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Many directors study film in college, getting hands-on experience making student films. Many more, regardless of their institutional education, start their careers as production assistants or interns, or make the transition to directing after spending years working as actors, editors, cinematographers, and writers. Salim Akil, born and raised in Oakland, California, went another route entirely, working first in a mortuary, then in an out-patient clinic for mentally disturbed individuals, for the first decade of his professional life. In 1999 he wrote, co-produced, and acted in "Drylongso," which led to a job writing for and producing Showtime's hit series "Soul Food," which was based on George Tillman Jr.'s 1997 theatrical feature of the same name. Following his success there, Akil went to work on the UPN series "Girlfriends," which was created by his wife, Mara Brock Akil. Salim Akil directed 13 episodes of the series, which tells the stories of a number of powerful, charismatic African American women. It earned him two Image Awards nominations for Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series. "The Game," a spin-off of "Girlfriends," also produced by his wife, premiered in 2006; Akil directed 52 episodes. He also wrote for both programs. 2011 saw him make his debut as a feature director with "Jumping the Broom," a wedding comedy starring Angela Bassett and Paula Patton. Modestly budgeted, "Jumping the Broom" became one of the most profitable films of 2011, in proportion to its budget, and earned eight Black Reel Awards nominations, including one for Akil's direction.
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