Who: Music video director-producer for Usher, Cee-lo Green, Outkast and others; wrote Charles Burnett-directed Relative Stranger (2009); co-producer and writer on Empire
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
I was working a a music video directing many years ago, and writing spec feature scripts in my spare time. My goal was to become a feature writer and director, and eventually one of my specs got passed to the executive producer of a new Showtime series called Soul Food. I was offered a freelance episode during the show’s first season, then got hired as a full-time member of the writing staff starting in season two. I ended up staying there until the show ended in season five, and that launched my career.
What was a major turning point in your career?
I would have to say writing for Empire is by far the biggest turning point so far. Its success was impossible to predict while we were creating the first season, so it’s been amazing watching how the show has been embraced by audiences. I don’t expect to be associated with anything quite this huge again.
What’s your favorite movie?
I’m a Citizen Kane fan for life. Nothing else comes close.
Do you have a favorite or memorable experience at Austin Film Festival?
A script I wrote called Liberators won the AFF Pilot Screenplay Competition, and the moment my name was called at the awards luncheon, my mind went blank. I had to give an acceptance speech in front of legends like Vince Gilligan, Callie Khouri and Jonathan Demme, and I have a passing memory of people laughing at whatever joke I told, but I literally don’t remember any specific details. It was a pretty powerful moment and I was overwhelmed with gratitude at the recognition of all my hard work. And then I got to carry my trophy around the festival for the rest of the day!
1. Annie Silverstein 2. Jared Frieder 3. Mike Covino and Sam Kretchmar 4.Troy Anthony Miller 5. Kieran Fitzgerald 6. Ya’ke Smith 7. Brian Klugman 8. Nina Ljeti 9. Kevin Hamedani 10. Eric Haywood 11. Andrew Lanham 12. Julie Howe 13. Tess Morris 14. Matt Cook 15. Monica Zanetti 16. VJ Boyd 17. Edward Ricourt 18. David Broyles 19. Sasha Gordon 20. Eric Hueber 21. Faraday Okoro 22. Arturo Ruiz Serrano 23. Maya Perez 24. Max Taxe 25. Negin Farsad