Charles D. King Hide caption courtesy of the Collins-Jackson Agency
Courtesy of the Collins-Jackson Agency
Courtesy of the Collins-Jackson Agency
The film Judas and the Black Messiah made history at the Oscars. It’s the first nominee for Best Picture with an all-black production team that includes two Kings and a Coogler: Ryan Coogler, Shaka King and Charles D. King who bring a new vision to Hollywood.
King has always had an eye for talent and he knows that different viewers thirst to tell their stories in Hollywood. Because of this, he started his own multi-platform company called MACRO “to focus on telling stories by and about people with color,” he says. “There just weren’t enough of these types of films.”
King recalls the phone call from his good friend Ryan Coogler, whose superhero film Black Panther was a hit. He says Coogler was ready to produce a film about a real Black Panther leader. “He said, hey, there is this incredible script that Shaka King wrote about Fred Hampton,” recalls King. “And I would like to see if you and MACRO would be interested in working together on this.”
“We were just overwhelmed by the story,” he says, a story that examines the work and life of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and the FBI informant who infiltrated the Chicago chapter of the Black Panther Party.
As a producer, King helped develop the script for Judas and the Black Messiah. He was on the set and was heavily involved in the film’s release and marketing. Writer / director Shaka King says Charles King’s support was critical.
“He tied up 50 percent of the budget before we even went into a studio, which is incredibly rare, which even gave us a degree of autonomy,” says Shaka King. “If he had invested less money, the studio would have had more control … I think one of the reasons [Charles] Trying to raise 50 percent was because he wanted to make sure I got the film I wanted to do, which was very generous of him. “
König knows that representation is important. Born in Harlem in 1969, he grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, where his father was a pediatrician and his mother wrote novels and poetry. While studying political science at Vanderbilt, a friend suggested he become an entertainment lawyer.
“When I grew up in a middle-class family in Decatur, Georgia, I just didn’t know what an entertainment lawyer did,” he says. “But I saw that TV show with my mom called LA Law, and I remember there was this one black character on the show played by Blair Underwood. He’s that charismatic African American lawyer in the firm, and he stood up for himself and he was just the man. “
King was inspired to study at Howard University School of Law. After graduating in 1997, he packed a U-Haul truck and moved to Los Angeles with a few hundred dollars. His ten-year plan to run his own entertainment and media company began in the mailroom of the famous William Morris agency.
“I saw the agency world as the perfect place to start wet my feet, build relationships, and understand the industry,” says King.
Even as a trainee in the mail room, King brought new customers like hip-hop star Missy Elliot. He met the company’s CEO; He networked at conferences and wrote reports on cultural trends such as hip-hop, as well as the viewing patterns and sales potential of black, Latin American and Asian audiences. King advanced quickly.
This is not just about building an entertainment and media brand that will last for generations. It’s also about raising culture. It’s about creating opportunities. It’s about making our world better.
“When I was promoted, it was the first time in 101 years. [to be the] The first African American to switch from mail room to film and television agent, at least in the Beverly Hills office, “says King.” I’ve been very good at being an agent and I’ve made tremendous progress. I became the first black partner in Hollywood history when William Morris and Endeavor merged. “
As an agent, King built an impressive roster. His clients included Oprah, Janet Jackson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Tyler Perry, which he signed before anyone in Hollywood knew who he was. King introduced Perry to the studio managers and got them to see Perry’s plays. King also helped Lionsgate sign a contract for Perry’s first film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman.
“Everyone was like, oh my god, I can’t believe that five million dollar movie made fifty million at the box office and sold millions and millions of DVDs,” he says. “And that was just the start of this incredible franchise and business.”
King also helped Perry build a new television project syndication business model, starting with Tyler Perry’s House of Payne. With Perry’s attorney, King structured what is known as the “10-90” distribution agreement to maximize profitability: an arrangement under which a network test runs ten episodes of a new television series. If things go well, the network orders 90 more episodes and guarantees that the entire 100 episode package will be sold for syndication.
“My nickname was in 2005,” recalls King. That year, his fifth as an agent, he not only won gold with Tyler Perry, but also brought in filmmaker Craig Brewer, whose film Hustle and Flow was a top seller at the Sundance Film Festival. King began repeating the film’s star Terrence Howard, who received an Oscar nomination. And he began to represent Prince.
King says that as an African American, he has to make ten times as many calls as his colleagues who represent white movie stars and filmmakers. And he taught a lot about the value of diversity.
“The executives at the top of William Morris, and frankly the chief executive of many of the studios I would contact, would normally get it,” says King. “Often you find that it’s the people in the middle who are less visionary. So of course there were moments when I discussed things or brought up concepts and meetings and was literally laughed at. And then, a few years later, I was leading I do the meetings because I generated ten times more sales than they did. “
After almost 20 years with William Morris, King made a leap in confidence in 2015. He left the agency to start MACRO with his wife Stacey and some partners. They kicked off a month before the #OscarsSoWhite movement began and knocked it out of the stadium with the first movie they made, Fences. The film’s star, Denzel Washington, received an Oscar nomination, and co-star Viola Davis was named Best Supporting Actress.
Then Mary J. Blige was nominated for another MACRO film, Mudbound. Since then, MACRO has made other films including Just Mercy, Sorry to Bother You, and the Gentefied and Raising Dion series. Earlier this year, King’s Company signed an initial contract with Warner Brothers to develop and package features.
According to King, up to 70 percent of his team leaders are women, and everyone in his company is encouraged to come up with ideas. He says MACRO’s mission is to present a new paradigm in the media landscape to disrupt the way things have always been done.
“This is not just about building an entertainment and media brand that will last for generations,” he says. “It’s also about raising culture. It’s about creating opportunities. It’s about making our world better.”
King says his empire in Hollywood has only just begun.
This story was edited for radio by Nina Gregory and adapted for the web by Mandalit del Barco and Petra Mayer.