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2001: A Movie Studio

Tim Reid’s Creation of
America’s Newest and Only
Independent Movie Studio

Five years ago, I had the good pleasure of hearing Tim Reid’s 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 Speilberg’s DreamWorks release entitled The Contender to the ABC miniseries Tom Clancy’s 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 America’s only black-owned and operated motion picture studio. These are the thoughts of Tim Reid and what led him home to Virginia…

BFM: Tim, it’s 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 should’ve had that V8! I don’t think the story has yet to be told. We’re 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 we’ve touched the waters, but we haven’t 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 we’re 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 I’ve chosen to be on point. It’s very uncomfortable, and the dream is still alive, but it’s probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to do.

BFM: Would you say that African American filmmakers have been supportive of the studio?

TR: I’m afraid to say that people of color, whether it be African Americans or anyone, have not been really supportive of the studio. They’ve been more afraid of it than supportive. I think there’s so much fear of failure among people of color that they’d rather stand back and wonder if it’s going to make it than to roll their sleeves up, get in, and make it happen. So, that’s a major problem, especially in black America. No, they have not come the way I’d hope they’d 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 don’t 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 they’re seeing that African American filmmakers aren’t 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, nobody’s 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, don’t like to offend the dominant culture for fear of repercussions. But "they" come here without any fear at all, the way it’s always been. What’s to fear if they control the system? So, they can go anywhere they want in the world. It’s a matter of economics, and they see the economics of what we’ve got here.

BFM: On a positive note though, Tim, the really triumphant story is that in three years, you’ve 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 I’m 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 didn’t want this to be a vanity company that’s 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 we’ve 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 Corporation?

TR: There are obvious comparisons between what we’re 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 what’s going on in the world socially and economically as opposed to when they were doing it. But we’ve 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 you’re 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, there’s 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 wasn’t 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 level creatively.

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2001 Tim Reid Productions, Inc