Deon Taylor needed something he could sink his teeth into. After a few horror films and plugging away at being an independent filmmaker in this increasingly challenging market, the script about real-life white supremacist Garrett 'Tully' Fuller and his first 24 hours out of a 15-year prison sentence was presented to him. This month, Tully is set for execution on Death Row.*
"I would say that this is not a film that a black filmmaker would take on," Taylor tells me as we lounge comfortably, naively, in the JW Marriot just before the start of the Los Angeles Film Festival. "I'm probably the only person that would be crazy enough to touch subject matter like this. Because I had to see it through the eyes of the white supremacist, I had to really remove myself and research the Aryan Brotherhood, understand its history, why it's here, and why it's so powerful in the prison system. That was tough. I'm a black male, so yes, it was tough. But I think it helped me as a filmmaker to be able to identify."
Taylor's need to grasp of others' experience didn't stop there. He also had to identify with the Walker family - the family that Tully (played by Joe Anderson) holds hostage.
"We started off our shooting schedule with the scenes where Tully enters the house," explains Taylor. "He had a gun and Swastikas on his face and he's screaming 'nigger.' I definitely did not like that."
Taylor knew though, that he was getting into a very intense and very dark film when he read the script twice during one plane ride. The light at the end of the tunnel was the ending though, which without giving too much away, is uplifting.
"I knew I had to make this movie," he says. "One of the biggest reasons was for the family. They were completely touched by God on that night. If you understand anything about life, you'll understand that nothing is promised to you. When I think about what scares me, this is what scares me - someone kicking in my door in the middle of the night with the intent to kill me. And if you look at the news, that type of situation usually ends very badly."
When Taylor finished shooting a small horror project a couple years ago, he felt it didn't do enough for him, and that's when he knew - "I was really in love with being a filmmaker." So he searched for something that would make him work hard and which would produce something he loved. As hard of a story as SUPREMACY is, Taylor loves that he got to tell it.
"I was intrigued by how people are trained to believe something and how they apply that to every day life," Taylor explains as he talks about his passion for SUPREMACY. "When I read the screenplay, the first thing that jumped out to me wasn't the violence, but it was this question: 'Why was he this way?' Here is someone who went to prison for 15 years, one of the worst places on earth, and then gets out and does something to put himself right back into that place. What could make someone be that angry? It's the belief. It's also belief that makes people great as well - like an athlete getting up every day to train to make it to the NFL or an actress waking up every morning and training to eventually win an Academy Award. Here I had the exact opposite of someone using belief to have a will that is so hateful, [and it fascinated me.]
Up next for Taylor is the story about the Black Panther founder Huey P. Newton. "I want to make films that make you feel and also make you think," he says. "I am getting this project to a place where it's ready to shoot, and it will be about Newton's early life, how he became who he did and why. I have to go out and raise my own money, so I might as well do something that when I'm dead, people will remember me for."
Supremacy premieres tonight at LA Film Fest and was written by Eric J. Adams, produced by Roxanne Avent, starring Danny Glover, Joe Anderson, Dawn Olivieri, Lela Rochon, Anson Mount, Evan Ross, and Derek Luke.
* California hasn't performed an execution since 2006. Most likely, Tully's execution date will be moved once again.
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