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Listing Martin Scorsese, Gordon Parks and Spike Lee as influences, writer-director George Tillman Jr made short, experimental video projects as a Milwaukee teenager before creating a public access cable show "Splice of Life," using local talent. He established himself as a filmmaker of original vision with an award-winning 30-minute short "Paula," which followed the story of a 17-year-old single black mother who works in a diner and inspires the people around her. Bolstered by that success, Tillman wrote and directed the feature "Scenes for the Soul," financing it with $150,000 he and producer Robert Teitel raised through a group of Chicago investors. When he and Teitel drove to Los Angeles, they sold the film to Savoy Pictures for $1 million, though Savoy's subsequent bankruptcy prevented its release. (It was subsequently sold to HBO.) Inspired by the Sunday dinners prepared by his grandmother, Tillman wrote a script that Tracey E Edmonds and her husband Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds felt would be the perfect choice for their new production company's feature debut. The result, "Soul Food" (1997), was the kind of feel good, family story that doesn't get made often in Hollywood and proved to be a sleeper hit.
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