to come face to face with one of the most powerful women in the world of film in the Southeastern region: Melissa Goodman, Executive Director of SAG(Screen Actors Guild) –AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and Internal Governance Committee Chair of Georgia Production Partnership. Before I met her, I was terrified of our meeting because I thought that I would meet an executive who would be impersonal and cold, sort of resembling the interview scene from The Devil Wears Prada in which Miranda Priestly was far too busy and important to deal with interviewing Andy, the “poor fat girl” who was rambling on about her credentials. I was pacing as I waited for our interview to begin, hoping that I didn’t drop something, break something, stutter, or say something completely ridiculous that would end the interview. After a few minutes of twiddling my thumbs, rehearsing what I would say, hyperventilating, and breaking a cold sweat or two, I was put at ease when she entered because I saw the same warm smile that she exhibits in this photo. She was very easy-going and welcoming and this was a great icebreaker for my rattled nerves. We shared a few laughs and also realized that we have the same nickname. Her name is Mel, short for Melissa, and mine also Mel, short for Melisha; hence, the name of the article. Below is a recap of some of the things that we discussed about SAG-AFTRA in my interview with her.

 

Transcript
Hi Melissa. I’m so glad that you had the opportunity to meet with me to tell Women in Film and Television Atlanta’s audience more about SAG-AFTRA. For starters, tell us what this organization is and what it does for the actors.

Well[as you said], I am Melissa Goodman, Executive Director of SAG-Aftra Atlanta. I have been with SAG-AFTRA (SAG and AFTRA merged two years ago) 25 years having become the Executive Director in 1992. Screen Actor’s Guild is a labor union and we protect the wages and working conditions of actors – and when I say actors, it’s not just our members only; but, if it’s on a union set and if it is under our jurisdiction here, especially in a “Right to Work State” we protect everybody. We are a professional organization made up of professional actors. In addition to us protecting the rights and working conditions, we also form a family for the union members. We do conservatory events twice a month and we do member-only events to help people build their skills. We even monitor agents that are franchised under us. Right now we have quite a few franchised agents. Some agents let go of their SAG franchise and became part of the ATA (Association of Talent Agents) but we still help them and work with them and the members they represent and even the non-members. Any and all of our projects – all the film and television that’s being done here in Atlanta or Georgia right now – is under our jurisdiction. The only shows that are not under our jurisdiction now are some of the reality TV shows. Our agents have to comply with certain regulations that we set forth such as the amount of commissions that they can take on jobs so that the actor is not scammed. For those that are paying thousands of dollars to get with an agency, we make sure that that doesn’t happen. In addition to the many [franchises] that we already have, we have 6 and one more that is looking to be franchised. [As a matter of fact, before this interview, I was just at a site] making sure that the franchise coming onboard with us has a physical office so that it meets the regulations that the national office puts forth. It doesn’t matter how pretty or nice the office is, we just can’t allow [franchisees] to be working out of their house or other unscrupulous behavior.

 

Does your local Atlanta branch focus on protecting Georgia actors?

[I reiterate], I protect anyone here working on set. We have tons of people joining now because of the amount of work we have due to the incentives that came here in 2008. Hence, we have been growing and growing and growing. Right now, our membership has been growing because of that but there have been a huge influx of people coming in from LA (Los Angeles); and because the incentives aren’t working out in North Carolina, we are also seeing people from North Carolina coming here. When they are working on a set that’s under our local Atlanta jurisdiction we monitor that. So [for example], if someone is here from LA and they have a claim against that, it goes through us. We work cooperatively with the Florida office if they might file a claim but we do the investigative part of the claim. For instance, when I was down on the set of “The Walking Dead” and there were members from all over. They are not just our [Atlanta] members but they are members in general, both [SAG-AFTRA] members and non-members.

 

Ok finally, I read that California recently passed the Assembly Bill 1839. How do you think the passage of this bill will affect our incentives here, if at all?

I think that it’s great for California. I think that it will help them maintain some of their shows and even take back a few of their shows, but for California, it’s just not enough for them. They needed a bigger package. I don’t think it’s going to affect us here at all. We are seeing a lot of new production coming in here all the time. Our incentives are still fine for what we need here.

 

For more information on SAG-AFTRA Atlanta, visit http://www.sagaftra.org/atlanta.

For more information on GPP, visit http://www.georgiaproduction.org/

Photo courtesy of Melissa Goodman


 

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Greenwood Avenue: The Decimation of an American Dream

Tulsa Race Riots 1921

 

The American Dream has worked for many; however, for some – particularly a small community of African Americans in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 – that dream went up in smoke, literally. I’m referring to the annihilation of a prosperous African American town known as “Black Wall Street.” I won’t spell out the details of this event; instead, I will allow CorShonda “Coco” Springer, accomplished screenwriter and author of the new script Greenwood Avenue, to tell us more about her rendition of the story.

Thank you Coco for taking the time to tell our Reel Focus readers more about this troubling event in American history. What inspired you to make the details of this obscure event known, especially now?

There couldn’t be a better time to tell this story. In my opinion, 5 years ago was not the time. Even 7 years ago was not the time. With Obama being in office and with the success of movies such as The Butler, 12 Years a Slave, and Belle, it is obvious to me that audiences are responding well to historic projects. However, each of the movies mentioned depict African Americans in the same light that we have been accustomed to seeing them on screen – as slaves, as subordinates! They don’t show African Americans as pioneers or as entrepreneurs.

Boardwalk Empire did an amazing job at “introducing” progressive, wealthy African Americans over the past two seasons. Audiences ate it up! I know that audiences want to see more than one portrayal of African American people on television or at the theatres. “Greenwood Avenue” the series is the story of an almost unknown incident; centered upon historic events of 1921. Our projects focus on the famed Black Wall Street of Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Greenwood Avenue” charts the happenings of a thriving all black community in the face of racism, prohibition, oil greed, and corruption – a community that was destroyed, reborn, and then forgotten.

As we approach the 100 year anniversary of the Tulsa race riots, we have the ability with this television project and community campaign to change the face of our community for generations to come. The first time I heard about “Black Wall Street” I was attending college at Ball State University; which is where my creative partner Hadiyah Robinson and I met. We spent hours talking and envisioning this network of black investors that found a way around the racist strongholds of Wall Street to make millions of dollars. It wasn’t until many years later, after hearing countless other ideas of what Black Wall Street was that we started to do some digging and found the amazing story of an all-black town in Oklahoma that boasted millionaires, doctors, and entrepreneurs; that was burned to the ground and then swept under the rug of American History.

Hadiyah and I started to dig deeper. We began researching newspaper articles, watching documentaries, traveling to Tulsa, and in 2010 while sitting in Brooklyn, New York brainstorming; we made the commitment to breathe life into this project. We made the commitment to tell this story to the masses. Already having vowed during college to work together and produce media that matters; this project consumed us. Obsessed with television shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Boardwalk Empire, Spartacus, The Tudors, Game of Thrones; we noticed a very obvious trend: there were rarely any shows on TV with a non-stereotypical, positive, and strong African American presence. We immediately thought of the amazing story of Black Wall Street as the strong African American presence that was missing from Cable TV dramas. And what we envision so special about “Greenwood Avenue” as a series is the varied characters that would be portrayed. From a shoe shine boy and the hustler to a millionaire and a police deputy, ”Greenwood Avenue” embodies the variety of the African American experience that is rarely seen on television today and it’s what we want to see. It is our goal with this series to take this little known historical event and surround it with our characters, storylines and weave them with historical references, conspiracies and truths to honor this town, its legacy, and create ground breaking television that will usher the demand for more shows of the like.

Lastly with “Greenwood Avenue” The Movement we plan to produce a campaign that will lead people into a new way of thinking. This movement will serve as a modern-day push for self-empowerment and self-determination using the thriving Black Wall Street of 1921 to serve as a living testament to what minority entrepreneurs can accomplish today. It is our goal to change people’s mind set one day at a time. We would like to use the power of influence from celebrities, artists, historians, civil rights activists, senators, entrepreneurs and other like-minded individuals to move these projects forward.

Is this a feature or a documentary and if it is a feature, what inspired you to make it a drama instead of a factual documentary?

I have a fully developed feature length movie as well as s fully developed TV series. Both the TV series and movie have signed talent and signed directors – known talent and directors.

The documentary has already been done by others. However, I think all of the attempts at making the documentary dropped the ball. No one focused on the resilience of the human spirit. No one focused on what these people were able to accomplish at a time in history when it was unheard of. Instead, they focused on the riots. I decided to make a television series because I wanted the characters to become characters that you look forward to seeing each week and that you want to go learn more about. Ideally, the series will run for 7 years and people will fall in love with our characters and be “edutained” while watching. The movie is the pre-quel to the TV series. I am actively seeking funding to produce the movie independently.

You compared your film to Rosewood and, as we know, when that movie was released, it stirred a lot of controversy. What type of effect do you think your film will have, especially along racial lines?

Greenwood Avenue will stir many emotions. There are people who will be embarrassed. Some will be angry that we have told the story. Some people will feel vindicated that the story has been brought to the masses. Some people will feel motivated. It will definitely get people talking, both black and white. It will make people re-assess how they view African American people. It will make African American people look at who they really are and who they really can be. I want for every person who views my project to realize their potential and know that they do have worth. I want them to know that they can do whatever they put their minds to.

As they tell us screenwriters, if you are truly a writer and passionate about it, you write and you write and you write some more. In other words, you don’t stop at one success or failure – you keep perfecting your craft. Tell us where do you plan to go after Greenwood Avenue?

I have 7 other film projects ready to go. I have several TV shows ready to go. After Greenwood Avenue the movie, and Greenwood Avenue the TV series, I plan to continue to tell stories that matter. I am going to have to take the Mel Gibson approach I am sure but it will get done.

I am hopeful that I will find funding for “Isis and Osiris”, which is a story concerning the deities of Egyptian mythology Osiris, Isis, Horus, and Set. It is one of the most important and powerful stories in Egyptian mythology during the New Kingdom.

Secondly will be “Nat Turner’s Rebellion”. Nathanial “Nat” Turner (1800-1831) was a black American slave who led the only effective, sustained slave rebellion (August 1831) in U.S. history, spreading terror throughout the white South. This story might really stir a lot of controversy; but, I look forward to telling it.

Corshonda's Photo

Main photo courtesy of Ebony Magazine online at http://yhoo.it/1IYzJZt

Photo of Corshonda Springer courtesy of Corshonda Springer.


 

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Looking Through ‘Rosie’ Colored Glasses

Rosie on the View

Her voice is distinctive. Her laugh is infectious. Her presence on the landscape of American cinema has been unforgettable. From the fast talking sassy girlfriend, Tina, in Do the Right Thing, the game show obsessed, Gloria, in White Men Can’t Jump, to her Oscar nominated role of Carla in Fearless, Rosie Perez has proven that despite a tragic childhood her eyes only see success.

Her career has spanned nearly three decades and she’s seen the industry have its fair share of changes. “In regards to the Latino representation in Hollywood, things have gotten better. Do we need to do more? Absolutely,” she shares. “I must say that it makes me happy to be see and experience the current wave of change. For the past ten years plus, it has become fashionable to be Latin. I don’t know if younger people understand how difficult things were. And it was even harder twenty to forty years ago.”

She’s been on stage and screen. She sees all her work as favorites because they gave her life experiences and lessons that are lasting. However, some works have made stronger impressions. “I think my debut at the iconic Public Theater was monumental. It challenged me in ways that I was expecting it to do but never could imagine how deep and moving it would be. It made me grow as an artist and as a person,” she explains.

“On screen, it would be the film FEARLESS… and for pretty much the same reasons. This film still haunts me to this day. It will forever be a part of me.”

With so few women working behind the scene, Perez decided to move behind the camera and direct, “… because I just wanted to. I have always loved the idea. It’s such a cool form of storytelling. It’s likened to choreography in a way.”

Here latest move was to a seat at the table of the talk show, The View. Perez is excited about what this opportunity has to offer. She’s a regular show host and found it attractive for a variety of reasons. “I’m still figuring out some of the reasons and having fun along the way.”

Some things she’s got all figured out – passions and power. Perez is passionate about her personal life and loved ones, boxing and acting. Her best piece of advice for young women coming into the industry is to recognize and embrace your power. “That there is great power in being yourself. There is only one unique and honest you. Sometimes it takes a minute to figure it out but that’s the work you should be striving for. Understanding your power in just being yourself.”

Perez sees her work as important; however, she is reserved and cautious with the idea that women look to her for empowerment. “I am humbled by that thought. Truly.”

Rosie's Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images courtesy of Rosie Perez.

 


 

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