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August 2006
Flip the Script: An Interview w/Mel Jackson and Writer/Producer Tiayoka McMillan

Flip the Script: An Interview w/Mel Jackson and Writer/Producer Tiayoka McMillan
By Tonisha Johnson

Flip The Script tells the charming story of six college friends in their thirties brought back to Los Angeles for the untimely death of a mutual friend. Forced with having to plan the funeral together, the friends use the occasion to reacquaint themselves with each other which results in the resurfacing of old feelings and unfinished business. The film explores the heartaches and joys of life through love and friendship.

Writer and Producer Tiayoka McMillan talks about the thrill of finally putting the project together in such a short period of time (11 days) as well as personally funding the project; alongside actor Mel Jackson of Living Single and Soul Food fame, who discusses great scripts, lasting friendships and his exciting new book.

How did you go about getting all the cast and crew together to produce the film?

Tiayoka McMillan: I couldn’t even tell you how it happened so quickly but Miguel Nunez got hold of this film from a friend. And Miguel said he wanted to be apart of the film. Miguel got Robin Givens involved and it was just like a Domino effect because everybody else came on board. Mel got involved and called some of his friends. So that’s how we basically got started. The process was a very quick process. I started in April. I had made a decision to do the film and we were in pre-production just like that. Everything went so fast.

How did you like working on the set Mel?

Mel Jackson: It was incredible. It was one of those things were a lot of people …and it sounds cliché’ to say but it was like a little family on the set. Based on the amount of time we had…we shot the film in like 11 days. If you know anything about film, in order to get a piece done that quickly you have to continue to go go go go. But even under the pressure the family atmosphere helped it to be a fun and creative environment.

Tiayoka McMillan: And I’d have to say too Tonisha, that it really was so family oriented. And everyone was so respectful. The actors handled themselves so professionally. They respected me and working with me being a first time writer/producer and our director being a first time director…they just gave us so much respect. And treated the film like it was a $10 Million, $20 Million dollar budget. It was great.

Why so short of a time to film?

Tiayoka McMillan: It’s an independent film so time is money. So you want to get in and get out. Its amazing to be able to have what we have in 11 days.

Were you nervous with working with such seasoned actors this being your first time out?

Tiayoka McMillan: Definitely. I was like this can’t be happening. And then I saw my dollars being spent and I got out of that real quick. That mode left real quickly because you know it’s about business, money and getting the job done. To have a finished product and to see this film and travel with it and go across the world. Its’ been an amazing experience. And to have such talented people behind it, it makes a big difference to know they are proud of being apart of this project. That means a lot.

What are you thinking when she says those things about you?

Mel Jackson: It’s good to hear those things. It was her first experience. She had the cash flow. She sat down and she had the tenacity to write the script. I think its a great thing that if its her first time for something she enjoyed…and she continues to do it, then it will be a place for me and my fellow actors to work outside of the studio system and that’s always a great thing.

Is this creating new opportunities for more films to function outside the studio

Mel Jackson: Yes. Absolutely. With the cost of getting a product acceptable with which the audience will consume, and the price of that coming down…it opens it up now. I think that anybody that’s ever wanted to make a film or do a film, it’s opening up for everybody to take a stab at it. The audience always wins because the cost goes down and they always get more choices.

In regards to Mr. Jackson statement, does this make you want to start your own film project or for you to go even further Ms. McMillan?

Tiayoko McMillan: Again, this was my first project and I wrote and produced this film using my own funds to get it done so after doing ‘Flip the Script’ and to see what it has done, the bar has been set higher for me so I want to continue to do film and make great projects.

Mel Jackson: For me, I’ve always wanted to do that to. From the very first time I got into the business I started my own production company since 1997. So I’ve been trying to create product since back then. Over the years, like I said, the cost used to be prohibited but now over the years, it has gone down. It opens up doors to people who want to do film. And the DVD market …if you didn’t get to the movie theatre, a direct to screen release, your movie was kind of looked down upon. Now that stigma is gone. Even Wesley Snipes made a film that went direct to video. Everybody is trying to feed that market, because people go to Blockbuster and they go through these films and rent them pretty quickly.

Is it more lucrative to go the independent route?

Mel Jackson: Everybody’ deal is different. It’s structured differently. And yes it could be an incredible pay day but most of them come from the back end. Like most producers say if you cut your price down to a certain amount and help me make the film, I’ll cut you in on the profit potential. You got you’re A List stars, and you got your B and C List stars. The people on the C List are the ones who would never get a chance to own their likeness. But you get that opportunity in independent films. And you get creative control that you don’t normally get going through the studio system.

Do you have that hunger all the time or is it in the beginning and then it diminishes?

Mel Jackson: I may say maybe. When you take the love out of it and no matter how much they offer you, if your not feeling the project…I’ve had like one of those films in my career where I was like…ahh…I’m not feeling this project. And I did it and it turned out to be exactly what I expected and I could never do another one. Even though its low budget, it requires the same amount of work. Sometimes even more. I happen to love what I do.

Did you find this film overwhelming or did you just handle the pressures that came?

Tiayoko McMillan: Ignorance is bliss. I didn’t know what I was going to when I got into it so it wasn’t so bad for me. Not knowing what I was getting into. And I did learn it was overwhelming. But like everything you have to learn from it and grow from it. I learned about preproduction and the time and money it took it the actual process of getting it done and what it really takes. It wasn’t so overwhelming to where I would say, I would never do this again. I would say this is what I’ll have to do next time. Cause I’m one of those people who…I’ve never been called a quitter. And I’ve seen what big film has done. It has been so tremendously accepted, that people like this film. And it really makes me h happy. I would definitely do it again. I was coming from a different business. I was a sales rep. I didn’t know anything about filmmaking, but not enough to say I could have done this but it does take team work to get it done.

Do you have an idea of what you want your future projects to be?

Tiayoko McMillan: I do. I’m working on a couple of projects right now, one being a dramatic piece and another being a romantic comedy. And doing more writing and producing other people’s films. I have my own company now, Pleasant View Entertainment. I’m definitely looking to making this a career and staying in the game.

What are you up to next Mel?

Mel Jackson: I start Motives 2, a film I did with Vivica and Shemar Moore, it’s the sequel so I start on that in like 2 weeks. I’ve also released a relationship book that’s coming out.

Talk about your book.

Mel Jackson: It’s targeted towards men but women are reading it. It’s called “Keeping the Pussy” 11 things a women won’t admit but absolutely want you to know.

Give me an example of one of the 11 things.

Mel Jackson: Women always say they want you to be their best friend. But I’m saying naw guys they don’t. In order for you to ‘Keep the Pussy’ women want you to know you have to let someone else be their best friend even if it’s another man because best friends cry in front of one another. They also spend a lot of time talking about relationships. Women don’t want the responsibility of knowing all that about you. Cause they know when they get mad, they gonna use all that shit against you. Secondly, you don’t have time for all that talk, you have work to do. And last, never ever cry in front of your woman. It’s not respected. Call your best friend. They’ll understand. And other controversial stuff in the book. They is something in there that says Women don’t want you to be committed to them. They say they do but they don’t. In order to ‘Keep the Pussy’ you should be committed to what you believe in. A commitment to a belief means without excuses you’re dedicated to doing the work. And any man dedicated to doing the work without excuses is successful. Women know this. Women know there is nothing more solid than a man committed with a purpose. Pussy loves solid, successful, powerful men. So stop making excuses, commit to what you believe in and go to work Period.

What has been the response?

Mel Jackson: It’s overwhelming. The title kind of shocked a lot of people. This book is really dedicated…keeping the pussy really means keeping your relationship. This book is a guide for men who have challenges in keeping their relationship.


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