Inside The “Foxes” Film Premiere
The evening of April 27th was a night of many firsts at 16 N. 9th St., as it was the first time The Greens has ever hosted a film premiere since our opening back in October. For writer and director Tristan Taylor, it was the first time his debut short film Foxes (2017) would be shown to the public. Wearing a grey hoodie that matched his Air Jordan 1 KOs, Taylor appeared to be as relaxed as ever in his achromatic streetwear. It was in a conversation outside The Greens just fifteen minutes before the film’s showing that revealed his anxieties about the night due to the film’s subject matter.
“I'm more nervous about my friends seeing it who don't really know too much about it,” Taylor said. "The film's about depression. It highlights an older brother trying to tell his younger brother he's not the hero he's had to be and trying to find a way to express to somebody that you're depressed."
Taylor’s film mirrors an aspect of his personal life that many of the people who were still inside didn’t know about. In 2009, Taylor first realized that he was struggling with depression and had been “repressing” his mental health issues. His idea for the film stemmed from a conversation between him and a close friend in which Taylor decided to open up about what he was going through.
Moments later, Taylor’s friends drove by with their windows rolled down. They smiled both proudly and jokingly at their friend who was the center of attention for the night, a complete contrast to his humble and soft-spoken demeanor. A bus slowly passed by not too long after. The passengers were his family members who traveled from St. Louis to attend the premiere. Despite his modesty, the smile on his face was enough indication that he was secretly enjoying the small doses of attention. A young woman on the bus shouted “Okay, I see you! You made it!” through her cracked window.
The “it” was success. The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) alumnus has worked on big projects like Magic Mike XXL, Beyonce’s Lemonade visual, and Avengers: Infinity War. He also humbly mentioned that he was just at Beychella last weekend and he flew in from LA just a few hours ago. At 29 years old, his success and impressive portfolio doesn’t seem to faze him one bit.
At 8 p.m. sharp, we were back inside for the moment everyone was waiting for. After a warm introduction from The Greens co-owner Curtis Taylor, Jr., the lights dimmed down and the attention shifted from Tristan Taylor as a person to his work as a creator.
Conveying emotional complexity and subject matter intensity in a 14 minute film takes a certain degree of adroitness, but the audience’s reactions during the showing was proof that Taylor was nothing short of talented. Within the first minute, the audience was laughing at the casually crude anecdotes shared between the brothers Reggie and Dennis in the opening scene.
However, tone of the film made an intimate transition once the brothers shared a joint together in the backyard. With their legs dangling in the pool, the older brother Reggie shared his struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts to Dennis for the first time. Reggie made light of his battle with his mental health with humor, but Dennis encouraged him to put the jokes aside and engage in a serious conversation about his experience. The short film shined the spotlight on a topic that most feature films have barely scratched the surface on: Black mental health and the culture of toxic masculinity in Black men.
As the lights came back on, the audience gave Taylor an energetic round of applause. The premiere was followed by a seated conversation led by Tristan Taylor and Curtis Taylor, Jr. The topics of conversation ranged between feeding the vegetarian cast members in pricey LA to the roughly $3,500 total cost it took for two days of filming at an Airbnb rental.
A Q&A was opened up for the audience to participate in and that’s when the impact of Taylor’s film on viewers unfolded. Jody Clark, a longtime friend and former co-worker of Taylor’s grandmother, revealed the film’s personal significance to her.
"It hit close to me because I received my diagnosis with clinical depression when I was about 30 and I'm 65 now,” Clark said. “I'm still dealing with it, I've been to that abyss and you know what I'm talking about."
Clark revealed that just a few months prior, she woke up with her mind made up on killing herself. Thankfully, she confessed her fear to her brother and he offered genuine support for her throughout one of her darkest moments.
Following the heartfelt Q&A, the attendees spent the final moments of the night mixing and mingling amongst each other. In a final conversation outside, Taylor dissected Foxes and shared his thoughts about the film’s reception.
"I told Curtis I was nervous because I didn't know that people would like it,” Taylor said. “I think it did more than I expected, it was really powerful when the Q&A started and people just wanted to make statements on how it touched them. I've known Jody my whole life and I've never seen that side of her.”
The topic of authenticity when exploring the relationship between Black masculinity and depression was also addressed. Taylor’s decision of choosing which brother was struggling with depression was a highlight of his rawness as a film writer and director as well as his understanding of what it’s like to deal with mental health issues as a Black man.
"In the characters, it was important to me that the bigger brother, who seemed like the cooler, swaggy one, was the one that was depressed as opposed to Dennis,” Taylor said. “If you looked at the two of them and asked 'Who's depressed?' you'd probably say Dennis because he looks like the corny one. It was important that the weakest one at the dinner scene ends up being the strongest one in the final scene. In the reality, it's this mask we walk around with because we don't want people thinking we're soft."
Currently, Taylor is working on a web series titled No More Comics in LA that focuses on a young woman who’s recently quit her job to become a comic and is also dealing with her coming out as a lesbian as well as her finding her own realness within her sexual identity.
There’s something special about artists who devote their work to topics and issues that often go unnoticed and it appears that Taylor is slowly making a career of it. The Greens is excited for all of Taylor’s future projects and we wish him all the success in the world.
Words by Kennedy Ward