By Al King and D. Allen
Milwaukee’s own George Tillman, Jr. and screenwriter Michael Starburry received a warm welcome back home a special screening of their film, ‘The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete’ was held during Milwaukee’s Film Festival recently.
The motion picture opened nationwide last Friday, Oct. 11, in Milwaukee it is currently playing at the Mayfair AMC Theaters.
Tillman, born in Milwaukee on January 26, 1969 and a graduate of John Marshall High School still has family here in Milwaukee, including his parents and his in-laws.
His wife Marcia is also a Milwaukee native, an alum of Rufus King High School.
In fact according to Milwaukee Film Festival organizers, Marcia was the key component in making the film be a part of Milwaukee’s festival.
It was also, one of the few film festivals where the movie’s two major young stars of the movie, Skylan Brooks and Ethan Dizon along with the screenwriter, another Milwaukee native Michael Starburry attended as well.
Starburry grew up in Milwaukee’s Hillside housing project, and how fitting it was for a group of youngsters from Milwaukee’s Boys & Girls Club being included in attended the screening to see the movie at the festival.
Tillman said that Starburry’s own experience growing up in Hillside served as an inspiration in him writing the screenplay.
Starburry, who moved to Minnesota when he was a teen and currently lives there, told the festival audience that he was also inspired to write such a story following the Wall Street, and real estate downfall that hit the U.S. in 2008.
“I thought, people are consumed with what happened on Wall Street, but what about the people that live in poverty and in the midst of addiction and hundreds of other obstacles on a daily basis?
Where is their story, and how do they make it everyday whether Wall Street is up on down”.
The movie is intense, the core story revolves around two young boys, and young teen and a younger friend whose mothers are both addicted to drugs and prostitutes, and in Pete’s situation, a physically abusive mother as well.
They are actually forced to be friends, based on their mothers’ circumstances.
Early on Mister is nor receptive to Pete being forced on him, but the united threat of being sent into the system binds them together.
Jennifer Hudson delivered one of the most powerful performances to date in her career.
The audience barely recognizes her, from the usual “glam” that she has.
She is stripped down from make up, hair, clothes, and even her weight loss fits the character perfectly.
Tillman and Hudson have developed a friendship and trust from knowing one another, and this is probably who he was able to gain her trust in doing such a role.
It truly is an Academy Award worthy performance.
Tillman himself had to financed the project alone to get it started.
Along the way, singer Alicia Keyes became an executive producer, Hudson signed on for a supporting role, along with Jeffrey Wright, Anthony Mackie and “American Idol” singer Jordin Sparks, which helped the film get financed and made.
During the Milwaukee event, Mayor Tom Barrett presented Tillman with a Proclamation from the city, and made it George Tillman, Jr. Day.
Tillman, his wife Marcia, and Starrburry are examples of what it can mean to be a part of “From Milwaukee and Beyond”, a series where The Courier spotlights, what individuals have accomplished and what they can accomplish beyond the walls of Milwaukee.
These stories along with our series of ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ serve as an inspiration to our young people here, no matter what you circumstances may be.
Tillman, after graduating from John Marshall, attended Columbia College in Chicago.
His lists of movie credits and television credits include: Soul Food, Barbershop 1 & 2, Roll Bounce, Beauty Shop, Notorious, Faster and Men of Honor just to name of few. And don’t take your eye off of Starrburry, who Tillman says is a gifted writer.
“He’s more gifted as a writer than I am.”
Tillman says that it was 16 years ago, when he last directed a film that he wrote.
He wrote the lyrical screenplay for “Soul Food” “because I had a particular story to tell at that particular time,” and doing so “was the best way of breaking in as a director.”
Writing, he said, “takes too long.”
It takes him a year of working six to seven days a week to write a good script.
“And as a director I like to work more often.”
He says that he was really impressed with Starburry’s writing.
And who knows, maybe the two will work together on future projects to come.
They did not know one another while growing up in Milwaukee, yet ironically they learned recently that Starrburry was related to Tillman’s actress wife, Marcia Wright, whom Tillman met in high school here.
As the saying goes, “What a small world”.