Chain Letter/ Deon Taylor Interview

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Chain Letter
An Interview with Director Deon Taylor
by Wilson Morales

September 29, 2010

Opening this week in major markets across the United States is the horror film ‘Chain Letter,’ which was produced and directed by Deon Taylor, who recently joined forces with Jamie Foxx to launch a production company dubbed No Brainer Films.

Taylor is a former athlete who played professionally basketball overseas before starting a new career in the film business.

‘Chain Letter’ tells the tale of six friends who receive mysterious chain letters via text messages and e-mails from a maniac who warns them if they break the chain they will lose their lives. The seemingly harmless e-mails turn deadly when, one-by-one, the friends who do not forward the chain letter are hunted down and gruesomely killed by horror’s newest villain, the Chain Man.

The horror film stars Nikki Reed, Keith David, Michael J. Pagan, Brad Dourif and Betsy Russell. caught up with Taylor as he spoke about venturing off into a new world outside of sports. Here are some excerpts from the interview.

How did you go from being a basketball player to producing and directing horror films?

Deon Taylor: I’ve always been a fan of horror and action films. I was actually playing professional basketball overseas in Germany, and at that time, all these really cool movies were coming, making a huge amount of money. Because I was overseas, I was constantly receiving DVDs and tapes of these films and became really fascinated with the brand and the genre. Eventually, I started watching the making of on some of these films and started writing my own! I just made up my mind that when I finished the season, I was going to come to the states and actually make a film. I had no film background. I was writing stuff in long form, not script form.

Where did the idea come to write ‘Chain Letter?’

DT: I was actually shooting a TV series at the time called ‘Nite Tales,’ and one of the young kids in the feature approached me with an idea. He said, “Man, I’m gettin’ these chain letters all the time, so if you want to make a horror movie you should make one like this!” That was the third time someone had told me about a chain letter movie. I started scripting the film. I just went crazy ’cause I’m an Aquarius. So for a month and a half, it was just me and ‘Chain Letter.’ That’s when I came up with the concept trailer that I went off and shot with a camcorder. I put it online, and within a week, I had 50,000 views. I said, “Man, this might be really hot.” I eventually went and found the financing for the film, and it was a year process to do all of that. I put together a budget of $3 million. We jumped out there, shot the film, incredibly.

How were you able to land Nikki Reed from ‘Twilight’ fame?

DT: I got very lucky because I was able to cast Nikki Reed, who actually landed the part of Rosalie in ‘Twilight’ while shooting ‘Chain Letter.’ She’s one of the lead characters in ‘Twilight’ and that propelled things. At the same time, we had some very amazing talent. We had Betsy Russell, who was the lead in ‘Saw’ 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, and just a host of other people. People said, “How did you ever make a film like this with this cast for that budget?” It just spiraled from there to where it has 2 or 3 million fans online. This film comes out out October 1, and it was made independently by a director working on his own with no film school. It’s a pretty amazing story.

People are labeling you as the next Tyler Perry because you’re writing, producing and directing your own films. Tyler Perry had a base audience before he got into the film world. How much of a struggle are you facing trying to get things done?

DT: It’s always a challenge in Hollywood no matter who you are or what you’re doing. It is very tough as a black filmmaker, especially someone like myself. The creative and great thing about Tyler is he was able to come in with his own fanbase and a black core audience ready to receive him. I am coming in as a black filmmaker, but I am doing crossover horror films and action films. People wonder, “Where is this guy coming from?” A lot of people are catching on, becoming fans of my work, thinking this might be a generation of something new, ’cause there’s never been a black filmmaker in this state. We have a series called ‘Nite Tales’ which is just like ‘Tales From the Crypt’ but for today’s audience. The hosts of each episode, two vampire hosts, are Denise Richards and Stacy Dash. The first couple episodes are great. We’ve got Tom Brady, Larry Miller, Method Man, and Jeremy Piven. It’s 30-minutes, we’re financed and we’re off to the races, shooting 26 original episodes independently right now.

I’m also writing and producing a film called ‘Free Agents,’, which is a football heist film and more is like ‘Heat’ meets ‘Point Break.’ Financially people love it, so much so that recently myself and Jamie Foxx have partnered up and created a new entity called No Brainer, where we’re both writing, producing, and co-directing features of the same caliber. It’s working, and it is a long road and it’s hard and there have been many nights when I’ve doubted what I’m doing. You have to cry at night and get up the next morning, say “I can do this”, get up and go. I’m very blessed to have enough energy to get up and go every morning.

What else do you have on your plate?

DT: I’m actually working on multiple projects that are all really high-speed developments. Myself and Jamie Foxx just co-wrote, produced, and directed a television series titled ‘Tommy’s Little Girl,’ which is being acquired by NBC. We just finished that. The next thing I’m doing is a feature which is being co-directed by myself and Jamie called ‘Terminated,’ which we’re prepping now to shoot by the end of November or December.

  1. After reading this, Deon is truly an inspiring film director. There should be more like him in the industry. He seems like a very down to earth person and knows how to run things.