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BFM: What you’re saying is that you think it’s good business to serve an underserved niche?

TR: Well, it’s not only that we have an underserved niche. Look at the facts. Last year, over 550 movies were made. Only probably eight can be classified as truly black-produced, created, or financed movies. And of those eight, probably four were distributed through any means of theatrical distribution. Well, we made one of the four. So, in other words, we were responsible for twenty-five percent of all the black films distributed this past year. That’s sad in one respect because it tells you that the major studios are not going to cater to an audience that is a massive audience. Twenty-five percent of every ticket for every movie in America is spent by someone of color. That audience is certainly not getting its credit for the money that it spends. Somebody has to service that market, and we think that there’s a business in servicing that audience.

BFM: Because the entire industry has been consolidated under five gigantic conglomerates, do you think that you have carved out this unique niche for yourself? As recently as ’96, the independent movement has all but really disappeared. In some respect, in America, New Millennium Studios is the only independent studio operation with the ability to go from concept to distribution on whatever size screen. How does that make you feel looking at your future and the history that you’re building upon?

TR: Well, it makes me think that I should get my phone number to Sumner Redstone [the chairman of Viacom]! [laughs] I don’t know. There’s good news and bad news in that. And the good news is we know the model works, and a company that’s able to hang in and build up their worth and have a few successes will become a very valuable company. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I don’t know that it’s good for America or good for the world to have major conglomerates in total control of independent thought and independent creativity. As a matter of fact, it is even good business for the conglomerates that there is an independent movement in whatever field is successful, and they should be behind it. The only reason they’ve gone after the independents is because they were embarrassed a few years ago when all the top awards were given to independent companies like Miramax. The majors were making this schlock hundred million-dollar fluff…making a lot of money, but what they didn’t have was prestige. So, could they create prestige? No. What do they do? They do what they always do. They bought it. And in buying it, they’ve eliminated the very thing that produced the prestige. They absorbed the independents into the system. Look at the last two years of independent filmmaking. It’s been the worst that it’s ever been. And why? Well, there’s no longer any independents, so you’re not going to get the kind of movies made that fosters the creativity that makes people feel proud.

 

 

 

BFM: Or the ingenuity?

TR: Creativity never comes out of conglomerate structure. It always comes from those maverick thinkers. Look at Microsoft, Apple, and Dell computer. They started in garages. It wasn’t started in a laboratory or in a major IBM corporate office. It was started in a garage in Santa Clara. Apple’s guys took what existed and created a box that revolutionized the look of PCs. People were going, "Hey, that’s cool." So, the same thing with Palm Pilots. A little company in another business makes something in another business and revolutionizes hand-held equipment. Throws the whole industry upside-down. The Internet. Napster. A bunch of college kids. It wasn’t MCA music. It wasn’t Warner Brothers music. It was a little guy in a college dorm. Didn’t even have a job and didn’t even know how to make money with it. So, revolution never comes from conglomerates. What do they do? They buy it, squelch it, and take it down to where it has no servable purpose. They end up losing what they’re trying to gain. So, now that there are very few true independents left in America. I hope that we’re able to survive and build a company and service and also make innovative and interesting product. If we try to follow the Hollywood curve in the road just because we want to be financially successful, then I think we will have failed.

BFM: Do you think that the dot-com, the Internet is doomed for the same kind of control?

TR: Well, I think the dot-com industry is already over. I mean, the dot-com did not work. Venture capitalists, they’re the only people who really made any money out of this whole thing. It’s like a chain letter. Now, the bloom is off the rose. Definitely, the innovation for film and entertainment is not going to come out of the Internet. The Internet is just a marketing tool and a distribution tool that will be certainly interwoven into the fabric of technology. But as far as it being and fostering entertainment and taking it to another level, it ain’t gonna happen. There are too many amateur people who can make movies now. I mean, there are guys making movies for fifty, sixty thousand dollars, putting them on the Internet with digital DV cameras, and they’re horrible.

BFM: What’s going to turn it all around? What’s going to make the movie business exciting for you in the twenty-first century?

TR: I think what’s going to have to happen is that independent thinking people are going to have to buckle down and make the kind of movies that move them, and we’ve got to get back to storytelling. There will always be a Blair Witch slipping through. There will always be… I mean, there’s a lot of creativity out there, but people are going to have to be passionate about getting these movies made and not cave into the system. It’s going to come back around. Some independent’s going to slip through and literally exist for awhile, and then Sumner Junior will buy them out.

BFM: Do you think it will be you?

TR: I hope so. I mean, I could stand about two billion.

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