Open Letter to Tyler Perry
Dear Mr. Perry,
I recently saw the news headline about you being the highest paid person in Hollywood this year. This news does not surprise me one bit. I've long known the power of catering to the Black consumer well. We spend almost $1 trillion a year. I don't understand why companies aren't doing a better job of targeting us, but I'm glad they aren't because that creates opportunities for Black-owned companies (like yours) to step up and serve Black consumers better than non-Black-owned companies.
You have found a formula that people seem to enjoy. I'm sure you're well aware of the criticisms against some of your most popular films, especially ones featuring Madea. I must admit that I have shared some of those criticisms. However, I do understand the business rationale behind these movies, and there are some positive messages in them that are to be commended and perpetuated. I wish I could get the kind of exposure your movies get to promote our clothing line and the positive messages we push with it, like "Smart is the New Gangsta." But, although we have a substantial following, the commercial appeal of such messages just isn't on the same level...yet.
First, I'm not suggesting that you stop doing what you're doing or making the movies that you know will be successful. However, I do have one suggestion. With all the money you're making, take $50 million - $100 million and invest in some movies with alternative story lines that will further the cause of Black empowerment. There are plenty of talented writers and directors that just need funding to get started. There are tons of stories related to Black people throughout history (especially Africans before the European contamination). I've personally read many books, and I'm sure there are hundreds more, that would make great movies, have significant commercial appeal, and would not rely on the standard Black archetypes and storylines that have been repeated over and over in Black movies to date ad nauseam.
With the initial investment mentioned above, you could create a private equity fund that invests in movies, documentaries, positive music albums and other forms of edu-tainment. The fund would be managed by professional investors and people with operational experience in the entertainment business. With your name behind it, the fund could then go out and raise money from other Black athletes and entertainers (who we know need help with investments as 60% of all NBA players go broke within five years of retiring). Also, for each project the fund could invest a certain percentage of the projected budget, and then the rest could be raised from fans that want to see the project move forward.
For example, I would like to see a movie based on one of Octavia Butler's novels. Let's say the budget for this movie would be $10 million. The private equity fund could contribute $6 million, and then it would sell 40,000 $100 shares to other Black investors (fans like me) to make up the remaining $4 million. This investment from the fans would serve three purposes: 1) reduce the amount the fund has to risk on each project so it can invest in more projects, 2) ensure a buzz and word of mouth generated by the thousands of people that invested in the project, and 3) generate wealth in the Black community, and not just for those that are already rich. Obviously I think all this would be very profitable as I think we have enough non-profits in the world. We need sustainable businesses to create wealth and jobs in the Black community. I sincerely believe that, if given the choice, Black people would support positive movies with important lessons that are still entertaining, but not stereotypical.
I have a background in entrepreneurship and strategic business development, and may be useful in the planning and implementation of this idea and some other ideas I have if you are interested. I hope that this message reaches you and you receive it with an open heart and mind, and in the spirit of a deep love and commitment to my people and our freedom.
CEO, dN|Be Apparel
Purveyors of Positive Propaganda