Deon Taylor on being a self-taught filmmaker, being told “no” by Hollywood, and making projects that inspire black people
In this week’s episode of “You Good?” host Terrence J sat down with film director and screenwriter Deon Taylor to talk about the film industry, his creative process, and his experience during Coronavirus.
REVOLT’s new interview series “You Good?” is hosted by Terrence J. On it, the media personality speaks to his friends about their time social distancing and COVID-19, and much more.
In this week’s episode of “You Good?” host Terrence J sat down with film director and screenwriter Deon Taylor to talk about the film industry, his creative process, and his experience during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Deon moved from his home state of Indiana to Sacramento, California, where he excelled on his high school basketball team and later earned a full ride to San Diego State. In 1998, the former Division I basketball player went on to play professionally in Germany until 2003.
Shortly after leaving the league, Deon went on to pursue a career in filmmaking. In 2007, he made his directorial debut with a slasher film titled Dead Tone. The super-producer later went on to direct BET’s horror show, “Nite Tales: The Series,” starring rapper Flavor Flav, and many other projects including the visual for Jamie Foxx’s “In Love By Now.”
Almost two decades later and Deon is still creating, and still has a sick jump shot — so he claimed in this new interview. Check out seven highlights from his and Terrence J’s conversation from this week’s episode below and be sure to tune in each week for a new one!
1. The pandemic as a humbling experience
As the majority of the world continues with lockdown orders, most can agree that to an extent, we are all in the same boat. Deon tells Terrence that what was perceived as just another “moment,” at first, quickly changed as the seriousness behind Coronavirus grew. “It’s been a really humbling experience for a lot of people, you know, including myself,” the filmmaker admits. “This time down has been one of those moments where the first week or so, you were like, ‘This is crazy’ and all that, then week two, I believe, it really hits you, and you’re like damn, ‘I’m sitting down, and the world has stopped.’”
The filmmaker also revealed that these unprecedented times made him reflect on what mattered most to him. “Oftentimes we are running around trying to make money, trying to get your project up, and everything is important. I believe that this pandemic has allowed me personally to re-shift and re-focus, and remember why you do what you do, which is your family, your health, and your life,” Deon explains.
He added: “It just took me back to where I needed to be. This is the first time in probably 14 years, man, that I’ve completely stopped and not did anything movie-wise, and just been focused on the family and what I need to do to be a better person.”
2. People of color’s ability to adapt
History has proven that time and time again, African Americans have been able to adapt under some of the most extreme circumstances. However, no one could’ve ever imagined a pandemic of this magnitude.
Terrence revealed to Deon that the effects of Coronavirus have sent him on an emotional rollercoaster, which led him to ask the filmmaker how he’s been doing mentally throughout this whole ordeal. “I think when you come from an environment where you’re used to post-traumatic syndromes like we are and so many of us are, if you’ve been raised in the projects, you’ve been raised in the low-income housing and were raised where you don’t have a lot. We’re very adaptable to situations like this,” Deon says. “But, at the same time, you have that energy and that reset button where you’re like, ‘Okay, we’re in the house and this is what we’re dealing with.’”
Terrance notes, “For anyone that grew up poor, you know how to ration your food out longer and with grocery runs because you only got paid on the first and 15th, so you had made it stretch.”
3. Effectively using your platform during COVID-19
When asked how he thinks life will be like post-COVID-19, Deon tells Terrence that this pandemic is a lesson and will make individuals contemplate what life is really. However, the filmmaker also claims that not many people will understand the message within the chaos.
“You can just kind of flip through Instagram right now, through social media and Twitter, and you can see who really understands what’s going on versus the people that are sitting around being you know a bunch of f**king idiots,” Deon says. “How can you be doing this on your page night in and night out for the last three weeks, and not have one moment of hesitation when the entire world is shut down? How could you not be using your platform to actually give some people some energy that’s in these dark places?”
4. Deon on his creative process while social distancing
Most of the world has slowed down, but for creatives like Deon, they’re just getting started. He explains how he puts all his recent extra time to good use. “We work on a visceral clock in terms of being independent artists where we never stop,” Deon tells Terrence. “So when we see everybody fall back and people begin to pause, that’s when we actually go harder.”
Even with the drive to create, the independent producer has had to slow down and put many projects on hold, including one slated to be released this year as a result of social distancing. “This thing stopped a huge piece of momentum that we personally had as a company,” Deon says. “But, what I did find out by stopping and now dotting I’s, and crossing T’s, making sure my scripts are right, making sure my Terminator script is right, and making sure my final edits on ‘Meet The Blacks’ is right. It just gave me more time to perfect what I’m doing and also grow a few more things, and grow a few more ideas. At night, my brain is always working.”
5. The story behind Deon’s inspirational internet series “The Black Chair”
Aside from screenwriting, and directing movies and music videos, Deon is big on philanthropy and reveals to Terrence how the idea for his online series “The Black Chair” came into fruition. “I’m always trying to figure out how do you give back to people. What do you do? It’s not about money, but what type of energy can you put into people that look like us in impoverished areas that are trying to get to where we are,” Deon says.
With the help of his friends and colleagues such as Morris Chestnut, Michael Ealy, and Meagan Good, the producer was able to create a series where heavy-hitters could tell their stories in hopes to inspire others who were looking to be in those same spaces. “I was like, ‘Let me just pick up the phone on FaceTime or IG Live and call up everybody I know and have them tell their story about how they got started, and all the shit they’ve been through, so regular people could hear that and be like, damn I’ve been through that and I’ve had that happen.’”
Deon’s objective is to mainly demonstrate that “it’s not a magic pill that gets you successful. It’s basically working your ass off and doing everything you need to do under the sun to be successful.”
6. Continuing your passion after rejection
After leaving professional basketball to pursue a career in filmmaking, Deon was met with a lot of rejection from the industry. Terrence asked him what sparked his drive to keep going after being told no so many times prior.
“I think it’s just God, man. You got to have faith, and you got to have a lot of determination and belief. You also have to come from a world where you’ve been told no before, and that doesn’t hurt your feelings,” Deon explains. “I was told no for seven years.”
Deon also tells the host that after continually being rejected, he found his way to make movies and make his own money, and it was what he learned on the journey that helped him create his first film. “Those noes are actually calibrating and strengthening you for the yes,” Deon says.
7. Deon is self-taught
The 15-year independent producer reveals to Terrence that he’s never actually been to film school and that he learned his craft by literally becoming a student of the game. “I’m self-taught, so part of my learning of how to become a filmmaker was watching every movie I could get my hands on and actually watching the making of those films, stylistically, beginning to find out what did I like about those movies,” Deon says.
He goes on to explain that “part of the work is watching those films over and over again, and then breaking them down and figuring out what you’re sparking to, so when you make your movies, you have that same type of energy or your delivering what made you love film.”
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