Originally from Louisiana, Taylor Ri’chard is an Atlanta-based filmmaker who’s been making shorts and features for 10 years. It was an honor to chat with Taylor about his life, process as an indie filmmaker, and his latest feature, Hallowed Be Thy Name. With each answer, his passion bled through, making it so my only downside is not being able to write down everything we discussed because of word count.
Hallowed Be Thy Name is about a teenager named Devin, who is moving back to his mother’s hometown because his parents’ divorce. As he begins to adjust to his new home, Devin becomes friends with Mick and Skylar, who lead him to a mysterious cave said to grant wishes. However, when the teenagers take offerings from the cave, they are haunted by an ancient, vengeful demon.
What inspired you to tackle filmmaking?
I have always been into storytelling and bringing something creative to the table in regards to that. In the beginning I thought about writing books but I love movies, love watching the visual components of how a movie comes together. That really was the launching pad
What was the inspiration for Hallowed Be Thy Name?
In Louisiana’ folklore there’s a legendary witch that’s thought to cause sleep paralysis. So, I took that premise, notion, and created my own legend about him. Louisiana has so many great folklore and scary elements that I love incorporating into my work. To bring that southern Gothic horror out is important and part of what I bring to the table.
Your passion and personality really bleed through in how this story is presented. What did you do to create such a depth and emotional weight to the story?
I always try to put a little bit of myself into everything I do. I think as a writing when you write from your personal experiences is when you can truly connect with the audience. You never know how your story or what you’ve gone through will affect someone who’s watching. If you’re watching the film a lot of the main character does play a lot into me in regards to him being gay and falling in love with a boy who’s unavailable. Growing up is a confusing time for teenagers, if you’re gay you don’t know if anyone else is like you, you fall in love with your best friend who’s a straight person and obviously it wouldn’t work. It’s difficult to navigate that, so you’ll see those reflections of my story embedded in the main character. I want to introduce you to me, different parts of me, while bringing about whatever my story is trying to tell.
I think it was Steven Spielberg who said, I’m making the same movie over and over again. When you understand his life and what happened to him, you see all those things through his work. This is only my second feature but I’m trying to create that type of persona in my films. When you’re watching it and it says a “Taylor Ri’chard film” it really means I’m in it as well. It’s not just words splattered on a page to entertain but I’m sharing.
What was it like going into a second feature?
With my first there was a lot I didn’t know. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Just thought, “I’m going to make a movie” and I did. Of course, there was a lot of middle of the road type of critiques. I was still learning craft. By the time I got into the second one I was starting to master those things and develop at a higher capacity. If you watch both films you can definitely see the complete difference in my skillset. I’m still growing and there’s a lot left to learn and uncover about myself as an artist. It was easy this time to get the ability to make the film. What was harder? Pushing myself further, managing a bigger film, and shedding the fear of what critics were going to say. Of course, who wants to have a bad review but I had to move passed. But it’s very scary and hard to make indie films because sometimes they’re not kind to you and those reviews for indie filmmakers weigh heavier than if Hollywood is doing something. They can take a loss and keep it moving. For indie filmmakers, bad reviews could break their whole career in pieces. It was unnerving but it was what it was and I had grown and put the work forward which is what was most important.
Being in Atlanta has also helped because there is a collaborative effort in the city, where you may help someone and turn around and they’ll help you with your project. So there’s more of a chance to get things done.
How did you assemble the cast and crew?
We just did a normal casting call. At the time I made Hallowed Be Thy Name I was actually a grad student getting my MFA in film. I had a vast selection of talented filmmakers. The crew is made up of half those that were in grad school and the other half were professionals in the industry, then the cast were all industry actors. Some I may have worked with before on smaller projects and thought were great but everyone auditioned. I think they all did a great job and I was very proud of the level of commitment and work they put in, because we did this in 15 long days. They all kept a very positive and professional attitude. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.
What was it like working with a younger cast?
You know what’s so funny, I’ve heard and seen those experiences where people had issues but I’ve always had the opposite. I actually prefer working with child actors. For me, when they come to set, they’re extremely professional. They’re there to do the job, very focused, they even push my professionalism forward. They just want to understand the character, what I want from them as a director, and the intention of what I wrote. It’s been a blast working with them and I’m actually working on a small horror short that I was inspired to do that involved kid actors.
How and when will people be able to watch Hallowed Be Thy Name?
Sadly, we had to forego a theatrical release because of COVID-19 but going through Gravitas Ventures we will be able to be viewed everywhere as far as digitally and video on demand. But if you’re interested in getting the DVD or Blu-ray from Target, Amazon, Walmart, or Barnes and Noble, it releases June 30th. Pre-orders are available at Target.
Also, the soundtrack is out now and can be found on Spotify, Amazon, Google, everywhere under Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Thank you for joining me Taylor, it was a real pleasure. Moving forward is there any words of wisdom for up-and-coming filmmakers?
Thank you. What I’d tell myself then as I do now, keep shooting. Keep making films. Don’t give up. It can be very difficult and it can be daunting but learn craft and make sure to learn how to monetize yourself as an artist.
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