As president and Chief Executive Officer of Visions Management Group, A Bird and A Bear Entertainment, LLC, and C&E Investment Group, Inc., Eric C. Rhone could easily be classified as an entrepreneurial powerhouse. Rhone is best known for managing the career of one of the Original Kings of Comedy, Cedric the Entertainer. He is also responsible for negotiating multi-million dollar sponsorship deals with McDonald’s, Nike, and Anheuser-Busch.
Rhone wears many hats in the entertainment industry as a writer and producer. He has produced films such as Johnson Family Vacation, Honeymooners, and Code Name: The Cleaner. He also worked as a television producer on the hit show Cedric Entertainer Presents. Rhone currently serves as Executive Producer of the TV Land sitcom, The Soul Man.
Soultrain.com caught up with Eric C. Rhone to discuss The Soul Man’s success and his advice for getting into the entertainment industry.
Soultrain.com: Congratulations are in order for The Soul Man being nominated in its first season for an NAACP Image Award! How does that feel?
Eric C. Rhone: Thank you, it feels good. The thing about Cedric is he has gotten NAACP Image Awards from his work on The Steve Harvey Show as a supporting actor. So with him being nominated for his own series where he’s the star and he’s the foundation of it, it is really a nod for him in terms of his development and growth. I think it validates the type of product that we put out. The Soul Man is the type of show that folks can be proud of. African Americans around the world can look at our program and Cedric’s brand and not only have a good time laughing but they can also have a sense of pride about it as well. So it’s very exciting.
Soultrain.com: You have an impressive background with a host of film and television credits under your belt. As an executive producer on the show The Soul Man, what exactly is does your job entail?
Eric C. Rhone: I’m pretty much responsible for all of the key departments within production– wardrobe, overseeing the creative writing process, casting, and hiring in terms of technical positions such as camera operators, set decorators, etc., and just making sure we are coming in on budget, but this day and age, low budget if we can [laughs]. So as an executive producer, we have a kind of an overreaching position in all aspects of the television show where we oversee a lot of things.
Soultrain.com: There are so many reality shows today where people say that African Americans are portrayed in a negative light. What are your thoughts on that topic since The Soul Man does evoke a positive image on screen?
Eric C. Rhone: I think that with any brand, you have to be true to it, and for Cedric, people can imagine him as their uncle, brother, or even their dad. So he has held true to his upbringing and what he is passionate about. In terms of other shows, the reason why we see so much of that negativity is because the corporations are making money. So if you see some shows that don’t really speak to the uplifting and enlightenment of African Americans it’s because companies are making money, and because people continue to watch. So, on one hand, you have an audience that complains about the stuff, but then if you sit and talk to them, they know every episode, every character, and every situation that happens on the show. But if you don’t want to see that type of programming, and enough people stop watching it, then obviously the show won’t have the ratings, then in turn they won’t have advertisers, so that takes the show off the air. So it’s easy for people to say they don’t want to see any of that, and it doesn’t speak to the uplifting of the African Americans–that’s one thing. But if you are going to continue to view it then the people that make the business decisions are going to keep putting the stuff out there since they are making money. So as a collective force, African Americans have to say they won’t support it, because that’s how you inflict change, instead of doing all of this blogging and talking about it and watching every episode. That won’t get it.
Soultrain.com: How did you get into management?
Eric C. Rhone: I have a degree in business administration with the emphasis in management. Ced and I actually went to college together. I worked in corporate for about six years, and Cedric worked in corporate for 7 years in St. Louis. So we both started in the entertainment business together. Cedric would go on stage doing comedy and I’d be in the background handling business and booking shows around St. Louis. Ultimately, we grew that business to a point where we were able to make the decision to quit our corporate jobs. We have strategically been in this business full time since 1994.
Soultrain.com: What advice do you have for people trying to get into the entertainment industry, whether it’s in production or management?
Eric C. Rhone: I would say that the one thing we didn’t have when we started in this business in the late 80s and what people have today is technology. If you have a script, sitcom idea, reality show or movie idea, you can literally shoot this stuff on your iPhone and get it out there. Most folks, if you have an idea, you don’t have to wait on Hollywood to provide a budget, you don’t have to wait on executives to get behind your idea. You may have to wait to bring the entire idea to fruition, but in terms of getting started, we have technology at our fingertips these days. I would tell anyone that is trying to get in the business no matter where you are; you can put it on You Tube. Technology has leveled the playing field in terms of access.
Soultrain.com: Cedric the Entertainer did a fabulous job hosting the Soul Train Awards again this year. Do you have any memories of Soul Train?
Eric C. Rhone: Thank you! We were approached by BET/Centric to executive produce the Soul Train Awards and we jumped at the idea because it meant so much to us. Cedric and I both grew up watching Soul Train. There weren’t any other shows that really spoke to African Americans where we could see groups like the Jackson 5 and others. Soul Train really raised our generation in terms of dancing, music, fashion etc. Soul Train was not only a great show it was the only show.
Shameika Rene’ is a journalist of all trades. She can usually be found producing television news and writing for various websites such as Charlotte Vibe, Creative Loafing, or her own site, www.themofochronicles.com. She’s also a special guest contributor on The Social Hour on Urban Soul Radio. Follow her on Twitter @mofochronicles.