Ask Tim Reid a question and off he goes, enthusiastically recounting his travels around the country and the world to work with young filmmakers.
“I’m trying to get these young filmmakers to look at their countries, look at their purpose and realize the power that’s in the pen, the camera,” he said. “It’s incredibly powerful. More so than it’s ever been.”
Put another way: “The history is up to us as filmmakers,” he says.
An Emmy-nominated actor and director, Reid, 74, has carved himself a niche as a mentor to young and aspiring filmmakers through his Legacy Media Institute, a nonprofit organization that is the beneficiary of the Cultural Fashion Showcase, an annual fashion show being held Saturday, featuring local and international designers and models. The show is at RVA Event Space, 1 E. Fourth St. at 5 p.m. Tickets are $50 and $40 with proceeds going to student scholarships for the institute Reid founded.
The show venue is in the Manchester area of South Richmond, less than 2 miles from Reid’s studio in a warehouse on Decatur Street. Reid moved his production operations to Richmond about three years ago after closing New Millennium Studios in Petersburg. He walked us past sets used for filming or still photography and lots of material left over from the New Millennium days.
The goal is to create a sort of creative incubator for emerging talents.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said, noting he hasn’t had time to determine what he needs to keep from New Millennium and what he doesn’t. “We have not stopped to go through the process of eliminating.”
Part of the delay has been the fact Reid has been on the road so much with his Legacy Media Institute, which aims to connect professionals in the film and television industry with young people interested in pursuing careers in entertainment media. The notion behind the organization was always to reflect a diverse society, but, as Reid says, “It’s been surprisingly global.” Besides classroom work at historically black colleges in the United States, Reid has spent considerable time on LMI projects in Cuba, Ethiopia and London, among other places, teaching and mentoring young filmmakers.
“It wasn’t my plan, but it’s truly an international organization,” he said, noting the accessibility of technology has helped fuel the “globalization of media” and altered the landscape. “Although the U.S. is and will remain the center-heart of it, the content creators in other countries are now determined to control their culture and propaganda.”
Places such as Ethiopia and Cuba, nations with rich culture and history undergoing transformation, are ripe for that sort of self-examination, he said. Young filmmakers in Ethiopia he has encountered are doing “great work” and telling “wonderful love stories,” but Reid cautions that if they don’t tell the stories of their culture or history, someone from the outside will.
“People on the African continent have to begin telling their side,” he said. “That’s what I preach when I go over.”
One section of the warehouse studio is set aside for the work of business partner Salome Autolino, the Ethiopian-born designer and model who is host of the annual fashion show. Reid introduced us and told us how the fashion show came to be.
“I’d done golf and tennis events for years at Norfolk State [Reid’s alma mater], and I wanted to do something different to raise money for the institute,” said Reid. “I’d read something about the lack of black models and designers in today’s fashion world, that they would not let them into the big shows, and I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll do a fashion show!’”
He laughed at the memory of his naïveté of thinking such a thing.
“I didn’t know anything about [fashion shows], and somebody told me about Salome, who was doing fashion and had traveled the world and was trained in Milan, and I said, ‘Introduce me to her.’”
When they met, Reid asked, “Would you like to help me put together a fashion show?’ And that was four years ago. She’s been hosting and sort of the mind behind us doing that. She and Daphne [Maxwell Reid, his wife] kind of run the whole thing.”
It sounds so matter-of-fact now, but at the time he had no idea the show would continue beyond the first year, not knowing if it would work.
Autolino more than made up for whatever optimism Reid lacked at the outset of the venture.
“I know it was going to go,” she said. “We were trying to do something good in the community. It’s not just a fashion show. It’s inspiring young, upcoming designers, models, filmmakers.”
The show relies largely on the work of college students from Virginia Commonwealth University and other schools studying fashion and film, the hope being the experience will be a foot in the door for a possible career — all of which reminds Autolino of her own life. She had the opportunity to go to Europe at a young age and learning to sew and design.
“To inspire them,” she said, “and give them hope they can accomplish whatever … they are doing.”