Magazine article Variety

The Bishop's Life

Magazine article Variety

The Bishop's Life

Article excerpt

T.D. JAKES IS a man with friends in high places.

So high, in fact, that President Obama told Variety, "I am fortunate to count myself among the countless Americans whose lives have been touched by the ministry of Bishop T.D. Jakes." The president said Jakes has made us "better as individuals" and "more compassionate, and more loving as a country."

It is those kind of key relationships with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Will Smith and Kerry Washington that have turned this preacher from Dallas into a $400 billion media juggernaut. When he isn't wearing his "bishop" hat, Jakes makes time to serve in a completely separate capacity as CEO of TDJ Enterprises, a for-profit company in its 20th year. "Our company has actually existed longer than the Potter's House (his church)," Jakes says. "Before I was nationally known, I was leading an enterprise."

During its two decades, TDJ has quietly succeeded in publishing, music and film. Jakes is the bestselling author of 40 books, has created nearly 20 albums under his Dexterity Sounds label - even winning a Grammy - and has eight film credits, with the ninth due out in March.

Like the parables he references on Sundays, Jakes' focus on entertainment flows out of a passion for storytelling. A playwright, Jakes got started by touring his Gospel plays around the country. During that era, he met Perry and proposed they work together on a new play.

"I was so honored, because the man is a legend where I come from," Perry says.

The pair co-wrote "Woman Thou Art Loosed." Shortly thereafter, Jakes met producer Reuben Cannon. "After seeing a performance of the play at the Wilshire (Ebell) in Los Angeles, Reuben said he thought it could be a film," Jakes remembers fondly. "That served as our bridge."

That bridge project started as a directto-DVD title. But then, it won the American Spirit Award for Independent Cinema at the 2004 Santa Barbara Inti. Film Festival, and they decided to take a run at the box office. Magnolia Pictures picked up the title - grossing nearly $7 million in a 521-screen limited release - and Jakes was off to the races.

Like so many producers, he experienced ups and downs as TDJ Enterprises dove into subsequent projects. "My films grew with my relationships and understanding of the business," Jakes says. But they were determined to succeed, approaching challenges with a signature scrappy innovation. "We had to work twice as hard with half as much to creatively compete."

Not every project is successful, though. The 2013 musical film "Black Nativity" boasted high-powered talent like Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige. It was made on a $17.5 million production budget yet pulled in only $7.3 million worldwide. "Naturally, it's disappointing when things don't go as envisioned," Jakes says, "however my mother used to say, the world is your university, every day that you wake up is the chance to get an education. Ï make sure that I learn the valuable lesson hidden in each experience and apply it to the next project. I don't let it get me down. I see each setback is a set up for a comeback."

DeVon Franklin, who has produced five Jakes projects, says, "He's an out-of-the box thinker and he likes to win. He's very competitive. Blend that all together and you get his recipe for success."

To wit, they hosted screenings for beauticians and barbers, placing movie posters in their shops, to get the word out in the community. TDJ works with sororities, fraternities and churches, developing partnerships to generate awareness. …

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