American Gem 2006 Short Screenplay Competition - THE GARDNER
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Musa Jackson

Fifth Place Winner

Musa Jackson
New York, NY

Musa Jackson, was born and raised in Harlem. He graduated from The High of Music & Art. During his first semester at Parsons School Of Design he took a detour into modeling and commercial acting which lasted ten years. Along the way he discovered the joy of screenwriting and photography. Currently he works as a professional digital photographer based in Harlem and is working on a feature screenplay. He shares his life with his wife Crystal and two children Elijah and Jade.


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

After seeing Spike Lee's, She's Gotta Have It. He's still the model for me any young aspiring filmmaker.

I know I've succeeded.......  

when my scripts can financially support my dream of living the life of a "rockstar writer".

My inspiration to write THE GARDNER.......

was my neighbor Ms. Ann Thomas. She was a beloved elderly lady who recently passed away from Alzheimers. I wanted to evoke her (as well as Harlems) spirit and its tragedy.




FilmMakers Magazine: What inspired you to write?

Musa Jackson: I used to get haunted by these scenes and characters begging me to tell their story. Writing became kind of like an exorcism.

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

Musa Jackson:  I actually had enough money saved up, so I quit my day job ( selling high end furniture) and locked myself in my room. I gave myself permission to be completely selfish.

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

Musa Jackson: No it's not. Pandora's Box, was my first script. It took me about three months to just get it down and another two months of drafts.

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

Musa Jackson: I jot down notes throughout the day. Then late at night after my family has gone to sleep I develop those notes into scenes.

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

Musa Jackson: Yes, competitions are extremely important. You get to take your first real foray into the filmmaking community. My journey with American Gem has done so much for helping me realize my own dream. I feel like I can make it, writing for a living.

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

Musa Jackson: After I completed The Gardener, I felt that the script actually had a voice. I researched online for the best short screenplay contest. You guys are it!

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

Musa Jackson: Syd Fields Screenwiting books gave me a window into what you needed to know in writing your script. But when I read Robert Towne, Chinatown script I was in big trouble because I realized I knew nothing about structure. I say read scripts you admire.

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

Musa Jackson: I'm passionate about my family. My wife and my two kids are my best support. I also love photography.

FilmMakers Magazine: Who is your favorite Screenwriter and Why?

Musa Jackson I really don't have one. As I mentioned earlier Robert Towne. As a child of the seventies, I loved Frank Pierson, Dog Day Afternoon or Paddy Chayefsky, Network. Timeless, authentic, gritty and urban.

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

Musa Jackson: I would love to work with John Sayles or Carl Franklin. I love their films sparcity and the way their characters and scenes develop. Or a legend like Sidney Lumet. He understands the craft of filmmaking, writer and actor and how all those elements come together and make moments.

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

Musa Jackson: Don Cheadle and Helen Mirren. Brilliant, both of them. They never do "look at me" performances even when handling very larger than life personas. They get out of their own way and let the characters use them.

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

Musa Jackson: Never give up. Never do it because you think you'll be famous or any of that crap. Do it because you have to. And write, write, write. You can only get better at it. 

FilmMakers Magazine: What's next for you?

Musa Jackson: I'm working on a feature script. I gave myself until January 2007 to have my first draft.

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

Musa Jackson: A family man who just so happens to be a successful screenwriter.

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