The King of Entertainment
Writer, Producer, Director, Actor, Author, Mogul
By Kristian Rose-Anderson
Tyler Perry is not a filmmaker. He did not attend a prestigious film school like NYU. He did not get his break in the industry by interning at a major studio like Universal. As a child, he wasn’t given an 8mm camera with which he made amateur films. He was never even taught where the cameras are supposed to go while shooting a film. He never studied film as an art form. In fact, he was never officially trained to direct, write or produce. Hence why, Tyler Perry is not a filmmaker—in the technical sense.
But what Tyler Perry has become is a master storyteller. For Perry, “My whole purpose of becoming a director was to tell a story.” He says, “I look at filmmakers who are brilliant like Steven Spielberg, who is a brilliant filmmaker. I look at Spike Lee. Those guys eat, live, breath, study and understand film.” But according to Perry, “I don’t know a lot of what those directors know, but I always look up to those people to help me grow.” Fortunately, for us, Tyler Perry never let the absence of formal tutelage get in his way!
From his daunting beginnings on the tough streets of New Orleans to the A-list in Hollywood, whether you are a fan of his work or not, you cannot deny that this man’s story is a true testament to the miracles of the Almighty.
Over the years, (and thanks to some tear-jerking Oprah interviews), Tyler Perry has shared a great deal about his life and his childhood, and how every experience he endured helped to fashion him into the man his is currently. Nowadays he believes, “I am more of myself than I have ever been.” He says, “I didn’t come in to my own until I turned 40. I’ve just become more of myself and I love that I’ve really settled into my own skin.” Because for Perry, “Out of all that I’ve been through, it’s all found its place in my soul to help grow me and to help me be a better person.”
While Tyler Perry wasn’t formally educated in filmmaking, he was encouraged to keep a diary of his daily thoughts and experiences. This is where he began writing a series of introspective letters. These letters led him to personal healing, and led to his first musical.
Today, his work has garnered great acclaim and respect. The legendary, Cicely Tyson, who has worked with Tyler Perry on many occasions, recently stated she would be a part of any project that he was a part of. “That sounds amazing, because any project I’m a part of, I want her to do,” exclaims Perry.
Even with such an iconic validation, the road to success wasn’t easy for him. But he never gave up. And today, we know Tyler Perry as the mastermind behind Woman Thou Art Loosed! the Madea empire, as well as Daddy’s Little Girls, Why Did I Get Married? (one and two), Meet The Browns, The Family That Preys, House of Payne, For Colored Girls, Good Deeds, and the list goes on.
Born a fighter, Tyler Perry recognizes where he has come from and where he is heading. He is definitely a man who hasn’t forgotten about the people that have helped him reach the top. He once explained that his target audience consists of people in beauty shops, salons, barbershops, blue collar workers and lower income people who have supported him from the beginning. “More than a target audience, it is the core audience who’s been there with me from day one and they are still there,” states Perry.
Now his audience and realm of influence has definitely escalated. “I can stand in front of the stage and I see doctors, lawyers, the hair dresser, the barber, the drug boy, the pimp, the prostitute, the grandmother, the great grandmother, the child, the preacher, the psychic, the Muslim, the gay, the lesbian and the straight. Black, white, they are all represented in the audience.” And even more important, “What I have learned to do is to open the story up to wherever God wants it to land,” says Perry. “So I know my core. I am very clear on who they are, because they are me and we are one in the same. But I’m also very open to everything that God has for me.”
Keeping an open mind is exactly what Tyler Perry is doing. One of the greatest challenges he faces in the entertainment business are those critics who undoubtedly put him into a box, thinking they know his formula and all that he is capable of producing. “They don’t allow me to grow anymore,” says Perry. “But I live my life outside of the box, because when I die they are going to put me in one. So I always have to shatter the box, because I think a box is a casket.”