Got ID?

Tanya York, 33: York Entertainment

She produced her first film at 19. So it should be no surprise that Tanya York started her film production company, York Entertainment, at age 21. Since then, Martin Sheen and Ice-T have appeared in her films, and she's been named one of The Hollywood Reporter's 100 most powerful women in entertainment.

Hardly a small feat for the Jamaican-born York, who immigrated to Los Angeles at age 17. She worked as an actress before finding her forte in the film production arena, producing three films for someone else before setting out on her own. "I knew how to make movies and distribute them," says York, "but I was missing the capital to be able to do it."

She tenaciously pursued investors and didn't let rejection sink her efforts. "I just rolled up my sleeves and was very persistent." She ended up making seven films in her first two years. Producing mostly urban-themed movies for the video rental and video sell-through markets has been her bread and butter--and she is a top minority-cast producer.

Initially conceived as a production and distribution movie house, York's Sherman Oaks, California, company has seen some major shifts. A few years into the venture, York Entertainment focused solely on distribution. Then, in 1997, she joined forces with Florida-based Maverick Entertainment to again produce and distribute. The alliance ended amiably last year, according to York. "It was a wonderful four-year run," she says. "But it was time for both of us to move on."

That kind of constant reinvention has kept York Entertainment on the cutting edge of independent filmmaking for 13 years when so many other companies have fallen by the wayside. "Our focus changes, and that's just a part of keeping up with the times," she says. "I like to always have new challenges in front of me. As soon as we have something under control and are doing well, I'll move on to setting up a new part of the business and expanding it." The strategy is working: York expects 2002 sales to hit $20 million.

The most recent expansion took the form of Loose Cannon Film Productions LLC, York's new foray into producing bigger films. It may seem difficult to run two companies at once--but don't tell that to York. She's too busy doing it.

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This article was originally published in the November 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Got ID?.

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