Entertainment mogul Tyler Perry stopped by
During a wide-ranging interview with
Here are highlights from the Q&A:
…on how he defines success:
When I first started doing plays, I had one goal to make enough money to support my mother. I remember being a little boy, maybe five or six years old, and we were driving down the street in our old Cadillac. My mother saw a Jaguar pass by and said, “Wow, that's a beautiful car.” My exact words back to her were, “When I get big, I’m gonna buy that car for you.” I'll never forget the day I gave her a car. It wasn't even about the car as much as it was about a little boy keeping a promise to his mother. That was success for me.
When she passed in 2009, I had to find another motivation. What I realized is that the work I was doing opened doors for so many people in their minds. I'll never forget getting a letter from a woman who said she was going to commit suicide. She’d gathered her children, went to a hotel and asked them what they wanted to do for the day. They said they wanted to come see the play, so they went and found a play on bootleg… and by the time they got to the end of it, she was laughing so much and was so happy. She no longer wanted to do that. When I got that letter, I realized the power of what I was doing. Success shifted from taking care of my mother to, “You've got something that's so silly in Madea, but that’s so powerful and is helping so many people.”
And I wish you all could see our studios at Fort McPherson and see the kids from the neighborhood coming through the gates… with eyes as big as saucers going, “I can dream!” When I see that, it inspires me to keep going.
…at the point in his life when he decided to take control of his career:
My dad built houses. He was a subcontractor, so he'd make $1,200 or $1,300, pay his staff and come home with $800. And he’d be so excited because he built the house. But then I watched a guy who owned the house sell it and make $80,000. So even as a little boy, I always wanted to be the man who owned the house. That's why I knew going into this business that I’d have to have ownership... so I could not only forge a path for myself, but also hold the door open for all of those who are trying to come behind me.
…on the importance of honoring your job:
When I was trying to make it to the stage and into film, it was very, very important that I honor the people I was working for. And I'm so grateful that I did this because there's a scripture in the Bible that says if you're faithful over a few things, God will make you a ruler over many. So I was always faithful to the people I worked for and the jobs I had.
…on the culture he aspires to create at Tyler Perry Studios:
I work side by side with my people, 12 to 14 hours a day. I'm in the trenches with them. I'm not asking them to do anything I’m not doing. It’s a culture not of “I think I can”, but of “I know I will.” It’s about leading by example and letting them know nothing is impossible.
What I’ve managed to do in television and film has never been done before by anyone… in 25 years with over 1,000 episodes of television owned by one person, 20 films owned by one person, six number-one movies, the number-one cable TV show on Tuesday nights owned by one person… one man writing, directing, producing. Movies take a year-and-a-half to shoot. My last movie was shot in eight days. We have a culture of people who know we do this differently.
…on his creative writing process:
I had a very traumatic childhood. I would go in my head, in my imagination, and leave the situation. No matter how horrific, no matter what was going on… in my head, I was in a better place. In that world, people were happy. I'd be running in the park and smiling, having a good time. That place I learned to go as a child is now where I go to write. I just wrote the next season of The Have and the Have Nots in two weeks. That's about 800 pages. I'm able to do that because I’m in my head.
…on advice he’d give to someone looking to get into the TV/film business:
Get in any way you can. Just be a sponge and soak it up. When I first started, I couldn't afford to hire anybody. When I did my first play, I would be on stage after I’d hung the lights and put up the set, and I’d go out at intermission sell popcorn and then jump back onstage. I know every job in the business.
…on how he refreshes and stays sharp:
I have to detox. I step away. I work really, really hard. I work 18 hours a day for three or four months at a time, then take a month or two off and focus on being around more trees than people and checking in with myself. Being in this business – and with social media and the Internet and all the negativity – every time I put out a movie or a film, I have to go away afterwards to check myself for wounds.
…on advice he’d share with his younger self:
Stop worrying! Ninety-nine percent of the things I've spent my life worrying about never happened.