Macon native puts learning-by-doing strategy to work in Georgia’s film industry

Kareem McMichael is one of those 29-year-old movie marvels who seems to have 40 years of experience. And it all started watching network news and Jack Nicholson playing the joker in “Batman.”

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“I loved watching the news and figuring out how it was done. That led me to a career in movie production,” Kareem says. “But I also loved acting. I even played boxing promoter Don King in a 4th-grade play.

The Macon native is a staff member in the department of journalism and mass communications at Savannah State University, where he graduated in 2009.  He manages web content and teaches through projects like the student newspaper and films outside the classroom. While a student at SSU he also worked at WJCL-TV handling the cameras and creating graphics and audio.

“I learned the business on the job, working in TV productions and making documentaries before I ever took a class,” Kareem says.

His learning-by-doing strategy has paid off. His professional biography includes 13 credits for acting, 10 for producing, seven for directing, seven for writing, two for cinematography and two for film editing.

“I used to think you had to go to L. A. to learn the business,” Kareem says. “I actually know people who went and came back because of the growing opportunities in Georgia.” The state’s tax credit, he says, “helps cut production costs and keep money local.”

He served on the Savannah Film Commission, which maintains a database for local people with different skills needed by the film industry, including hairdressers, makeup artists, construction workers, landscapers, florists and dozens of other professionals who have found jobs in the industry. While on the commission he advocated the inclusion of Savannah State and its students in workshops and other opportunities to get involved in 
film productions in Savannah.

He also sees a role for himself educating the general public about the value of film industry to the Georgia economy. Some cities aren’t used to film crews in the neighborhood, he says, but all those people and equipment mean jobs for Georgians, he says.

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“And that impact is spreading across the state,” Kareem says.

Among Kareem’s many successes along the way were “The Road to Desegregation,” which won awards at the Humboldt International Film Festival in 2015, and “Feed the Hungry,” an award-winning documentary released this spring about Rep. Carl Gilliard’s organization in Savannah. He produced that documentary with his friend Will Martin, another Savannah State graduate. The two of them have plans to expand it into a feature film next year.

What else is on Kareem’s agenda? He’s planning to continue teaching, finish four short films he has written scripts for and serve a term on the Savannah Cultural Affairs and Arts Commission.

In the movie “Batman,” the joker is asked what his plan is. His response: “Do I look like a man with a plan?” Clearly not.

But Kareem McMicheal. Now there’s a man with a lot of plans.

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