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Flipping the Script

If there was an African American movie made during the late 1980s or early 1990s, chances are that Tony Lee had some involvement in it.
As a casting director, Lee worked on a number of films such as Menace II Society and House Party 3. He also did the Los Angeles casting for Spike Lee’s film Malcolm X.

Tony Lee’s work as a casting director was his entrée to a screenwriting career.

“I became very successful with both — during the day, I was casting,” he said. “And at night, I was writing.”

He sold 10 screenplays in 10 years. Three of those screenplays were made into films, the most notable being a cable film titled The Road To Galveston, starring Cicely Tyson.

But with a family to support, Lee left the film industry 22 years ago and eventually found stardom in the insurance industry. He went to work in his father-in-law’s insurance brokerage, Dickerson Insurance Brokerage in Los Angeles, and helped grow it to become the largest African American-owned brokerage firm in the U.S. before its acquisition by Alera Group in 2018. Today, he and his brother-in-law Michael Wolff serve as the brokerage’s two managing partners.

Lee, 54, was honored by the National African American Insurance Association with its 2019 Agent/Broker Leadership Excellence Award. The award recognizes an African American insurance agent or broker who has demonstrated business success, as well as significant and positive impact on the industry and the community.

As a screenwriter, Lee was living his longtime dream. But in 1997, he found himself between projects and concerned about money as he and his wife were expecting the second of their three children. “My father-in-law, Mr. Carl Dickerson, said to me, ‘Why don’t you come into the office and see what I do?’” Lee recalled. “So I went in to sort of help him out and do some filing, and I never left.”

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Susan Rupe is managing editor for InsuranceNewsNet. She formerly served as communications director for an insurance agents' association and was an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor. Follow her on Twitter @INNsusan. Contact her at [email protected].

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