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Joe McClean - Screenwriter / Director / Producer



(and why "Ginger Beard"?)

After studying Shakespeare in college, nepotism from a construction worker uncle delivered the education that kept me fed during the lean times of chasing artistic dreams. Over the years, my days swinging a hammer dwindled as I studied at the Royal National Theater, acted in touring children’s theater, wrote / produced / directed numerous short films & two indie features, wrote / produced a third, joined the Writers Guild of America, and started a family.

Joe McClean / Ginger Beard Show Reel

I wrote my first feature length script while on the road, acting in a touring production of Peter Pan. That script served as a sample that led to my first contracted writing job to turn someone else’s idea into a screenplay. I was hooked.

Next, inspired by a passage in a book by James D. Watson (Nobel laureate for co-discovering DNA), I embarked on a thrilling ride to co-write a futuristic screenplay about a descendent of Dr. Watson who cures a mysterious disease plaguing the world. Naively, I sent that script off to Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory where Dr. Watson was based and one afternoon while swinging my hammer on a roof in New Jersey, I received a call.

Letter from Scientist James D. Watson to screenwriter, director, producer Joe McClean

The voice on the other end of the line didn’t say hello, but rather, “Please hold for James Watson.” I froze and in a few seconds, I was connected with the man whose name I’d read in high school textbooks. He told me he loved the movie Gattaca (predictable?) and said he didn’t know much about screenplays, but that he was intrigued how his book The Double Helix had inspired a screenwriter – the first time anyone ever used that moniker to label my work. Alas, nothing ever came of the script, but that experience was the force responsible for me switching gears from actor to writer and moving west to La La Land.

I discovered very quickly that doors don’t open easily in Hollywood, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. It was time to start directing and producing projects myself.

2004 Letter from Dr. James Watson

I made a bunch of short films and one feature length movie with friends and no money. To this day, I enjoy watching those early attempts to craft a story, but essentially this era of on-the-job-training was my film school. Now it was time to take my first big swing. 

I wrote a script I felt I could raise enough money to shoot myself, a found-footage film, and I spent a year begging for cash and favors. The star of a hit TV show, who had gone to the same high school as me, graciously agreed to act in it. An NBA player made a small investment. Actor, comedian, and Late Show with David Letterman regular, Jay Thomas agreed to make a cameo. The snowball was growing and eventually I scraped together enough cash to direct Life Tracker. The movie played over 20 science fiction conventions and got a digital distribution deal with Charter Communications (now Spectrum) and streamed into millions of American homes.

Life Tracker Trailer

Great! Now I needed a follow up to prove that my work ethic couldn't be mistaken for beginner's luck.​ Taking advantage of a group of talented actor friends and another who owned property outside of Fresno, I wrote and directed a super-low-budget homage to The Big Chill called The Drama Club which can currently be seen on Tubi.

The Drama Club Trailer

Looking back from that point, I could see the years of work I'd put in. Meeting people. Working with casts and crews. Going on adventures together. taking risks and building trust. Jobs started to fall into place. I signed my first manager. I joined the Writers Guild of America. I pitched big shot producers at legacy studios and powerhouse production companies. Always searching for that next opportunity. That's when I met Blair Underwood. A business lunch turned into an attachment (and a friendship), and soon I was hitting up everyone I'd ever done business with to see who wanted to join the team.

Viral was written and produced by me, it's directed by and stars Blair, and he shares the screen with Sarah Silverman, Jeanine Mason, and the incomparable Alfre Woodard! The movie is finished and we're actively working with our sales team to bring it to audiences.

In the mean time, I’m working with editors at Amistad (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishing) on my two-book deal, Sins of Survivors, about the plight of a family who lived in the once vital African American neighborhood of Black Bottom in 1930s and 40s Detroit. The first book hits shelves in the summer of 2025... So, who wants to help me take this story from book to screen?

Why "Ginger Beard," you ask? My wife's maiden name is "Beard," and when our son was born he had a reddish tint to his hair. So, my company is named after my son, my "Ginger Beard"... It's only a bonus that I have red facial hair.

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