by Edwin L. Carpenter, Editor - The Dove Foundation
B. McMillian Jr. is the writer of a screenplay titled Reflections of a Motor
City, and the story revolves around the great Motown stars of the sixties.
This story, however, is different from many others, in that Clark always writes
with the family audience in mind. His Christian roots go deep and his shining
talent has been noticed by some independent filmmakers. As of this writing,
Clark is attempting to get financing to get his first film made.
“I started writing as a kid,” Clark said in an
exclusive interview with The Dove Foundation. “During summer vacations my
parents would make me rewrite the endings to a recent book or the latest story
in the Reader’s Digest. I wasn’t too happy about that when I was a kid,” he
“The writing just took,” he continued. “I went
to college and studied computer engineering; I wrote stories and plays on the
side and I just kept doing it. “
“Did you receive encouragement from your
teachers?” we asked.
“Yes, I did,” he replied. “My English teachers
and my history teachers, if we had to give a speech in class, always enjoyed my
topics. They always gave me encouragement about my writing, which was very, very
surprising for me at the time. Mathematics was my thing and my strength. Writing
was not something that I thought I would be good at. But I had these stories,
and I had to get them down on paper.”
We asked Clark how much he wrote about real
happenings in his life and how much he fictionalized about experiences he never
had. “I would say about fifty-fifty” he replied. “Sometimes when I would go to
church—the Bible has so many great stories, and lessons learned in those
stories, and so much is communicated in those stories—I said, you know, that’s
an interesting way to get a point across.” Clark elaborated that he would write
stories based on sermons delivered by his pastor.
“But I could make a modern story,” he said,
“and the parable could still be applied in today’s society. One of my favorite
stories in the Bible is the story about the man who was paralyzed, and he heard
Jesus was coming to a near-by town. He knew that Jesus would heal him and he
told his friends about it, and his friends carried him on the stretcher. They
lowered him down through a torn up roof. I remember the first time I heard about
that. It was actually a guest speaker at our church.
“And he said that you have to have the right
people around you no matter what. You have two kinds of people. You have the
people who would have looked down the hill and would have seen all the people
and would say, “Look, we have to come back another day. Maybe the next time
Jesus comes to town we can take you. Or you have the type of people who say,
‘All right, let’s figure out a way to get you through this crowd. It’s standing
room only in the house but that’s ok. We’ll figure out a way to get you in that
house.” Those are the types of people you want to surround yourself with.”
Clark has taken the encouragement given to him,
surrounded himself with people who believe in him, and has written a
well-researched screenplay, the aforementioned Reflections of a Motor City.
I researched the story, I read Smokey Robinson’s autobiography, I read Stevie
Wonder’s autobiography, I read Berry Gordey’s autobiography. There were similar
stories they were telling. In looking at interviews, you kind of pick up on the
personalities.” He used his imagination and has written a story based on fact
but with some creative license involving dialog and some events. Many of the
artists grew up with one another and this is reflected in Clark’s story. He
added some humorous parts as well, including the part in which Smokey Robinson
teaches Diana Ross how to drive! He included events such as Smokey Robinson
attending Aretha Franklin’s father’s church, and after service Aretha sneaking
out of the side of the church to take a puff off a cigarette! He also writes
dramatically, including Smokey Robinson’s wife struggling with miscarriages and
Clark has belonged to several writing groups,
hoping to glean constructive comments from fellow writers, and unfortunately
some of the critics have been less than kind regarding his desire to keep the
family in mind when he tells a story.
Clark remains determined to get his story filmed and he has Michigan in mind. “I
have a soft spot in my heart for Michigan,” he said, “because of what they’re
going through right now. To see the jobs go away, the people there struggle;
people shouldn’t say it’s a has-been town. The history that state has
produced—not just in the motor industry but in the music industry—this was
pretty much the center of innovation in this country. I saw that the governor
(Jennifer Granholm) and the State Legislature recently passed the legislation
for filmmaking (tax breaks, etc.). I thought this is great because some of the
most creative people come from this region of the country.”
Clark also was very grateful to the Detroit
Film Office, for the permits, encouragement, locations they showed him, and
their overall spirit of cooperation in helping him when he contacted them
Clark mentioned the natural backdrops of
Michigan--the great lakes, and the urban settings, rural settings and industrial
backgrounds, could be used and are “totally untapped”.
Clark has submitted his script and it has a
director attached to it, and he agrees with The Dove Foundation that it would be
poetic for a movie about Motown to be filmed in Michigan. He’s currently
attempting to raise funds for this independent film. He is also looking at
traditional studios which might be interested.
Clark’s goal is “for the parents and
grandparents to come to the film” in addition to young people. His goal in
making a film for the entire family fits in well with The Dove Foundation’s
identical goal. Keep the name Clark McMillian in mind. This talented writer
could very well have his name up in lights as the writer of Reflections of a
Motor City as well as, hopefully, other future works.
Read Dove's Review of "Reflections
of a Motor City"