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One of Hollywood’s most powerful black agents is making a new start. Charles King is leaving William Morris Endeavor to form MACRO, a startup that will focus on developing content for multicultural audiences.
With an unspecified “eight figures” in funding, Los Angeles-based MACRO initially will focus on developing and distributing feature films, TV series and digital content targeting African-American, Latino and multicultural markets.
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King, 45, whose clients have included Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, tells The Hollywood Reporter that MACRO’s goal is to focus on audiences that have long been underserved by the traditional entertainment industry. “I’ve been sitting in these rooms for the last 15 years. The studios aren’t focused on it; the packagers aren’t focused on it,” he says. “There’s a huge void and a huge opportunity.”
He points to the lack of capital available to minority-focused filmmakers and says he’s looking to change that with MACRO, which will leverage crowdfunding platforms and co-financing to target films that range from “artistically inclined independents” in the $1 million to $3 million budget range up to $20 million projects. He points to films such as Barbershop, The Butler and Ride Along as examples of the types of projects he hopes to produce. “The one underlying theme is ‘premium,’ ” he says. “I’m looking for artistic integrity.”
King already has lined up projects from filmmakers Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) and Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow). Both were represented by King at WME and say they jumped at the opportunity to continue to work with him in a new capacity.
Brewer notes that it’s been difficult to sell his films, which feature predominantly African-American casts, but that King helped open doors for him. “Charles has never been afraid of obstacles,” says Brewer. “He puts in the work. I think that’s what’s going to be exciting about MACRO. He has a vision, but he also knows how to execute it.”
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Adds Coogler, “I’ve had the experience of not seeing people who look like me in the movies. I think society benefits from more diverse representation in the media, so MACRO is incredibly exciting and cutting-edge.”
King, who has helped fund more than a dozen startups as a part-time angel investor, also has ambitions to expand MACRO to include investing in and incubating new technologies and lifestyle brands. In addition, he is exploring setting up a multichannel network that would curate content for multicultural audiences. He points to Russell Simmons‘ All Def Digital and Latino-focused MiTu as examples of MCNs making strides in that arena, but says the marketplace is hungry for more of that content.
“There’s a need, there’s a void,” he says. “If you have a cohesive plan that’s going to connect the dots between traditional and these new platforms, there is a very robust opportunity for content creators.”
King has brought on advisors including Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos and Citibank head of corporate and investment banking Raymond McGuire to help him with the company’s long-term ambitions. He is also in the process of assembling a team of film, television and digital executives.
The first African-American partner at WME, King built a client roster that also included M. Night Shyamalan and Janelle Monae. (WME will continue to represent his clients.) But King says he’s always had an eye for starting his own media firm and now the timing is right.
“There is a need for a vehicle like this,” he says. “It will make a statement and provide an outlet. I want it to blaze a road for others to follow much like what I’ve done already in the agency world.”
“Charles’ terrific relationships and entrepreneurial approach make him perfectly suited for his new venture,” said WME co-CEO Patrick Whitesell. Added co-CEO Ari Emanuel, “We have had an incredible run together and look forward to working with him in his next chapter.”
Josh Grode of Irell & Manella structured the financing for MACRO. Kenneth Deutsch of Latham & Watkins and Sean Monroe of O’Melveny & Myers represented MACRO and King in the transaction.
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James Gordon Meek