The Colour of Change: a visionary producer with Bermudian roots who is shaking up the industry
Awards ceremonies are nothing new for trailblazing Hollywood agent turned producer Charles D King.
Mr King, 51, whose father is Bermudian, has represented some of the biggest names in entertainment: Tyler Perry, Janet Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Missy Elliott and DMX among others.
As CEO of MACRO, the company he started in 2015 to produce and finance films by blacks and other people of colour, he is one of the three producers of Judas and the Black Messiah, which has been nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture.
The film about Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was murdered by police on the orders of the FBI, and the man who betrayed him, has won critical acclaim, and Best Supporting Actor nominations for Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield.
Judas had had a bigger profile as the first Oscar-nominated film to have an all-black producing team. His fellow producers were Ryan Coogler, the director of Black Panther, and Judas’ director Shaka King.
Mr King says that distinction did not occur to him, at least not initially. But his involvement with Judas was special because it gave him the opportunity to work with Mr Coogler and Shaka King as filmmaker-producers and as activists “who care about community.”
He said: “To be able to come together as producers on this movie about this great leader and to have it received in a way that it has made it that much sweeter.”
Mr King’s involvement was crucial: MACRO’s initial investment of $10 million ensured the project would get off the ground.
Mr King was raised in Atlanta. He attended Vanderbilt University and Howard University law school. Following his dream to become an entertainment lawyer, he drove across the US after law school in a U-Haul and landed a job at William Morris Agency, Hollywood’s oldest talent agency.
He worked his way from a spot in its famed mailroom to partner, the first African-American in the history of the agency, now known as William Morris Endeavor.
In 2015, he stepped away from it all to establish MACRO. Financing was a challenge, but Lauren Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, came on board as lead investor, and other investors followed.
In 2016, Fences, which MACRO co-financed, and which starred Denzel Washington and Viola Davis was nominated for four Oscars. Ms Davis won Best Supporting Actress.
Mudbound, which came the next year, was snapped up by Netflix for $12.5 million.
Mr King inherited his love of films from his mother Frances Minus King. His father, Dr Winton King, said he has had a “business mind and visionary ideas” from childhood.
Mr King said these are exciting times for black filmmakers. They are taking a page out of the book of music entrepreneurs such as Berry Gordy, Russell Simmons and JayZ. He also believes that his decision to start MACRO has encouraged a younger generation to take an entrepreneurial approach.
He said; “We are nowhere where we need to be in terms of the larger eco-system of ownership, but we have a newer generation who are less inclined to say: ‘ I need to have a seat at your table’. They are saying: ‘You know what.? I have going to create my own table’.”
Mr King is married to Stacey Walker King, who is MACRO’s brand manager. They have two sons.
MACRO has 40 employees and continues to expand. Its films such as Sorry to Bother You and Just Mercy and Netflix series Raising Dion and Gentefied have won acclaim. There are four films coming out this year.
MACRO has inked a deal with Warner Brothers and established a talent agency.
Mr King is aiming to build a billion-dollar company with international reach and is looking to tell stories from throughout the black diaspora, from Africa to the Caribbean.
It has been “a beautiful journey” to have had the privilege of working with talented artists during his career, he said, but his family has always come first.
He said: “I am working towards building a company that will be around for generations, but not at the expense of my family.”
As to his chances of winning an award on Sunday, he said just being nominated is “an honour in itself.”
He added: “It means more people will see the film. I think that it is good for the story to be seen by more people around the world over time. We are really excited by that. Everything else is icing on the cake.”