Melvin Childs, former executive producer for Tyler Perry, delivers a firsthand account of those days with the writer-director in “Never Would Have Made It: The Rise of Tyler Perry, The Most Powerful Entertainer in Black America (And What It Really Took to Get Him There)” (Touch1 Media, $24.99).
This memoir/biography is a must-read not only for Perry fans but also for hopefuls seeking to break into the entertainment industry. By recounting their journey within the industry, Childs has crafted an inspirational memoir that is part true-life story and part instructional text for aspiring entertainment entrepreneurs.
Childs’ role as the executive producer of Perry’s first national touring project ultimately led to Tyler’s success and spawned his multi-million dollar empire. Childs met the man who created Madea when Perry was still an unknown writer searching for ways to make ends meet. Childs instantly recognized the unique talent Perry possessed and foresaw the success the playwright would have. The pair, along with another friend, soon joined forces in an effort to bring Perry’s work to the stage, with Childs providing the encouragement Perry needed to remain true to his artistic dreams and, just as importantly, taking risky chances to ensure that the business partnership had the financial backing needed to advertise and stage Perry’s work.
“If you ask me my first impression of Tyler back then, I would have to say the first thing that came to my mind was likable,” recalled Childs. “From the time he stood up to shake my hand, I just found it hard not to like the guy. In the span of maybe five seconds, I went from looking out of the corner of my eye for the nearest escape, to sincerely rooting for him to do well, even without knowing anything about the man. He had a charm about him that seemed to come from a place of almost childlike innocence. It was both disarming and endearing and, in hindsight, should have been my first clue that he was a special talent.”
What resulted was the selling-out of Perry’s play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” at Atlanta’s House of Blues in 1998. Serving as executive producer of the play, Childs then went on to establish the first successful national tour of the play and, in the process, helped revolutionize modern Black theater with his marketing techniques.
Most importantly, Childs’ memoir warns of the risk one takes when the line between friendship and business is crossed. His own experiences have taught him that when a producer is forced to make an unpopular decision for business reasons, that decision can have disastrous and long-lasting repercussions on personal relationships.
“Tyler is the single most talented person I’ve ever met,” said Childs. “He worked hard to get where he is today, but he didn’t do it alone. He had an amazing team working with him from the beginning, and being one of the driving forces behind that original team in Atlanta, I know that I have a fascinating story to tell that can help others succeed in life by focusing on what is truly important.”
“Never Would Have Made It: The Rise of Tyler Perry, The Most Powerful Entertainer in Black America (And What It Really Took to Get Him There)” is available in hardcover and e-book format. For more information on the book, visit melvinchilds.com