[TRAFFIK director Deon Taylor and his TRAFFIK producing partner (and wife) Roxanne Avent on the red carpet of the film’s premiere at the ArcLight Hollywood theater on April 19, 2018. (photo credit: Todd Williamson)]
First, congratulations on your phenomenal first 2 weeks after the release of “Traffik!” Coming in #9 on the top 10 movie list is a big deal. You are having some journey, starting your career in 2005 as a screenwriter, director and producer. Since founding Hidden Empire Film Group, the movies and TV projects have come at a steady pace.
THE HUB: As an athlete, who was born in Chicago, relocated here, graduating from Florin High School and San Diego State, you played against Jamie Foxx in the NBA Entertainment League; then jumped into the cinematic world. How did you get the training necessary to succeed in this highly-competitive business?
Taylor: It’s how passionate someone is, I can’t tell you the difference between passion and stupidity. You’re better off not knowing; do you see something no one else sees? You are in a world where you’re passed over and second guessed. If your intention and energy is correct, God brings you into a place where it always works out. Do it with heart, spirit and mindset. Follow your spirit; when you fall, you have to know that you have to get up. I have always followed my mind and heart, almost to a level of insanity. No one sees you are getting better at your craft, better at distribution, stars and movies.
THE HUB: I know that you make all genres (horror, comedy, and slasher thriller) so you’re not pigeon-holed. Your 3 basic scenarios: humanity, life, love ad redemption allow you to play in any game. Do you have a favorite genre?
Taylor: I don’t know, it really is based on how I feel at the time, what mood I’m in. Over the last year, I have felt good living in the world of the thriller. Sometimes I’m in an edgy mood or want to say something. Being an Aquarius, I think that’s common, my sign is mysterious, free-spirited, eccentric and independent. As a Black film maker, I am not identified as a box, every movie doesn’t have to be hard hitting.
Mr. Taylor has directed many film and television projects. In 2015 he directed Jamie Foxx’s video, “In Love by Now”. His television projects include: “Nite Tales”, he co-directed “Tommy’s Little Girl” with Jamie Foxx, to be released in the future. His movies include: his first film: “Dead Tone”, “The Hustle”, “Nite Tales: The Series”, “Chain Letter”, “Supremacy”, “Meet the Blacks” in 2016 and currently in theaters, “Traffik”. Labor Day “Meet the Blacks 2: The House Next Door,” starring Mike Epps, Katt Williams and Rick Ross will be released. At the end of this year, “Motivated Seller” starring Dennis Quaid and Megan Good will be released.
THE HUB: What’s your definition of Hollywood’s new Black Renaissance?
Taylor: A treasure chest full of incredible artists that all have dynamic voices, that up till now have been muted by the system. We’ve been supporting all movies but haven’t been in them. Lots of mainstream movies now for us: “Moonlight” won 3 Academy Awards and was made for only $ 4 million, making $65 million worldwide. Urban movies have been constant – “Girls Trip” had a budget of $19 million, bringing in $115.2 in the U.S. and Canada and $24.9 million in other territories. “Get Out” had a budget of only $4.5 million brought in a worldwide box office of $255,209,057 and it had a Black male lead. “Black Panther” shattered box office records, raking in $1.28 billion worldwide, with an all-Black cast. These movies changed the dynamic; for the last 15 years Tyler Perry has dominated the space. Directors and writers were not getting film opportunities but finally they are. Each time you put out that movie, audiences come out. For 20 years they told us, Black movies don’t work overseas, but they do. I’m learning it’s because they don’t get distribution. The press tour takes artists and promotes films across the water. The next step for Denzel is to take “The Equalizer” overseas. “Black Panther” is a great movie. Thanks Marvel but, is there a young Black man making a new Black superhero? I was at the Disney store in Chicago and I picked up Black Panther pajamas and action figures for my son. Me purchasing that blew my mind, this is historic. It’s very cool to be able to go into a store and pick up our likeness in a toy for my son.
THE HUB: I loved the aerial shot of Sacramento, our city looked very pretty. Was the restaurant scene where Brea and her friends were celebrating filmed at The Firehouse?
Taylor: No, it was filmed in the Ace of Spades, we built out a room there.
THE HUB: I imagine it’s very smooth to shoot locally, what are the challenges when you shoot in Los Angeles?
Taylor: I’ve been shooting in Sacramento a long time. I shot “Traffik” and “Meet the Blacks” here. But I got frustrated working with the City. Couldn’t the City help us with something? Hotel rooms or street closures. I never got any support from the Sacramento Bee, etc. It was frustrating, but then I got beyond waiting for them to show me love; I felt better shooting here, now I’m pushing Sacramento a lot. I set up the city in the nice way.
THE HUB: Having access to a soundstage here and being able to produce feature films, tv shows and videos has made Hidden Empire Film Group fully self-sufficient, will you ever produce movies for others?
Taylor: We don’t have those spaces anymore, it’s very rare you use stages. There’s no stage currently here, we build out as needed. For “Traffik” we rented 15 – 20 offices for our 24-day shoot. We shot a lot locally: downtown and the Capitol. The freeway scenes were shot on 80 going towards Reno and Truckee. 90% of the movie was shot in Sacramento.
THE HUB: Your wife Roxanne Avent is your executive producer; I imagine it’s hard for you both not to take work home. Do you two continue to work and bounce ideas off each other or is it family time when you get home?
Taylor: No, you’re always working when you’re building and running a company. You are always piggybacking. I’m the creator and she’s the business mind. It’s fantastic because we can build stuff together. Our kids see us work together as a couple, it’s priceless. The seed is planted for them; I have a daughter who is 12 years old and two sons ages 1 and 4 years old.
THE HUB: Let’s talk more about your newest movie, “TRAFFIK”. I understand it all started with an email from your daughter’s school, which led you to do research. Did you automatically think this would make for a good movie or were you trying to get the word out on how close to home sex trafficking really is?
Taylor: No, first I was like this doesn’t have anything to do with us. But then I investigated it and found the facts. The movie is my first impression of it, there’s no sugar coating, this is how these sex trafficking rings work.
THE HUB: I didn’t find out that Sacramento was a hub for sex trafficking until early last year. I was shocked to see your figures showing 75-85% of females trafficked are African American and Latino. This is a quiet epidemic, because although people have heard about it on the news, they really don’t think it’s this close to home, do they?
Taylor: Even I didn’t know how close to home it was until that email arrived.
THE HUB: Your movie woke me up to the fact that it’s not just runaway teens who are trafficked, it’s also females who sometimes willingly go with their kidnapper, with no idea of what’s about to happen to them. I’m so glad you made this movie, it is an eye opener and it is getting the word out, to all us unsuspecting people about a life-threatening operation that is going on, many times a day. Your new shingle under your company is Dark Circus, it will produce film and T.V. aimed at urban audiences; focusing on comedy and horror. Can you tell me a little more about this latest project?
Taylor: I created the label to make movies: comedy or horror. “Motivated Seller” is a thriller starring Dennis Quaid and Meagan Good. It’s release date is set for the end of this year.
“Traffik” is in theaters now. I urge everyone to see this movie. I enjoyed being on the edge of my seat, for most of the movie. The way women are trafficked was a shock to me. I assumed the majority of those taken were white, teenage runaways; not true. Deon’s research shows that 75% – 85% of those trafficked are African American or Latino and it is not just teenagers, it is also 20 and 30 somethings being grabbed at an alarming rate. Make sure your family and friends are aware of these numbers.
More about hiddenempirefilmgroup.com
Contributing Writer, Donna Michele Ramos
Chief Editor Pleshette Robertson of THE HUB Magazine would like to apologize for the errors made in this interview article that was published on pages 50-51 of the Summer 2018 issue. This article has been updated and will be made available online via http://www.sacculturalhub.com/expressmag.
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