Rick Moore is president of Eyevox Entertainment in Ridgeland. It’s the film production branch of Mad Genius, the advertising firm he founded in 2005.
Through Eyevox, Moore has been a producer and production partner on several shot-in-Mississippi film projects, most recently the 2021 horror film “Jakob’s Wife” and the soon-to-be-released thriller “Glorious.”
And Eyevox is partnered with several films currently in production, including the Morgan Freeman-starring thriller “The Minute You Wake Up Dead,” which is currently shooting in Canton; the horror film “From Black,” now underway in Natchez; the action film “Hunt Club” starring Mickey Rourke, beginning principal photography in Wiggins; and the sci-fi thriller “Hard Matter,” which will begin production soon on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Where are you from originally and where do you go to school?
I’m originally from Clinton. I grew up there and went to Clinton High School. And then I went to college at Mississippi College, where I got my undergraduate in business administration, with a concentration and finance and marketing.
How did you develop your interest in working in film and TV production?
My dad actually built Channel 16. He designed it and was the first general manager for Channel 16 back in the early seventies.
But honestly, I can’t recall making a decision that this is what I wanted to do for a living.
I started producing commercials and did everything I could to take good care of the clients I was able to work with. Then I started my company and worked with some great organizations like Entergy and Primos. Back then, I just really was a one-man band. The bigger picture was to get a camera and a truck and then I started hiring people, because the most important thing for me was wanting to surround myself with more talented people than myself.
I can’t really say that I thought one day, “Hey, I want to be a filmmaker.” I like the idea of connecting with the viewer. It’s a real thrill to see the end result of your work hitting the screen finally.
But right now, I would say that I’m more positioned to help others find their passion or help fulfill their dreams.
What led to the founding of Eyevox and your other ventures?
I worked my way through college, and ever since I was a junior in high school, at Channel 16. I worked there as a cameraman originally and then started directing the news and producing commercials. Then I moved on to various jobs in freelancing with ABC, ESPN and HBO for sporting events.
But in ’97, I started my own company, Sights and Sounds, which later became Eyevox in 2000.
And that’s where my various companies just kind of started to spawn. I started Mad Genius in 2005. They were separate companies at the time, and then I kind of put them all together and then opened up a branch in 2008 for Eyevox Entertainment. Then I also had The Screen Engine, which was an animation studio down in Florida, for about five years, and then made a run with Mississippi Film Studios here in 2000, until the incentive changed. And I also started Certifiable Studios, which is a board game company in 2015. And then just this year we opened a board game bar called Dogmud Tavern in Ridgeland.
But as far as film is concerned, that’s Eyevox and Mad Genius. Mad Genius has a full production arm with a grip truck, generator, cameras, and a studio with a production crew. Eyevox is kind of more about the producing side and working with producers from all over the world that want to come in and make Mississippi the home for their next entertainment venture.
The most important thing for me, I just want to make sure that anybody that wants to shoot in Mississippi has the best experience they can. You have to treat people well and make sure that they want to come back. That’s how we grow as an industry in Mississippi, to take as good of care of everybody as we can.
Sometimes that just means renting equipment. Sometimes that means coming on board as a full producer or executive producer, or just general counsel to kind of help navigate the waters of the film incentive. We don’t necessarily mandate how you work with us. We’re just glad to be involved. I’m really, really proud of what has been going on recently.
When did you realize you could pursue your dream from Mississippi?
There really wasn’t ever a question of could I do it in Mississippi. Early on, for me to do what I wanted to do, I had a couple of choices: either rent my gear from out of state and pay a lot of shipping, which would be the lion’s share of the budgets that I was working with, or go to another state. Or, do what I ended up doing, which was build it.
Whereas back in the ‘90s, you would charge more for the gear than the people, now it’s reversed. It’s the talent that you’re selling, not the equipment. Everybody has the equipment now, but you need to have the vision and the passion to make it work. And that’s one of the things that I keep looking to surround myself with, which is people that have that passion and the vision. And I’m lucky enough to have a really great team.
But early on, the question that was asked of me most often was “Why do this here? Why not go to California?” Honestly, it was never even a thought. I liked the idea of building something here. Mississippi is my home, and I couldn’t be happier with investing in the state. This is where we belong.
What would you say to convince someone to bring a project to Mississippi?
I think that Mississippi sells itself. Mississippi is still excited about film. Mississippi has a tendency to roll out the red carpet, where other states might be a little jaded. If you want to go where you feel valued and know that you’re going to be treated special, that’s Mississippi.
The incentive program is amazing because it’s not a tax rebate or a tax credit. It’s actually a cash rebate, which I think is extremely attractive. And I’m so proud of the government, the film office and legislation for seeing the merit there and allowing us to stand out that way. The incentive is what’s getting people here.
And a lot of times, we read a lot of scripts that say based in New Mexico or eastern Oregon, and it’s hard for us to create those atmospheres. But then what happens is, they realize how we’re eager to work with them and then they say, “You know what, the Delta actually feels pretty good.” So sometimes the landscape isn’t quite as important to the script as the personal touch with the people that you surround yourself with. But we do have the beaches on the coast, we have the Delta, the Jackson area–we really check off a lot of boxes when it comes to landscape.
But I do also want them to know we have our obstacles. Our crew base isn’t what it needs to be. We’re building, and it’s better today than it was yesterday, but we still need more.
What do you think can be done to bolster the workforce in Mississippi?
That’s one of the reasons why I like the smaller movies. The bigger the budget, the more likely they can afford to bring their own people out. Smaller movies benefit, for housing purposes and everything, to train locals.
You look for people that have an interest in the industry and have a work ethic to support it. I am personally a believer in the school of hard knocks, you know, learning on the fly. Things can be taught in that process.
I’m also a big fan of the fact that the high schools are doing such a good job in the film curriculum. My son is at Madison Central and experiencing that now. Hinds Community College and some other schools have done a really good job of trying to encourage and promote the visual arts.
There are a lot of things that you can’t teach in a book, that you really need that hands-on experience, and you need to make your own mistakes in a practical way to learn from them. But you also need to have the people that know what the mistakes are.
That’s where these smaller movies come in. Next thing you know you’ve got a movie credit for your name and you can get another opportunity to work your way up the ladder. I think that anything that we can do to really incentivize these smaller movies to keep the money invested in the local crew is important.
What are some of your current or recent projects?
We’re doing a lot of different things. We are finishing up “Glorious” right now. We’re about to start production on another movie. We helped out on the two Morgan Freeman movies that came through, but also at the same time, and we were always in the midst of commercial production. And then I also have web series that I’m producing.
There is there is no one major project that I I’m going to say, “This is what you have to know that we’re doing.” Because we have our fingers in a lot of projects, and in varying degrees.
Who has been an influence on your career and why?
The biggest influence for me professionally would be my brother, Jimmy. He just retired. For the last 15-20 years, he used to direct all the NBA basketball for ABC.
He’s been a really good mentor for me, especially when it comes to making a name for yourself as a Mississippi boy. He helped me learn how to represent the state proudly and well.
But honestly, a lot of times the most influential people that I have in my life in general are my employees.
What are your hopes for the future of the film industry in Mississippi?
To be clear: I would love for Mississippi to do bigger movies. Right now, though, our sweet spot is in the single million dollar budgets, which I think is great.
Obviously, I would never turn away the bigger movies, because, well, why would you? But I would just hate it if the smaller movies weren’t embraced. I don’t want to ever lose what we have.
Let’s just say, if I had $30 million in the bank and you said, “OK, Rick. You’re going to use this $30 million to produce movies, however you want to do it, that’s the assignment.”
I wouldn’t want to produce a $30 million movie. I would produce 10-15 $1 to $3 million movies. I would treat them like a TV series. I would build up the industry that way. If I had $30 million, that would be enough work to get us through the next three years, and we would have a crew base that knew that they were going to be working all the time. We would always be in production, we would always be in pre-production, we would always be in post-production. We would always be in development in a very cyclical kind of a way so that we would create this world so that we have people that are assigned, kind of like Pixar, right? That’s what I would do.