Profiles of Tenacity: Ray Wheeler

EMST student Ray Wheeler shares his love for screenwriting and shares encouragement for other students interested in the film industry. (Photos courtesy of Ray Wheeler)

Profiles of Tenacity: Ray Wheeler

April 23, 2024

Third-year EMST student Ray Wheeler shares his experience in the film program and his love for writing screenplays. He encourages other students to watch films, find their niche in the industry and develop their skills in filmmaking.

Why did you choose your major?

I came to UGA wanting to be a lawyer, but when I met other law students I quickly changed my mind. My family had always been in media, but I was hesitant to join an industry where a steady paycheck is difficult to find. When I saw Citizen Kane in my Intro to Cinema class, I felt compelled for the first time in my life. I can still remember the exact step on my walk home when I discovered I didn’t want to be a lawyer anymore, and I realized I wanted to write movies for a living.

What does Tenacity mean to you?

Tenacity is doing the things you hate, not because you want to enjoy them, but because they should be done. Procrastination and hesitation are signs of weakness that must be eliminated to forge a fiery new self. Tenacity is not dropping a class, tenacity is not skipping class, tenacity is waking up at 6 a.m., going to work for six hours, and then doing an internship for six more hours then waking up at 6 a.m. for my 9:30 a.m. acting that I took for fun. That’s tenacity — doing things that others don’t do simply to make myself better.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?

Get as much experience as possible. Make a resume that will stand out. Network like your life depends on it (because it does)!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself in LA writing movies for a living.

What motivates you?

Wheeler on set during a shoot.

When I was a kid, I watched my father produce three multinational television shows with nothing but a computer and the hours between his full-time job producing television. I watched my mother do everything she could to support our family through hard work alone. That work ethic has been ingrained in me for generations and I would expect nothing less of myself.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

Just over a year ago, I started writing the screenplay that would win 1st Place at the Broadcast Educators Association’s Festival of Media Arts Award for Best Narrative Feature Screenplay. I started out making every beginner mistake, but over time and eight different drafts, it has become something I am extremely proud of.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

If you want to write, write three pages a day. It takes 30 minutes. In a month, that’s 90 pages (a feature screenplay). Three pages a day is all it takes.

Who is your professional hero?

Orson Welles is my professional hero because, at the age of 25, he wrote, directed, starred in and produced the greatest film of all time Citizen Kane. I aspire to his technical genius and his strong voice as a writer-director.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about the art of filmmaking. I am baffled when my fellow students don’t watch movies: why else would you want to be in this crazy business? The odd hours, low/no pay gigs and the terrible treatment are all a means to an end of creating a movie. The very base of our business is the kid who steps into the dark, musty theater and watches visions of heroes, villains and a grandiose sense of scale unavailable in real life. We have all been that kid and that’s why I make movies.

Editor: Morgan Jones |