#ProfilesOfTenacity: Ana González

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

I initially chose UGA to go into journalism, but after learning more about the EMST program, I realized that my passion for creative writing would be a better fit in the filmmaking industry.

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

For me, “tenacity” means persisting in spite of every struggle, big or small, that comes one’s way.

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

My proudest moment this year was when my classmate Taylor Potter and I won Best Original Television Series Pilot and later the Best of Festival Student Scriptwriting Award at this year’s BEA Media Festival for our project, “Buyer’s Remorse.”

What would people be surprised to know about you?

People would be surprised to know that I can lick both of my elbows.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

My favorite memory at Grady was being part of student film crews. I’ve had such a great time helping my classmates create movies and I also learned more about myself along the way. The opportunity to apply what I’ve learned in class as well as the chance to bond with others has been the highlight of my EMST career.

What are you passionate about?

I am most passionate about representation in the media. The characters we see, whether portrayed by an actor or drawn by an artist, mean the world to someone watching. As our society continues to grow, I hope to be a part of projects that tell audience members that they are seen and heard.

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

My fellow EMST majors as a whole had a big impact during my time at UGA. I enjoyed getting to know so many other people who were passionate about entertainment. Their drive to create encouraged me to follow my dreams of one day becoming a screenwriter.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

My grandmother has always told me as a kid, “every problem has a solution.” No matter what roadblocks attempt to hold me back, there’s always a way to keep moving forward.

What is an example of a time you used your studies and skills in a real-world experience?

For my film development internship at Manalive Media Group, I apply what I’ve learned in screenwriting classes to a fast-paced environment. I enjoy collaborating with others and do my best to help my fellow interns out however I can.

Who is your professional hero?

My professional hero is Guillermo Del Toro. I enjoy seeing his imagination come to live through his movies as well as how he incorporates aspects of the real-world into his stories. The fact that he tends to lean more towards the macabre also resonates with me.

What are you planning to do after graduation? What is your dream job?

I hope to one day move out to Los Angeles to pursue a screenwriter career in film and television. I also hope to travel the world so I can see new sights and gain new sparks of inspiration.

What has been the hardest part about adjusting to COVID-19 in your life as a student and future professional?

For me, the hardest thing COVID-19 has done is make all my internship experiences online. I have definitely learned a lot from these remote programs, but I am eager to begin working in-person as soon as possible.

What is your favorite app or social media channel?

My favorite app is Snapchat.

Where is your favorite place on campus?

My favorite place on campus is the turtle pond outside of the ecology building. My Dawg Camp group was introduced to it back in 2017 and it has remained my favorite spot throughout college.

Jenna Milly (ABJ ‘95) to release first film ‘Golden Arm’ at end of month

Jenna Milly has always loved to write. After graduating from the University of Georgia in 1995 with a degree in telecommunication arts (now EMST), she wrote screenplays on the side while working reporting jobs at CNN and the Los Angeles Times. She eventually moved to screenwriting full time and received a master’s degree from UCLA.

Allison and Milly pose for a photo in Tate Plaza when they were students at UGA.

But it wasn’t until she wrote an article about her friend’s charity that she realized she might have a movie on her hands. 

The story begins in 2010, when Milly’s college roommate and screenwriting partner, Ann Marie Allison, got together with some of her friends in Washington, D.C., to give back to the community. They started a charity — a ladies’ arm wrestling charity, that is. 

The now-defunct Washington chapter of the Collective of Lady Arm Wrestlers brought together women from the district to raise money for different causes. They created character personas and dressed up in costumes to seriously compete in the arm wrestling ring.

Milly and Allison played around with the idea of writing this real-life event as a documentary, but they believed fictionalizing it would tell a stronger story. 

“Ann Marie always seemed so inspired by the journey that the women had, and kind of coming out of their shell, so that seemed very interesting to do from a fictional place, to take one woman and see how she changed through the experience,” Milly said.

And then came “Golden Arm.” The two women have worked as writing partners for years, and their production company is named after their college apartment in Athens, No. 8 Productions.

The movie documents the journey of Melanie, whose best friend Danny convinces her to train and compete at the Women’s Arm Wrestling Championship. 

Mary Holland (who plays Melanie), Allison (who plays Cleo-Smacktra) and Betsy Sodaro (who plays Danny).

When they pitched the idea to Hollywood in 2015, they were initially told the industry wasn’t making films about female sports comedies, something Milly and Allison were determined to disprove.

Jumping into such a competitive industry proved to be an “elite, closed-door process,” Milly said. She worked hard to make connections and find representation in Hollywood.

“Jenna was very tenacious… and we ended up getting our first manager that way, just basically beating down doors and being like we won’t be ignored,” Allison said.

By 2017 and the emergence of the #MeToo movement, films about female empowerment were in demand. Over the next two years, they found director Maureen Bharoocha, who helped them make a reel and coordinate a cast of female comics. They staged a script reading in Hollywood and began raising money for production.   

They started shooting in Oklahoma in 2019, and over the course of the year they “got it in the can and edited and completed the film,” Milly said. 

Despite her love of screenwriting, only one film class was offered to Grady students when Milly attended UGA. She wrote a screenplay and produced a short film, but that was the extent of her experience. In the class, her professor told her to check out library books and teach herself.

“That’s what Ann Marie and I had to do on this project, so I think that was a good lesson,” Milly said. “I think you have to be hungry and you have to want to figure out how to be successful, which was part of the thing that I think they were teaching at Grady.”

“Golden Arm” will be available to stream on April 30 on Apple TV, Amazon video and Google Play. It will also be released in select theaters.

Director of Screenwriting Neil Landau in conversation with Andy Siara, screenwriter of “Palm Springs” on Hulu

Learn how “Palm Springs,” the summer hit movie starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti now streaming on Hulu, was created in this conversation with screenwriter Andy Siara. The conversation will be led by Neil Landau, associate professor and director of screenwriting.

Andy Siara graduated from UC Irvine, spent several years touring the country with his indie rock band, The Henry Clay People, then studied at the American Film Institute, where he frequently collaborated with director Max Barbakow. Andy and Max teamed up again to make the 2020 film, PALM SPRINGS, starring Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti. On the television side Andy is a Co-Producer on UCP/Peacock’s upcoming series ANGELYNE produced by Esmail Corp, starring Emmy Rossum and Martin Freeman. His series, THE RESORT, is set up with UCP, also with Sam Esmail and Anonymous Content producing. Prior to this, he was a Writer on AMC’s critically-acclaimed series LODGE 49.

Hadjii Hand returns to Grady to mentor MFA screenwriting students

One of Henry “Hadjii” Hand’s personal missions is always trying to get better…and he is trying to encourage his students to do the same.

For Hand (ABJ ’98), returning to Grady College to mentor graduate students is a significant change compared with the undergraduate students he taught in his introductory telecommunications classes in the early-2000s.

“With undergraduates, you are just trying to teach the basics, but with graduate students, you really have the time to dive deeper and talk about how to develop better characters and make outlines really pop,” Hand said. “The one thing I have always appreciated about students, whether they are undergraduates or graduate students, is that they all bring a sincere passion to whatever reason they are here.”

Hand is one of the mentors in the screenwriting track of the Narrative Media MFA program offered at Grady College, an in-depth program with a focus on the art and nuance of writing for television, film and video.

Although he is familiar with the academic setting from his own time as a student and later as an instructor, it’s his experience as a producer that he draws from the most when working with students. He is the producer of the feature film “Somebodies,” that he admits is loosely based on his time as a student at the University of Georgia.  “Somebodies” premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and won a Golden Thumb Award from the late film critic Roger Ebert. The film was adapted into a television series for BET, which Hand wrote, starred in and served as the executive producer. Recently, Hand has worked as the consulting producer of the television series, “Step Up,” on YouTube Premium. He is always working on writing material to get his own projects off the ground.

When Hand accepted the Henry W. Grady Mid-Career Alumni Award in Spring 2019, he emphasized the impact that Nate Kohn, his mentor and director of the MFA Screenwriting program, made on him.

In recognition of his accomplishments, Hand accepted the Henry W. Grady Mid-Career Alumni Award presented by Grady College in April 2019.

Hand said the biggest lesson he has learned working in the entertainment industry, is the realization that not every piece of art is for every person, and it is the writer’s responsibility to  have a sense of what’s important and to stay grounded.

Hand explains: “If you have some kind of mission statement for yourself, those criticisms, whether they are for you or against you, are easier to take because you can decipher what’s important and what’s not. If you are just writing stuff trying to please everyone, you are really going to get hurt.”

Hand said it his mission to share with his students the fact that writing is a never-ending process that is never mastered. He finds that audiences are always changing what they want to see.

“Once you think you have today’s style down, that may not be what audiences are into next year. It is your job to have your fundamentals in place. Storytelling never really changes but what audiences are into, and their sensibilities, do.”

“We have an incredible platform and they need to have a voice for something. They can bring about change, but they have to be responsible and be aware.” — Hadjii Hand

As an instructor in the MFA program, Hand joins the students twice a year for a week-long residency at the University of Georgia where they participate in table reads and guest lectures. When the part-time residency is over, he works one-on-one with a few students each semester as their mentor, helping them hone their projects and sharing writing advice. These teaching sessions take place via phone or email every week or two.

“I get the biggest satisfaction working with the MFA students,” Hand continued. We are here to help create some really cool projects that hopefully will help someone go out into the marketplace or help them get their degrees to help with education.”

Together, they will all be better.

Inaugural class of MFA students graduate from Grady College

The final chapter was written August 5 as the inaugural class of MFA students at Grady College was recognized in convocation ceremonies.

The fourteen graduating students completed two years of the new narrative media writing program in a low-residency format. Five students graduated from the screenwriting track and nine students graduated from the narrative non-fiction writing track.

“It’s amazing to see the fruits of our effort that began in 2009 in an idea that Valerie Boyd presented me,” said Jeff Springston, associate dean of graduate studies and research. “Nate Kohn quickly added to that idea, and though the road of establishing the degree was not always easy, the results have been spectacular.”

There was a lot of love and affection shown for the program’s directors and mentors. The directors included Valerie Boyd, who led the narrative non-fiction program, and Nate Kohn, who directed the screenwriting track.

“Valerie, when you look out at all of us, I hope you know that your legacy is and will always be strong,” said graduate student Rosalind Bentley at the convocation.

Pete Stone, who graduated from the screenwriting program, expressed appreciation on behalf of the students in his track.  “This is our passion,” Stone said. “This is what wakes us up and gets us through everything else we do. This is why we are here and to find that is just great. I am so happy to find a program that allows that, and I really do thank Dr. Kohn for allowing that to happen.”

MFA graduates from the narrative non-fiction program show appreciation to their families for their support.

Stone and Bentley also praised the vital role of the mentors, the community bond formed among the students and the networking that was created from the special speakers who were invited to speak during the program.

The convocation program included insights from keynote speakers Thomas French, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Jeffrey Stepakoff, a screenwriter and executive director of the Georgia Film Academy.

French encouraged the students to accept the humbling task of chronicling stories. Stepakoff spoke of the burgeoning film and television market in Georgia and his desire to foster writer’s groups in the state that would in turn keep graduates from the MFA program in the state of Georgia.

Benjamin Bolger, another graduate of the screenwriting track added, “Georgia and Atlanta are exciting places for people who want to be in the entertainment and movie business. I can’t think of a better program that is situated to accelerate people’s careers in a very focused direction.”

A clear majority of the students and instructors commented about how the program delivered more than they expected.

“These are stories the world needs to hear,” commented Kohn as he recognized the graduates. “They have exceeded my expectations in every way.”

MFA graduate Benjamin Bolger (right) is congratulated by his mentor, Ramin Serry.

Boyd spoke of the “great enthusiasm, great respect and great love” she had for each of her graduates who filled her with “enormous pride and unbridled joy.”

For narrative non-fiction graduate Andre Gallant, the biggest reward of the MFA program was an in-depth study of the field he loves. “I hoped,

and I think everybody hopes, that the program helps them establish a writing life, a writing practice. It’s kind of hard in our busy lives to treat writing not just as a job but as an art form, as a craft, something we work at and improve. This gives us the first steps to do that.”

Bolger, who has a doctorate from Harvard University and studied at the University of Oxford in Cambridge, concluded that the MFA program compares with other programs he has experienced. “I can honestly say that the University of Georgia, and this program in particular, was really a world-class experience that rivals some of the best competitors that exist. I’m delighted that I was able to participate in this great program.”

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