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2001: A Movie
Americas Newest and Only
Independent Movie Studio
Five years ago, I had the good pleasure
of hearing Tim Reids dream of building a movie studio in the
tradition of the Johnson Brothers Lincoln Pictures in Los
Angeles and the world-renowned Oscar Micheaux Film Corporation.
Eighteen months after that conversation, we found ourselves in the
outskirts of historic Petersburg, Virginia, a town known for its
pivotal role in the American Civil War. The creative mind of Tim
Reid has taken what was thought to be an impossible dream and created
a vibrant studio just a two hours drive south of Washington,
D.C. This field of dreams is a sixty-acre full-service motion picture
studio complex that has been the home of major motion pictures from
Steven Speilbergs DreamWorks release entitled The Contender
to the ABC miniseries Tom Clancys NetForce, and
more importantly, motion pictures completely created and financed
by Tim Reid and his partners. The first movie being Asunder starring
Blair Underwood, Debbi Morgan, and Michael Beach. Asunder is
being distributed theatrically by New Millennium Releasing, an even
more historic piece of the New Millennium story. The impossible
has been achieved, and a black man is at the helm of Americas
only black-owned and operated motion picture studio. These are the
thoughts of Tim Reid and what led him home to Virginia
BFM: Tim, its been literally five
years since today that we were in Fort Lauderdale, and you were
dreaming up New Millennium Studios for the second or third time.
What are your thoughts as it would pertain to telling the story
of New Millennium to the African Diaspora of filmmakers?
TR: I shouldve had that V8! I dont
think the story has yet to be told. Were still a pretty far
distance away from the ultimate dream and goal which is to have
control of the images from creation to distribution. I mean weve
touched the waters, but we havent been consistent. The only
way to be consistent is to get other people of color to join in
this dream and work together which when it comes to the Diaspora,
is not something that were known for either in the homeland
of Africa or America or Europe. Getting us together with one focus
and one goal takes a tremendous amount of dedication and people
on point, and Ive chosen to be on point. Its very uncomfortable,
and the dream is still alive, but its probably the most difficult
thing Ive ever tried to do.
BFM: Would you say that African American
filmmakers have been supportive of the studio?
TR: Im afraid to say that people of color,
whether it be African Americans or anyone, have not been really
supportive of the studio. Theyve been more afraid of it than
supportive. I think theres so much fear of failure among people
of color that theyd rather stand back and wonder if its
going to make it than to roll their sleeves up, get in, and make
it happen. So, thats a major problem, especially in black
America. No, they have not come the way Id hope theyd
come. Can we make it without them? Up to a point. But ultimately,
without the cooperation of other independent minds, I call them
runaway slaves, without the rest of the runaway slaves coming together,
I dont see it working on a big scale.
BFM: The irony is that the studio has
been the home to movies from DreamWorks, October Films, ABC Television,
Castle Rock Entertainment, and major advertisers like Chevrolet,
and Kmart. What do you think that theyre seeing that African
American filmmakers arent seeing?
TR: First of all, they see the economics of
what we built here. The model works. The model works very well,
and they see that. They understand the business. And of course,
they have the advantage of not being afraid. They control the system.
So, nobodys going to get angry with them if they come and
shoot here because they control the system. A lot of black people
are afraid if they come and shoot here that the dominant culture
will see that and think that they are aligned with the way that
I think which is as an independent, thinking person. And people
of color, in general, dont like to offend the dominant culture
for fear of repercussions. But "they" come here without
any fear at all, the way its always been. Whats to fear
if they control the system? So, they can go anywhere they want in
the world. Its a matter of economics, and they see the economics
of what weve got here.
BFM: On a positive note though, Tim, the
really triumphant story is that in three years, youve produced
two motion pictures at the studio, under the studio banner, two
movies with CBS for Procter and Gamble, over forty television commercials
for major brands, and music videos with major artists. These are
productions that have been under your banner. I mean, that must
make you feel good.
TR: The personal goal has been achieved. We
did what we set out to do. The dream was realized. I think what
Im doing is saying on a personal level, I can walk away from
this today and feel that I have accomplished a dream. We did what
had not been done in over fifty-five years. But I think what you
hear is not so much negative as it is just a sadness that the ultimate
goal, the true dream of freedom when it comes to being able to control
our images, will only be accomplished with support of other people.
I dreamed a very large dream to be encompassing, not to be individualized.
I didnt want this to be a vanity company thats just
for the success of a few people. I want it to be a larger dream.
But on an individual level, I think all of us working here should
feel tremendously proud of what weve accomplished.
BFM: Tim, what if any comparison do you
feel between yourself and New Millennium Studios and the efforts
of Oscar Micheaux and the Johnson Brothers Lincoln Pictures
TR: There are obvious comparisons between what
were attempting to do here, and most of it centers around
the grass roots struggle of being in control of your own destiny.
We have actually chosen to follow their path as close as we can,
given the differences between time and events and whats going
on in the world socially and economically as opposed to when they
were doing it. But weve certainly used their model because
their model is based on sound business principles of creating a
niche or swell of excitement for what it is youre doing and
to cater to that audience with the kinds of stories that they would
like to see about themselves. So, we have followed that basic principle.
And also like Oscar Micheaux, we have actually taken our movie and
put it under the airplane seat (as opposed to the way he traveled
in a car) and flown somewhere to show our movie, and collect the
tickets and sell the book just like he did. So, theres a certain
amount of pride that we have followed their model. The similarities
stop there. We certainly hope to be better filmmakers because tragically,
Oscar Micheaux was not the greatest filmmaker that ever lived. He
certainly was one of the best marketers, but he wasnt the
greatest filmmaker. So, we hope to follow in his footsteps as a
marketer and as a visionary and then try to take it to the next
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