By: Malcolm Wyche, (@MalcolmPWyche)
Freshman Year: Intro
Malcolm Wyche: Before coming to Howard, were you aware of the rich legacy of Black filmmakers and actors here?
Tevin Scott: I was, but my awareness came very late in the college application process. I actually never wanted to go to Howard. I didn’t know much about it, or any HBCU for that matter. It’s crazy how life works out because looking back, technically Howard chose me. I got a letter in the mail saying I qualified for a full tuition scholarship, and that was enough to make me do my research. Once I got hip to the rich legacy of black icons and visited campus for ASD, the decision became a no brainer.
MW: Your inaugural production on campus was the Same Girl remix, do you believe that was the best way to introduce yourself?
TS: I think so. At that time I was still trying to figure out how the whole filmmaking process worked, and the idea just came to me super organically while joking about it with some friends. (Me and another guy had actually we were talking to the same girl.)
MW: How did releasing the Same Girl remix set you up for your future success?
TS: It helped me gain slight popularity on campus, which put me even more on Campus Pals’ radar. Joining Pals is what changed everything for me.
MW: What’s the philosophy behind Raise The Stakes?
TS: With Raise The Stakes, we just wanna take shit to the next level. It’s about doing things at a higher level than what’s been seen before. Comedy wise, we definitely aim for the big laughs. The ones that make you cry and have your stomach hurting. In order to that, you have to raise the stakes and come up with the most outrageous and outlandish (but still authentic) scenarios for comedic conflict.
MW: This was the year you dropped your first official film at Howard and then several other hits, did you feel your momentum rising?
TS: Certainly. We released 8 shorts that year, which was pretty consistent for full time college students. Each one had most of campus tweeting and talking about them, and the reception was always strong. After the first few, we knew we were doing something right and just aimed to keep going and getting better with our work.
MW: How did you handle the pressure of making sure you lived out raising the stakes with your productions?
TS: There never was any pressure to be honest. We were just a close group of friends making stuff we thought was funny. We never went into a video wondering, “will people like this?” All the concepts we came up with were organic, and that’s how it should be for your content to hit. When you start aiming to please, that’s when you usually fizzle out.
MW: In hindsight, do you think you left a blueprint for future filmmakers to follow?
TS: I hope so. I’m not quite where I want to be yet so I’m still carving my own blueprint. In the meantime i’ve been following the blueprints left by new age filmmakers like Donald Glover and Issa Rae, and I aim to be the next great auteur that future artists can follow.
MW: You transitioned from being a stand-alone filmmaker to an intern? Was this part of the plan? Or did you have to adjust to working for somebody?
TS: I had wanted to intern before we even started cranking out films. The RTS shorts were actually in response to me not receiving an internship after my freshman year. I had nothing else to do that summer and I definitely wasn’t trying to go back home so I stayed in DC and got to work on my own content. By the time the following summer rolled around, the fact that I had so much work of my own impressed the people at Overbrook who gave me my first internship. I say all that to give this word of advice – if no one’s offering you opportunities, make things happen on your own, and eventually the companies/brands you aspire to work with will notice. If you build it, they will come.
MW: Doing It Wrong – inspired by Drake, but what did you want to emphasize that people were doing wrong?
TS: Literally everything when it comes to dating (laughs). Our generation can be so wishy washy when it comes to dating. We lack proper communication, we tend to be selfish, and that can create unhealthy relationships. I was doing it wrong myself at the time, and it was me coming to that realization at the time to write that webseries. Doing It Wrong was my most personal work at that point.
MW: Would Doing It Wrong be considered your debut album and everything else served the same purpose as mixtapes?
TS: Ehhh, I’d actually consider it to be my early mixtape that was slept on. (Think Comeback Season). There’s things I wish we would’ve done better, but I’m still very proud of it because it showed my potential to put together an entire series.
MW: How does hip-hop inspire your grind? And what parallels do you see between yourself and rappers?
TS: Hip-hop fuels me. I honestly view my favorite rappers as mentors because so much of their music has touched my soul and inspired the way I approach my own goals. As far as the parallels go, I think in this digital era, filmmakers are the new rappers. Our shorts and webseries are our mixtapes. Rappers share their content to soundcloud, we share ours to youtube. Both types of artists struggle to stand out in oversaturated markets. Rappers have been dealing with the oversaturation a little longer than filmmakers so I think we can take a lot from them when it comes to navigating our own careers. That’s why I approach my work like a rapper.
The content I’m working on is very raw, personal, and unapologetic, much like the music from my favorite artists (Drake, J.Cole, Kendrick, Kanye). On top of that, my work is calculated. I’ve already began mapping out the projects I want to release. I view at them like albums. The Mecca will be my debut album.
MW: How do you find the balance between using your own life as inspiration but not revealing too much private information?
TS: Everything is copy. That’s a phrase that the late filmmaker Nora Ephron lived by, and so do I. It basically means any and everything that happens in your life is fair game to write about. And the more personal it is, the better. I don’t plan to hold back when it comes to using events in my life as inspiration. Anything that I find interesting and compelling in my life will be used at some point.
MW: Does raising the stakes mean you have to be willing to expose yourself more?
TS: Certainly. I find that the best art is extremely vulnerable, so in order to create great art of your own, it’s going to require digging deep and exposing things about you that may be uncomfortable.
MW: It’s your last year on campus. How did you prepare to leave your mark as a filmmaker?
TS: Senior year, I knew I wanted to make a longer body of work that summarized how I was feeling about Howard at the time. That of course became #TheRealHU, my longest short to date. There had been a lot of issues going on with the administration at the time, and students were really frustrated about the changing culture on campus. That film was basically a satire addressing those things. It’s crazy because those same issues are still persisting, but they’re even louder now since the whole embezzlement scandal.
MW: Did you feel the pressure to make something shake before graduation? Or were you comfortable not having the big opportunity right away?
TS: Ever since my first summer in LA, I had made up in my mind that that’s where I’d be after graduation. I didn’t have a choice. Living in LA is mandatory for my line of work. So while I definitely wanted to make something shake and have a job offer before graduation, I was gonna make that leap regardless. And that’s what I did. It wasn’t “comfortable” moving to LA without the big opportunity, but it was necessary to help me get to the point I’m at now.
MW: Did you ever consider what you could have done better?
TS: I used to, but I don’t harp on what I could’ve or should’ve done anymore. Everything happens for a reason. That phrase is cliche but so true. There are no mistakes. Everything that I did in the past had to happen exactly the way it did for me to get to the place I’m at now, and I couldn’t be any happier about my current position. Now I just hope to use the lessons I’ve learned thus far to propel me to new heights in the near future.
MW: Looking back, how would you describe your legacy in one sentence?
TS: It was written.
MW: After graduation, did you expect more success to come your way sooner?
TS: Not really. I knew the Hollywood grind was going to be a beast, and much more challenging than is was at Howard. The Howard culture is a lot like Hollywood though, so my time in school definitely prepared me for this post grad journey.
MW: How did you meet Lena Waithe?
TS: We originally met at a panel back in 2014 when I was interning in LA. I met her again at another panel when I moved to LA, and she was gracious enough to meet for coffee and give me loads of advice. Since then she became my mentor and has been extremely invaluable to my journey thus far. Lena’s super accessible and mentors a lot of young voices trying to break into the industry. She’s truly one of a kind.
MW: What do you think people overlook about the grind of an upcoming filmmaker?
TS: I think people overlook how long it takes to get your work made. It takes a long time to make a film, and even longer to make a GOOD one. We live in the generation of instant gratification so a lot of artists tend to want to rush to put their work out to make it seem like they’re “grinding.” I’ve been guilty of that as well, but I now understand the importance of timing and making sure everything is right before releasing your work to the world. The original script for THE MECCA was written in 2014 and we’re still working on it. I’m confident that we’re closer to making something shake than ever before, but I’m still being patient and honoring the process so that it doesn’t come and go. I want this project to be a classic.
MW: After working for a couple years, what makes you want to continue working as a PA?
TS: There’s always an opportunity to learn as a PA. You basically assist every single department on set as they need it so you get a full view of what it takes to execute a large scale production. Being a PA is also a great stepping stone to get to where you ultimately want to be.
MW: How do you make sure that you continue to learn and grow even when it may seem like you’re ahead of the game?
TS: By never thinking I’m too ahead of the game. I’m very confident in my current skill set and I know i’m gonna be a problem once I have my platform, but at the same time, I know I can never stop learning. I enjoy being the fly on the wall. I study the people I want to be like very closely so I know exactly how to take what they do the next level.
MW: What do you want to contribute most to Insecure? And what do you hope to take from Insecure to build Raise The Stakes?
TS: It’d be great to eventually write for the show or even direct a few episodes. But most importantly, I really just want the people I’m working with now to feel my presence. I want them to see what I’m capable of and to know that I’m coming. I’ve learned so much thus far with this opportunity, and I plan to use all the skills and knowledge I’ve gained to make sure I can make content that can be just as culturally impactful as Insecure is.