Multi-skilled screenwriter brings experience into the classroom

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Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 12:34 am

Walking through the halls of N.C. State as part of the Film Department is professional screenwriter Mark Millhone. Along with being a professor at N.C. State, Millhone’s resume includes IMDb credits for screenwriting, directing and editing TV, film and online media projects such as “Universal Squadrons,” “Christmas in New York” and “Passengers”. 

Currently, Millhone is working as a film professor at UNC-Wilmington and as a columnist for Men’s Health magazine in print and online. Millhone also published a memoir in 2009.

Millhone’s interest in screenwriting started in high school when he was interested in theatre.

“I was really intrigued with using your imagination and working together to collaborate on a project,” Millhone said. “The problem was I am sort of a shy person and did not like to act.” 

Instead of being featured onstage, Millhone started producing, directing, and eventually writing.

Many people want to work in the film industry; but without the flexibility of having multiple talents, those striving to be in the business may often fail.

“It is a necessity for making a living in this field,” Millhone said. “More people go to the Olympics than get to make a major Hollywood film feature. People who are going in these fields need to be aware of that, and need to do it out of a sense of great passion and commitment to the stories they need to tell.”

​Millhone’s theory of flexibility has been tried and tested in his professional life. At a time when he was feeling stagnant in screenwriting, Millhone wrote and shared a lengthy journal article with his writers group. One of the members asked if he would let him send the entry to a friend, and the article ended up in the hands of the Editor-in-Chief at Men’s Health Magazine. The story ran and Millhone’s career at Men’s Health started.

​“To write for magazines was not in the plan, but it became a good outlet for me and opened other opportunities such as a feature film and the book that I wrote,” Millhone said.

​After writing columns for Men’s Health, Millhone was challenged with producing comedic material for their website. Tasked with making comedy shorts about fitness, Millhone was surprised and confused when given this project. Men’s Health then sent him for training at a leading gym in California. Within the first couple of gym visits, Millhone was again surprised, this time about the personal trainers.

​“I was terrifically impressed with how smart these guys were,” Millhone said. “They could spend an afternoon with you and figure out a plan based on all of your physical weaknesses and sign you up for a year.”

​Basing the voice and character off a trainer he met at the California gym, Millhone was ready to produce his online series “Krush.” The seasoned screenwriter writes, directs, produces and acts in the web series. Although he took on most of the work, Millhone used a handful of interns from both N.C. State and UNC-Wilmington to help edit and promote the project.

“It was a very satisfying experience as much as through what I learned from my students as well as what I gave them in knowledge,” Millhone said. “It was a tremendously joyful collaboration working with all the students on that project.”

With so much talent, Millhone finds his multiple gifts in media to be necessary abilities that can often be a burden.

“I feel like all the different things that I do are a virtue, a necessity and a problem,” Millhone said. “I think it is really important if you want to be an artist of any kind that you have to be versatile. You have to have a number of different skills that you can bring to tell a different story, to find a vision and to find an audience.”

Millhone teaches his students that flexibility is required in the field of filmmaking because new opportunities open up all the time.

“If they want to be a screenwriter, the first thing I tell them is that they need to be cinematographer, an editor, and a director or producer,” Millhone said. “It takes that kind of entrepreneurial, holistic sense to green light a vision, and that is the challenge of any creative person today.”

Millhone strives to prepare his students with the tools needed in today’s industry and also help them get in the  mindset required for work in film.

“First thing is to become flexible about what it is that you want to do and to be open to what opportunities come your way,” Millhone said. “Part of it is to really know what you want to do. There really are no jobs; you shouldn’t be training yourself for a job but instead be ready for opportunities.”

 His memoir “The Patron Saint of Used Cars” and “Second Chances: A Memoir” can be found on Amazon.com.