American Gem 2004 Short Screenplay Competition - BIG DOG
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Roy McMullen Jr.

Second Place Winner

Roy McMullen Jr.
of Oak Park, MI

Single dad, 49, from and living in Detroit.

My first solo script, a black fraternity comedy, The Beta Brothers won me a slot in a Minority Writers Workshop at the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank.

I spent several years chasing movie-projects, and minor acting gigs in L.A. Now I'm glad to have had those hard sets of lessons about ambition - Persistence, Patience, Perseverance and Prayer. I studied at the Sherman Oaks Experimental College with the first wave of students under two now-legendary screenwriting gurus: Syd Field (the Paradigm/Plot-Point Theory); and Robert McKee (the Principles of Story). 

I returned to Detroit to start a local production company with my partner Bruce Harper. At Big City Films in Detroit, I work as a writer/producer - Bruce as director/producer. Using his connection as a tech-director in the news-team at the local NBC affiliate WDIV. We've produced local kids' shows, and several well-received documentaries. Winning a local documentary Emmy in 1999. 

During the off periods of television projects. I realized my creative aspirations belonged to screenwriting. I still had stories I wanted to tell.

The Dance Show , a back in the day, urban comedy currently is in the hands of producer L.M. "kit" Carson - "Paris Texas" with Harry Dean Stanton and "Bottle Rockets" with James Caan and Owen Wilson. 

Another script, Werewolf From Compton, an urban hip-hop, horror-comedy in the style of "American Werewolf in London" is with producer Preston Holmes who has worked extensively with famed director, Spike Lee.

Being a finalist in the American Gem Short Film Script contest has been a source of both inspiration and always needed confidence. A reminder that I have stories to tell… and I still want … and still can- tell them. 


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

when I realized I had valid stories to tell to help fill the lack of the black experience in the film medium.

I know I've succeeded.......  

when in a particular project there are no more voices of characters in my head or that most motivations and actions of the characters are justified in relation to story and theme(s). (Hey! You asked!)

My inspiration to write BIG DOG.......

was a cross between the Charles Bronson movie "Death Hunt" and the Mexican film "Amores Perros". 

In "Death Hunt" Bronson's characters' purchase of a beaten fight dog sets the movie in motion,

In "Amores Perros" - one of the integrated story lines involve a fight dog that comes between two brothers. The fight scenes of the dogs are phenomenal and have stuck in my mind ever since viewing.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Roy McMullen Jr.: Many years ago, Frank Rutledge, the Dean of my college drama department at Michigan State was my initial inspiration to actual write. 

At the time there was a vacancy of suitable scripts for black actors on campus and subsequently no roles to play. He encouraged/challenged me to write to help fill that need for myself and other black actors in need of material.

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

Roy McMullen Jr.: My first script I wrote with a partner and we simply brainstormed ideas of concepts and situations that interested us. We initially wrote two television scripts. 

By the time I wrote my first solo script I had studied with two, now legendary scriptwriting gurus; Robert McKee and Syd Fields.

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

Roy McMullen Jr.: This is not my first script and in regards to time it's hard to say I gathered notes (dialogue, scenes, character motivations, etc.) until I was ready to start typing. It moves fairly quickly from there.  

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

Roy McMullen Jr.: I am by no means a disciplined writer in regards to routine , place and time. As a single parent I am partial to writing in the late evening/early morning phase of a day.

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

Roy McMullen Jr.: This contest has made a believer of me in regards to recognition. Living in Detroit has put me at a disadvantage for exposure. Contests such as American Gem give my work a short cut not only in getting read, but after placing high in the finals, getting read with a sense of both urgency and expectation. 

FilmMakers Magazine:
What influenced you to enter the American Gem Short Script Competition?

Roy McMullen Jr.: An article in Screenwriting Magazine inspired me to enter for reasons covered in #8. 

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

Roy McMullen Jr.: Tough question. Different scripts offer different elements of the craft i.e. dialogue, exposition, pacing, comedy, action, etc. It never hurts to read genres that you're attempting to write. In lieu of that read anyone and every one. 

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

Roy McMullen Jr.: I like to to watch movies for the obvious reasons and with an inclination to direct in the future.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Roy McMullen Jr.: Another tough one. But I have to go with Billy Wilder based on the variety of material he did. Preston Sturges would be a close second in regards to comedy.  

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

Roy McMullen Jr.: I'd love to work with Clint Eastwood in regards to variety of material he's done and the fact that he works both sides of the camera, both acting and directing. I also hear that he is very economical in his shooting style; obliviously a good way to keep under budget. 

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

Roy McMullen Jr.:
Ouch! Only one? Micheal Keaton has done great work and is always interesting as are Christopher Walken, Lawrence Fishburn and Kevin Bacon. Anyone of those guys elevates the material far beyond what's on the page. The fact that anyone of those guys would attached themselves to my work based on the merits of the writing would be a highlight in itself.

In the real world of how things are done though, any bankable actor attached gets a project greenlighted.

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

Roy McMullen Jr.: Keep at it. Persistence-Patience-Perseverance and Prayer for those so inclined.

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Roy McMullen Jr.: I'm looking forward to that first feature production. I have two scripts with known producers interested. The more at-bats the greater a chance to hit one.

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

Roy McMullen Jr.: Five years from now I will be working on my next "Best script" ever.

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