RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — When The Wiz returns to the stage in Baltimore on Saturday, 50 years after it first premiered, a Richmond man in the audience will know he helped bring the revival to life.
And when “The Kill Room” comes to big screens across the nation, B.K. Fulton will know he helped bring Uma Thurman and Samuel L. Jackson together for the first time since Pulp Fiction.
The musical, the movie, and countless other films, stage productions and books are being produced out of the Virginia native’s creative space in the Shockoe Slip. It’s the center of what has quickly become his Soulidifly Productions media empire.
When you walk in, it’s the books that grab your attention first.
“A book is a gift you can open more than once,” Fulton said. “And it was a gift in my life. It changed my whole life.”
Fulton didn’t like to read much as a child. Surprisingly, he often wrote, but he didn’t like to read. And by the time he got to college, he was struggling to read anything that was required to complete the engineering degree he’d chosen. He was failing. He said it wasn’t possible to focus on succeeding, so he went to the library to plan his escape from college instead.
“I went into the library,” Fulton said. “And I think it was kind of divine, but I ended up in the E-185 section. “And in any Dewey Decimal system, that’s the section on black people. And so the first book I picked up was a book about Lewis Howard Lattimer. I was like, ‘Oh my God. A guy whose family’s from Virginia helped invent lights?’”
Dozens of books on African-American achievement were the beginning of Fulton’s own lightbulb moment — they helped motivate him to finish not one, but three degrees.
Fulton’s first career in communications and technology spanned two-and-a-half decades before retiring as Verizon’s Mid-Atlantic Region President at 49. The stories he read in those books have served as the underpinning of a new career.
He’s written 16 books for both children and adults. He’s produced and co-produced films from thought-provoking dramas and historical fictions to splashy action films with A-listers.
The books for children are an attempt to give them what he felt he didn’t have at their age.
“I want kids at an early age to start seeing themselves so,” Fulton said. “The science on this is that if you’re a minority, you’re more likely to see a cat, a dog or a humanoid on the cover of a book than an image that looks like you. When children can identify with the image on the cover or inside a book, they are 3 to 10 times more likely to believe they can do what those characters do.”
His “Mr. Business” series has a third-grade version of himself tackling the challenges of a child and a budding entrepreneur. Some of the topics he’s addressed, like the difficulties of wearing glasses, have had a local impact, fostering connections with Richmond non-profit Conexus.
Fulton says the eyewear provider reached out to incorporate his book into their campaign on glasses-wearing and get his cinematic eye on their campaign video.
Fulton said making the campaign video showed him how his love for producing video and writing books could be married to impact the community that he chose to remain in after retirement.
“We love Richmond and home is kind of cool,” Fulton said. “I like being in a medium-sized city where you can be kind of a big fish in a little pond and have impact.”
Fulton’s producing credits extend to the stage as well. He’s produced the Tony-nominated Broadway revival of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson with John David Washington and Samuel L. Jackson along with The Wiz, which will hit Broadway in spring 2024.
Fulton says being associated with such big names and projects at first, took some friends and family, aback. The success of his second career, he says, surprised them.
“We have people say things like, ‘I had no idea that you guys were making like real movies,’” Fulton said. “‘I mean, this is cinematic.’ And I would laugh and I’d say, ‘Well, that’s kind of what happens when you have real actors and a real script and a real cinematographer. You make a real movie, you know?”
Fulton says he’s producing big movies and big stage shows to make money and leave room to continue telling forgotten and lesser-known stories. 8News asked whether his production company might be telling any Richmond stories soon.
“There are quite a few, in fact,” Fulton said. “I mean, Virginia is at the epicenter of the origins of our nation. There are a lot of beautiful stories of allies and excellence.”