Morgan J. Freeman
Like many future filmmakers, Morgan J Freeman began making home movies while still in his teens. In his case, these included shorts based on the popular 1980s NBC TV series "Miami Vice." The native California studied film at UC Santa Barbara where he got to make his first short films. A sojourn in Paris, which included courses in film theory at the Sorbonne and a stint as a production assistant for Why Not Productions, followed before Freeman landed at NYU. While in the graduate program, he wrote and directed six short films and also made the acquaintance of Todd Solondz, who hired him as second assistant director on 1996's "Welcome to the Dollhouse." Based on the success of his short "Boom" (1996), Freeman was able to find investors for his first feature, "Hurricane Streets/Hurricane" (1997), a coming-of-age tale about a Manhattan teen caught up in gang activities. When it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, it won three prizes, including two for its writer-director. Although it had a good buzz based on the festival screening, the film barely registered when it debuted theatrically nearly a year later. By then, Freeman had moved on to his second feature, "Desert Blue" (1999), an off-beat look at teenagers in a small California town.