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.