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Tonight (April 17), REVOLT has an exciting world broadcast premiere for a captivating new movie titled Pas Honteux on our “Short & Fresh” program. Written by Sundance alum Marcus J. Guillory, and directed by music video turned film director John “Dr. Teeth” Tucker, the film isn’t your average visual body of work. In fact, it may be something your eyes have never witnessed.
“When Marcus first brought the idea to me about an urban slacker who wakes up one day speaking French, I was intrigued, the hilarity of the absurd dilemma was guaranteed,” Tucker said via his director’s statement. “But, when he said that the entire film was in the style of the French New Wave, I knew we were embarking on an exciting journey that would go much deeper than a funny ‘hood movie.’”
Described as a “dark comic meditation on identity, class, gentrification and self-actualization,” Tucker strongly believes that Pas Honteux has the qualities to become a cult film. “We hope it will provoke a meaningful dialogue about the power of language/identity politics and expand the archive of urban cinema,” he declared.
The film’s stars include Travis LaBranch, Leon Lamar, and Javicia Leslie. In support of REVOLT’s premiere of the movie, which will occur at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m PT; we spoke to Tucker about working on it, how directing it compared to working on music videos, his storytelling process, the cast, and much more. Read below!
What made you sign on to direct Pas Honteux?
I wanted my first film to be a significant piece of work. I chose the French New Wave style of cinema because it revolutionized American cinema. It also influenced iconic directors such as Martin Scorsese, Brian de Palma, Melvin Van Peebles, and Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino was so influenced by the French New Wave, he named his production company “A Band Apart” after the famous French New Wave film. What attracted me to the film was the opportunity to show that I can direct a revered genre style of filmmaking. I also wanted to display how I directed the lead actor to go through an extreme transformation: From someone with a rudimentary English vocabulary and a slacker to a French-speaking asshole who eventually evolves into an endearing character. I thought this film would allow me to show that I have range as a director. It was essential to display my work ethic, desire to study, and put my twist on a modern style of French New Wave filmmaking.
What’s an interesting moment that took place onset?
The most interesting thing about our film is the way the lead actor, Travis LaBranch, never spoke French. LaBranch studied French for three months leading up to production. We shot 45 scenes in five days, and once it was over, I thought I really fucked this film up. It ended up becoming an award-winning film on the film festival circuit.
Has transitioning to directing films always been a goal for you?
Not at first. When I first started, I really wanted to be the best video director I could be. Once I began to grow with my career, I realized I wanted to tell stories and create compelling, narrative-driven stories.
Do you want to start directing longer films and/or major motion pictures?
Absolutely. This film was directed and produced by me, and it was to say, “Hey, look at me. I’m over here! Give me a damn job, so I can show you how dope I can be!”
Who are your favorite film directors? Directors who you admire?
Clint Eastwood is one of my favorite directors because of the unique stories he chooses to tell. I have loved his films since I was a child... The first film [I] seen that he directed was a movie called Honkytonk Man. I cried as a kid at the end of that movie. It is one of my favorites. Martin Scorsese is another favorite because of how he tells stories. Charles Burnett is on the list, too, because of his in-your-face, brash, no-apology style of filmmaking. Sidney Lumet is a favorite. Lumet did not have a signature style, but his films really speak’s to me 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, The Pawnbroker and The Wiz...
Now for the directors that I admire, when I was a teenager, I met director Haile Gerima. I was working at a community center. He came to show his film Sankofa. I hung out with him for a week! I got to see the grind and work of an independent filmmaker. Halie Gerima inspired me to be a filmmaker. Spike Lee also makes the list of admiration because he is exceptionally knowledgeable of films and film theory. Spike is mad gifted. I particularly connect to his stories about black people and their communities. Spike’s films are unapologetically black and needed.
Is it easier or harder to directed short films than music videos?
I believe both can be hard without experience and a willingness to do the work — to be able to focus on the details. Both film and music videos have a preparation process. Before I shoot a music video, we have something that is called a technical scout. We utilize a lot of preproduction and make a detailed shot list. I know every shot I am going to take before I shoot it. I apply those same skills to the filmmaking process.
What are your favorite music videos you’ve done?
Scarface: “Mental Exorcism,” Notorious B.I.G.: “Spit Ya Game,” Tango Red ft. Lloyd: “Let’s Cheat Tonight,” Crime Mob: “Rock Ya Hips,” [and] UGK: “Game Belongs To Me.”
Are you completely done with working on music videos?
No, I am always open to working on visuals to music that move me. I am completely done with making music videos that do not advance the culture.
How hard is it to tell a story through video/film? How do you go about it?
No matter what genre of storytelling you choose to use, it takes experience to be able to tell a story visually. Regardless if you are storytelling through music, video, or film, there is a skillset that you need to have to tell stories. Most creatives who make them unique have a particular way of looking at the world and mirroring these stories back to its audience that is unique to their style. I go about my stories by merely daydreaming. It’s like putting a puzzle together. I relive the story over and over again in my head until the pieces of the puzzle come together. I like to go for long drives and think about what I want to do until I see the full picture.
What are some essentials that you need to create the best content possible?
Everything starts with the story. If you don’t have a good story, you don’t have anything. Then, that story needs to become a good script. Once you have a good script, you now have the foundation to create something amazing.
Anything else you want us to know about Pas Honteux?
Pas Honteux was nominated for multiple awards and has been an official selection in some of the biggest film festivals across the country. At the 2019 Hip Hop Festival NYC, Pas Honteux won Best of the Festival and Best Short Film. Also, at the 2019 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, Pas Honteux won the Audience Choice award. Our film has also been accepted into other lauded festivals such as 2018 American Black Film Festival (ABFF) under the Emerging Director category. Pas Honteux is also winner of the 2018 Dallas Fort worth Festival; and official selections of the 2018 Blackstar Film Festival, 2019 Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, to name a few...
Pas Honteux writer Marcus J. Guillory is a lauded writer. Marcus is currently a producer and writer on this season of “Empire.” He also wrote two seasons for Marvel’s “Cloak & Dagger,” as well as VH1’s “The Breaks.”
Javicia Lesley is an up-and-coming talent who is currently co-starring on CBS’ “God Friended Me.” Javicia just starred in a BET movie this past September [called] Always A Bridemaid. She also starred in LifeTime network film Killer Coach and lastly, she worked alongside veteran actor Ernie Hudson as his daughter Paris Duncan in BET’s episodic show “Family Business.”
Leon Lamar worked alongside Oprah Winfrey in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Kiana Dancie is a comedian who is the former host of TV One’s “Sister Circle.” Lastly, our lead actor, Travis LaBranch, is the brother of R&B Singer August Alsina.