“Napa Ever After,” a film presented by Hallmark’s Mahogany film franchise, tells the story of a single, high-powered attorney who takes a sabbatical from her career to renovate a property she inherited from her grandmother.
Based on a story by Wendy Eley-Jackson, the film is the third of Hallmark’s Mahogany in 2023.
Eley-Jackson recently sat down with ADW to share what inspired the film, Atlanta connections and keys to making it in the film industry.
What were some of the inspirations behind writing “Napa Ever After”?
It’s about having a parent or grandparent who’s no longer with you, but your desire to find that meaningful connection and in her inheriting a vineyard. My great grandfather owned over 100 acres in Alabama. I know what it’s like to inherit something so significant and I also know what it’s like to lose it. So being able to infuse things in your own life and making it real for the viewers was the goal. I’m grateful I got a chance to create the story. And I’m equally grateful to Nina Weinman for being able to add and make sure that there was a deliverable by the deadline.
What should people know about your strong Atlanta roots?
My connection to Atlanta is that my husband is Maynard Jackson III, the only son of Atlanta’s first African American mayor Maynard Jackson, Jr. I still talk to my Atlanta friends and I still have my home in Atlanta. But I understand the importance of purpose and my purpose kind of led me to the West Coast…I’m also a professor at UC Santa Barbara where I teach basic screenwriting, advanced screen writing for motion picture. Students pitch their ideas to a tribunal of L.A.-based producers and studio heads. And they choose which films go forward. I also teach them how to start a production company and how to raise money for their films.
What is your biggest advice to aspiring writers?
If you want to write, you need to learn how to write for television and film because they’re not the same structures. I would say study the craft like anything else. There are no big film schools in Atlanta. However, there are a few on a much smaller scale. There are classes that people can enroll in. I would say to do that. I actually went to college undergrad, both in D.C. and in California. But I think what made me really understand the craft is when I went back to school. I believe in the power of education, as well as networking. And if you want to be a writer, then you have to write. It’s not enough for you to just write, you have to understand structure. If you’re writing a film, it needs to be a three act structure. If you’re writing for TV, it needs to be a four or five act structure. So you need to first understand the rules.