Homeless to Hollywood: The Michael Elliot Story

‘Waiting to Exhale’ Sequel Screenwriter Michael Elliot Shares His Homeless to Hollywood Story

You’re in the film business, what are your thoughts on Tyler Perry who receives so much negative criticism?

I’m going to be honest; I think that what he has done has been a huge benefit to African Americans.  What Hollywood cares about is profit. Whether or not you appreciate his films, whenever a black movie makes money, all of a sudden studios are much more open to talking to you about doing a film with African Americans in it.

If you take out Tyler Perry’s films, I personally think we wouldn’t be in a good place. White people go see his movies and that’s huge. Think of all the African American actors that have worked just because of his films. You have to give him credit for that. You can’t just judge him on art’s sake. Say what you want about his TV shows but on one of his shows there are at least two plus size African American women on prime time television, when have you seen that? Tyler Perry matters, there’s something about seeing someone who talks like you and looks like you, do something extraordinary.

Congrats on the Waiting to Exhale sequel. What can you tell us about it?

I was hired with Terry McMillian’s blessings, it’s her baby. These are her characters and [in the sequel] I’m treating the women like they are iconic. It’s a pretty big deal and I’m very excited.  This is like selling my first script! We’re shooting this thing next summer or something but with me, I’ve yet to actually write the script, I’ve just started it. It’s really hard to say [when the film will be released.]

Lastly, what advice do you have for the struggling writer trying to make it?

I don’t want to sound like a cliché, I’ve always believed you can make money doing whatever it is that you love, but you got to really love this thing, it’s got to be the thing that you would do for free, you got to love it that much because it’s so ridiculously tough to stay at it. Writing 100 pages without knowing what’s going to happen. Only when you love it, you’re going to stick to it. If you love it, you just can’t quit.

Lathleen Ade-Brown is a New York City based freelance writer located in New York City.