LOS ANGELES — Deon Taylor doesn’t take no for an answer when it comes to filmmaking. And it’s a word he hears all the time.
When no one wanted to make his first film, he made it himself and even persuaded Rutger Hauer to be in it. When the studio said they couldn’t afford Oscar-nominated cinematographer Dante Spinotti for his latest, “Black and Blue,” Taylor opened up his wallet and paid Spinotti himself. And when he realized the press schedule for his racially themed action film didn’t include places like Dallas, Cleveland, Detroit and his hometown of Gary, Indiana, he made his own plans to reach those markets.
Taylor knows that some people think he’s crazy for all the extra things he does. But that refusal to be dissuaded was the only way this kid from Gary, who never had any formal filmmaking training, was going to become a director. And after 15 years of doing it his way — independently — Hollywood is finally taking notice.
This year Taylor, 43, has two films being distributed by a major studio, Sony Pictures’ Screen Gems: “The Intruder,” a thriller with Michael Ealy and Meagan Good that became a solid hit in May, and “Black and Blue,” a fast-paced police corruption tale starring Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson, that’s now in theaters. It’s something he’s just starting to process himself.
Movies changed Taylor’s life. As a kid whose family didn’t have enough money to travel, he learned about places and people through films. “Boyz n the Hood” showed him Los Angeles. “Do the Right Thing” did that for New York. And he started thinking about his own projects as a way to educate his 14-year-old self.
”As I grew as a filmmaker I started to think: What are you saying? There are so many filmmakers out here, black and white, who aren’t saying (expletive),” Taylor said. “Adversity became the center of my films.”
With “Supremacy,” he tackled a real life case of a white supremacist who takes a black family hostage; In “Traffik,” it was sex trafficking in the United States. And, for Taylor, it’s all been building up to this moment with “Black and Blue,” which he helped infuse with themes about police distrust and justice.
Harris, who was taking a year-long hiatus after the grueling promotional tour for “Moonlight,” said she came back early to work with this “maverick” director.
”Everybody got really emotionally invested in the movie in a way that I haven’t seen on any other movie set,” Harris said. “And that’s all Deon because he sets that tone.”
Taylor’s films also routinely make their money back and then some, but they have another common thread too: Bad reviews often follow.
He likens it to how Tyler Perry’s films are received by critics versus the people who go out to the theaters to see them.
”There was a time when I read something (about a Perry film) and I wanted to cry,” he said. “I thought to myself, does this person understand that my mom, who is 70 years old, and all of her friends, they leave church and go to the theater on Sunday evening and they pay their money and they absolutely love that film. You know why? It’s speaking to them,” he said. “Art is art and sometimes you have to step back if you’re not breathing that same air.”