The making of “Maxine’s Baby”, documentary by Tyler Perry: an interview

Despite the numerous plays, films and television shows produced by the prolific writer-director, Tyler Perry has avoided overtly mining his own personal history for this work. For Gelila Bekele, co-director of Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story (who also shares a child with Perry), she took the opportunity to tell the story of how Perry built his empire on his own — inspired in part by the black woman who raised him, his mother, Maxine.

“I had the privilege of having a front-row seat for many years, [witnessing] this man designs his dreams,” says Bekele, who adds that Maxine’s baby was the product of a decade spent following Perry around with a camera. “Naturally, as a filmmaker, you want to pick up a camera and not miss a moment. »

Bekele, who also served as producer and screenwriter, tapped Armani Ortiz to co-direct the project, both joining for a THR presents panel, powered by Vision Media. “She didn’t tell me it would take 10 years,” laughs Ortiz, who connected with Bekele through a mutual friend when he was 23 and moved to Atlanta to begin documenting Perry. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime project, to spend 10 years on something and really try to bring someone’s story to life,” he adds.

Bekele says the couple filmed Maxine’s baby “shotgun style” as Perry worked on his many projects and prepared to open Tyler Perry Studios, a massive 330-acre property in Atlanta that opened in 2019 – an accomplishment that caps the film, reiterating how far Perry has come from his youth in New Orleans. “You couple that with what he was doing in Atlanta and what he was building, not only for himself, but for our film community as a whole…It became something bigger than what none of us would have ever imagined,” says Ortiz.

It was also important to Bekele that the film celebrated Perry’s accomplishments and acknowledged his critics, many of whom claimed that Perry’s work was rooted in stereotypes of black culture. “Having space for polarity was very important to us,” she says. “I’m not a native American, but I live here and I’m trying to understand the history and… I also want to answer the question: can an artist just be an artist without representing their culture or being a cultural ambassador ?

For the rest of the conversation, watch the full panel above. This edition of THR presents is sponsored by Prime Video.

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