George Tillman, Jr. Biography

George Tillman, Jr. photo

Born: January 26, 1969


Date of Birth: January 26, 1969

A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Tillman was inspired to make films of his own after seeing the film Cooley High.

Tillman entered Columbia College where he majored in Film and Video. There he made the 30-minute short, Paula, which told the story of a 17-year-old, African-American single mother. It received numerous accolades and awards including the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Student Academy Award and the Black Filmmakers' Hall of Fame Award.

Tillman graduated in 1991 and formed a directing/producing partnership with fellow student Robert Teitel, they named their company Menagerie Films.

In 1994 Tillman wrote and directed his first feature film, Scenes for the Soul, which was shot entirely in Chicago using local talent and resources. In Scenes, Tillman skillfully intertwined three different stories by casting himself as a documentary filmmaker who peeks into a day in the life of a disparate group of characters. He and Teitel raised $150,000 through a group of Chicago investors—ranging from doctors and lawyers to blue-collar workers enthused about the local project—to finance the film. When it was completed, Tillman had $400 left to his name. He drove to L.A. and got his film seen by Doug McHenry and George Jackson, who acquired it for Savoy pictures for the sum of $1,000,000.

Following on the momentum of this success, Tillman wrote Soul Food which was a film that he hoped would tell a deeply, imaginative, from-the-heart story about a contemporary African-American family. He based the story on his own childhood experiences growing up in his family. The film, which stars Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, and Nia Long, opened to critical and financial success.

State Street Pictures became Tillman and Teitel's new company name—a reference to their early film years in Chicago.

Tillman directed Men of Honor, starring Oscar-winning actors Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Robert De Niro. The epic story was inspired by the life of Carl M. Brashear—a man who came from humble beginnings to battle the obstacles of racism, lack of education, and serious injury, to chase the dream of becoming the U.S. Navy's first African-American master deep sea diver.

More recently he directed Derek Luke in Notorious (2009), the story of rapper Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.


Notorious (2009)
Men of Honor (2000)
Soul Food (1997)
Scenes for the Soul (1995)
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