Hollywood screenwriter offers writing career advice to students

Photo courtesy of Michael Lucker
Photo courtesy of Michael Lucker

Hollywood screenwriter Michael Lucker visited the University of West Georgia (UWG) last week to lecture about how to start a career in the screenwriting industry. Prior to the lecture, the UWG film department screened Wes Craven’s Vampire in Brooklyn, one of Lucker’s first screenplays.

On Thursday, Oct. 15, Dr. Erin Mock, assistant professor and director of film studies at UWG, welcomed Lucker to an audience of students, many of whom are studying film and screenwriting.

After the conclusion of Vampire in Brooklyn, which Lucker said he had not seen since the film’s premiere in 1995, Mock opened the floor for Lucker to share his experiences with screenwriting, Hollywood and how to keep sanity throughout it all.

“There is no such thing as typical in Hollywood,” said Lucker on what a “typical” day working in Hollywood was like.

Lucker, whose resume includes films such as Mulan II, Home on the Range and Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, left Atlanta and moved to Hollywood to purse his writing career. After mailing out dozens of resumes, Lucker received one call from the office of movie director Steven Spielberg. Spielberg’s team was searching for a personal assistant for the director. After his interview, Lucker was offered the job.

“I got to be work during the making of Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and the second and third Back to the Future movies,” he said.

After he got tired of the constant running around doing odd jobs, Lucker went into writing screenplays full time. He told the aspiring writers that when they first start sending out screenplays, money will not be falling around them.

“I started writing full time and immediately went broke. Finally, my writing partner, Christopher Parker, and I landed the job with Wes Craven.”

For Vampire in Brooklyn, Lucker and his partner were asked to rewrite Eddie Murphy’s original script for the movie. Because Murphy would be the star of the film, the writing team could not tweak the script too much.

“We were asked to merge Eddie’s original ideas with Wes’ idea of a goofy, Freddy Krueger-type character, and Paramount Picture’s goal of having Eddie play another ‘Beverly-Hills-cop-type’ character,” said Lucker.

The challenge was overwhelming, according to Lucker, who said although it was a good time, the movie did not turn out quite as hoped by the team. He described the film as not only a learning process, but also a lesson in how to collaborate with other writers and production companies.

Lucker said the hardest part of screenwriting is the actual writing portion.

“Writing good stuff is not easy. If you write good stuff, it will stand out and get noticed.”

After moving back to Atlanta, he began producing and directing reality shows for the Travel Channel and others. After working in the reality industry for a few years, a time Lucker described as “soul-evaporating,” he decided to begin work on his current project: writing and directing his own movie. Black Mountain, the title of Lucker’s directorial movie debut, is currently being filmed in Cedartown, Ga.

In between filming the movie, Lucker teaches a screenwriting workshop in Atlanta on the weekends called The Screenwriter School. The classes are designed to help give up and coming screenwriters the formulaic approach needed to write a script that will get noticed. He also teaches creative writing classes at Emory University.

The most resounding question the students had was how to get started in the screenwriting field.

“I used to watch a lot of movies; now, I only watch ‘good’ movies. If you’re learning how to write [a screenplay], go see as many movies as you can—especially ones similar to what you want to write.”



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