Charles D. King, CEO Of MACRO Studios, Ushers Renaissance Of Diverse Storytelling
Charles D. King, film producer extraordinaire, brings the thunder and lightning in developing and elevating groundbreaking Black films in Hollywood. However, while growing up in Decatur, Georgia, King did not aspire to become one of Tinseltown’s few African American power players. Still, his upper-middle-class upbringing unknowingly set the foundation for his future career; as the son of Dr. Winton King, a pediatrician, and Frances King, an author of novels and poetry, the seeds of business and creativity played an influence on King even though he initially thought he would follow in his father’s footsteps into the medical field.
King admits he had a wide range of interests and thought he would also pursue entering the medical field until he enrolled at Vanderbilt University and immediately discovered that science was not his passion. King recognized his interest in business, economics, and political science.
King worked with a music attorney in Atlanta during his legal clerkship at Howard Law School. By his second year, he managed a music group with a couple of my classmates and promoted parties: “I started an internship that summer, after my second year [of law school] at MTV in New York. It was that internship, that clerkship, working in the law and business affairs [department], and every week on Friday, working on a big project with all of the interns throughout the entire company on more of a creative project that I learned about the talent agency world.”
One of his peers encouraged him to contemplate becoming a talent agent, which sparked King’s interest. He researched the occupation and discovered that numerous individuals considered moguls who launched their empires or were heads of studios began as agents. King scheduled meetings with astute lawyers and creative executives to learn more about the business side of entertainment.
“[It] started coming together around entertainment law, and then evolved into the broader media and entertainment business, using law school as a starting point,” King says of how he planned the trajectory of a new-found career. “But ultimately, my purview and lens expanded, my global perspective of the opportunities and the lanes from which I could utilize all of my varied interests in business.”
King committed to learning all the facets of the industry and consumed The Hollywood Reporter and The Daily Variety to become well-versed in movie deals and business models before he moved to Los Angeles. Armed with faith, confidence, and considerable purpose, he relocated to California nine months after graduating from law school to make his indelible mark in the motion picture industry.
His first job found King in the William Morris Agency mailroom, connecting his co-workers as he inquired about different agents and their respective clients. King also saw value in establishing organic communication with everyone in the building despite their rank on the hierarchical ladder, from the copy center to every assistant. Eventually, he formed bonds with the agents, introducing himself to them in the corridors.
“I’d find ways to take meetings with them in their office, and I was smart about it. Before I went and sat in someone’s office, I had done my research to know their clients, what deals they’d recently closed, and things they were passionate about,” King explains—leaning on his core principle of putting himself in the positions where preparedness meets opportunity. “I’ve found ways to find universal connective points with people from every background imaginable. It’s something I did when I was a paper salesman, and it’s something that I did as an agent, and it’s something that I do even to this day as a CEO of Macro.”
As an agent in training, he brought in show creator Eric Fogle of Celebrity Deathmatch, which aired on MTV, and avant-garde hip-hop artist Missy Elliot. When King finally earned his stripes to become a bona fide agent, he signed Tim Story, his first film director client, whom he considers a close friend today.
“I remember even on my honeymoon, about a year into me being an agent, getting the phone call that he had gotten Barbershop, which was a massive hit. I signed Walter Latham, alongside some colleagues, the creator of The Kings of Comedy concert. He was the promoter of that tour. The Kings of Comedy was historical; the $3 million concept film did 40 million at the box office, sold out, and probably made another 50 million and DVDs and all the ancillary rights,” he proudly states.
King also notes that his laundry list of early A-List talent he signed to his roster included André Benjamin, stage name André 3000, the late DMX, Tyrese within his first four years as an agent, and countless more.
During his tenure at WMA, King’s achievement quickly aided him in ascending the corporate ladder. He became the first Black partner in the 100-plus history of the talent agency and at any major talent agency. When William Morris and Endeavor merged, he was appointed SVP of Motion Pictures.
“By the time I was in my seventh year as an agent, a very large portion of the multicultural theme movies and projects between 2000 to 2015, before I launched Macro, I was involved in a large number of projects, either the writers or filmmakers or actors and sometimes many cases, several clients in many of the movies that are iconic in our business now,” he says. But he began assessing another opportunity regarding Black films and observed the movies produced by the major studios and independent financiers; less than 10% of the film centered on people of color.
“When people were going to see filmed in theaters, even post-pandemic and a dearth definitely was happening pre-pandemic, they were not seeing the wide range of stories being told from our communities,” he points out. “There were no financing companies solely focused on telling the stories from these communities, and there was a marketplace that was underserved, and that’s why every time one of my clients’ films opened, they would always over-index and be extraordinarily successful.”
King realized a clear market need and opportunity for a company that centered storytelling around the Black experience and the wide range of global perspectives from the Indigenous, Latinx, and AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) communities.
He wrote a business plan in 2010: “We took the leap of faith and launched the company. I left WMA on January 5th, 2015,[and] it was a long, strategic, and methodical process.”
King self-funded his enterprise along with his wife. For the first six months, they strategically aligned with investors and partners led by the Emerson Collective in 2015 and alongside other financial backers and continued to build at scale.
He selected the trademark of Macro based on his vision of launching a brand with global resonance. “The mission behind it [is] shifting the narrative and widening the aperture of the content we see on all platforms while creating a multibillion-dollar company that creates value for the members building it and all stakeholders. But at the same time, we’re also reinvesting back in the community both from how we conduct business and from our complimentary investment strategy,” he spells out, expounding that the term macro popped up in numerous conversations with his colleagues.
“I would always say, just make it happen. Think big picture, think macro. What I’ve most clearly seen as a global business opportunity was to build the immediate company and studio of the future, and that’s what we’ve been doing over the course of the last eight years,” he says.
As Founder and CEO of Macro, a multi-platform media company that houses multiple business verticals such as film and television studios that finance, develop, and produce theatrical and streaming features and premium television. Another company branch includes a wholly-owned talent, brand management, and entertainment strategy firm UNCMMN and an in-house branding and creative agency, Brand Macro. King’s enterprise also has a majority stake in the company’s joint venture, which he also co-founded—a full-service talent management firm, M88, and an affiliated venture firm where King serves as a general partner, MaC Venture Capital.
His efforts have proved fruitful; Macro’s film projects have garnered fifteen Oscar nominations and three wins. In 2021, Judas and The Black Messiah crowned King, Ryan Coogler, and Shaka King as the first ever all-Black team of nominated producers for an Academy Awards. Through his film studio, King has co-financed other critically acclaimed films like Mudbound, Fences, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Just Mercy, and Sorry To Bother You, to name a few. Macro Television Studios produced the Netflix series Children’s and Family Emmy Award-nominated Raising Dion and Peabody Award nominee Gentefied. Recently, King secured a $90 million minority investment from BlackRock Alternatives, HarbourView Partners, and funds managed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management, according to Variety. The additional equity will “expand [Macro’s] multi-platform operations across production, branding, and talent representation units,” said King.
His peers and fans alike praise the tremendous strides King has made in the industry, but he is not satisfied being the only prominent power player of color in Hollywood. King would like more people from marginalized backgrounds to aspire to occupy positions of decision-makers who can greenlight films with underrepresented characters and storylines.
“You don’t have to be in front of the camera or directing; you could be as successful business-wise, financially, and have more influence power behind the scenes to effectuate change when you’re in these other positions within the industry,” he states emphatically. He highlights that Macro’s pipeline program has mentored 250 interns within eight years of operation; many have become senior executives, and King continues recruiting at HBCU summits.
“There’s definitely more openness to empowering, talented and uniquely positioned people to populate writers rooms with a roomful of all Black writers to make shows like Atlanta, Insecure, and Snowfall and others getting dialed into the culture, authentically,” he says. “We still need more of us owning and running the studio, the distribution platforms, financing companies, talent agencies and management companies. That is where we’ve seen almost no change at all.”
King also wants creatives from the Black community to also value collaboration over competition as another facet to initiate change.
“We believe that when you see collaboration between multiple entities in this space, and you’re bringing complementary skill sets, relationship, and capital as well, I think that we’ll definitely see real momentum there as well,” he sagely predicts.
“There are opportunities in this space not only in media and entertainment but the convergence of media and entertainment with technology and all the opportunities in the innovation sector. We need to have more of us in that arena,” he reasons.
His latest Netflix film, They Cloned Tyrone, features Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, Golden Globe winner John Boyega, and Teyonah Parris. A trippy satirical rollcoaster described per the logline as, “A series of eerie events thrusts an unlikely trio onto the trail of a nefarious government conspiracy in this pulpy mystery caper.” The project, directed by Juel Taylor and his co-writer Tony Rettenmaier (Creed II, Space Jam), enticed King based on its cleverness and the uniqueness of its point of view.
“We knew that Juel would do an incredible job directing it, and we hadn’t seen anything like it. It was smart, subversive, and it just resonated with us. So we were very aggressive and bullish in how we structured our deal, which was very artist-friendly, and it landed with Macro over six or seven other studios. Then, we backed them completely on creative autonomy and flexibility as we developed it. I cannot wait for our culture to see this film and the conversations that’s going to come from it,” he says with a smile in his voice.
When asked about the Hollywood guilds striking and if he feels that the emergence of AI using the actor’s likeness or even composing scripts, plus the lack of access to substantial residual payments, pension, and health contributions, will lessen the talent pool in the future.
“First and foremost, we are an artist friendly company and stand in favor of creatives being fairly compensated and rewarded for their work. We remain optimistic that there will be a favorable resolution to the issues around AI, and that it should not replace or diminish the tremendous global talent pool,” he affirms.