- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

As part of its 80th anniversary season, the Lincoln Theater played host to a series over the weekend devoted to movies that showcase black performers and filmmakers.
The program consisted of a selection of four vintage titles and a trio of recent features produced by Tim Reid at his New Millennium Studios in Petersburg, Va. Called "Film Feast," it was co-sponsored by the Smithsonian Resident Associates and is envisioned as an annual event.
Mr. Reid, familiar to sitcom connoisseurs as a cast member of "WKRP in Cincinnati" 25 years ago and the lead in the acclaimed but short-lived "Frank's Place" 15 years ago, discussed his participation in a phone conversation from Petersburg.
The studio, a joint venture with his wife, Daphne Maxwell Reid, also a veteran of the "Frank's Place" cast, has been in operation for five years.
The Reids hope to maintain a production pace of about four to six modestly budgeted features annually, with the home video market as their principal source of revenue. The Lincoln screened three Reid productions, including his most recent, "For Real," a comedy he describes as "sort of 'My Fair Lady' from the 'hood."
Mr. Reid's evocative 1996 feature "Once Upon a Time When We Were Colored," which depicted a generation of social change in a small black community in Mississippi, had a long and lucrative engagement at the Key Theatre in Georgetown when it was new.
"It surprised a lot of people," Mr. Reid recalls, "but it never made an impression in the hills of Hollywood. It wasn't the kind of film they expected from a black producer and director. No guns pointed sideways, no hip-hop music. You learn a lot making movies, including the fact that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
"The trick for any independent filmmaker is getting his product to the people," he says. "If you have to go through the present distribution system, the odds of making back any money are slim and none. So our hope is to control as much of the distribution income as we can. Much like the early pioneers. Being at the Lincoln will help remind me of Oscar Micheaux and other pathbreakers."
Mr. Reid acknowledges that he wouldn't spurn Hollywood offers, but he isn't waiting for it to sustain his career.
"They make $80 million movies," he says. "Ours cost $1 million and under, and we don't think that amount precludes some quality and a decent narrative. But you won't interest the sort of people who need a few million up front just to get interested. We're resigned to limited theatrical runs, maybe 25 to 75 screens in places we know well and preselect with a lot of confidence. 'For Real' may show in about 50 spots before it goes to home video this summer, but the bulk of our money will be made in the home entertainment market."
As the Henry Higgins figure of "For Real," Mr. Reid plays a middle-aged music industry executive and lawyer whose domestic life is turned upside down when he agrees to take responsibility for an outspoken young woman, the niece of his housekeeper.
"He tries to clean up her act and her mouth," the filmmaker says. "It deals with the old school's view of hip-hop and vice versa.
"We try to work out these class and generational conflicts in a humorous way. There's even a hint of romance, in about the same proportion as 'My Fair Lady.' Our leading lady is from Howard University: Tamara Curry. It's her first starring role, and she's just outstanding."

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