Elliot: A Winning Writer
When 10, I heard my stepfather tell my mother he wanted his own child. I learned then how he truly felt about me. I was afraid of him but as time passed, I deemed I would no longer tolerate his abuse,â€? said Michael of his painful childhood. â€œOne fateful Thursday, my stepfather pulled out his belt, as did I, but neither of us did anything. The following day, I decided to stay with my grandmother and my mother did nothing to stop me.
Screenwriter Michael Elliot is the phoenix whoâ€™s risen out of the ashes of his life.
Born and raised in Philadelphia in 1967, he unfortunately was part of a dysfunctional family. His mother married another man when Michael was age six and Michael only saw his biological father a few times. Although, his father could have contacted him, he didnâ€™t. His stepfather was a Jehovahâ€™s Witness so his mother converted. Immediately, after the honeymoon, his stepfather began beating Michael and continued until Michael left home at 16.
â€œWhen 10, I heard my stepfather tell my mother he wanted his own child. I learned then how he truly felt about me. I was afraid of him but as time passed, I deemed I would no longer tolerate his abuse,â€? said Michael of his painful childhood. â€œOne fateful Thursday, my stepfather pulled out his belt, as did I, but neither of us did anything. The following day, I decided to stay with my grandmother and my mother did nothing to stop me. My stepfather told me never to return and informed me I would never amount to anything.â€? Because Michaelâ€™s family refused to pay for Michaelâ€™s expenses, his grandmother contacted Social Services leaving Michael a note informing him he was to report to the Youth Emergency Shelter. â€œI cried and begged my grandmother to let me stay since she had a 3 bedroom house. It wasnâ€™t like I was a problem kid. I was a good kid but my grandmother sent me to the Youth Shelter anyway. My aunt visited me the first week but after that, I never saw a single relative. They simply abandoned me. Not one cared enough to take me in. I spent my entire junior year of HS at the Shelter. I even got stabbed. Later, I was moved to Barrenâ€™s Home for Boys.â€?
Elliotâ€™s grades plummeted but fortunately, two social workers, Ms. Hernandez and Ms. Faison, believed in him. â€œI asked my mother for Summer School money, she refused. In fact, my mother went to Court to make me a ward of the State so she wouldnâ€™t be legally responsible for me,â€? reflected Michael. â€œThe social workers approached the Director of Youth Services about me and he and his wife paid for Summer School. That was my first encounter with white people,â€? claimed Elliot who eventually got into a State run program that allowed him to live independently.
Once Elliot turned 18, the State evicted him. Elliot was homeless. He dropped out of school and stayed with an aunt while he got a job. â€œAfter one week, my Aunt informed me her one bedroom apartment couldnâ€™t accommodate me. So, for the next two years, I was homeless.â€? Michael found himself staying in basements and riding trains all night. In 1987, he finally got off the streets after meeting a woman who arranged for him to care for and stay in the home of an elderly man. Elliot was 20.
Elliotâ€™s idea to publish a hip hop magazine paid off in March of 1988 when he printed 2500 copies of his magazine Krush. â€œI made enough money to buy radio time to promote it. I became a magazine publisher. Unfortunately, within a year folks jumped on my idea and I had a lot of competition. I couldnâ€™t compete.â€? Elliot turned to TV after viewing an infomercial. He entitled his show Krush Rap, taping it in music stores until he secured a sponsor. â€œIn 1991, I left TV and self published a book called â€œThe Inside Rapperâ€™s Guide to Getting A Record Deal.â€? I got a job with Source Magazine in New York as Director of Special Projects until 1995.â€? Michael worked simultaneously on a hip hop radio show at Hot 97. He went on to host and co-produce â€œStreet Heatâ€? with Sony Worldwide Networks.
Elliot went into the movie business, partnering with Sean â€œPuffyâ€? Combs. He went out to LA with a mere $700 and became President of Bad Boy Films. â€œThe week I moved there Tupac got shot and then later Notorious Big. Because of all the negative rhetoric Puffy decided to dissolve Bad Boy Films. Unemployed, I remained in LA. I decided to write movies. I wrote a screenplay entitled â€œSeven Days.â€? It sold in seven days. At first, I focused on money but realized it was better to focus on the joy of writing, so I did and stuck with it. I wrote â€œBrown Sugar.â€? Fox Searchlight bought it. I got $100,000.00 upfront and another $125,000 once the movie was made,â€? said Michael.
Brown Sugar grossed $30 million and Elliot was now in the screenwriting game. He became a member of the Writerâ€™s Guild. Next Elliot wrote â€œCarmen,â€? a hip hop remake of the opera Carmen starring Beyonce Knowles, Mos Def, Lilâ€™Bow Wow, and Mekhi Phifer. He then penned â€œLike Mike.â€? 20th Century Fox made the film. â€œLike me, it was about a kid who wanted a family. Lilâ€™ Bow Wow appeared in it. My biological father read about me. He contacted me pretending he had been searching for me. I knew that wasnâ€™t true, so I didnâ€™t respond,â€? remarked the enduring screenwriter. Elliot wrote the comedy â€œJust Wright.â€? Queen Latifah starred in it and Walt Disney Pictures bought it. He is presently writing a pilot for a series called â€œThe Fabulousâ€? which he pitched to HBO. The pilot revolves around affluent black folks. Michael founded DreamSpring Entertainment, Inc., producing a series of â€˜How Toâ€™ DVDs specifically designed to help people break into careers in the Entertainment Industry. See www.dreamspringentertainment.com
â€œIâ€™ve stopped fearing so I am a risk taker. I have no Plan B,â€? claims Michael. â€œI have to succeed. I have to trust. Life has taught me that. As a spiritual person, I know everything Iâ€™ve done has been with Godâ€™s help. Itâ€™s due to Godâ€™s grace that Iâ€™ve never stop believing the rainbow is coming. Iâ€™ve been forced to realize my dreams. Therefore, I know, through determination, you can make your dreams possible.â€?
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