The genius behind 17 feature films, 20 stage plays, seven television shows, a New York Times bestselling book. Tyler has built an empire. It has attracted audiences and built communities, from the Tyler Perry Studios home base in Atlanta, Georgia, throughout the world. Celebrated “among the pantheon of today’s greatest cinematic innovators.” His unique blend of spiritual hope and down-home humor continues to shape his inspiring life story. Connecting with fans across the globe and always leaving space to dream. Tyler’s legacy is the modern epitome of the American dream.
Today Tyler Perry is the first African American to independently own his own studio. One whose grounds exceeds that of Warner Bros, Paramount and Walt Disney’s Hollywood lots combined.
6 values to learn from Tyler’s unimaginable effort
- Don’t base your decisions on temporary circumstances
Tyler Perry has put down deep roots in the state of Georgia, becoming the first African American to independently own his own studio. But Perry’s decision to put down those big, expensive roots hasn’t come without controversy or at least questions.
Perry is notably expanding his presence in Atlanta during a period of turmoil. As Hollywood reacted to the news of Georgia’s abortion-restricting “Heartbeat Bill” with loud disdain and many in the industry proposed boycotting production in the state if the bill passed. But the writer/director/producer/actor stayed quiet on the issue until recently declaring that he would not “up and leave” though he is personally against the proposed law. Sitting down with Variety at the Tyler Perry Studio, Perry explained why he’s so steadfast in his decision to stay.
“First of all, when you put a quarter of a billion dollars in the ground in one place, you can’t just go ‘Okay I’m out,’” Perry said. “I still feel very strongly that the great thing about living in a democracy is every four years. You get an opportunity to change things.”
“So even if it hadn’t been shot down by the courts and I know there’s a lot of legal battles going back and forth. I’m still committed to making it work here because in four years, it’ll be a different place,” he went on. “And you can’t base your life and your decisions based on temporary circumstances. You have to look to the long run, especially when you’re in this business and in this situation.”
- Exposure is very important
Though Perry is not from Atlanta arriving in the 90s, he struggled to make it as a creator. He even self-financed his plays while he was homeless and living out of his car. “This may sound cliché, but [ Tyler Perry Studios] being the home of Dr. King and having ‘the dream’ and being able to come here and live here. I’m telling you when I first came here, I saw Black people doing well, which blew my mind,” Perry recalled.
“This is what I tell people exposure is so important. If you see it, that means you can do it. And when I got here, I saw something, something vibrated in me that I thought, ‘This is where you need to be.’ So to see all of this happening and know that that moment was right, that was my God voice leading me here, that’s been really phenomenal.”
- Desire to create
Characterized by strength, faith, and determination during a turbulent adolescence. Letters provided Tyler with the inspiration to delve into writing his first play, I Know I’ve Been Changed in 1992. Saving every last dollar, Tyler staged the play for what he hoped would be a packed audience, but the seats remained empty. Never would he have imagined that six years later, that same play would sell out a local run.
Forcing the production to move to the acclaimed Fox Theatre in Atlanta, or that in 2015, his original play, Madea on the Run, would be sold out in theaters nationwide. Newly established in the world of theater, Tyler wrote thirteen plays over the next thirteen years. Including Woman Thou Art Loosed! and I Can Do Bad All By Myself, the first appearance of renowned character Madea. With the popularization of the God-fearing, gun-toting grandma, Tyler made the leap to film in 2005 with Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Which debuted at number one in the United States.
- Be motivated by past experiences
Born and raised in New Orleans, his childhood was marked by poverty and a household scarred by abuse. From a young age, Tyler learned to write down his daily thoughts and experiences in a series of soul-searching letters to himself. Advice he gleaned from Oprah Winfrey that ultimately set his career in motion.
- Don’t be intimidated by anyone
“This entire journey of telling stories was born out of of pain, born out of heartache, born out of being an abused kid who could go inside of his head and create a world and imagination,” Perry said.
“That same abused kid watching his mother getting beat and there’s nothing he can do, my desire and heart to make her laugh and feel better was so strong. And you know, if I could make a joke or if I could imitate her or my aunt and make her laugh, or some of the women she played cards with on Friday nights, all of that was so powerful and so important to me.” Because of all the hardships Perry has had in his life, seeing his studio’s name on a highway sign felt like an incredibly full circle moment.
- Keep Expanding
Tyler Perry, creator of the Madea franchise, regardless of what one thinks of, his work. It is the definition of prolific and it would seem as if he is just getting started.
Perry has just opened his very own studio in Atlanta, Georgia, making him the first African American in history to independently accomplish such a task. And it’s not just any studio, as it’s bigger than Disney, Warner Bros, Paramount and Sony. Combined.
Perry intends to do a lot more in the second phase of his expansion. Which will include a six-lane highway, a backlot, a small European town and a lake. That will provide quite a few assets for productions to utilize. Perry, speaking about the future of the studio. He wants to make it about more than just movies and TV.