After breaking into the movie biz years ago by doing computer graphics, Martin Garner is now getting a chance to do what he really loves: writing.
A Sikeston native, Garner has lived in Los Angeles and worked in the film industry since 1993. "Most people there will know me as 'Marty,'" he said.
A 1988 graduate of Sikeston Senior High School, Garner's first opportunity to work on films presented itself in Memphis, Tenn., during the filming of "The Firm" while he was attending college there.
Garner interned in about every department available during the movie, including the computer graphics department.
"When I moved out here to go to grad school at the American Film Institute, I hooked up with a lot of the same people I worked with on that film," he said.
This led to opportunities to work on other projects including "Apollo 13," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Laurel Canyon."
"It wound up paying the bills for around 10 years or so while I was writing," Garner said. "It gave me an incredible post-school experience that I couldn't have gotten otherwise. I got to sit and watch Ron Howard direct as well as people like Steven Soderbergh and Barry Levinson."
Having a master's degree in screenwriting, "the computer work was fun but it wasn't what I wanted to do," he said.
Opportunity's knock for screenwriting began with a comedy called "Shinola."
"It's something I wrote myself and hope to shoot there in the Sikeston area," he said.
Nick Offerman, an actor who is married to Megan Mullally, best known for her role as the shrill-voiced, pill-popping, eccentric Karen Walker on the sitcom "Will & Grace," was part of a staged reading performance of "Shinola."
"He really liked my writing and showed a lot of my stuff to Megan who liked it as well. She met with me to talk about this book 'Passing Strange' which she had optioned the movie rights to," Garner said. "She liked my take on the material and hired me to adapt it for the screen."
The story is a drama about a "ugly duckling" woman who manages to marry into a wealthy family, according to Garner. The family then encourages her to have a plastic surgery makeover before she and her husband relocate to North Carolina.
"She is kind of transformed into a new person and is actually kind of beautiful now," Garner said. "Not only does she get to start her life over again as a new person, she's also in a bit of culture shock in a good way with the racial makeup of the town they move to and really starts to see the world in a new way as this new person she is -- and then things go south."
Garner said the first draft will be completed following the holidays after which Mullally will probably either suggest changes for a second draft or begin pitching it to studios and larger production companies.
If the screenplay makes it to the big screen, it will be the achievement of a life-long goal for Garner.
"I was writing plays in elementary school in Sikeston," he said.
Garner still remembers writing a play that was performed by his first grade class.
"It was about a kangaroo pharmacist," he recalled. "That's all I remember about it."
His Sikeston roots, however, are something Garner will never forget.
"Even though I have to be out here now to do this, I really appreciate growing up in Southeast Missouri where I did," he said. "I am really drawn to regional stories and a lot of things I write nowadays wind up being inspired by the area I grew up in one way or another even if they aren't set there."