2006 FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards - Interview - Gerald Jackson, Jr.

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Gerald Jackson, Jr.
14th Place Winner
Gerald Jackson, Jr.
of Jacksonville, FL
Screenplay
A FLORIDA STORY
Coming of Age Drama
Biography:

Gerald Jackson Jr. was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, with a huge passion for filmmaking and screenwriting . After graduating from the University of North Florida with a degree in Broadcast/Film, he assisted in the production of the television series "Safe Harbor," as well as acted in Joel Schumacher's "Tigerland." Afterwards, he attended and graduated from New York City's Columbia University with a degree in Film Studies. In 2002, Gerald was accepted into the Florida State University Film Conservatory, where he produced the film Coochie (2004) starring the prolific actress Tyra Ferrell. He graduated in August 2004 with a Masters in Film Production.

Currently, he is teaching at a local university, scripting features, and participating in productions. His first script, “Lucretia in London,” deals with An African-American woman and her comical misadventures in England. His second script, “A Florida Story,” focuses on a young man trying to find his place in a small Florida coastal town. He has now started his third script, “Joy,” a film about a collective group of African-American friends, and their problems that arise during the Christmas season.

Interview

I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter........

I’ve always known that I wanted to get involved in the film industry by either
directing or writing films. Being able to put your ideas on the big screen has
always been a dream of mine. Knowing that others are doing what I want to do
as a career is a large motivational factor. I know that if I try hard enough, my stories will be turned into the next feature film.


I know I've succeeded........ 

I believe my personal success will be achieved when I am given the opportunity to get involved in the motion picture industry. I’ve always wanted to work in the creative aspect of making movies. Many in the field are actually writing and directing fantastic works of cinematic arts. I would like to be given the same chance to do well.
 

My inspiration to write A FLORIDA STORY.......

Many factors inspired my script. Being a Florida resident and native, I wanted to write a story that is located in the region. Florida, especially the northern parts, is going through a major transformation. Developers are converging in the area, destroying sensitive wetlands and environments to build upscale townhouses, box stores, and condominiums. Unfortunately, local governments are catering to these businesses, only helping to fuel the destruction.

Also, cultures that are indigenous to Florida are being displaced and diluted as these small towns are being usurped into larger communities.

In these tumultuous times, I wanted to show that even a random, small community can be affected by today’s current events. Illegal immigration, the Iraq War, the gay pride movement, and the permeation of big businesses are issues I explored with this script. The Mombergers are the prototype of the typical American family. Although one would think a collective unit such as this would be able to escape such issues, I wanted to show that in some form we are all affected.

 

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FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.: If I want to tell stories I consider personal, then I would have to take the time to write them. I try to put a lot of myself and my experiences in many of my screenplays. I wholeheartedly believe that there is a dire need in the film industry to make films that explore areas that have not been touched on before. This is the industry I want to succeed in, so therefore I’m going to need to take the initiative.

FilmMakers Magazine: What did you do to prepare yourself to write your first script?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.: The first thing that is very necessary for any screenwriter is to do research. If you are going to attempt to show any ethnic group, regional area, or any current event cinematically, then you need to know what you are talking about.

FilmMakers Magazine: Is this your first script and how long did it take you to complete?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.: The first thing that is very necessary for any screenwriter is to do research. If you are going to attempt to show any ethnic group, regional area, or any current event cinematically, then you need to know what you are talking about.

My first screenplay, “Lucretia in London,” takes place in England. I actually had to study British culture, colloquialisms, jargon, and economics. Many people use film as a window to view different lifestyles. It is the responsibility of the writer to be as precise as possible.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you have a set routine, place and time management for writing?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.:
When I have a script idea, I try to flush it out as organically as possible. Every weekend, I do scene by scene breakdowns. By doing so, I know which direction I want to take the screenplay. This also gives me the opportunity to delete the scenes that may or may not work. When I finish doing this, I plug in the dialogue.

The hardest part in the process is actually figuring out where you want to take your story. The scene breakdowns are especially helpful. During my free time, I basically summarize each scene to the next. I find coffee shops and bookstores to be the best places to flush out my ideas.

FilmMakers Magazine: Do you believe screenplay contests are important for aspiring screenwriters and why?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.: Absolutely. Talented screenwriters do exist outside of California. Therefore it is necessary for contests such as these to give underexposed writers the chance to succeed.

FilmMakers Magazine: What influenced you to enter the FilmMakers International Screenwriting Awards?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.: While researching screenwriting contests, the prestige of this particular one stood out from the others. Therefore, I thought I would at least attempt to submit my feature.

FilmMakers Magazine: What script would you urge aspiring writers to read and why?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.: I’ve read several features, and the one that sticks out to me the most is “Chasing Amy” by Kevin Smith. Mr. Smith is phenomenal in his use of dialogue. Although his films are a bit chatty, he perfectly captures a particular demographic. Although his scripts are spiked with candid, colorful language, he nails the feelings and opinions of this age range.

FilmMakers Magazine: Beside screenwriting what are you passionate about and why?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.: I am very excited about the directing aspect of filmmaking. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to direct short films, book trailers, and music videos. Being able to take a script and translate it into a visual presentation is a challenge I love taking on.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and director, and Why?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.: I have quite a few favorite screenwriters, but one that stands out to me the most would have to be Quentin Tarantino. Like Kevin Smith, he has a knack for capturing quirky dialogue and bizarre situations. He is also instrumental in creating a narrative that flows. If one would analyze the screenplay to “Pulp Fiction,” one would notice that Tarantino created stylized conversations between the outrageous violence. This balance, of course, works.

FilmMakers Magazine: Name the actor you would love to work with and why?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.:
I would like to work with Johnny Depp. He is incredible in the range of characters he has played. He has portrayed everyone from a pirate, to a flamboyant film director, to Willy Wonka, to drug dealer. Very few actors, I have seen, are able to pull off such diversity in roles believably. I think it would be exciting to attempt to figure out his thought process as well as observe him tackle an exciting role.

FilmMakers Magazine: Any tips and things learned along the way to pass on to others?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.:
Definitely budget time for writing. I’ve met many screenwriters that seem to only write the first twenty pages of a screenplay finished before they’ve given up. Also, I’ve found doing scene breakdowns to be the most effective way of writing. It will give you a grid, of sorts, to direct you to where you want to take your script. Also, read up on current events. Even a small, local incident could inspire something fantastic for a feature.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.: I am planning to immediately start scripting my third and fourth features. “Joy” will be my third, with “Samuel and Delilah” being my fourth. I’m hoping to acquire an agent soon, as well as enter my first two scripts into more screenwriting competitions. This spring, I plan to shoot several more music videos and book trailers to add to my director’s reel.

FilmMakers Magazine: Where will you be five years from now?

Gerald Jackson, Jr.: I would like to have an established career in the film industry, hopefully writing and directing features. Also, I would like to have my own production company where I am given the chance to produce other screenwriters and filmmakers. I would like to use my screenplays as a platform to tell stories that are not currently being developed in Hollywood.

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