DU community has opportunity to view the feature film
When Zachary Green (BSBA 1996) attended the University of Denver, he didn’t even take a film class. He studied marketing, business and was a part of the men’s basketball team. Yet today, Green is the co-founder of a screening competition where feature films are making a splash at festivals.
“Coming into my freshman year at DU, I knew I wanted to do something in the business world, but I really wasn’t sure,” he said. “After becoming the manager of the men’s basketball team, I was bitten by the sports bug and applied and was accepted into the NBA Executive Training Program. But, there was a family friend who encouraged me to look at Los Angeles and the entertainment business. I ended up being accepted into the Agent Training Program at the then William Morris Agency and have pretty much been out in Los Angeles ever since.”
Like many new graduates, Green began his career in an entry-level position. In this case, it was at the William Morris Talent Agency in their infamous mailroom. While he did work in marketing doing brand storytelling, social media marketing and promotional marketing for companies like House Party, Equity/Pitch and Idealab, he ended up launching a career as a film producer.
Green and his co-founder Jason Shuman run The LAUNCH: Million Dollar Screenplay Competition. It is a first-of-its-kind screenplay competition with the mission to find the next generation of great collegiate screenwriters from around the world.
The top eight winners of the competition split $100,000 in education grants and additional prizes. The top three gain representation at the Agency for the Performing Arts and with management firm Valor Entertainment. The grand prize-winning screenplay is produced by Green and Shuman as a feature film, with a budget of approximately $1 million.
The 2018 grand-prize winner of the competition was screenwriter Stanley Kalu, a then 21-year-old Nigerian college student studying film at the University of Southern California. His film, “The Obituary of Tunde Johnson,” got the attention of Green.
“We had approximately 500 screenplays from 208 schools in 37 countries submitted to our screenplay competition and when we read Stanley’s, we instantly knew it was special,” Green said. “The way he created the characters, rooting them in reality, along with all of the social aspects of the film, such as police brutality, racism, LGBTQ+, mental health and addiction, we knew it was an incredibly powerful story that must be told. What we didn’t know, is the story he wrote four years ago and the film we produced two years ago, would be even more relevant today.”
Kalu’s film depicts the fictional character of Tunde Johnson, a high school student in Los Angeles who faces difficult challenges with racism, homophobia and police brutality. The film was selected to premiere at the 2019 Toronto Film Festival, was the official opening night film at the Austin Film Festival that year, and most recently, the film won the Audience Award for the Best Debut Feature Narrative at the Outfest Film Festival.
The University of Denver community has a rare opportunity to watch the film at a screening Sunday, Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. Mountain time.
Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, Green’s current production of the 2019 winning screenplay, “Haram,” is delayed. He’s looking forward to the near future when production can get back up and running in a safe and meaningful way. Until then, he is continuing to develop future film and television projects. Green also runs the day-to-day operations of The LAUNCH Productions, which options and produces additional screenplays discovered through the competition.
While Green didn’t expect to be in film, he feels his experience at DU prepared him for the discipline and responsibility his career demands.
“I always look back at my time at University of Denver with fond memories and even though I grew up outside the Chicago area and live in Los Angeles (although I am in Montana now), I consider Denver to be my home,” he said. “My experiences at DU were really the foundation for me not only for my career, but also for my life. I still have great friends from DU and every now and again I do run into a few people here and there in the entertainment business that went to DU as well and we are all instantly connected.”
Register and learn more about Changing the Face of Film: VIP Access Film Screening and Discussion of “The Obituary of Tunde Johnson.”