Interviews

Interview With Jamaican filmmaker Steve "Tehut-Nine" McAlpin

Written by Xavier Murphy

This month we interview Jamaican filmmaker Steve “Tehut-Nine” McAlpin. He has just completed his second movie “Bashment.” We discuss this new movie and the challenges of being the Writer/ Director/ Producer of a low budget film.

Q: Tell us about the movie Bashment?
Bashment is my second film, I wrote it with my business partner Mykal Fax, who also encumbers the starring role (Cymbal). It is a cautionary tale about a group of young Jamaican men coming of age and dealing with a pleathora of issues, i.e friendship, greed, tradgedy and redemption to name a few. The movie is weaved together with multiple storylines running concurrently and is layered with lots of action, humor, drama and thought-provoking points of view on various aspects of Jamaican culture, family, friendship and choice.

Q: Is this a Jamaican movie or a movie with Jamaicans?
Yes it is a Jamaican movie with REAL Jamaicans

Q: Why would I go see the movie?
I don’t know what triggers anybody to go see any movie, ultimately I guess good marketing, promotions which includes an exciting trailer to create hype and excitement and the perennial word of mouth helps, but I would hope that what would make you go to see this movie is that one as a Jamaican you wish to extend your support to your fellow countryman and two you enjoy watching good movies which Bashment is.

Q: Is the movie based on a true story?
The movie is not based on a true story but certain things that happen in the film were drafted from things that happened to people that we knew. As a writer of fiction you often write from your experiences and reencode some of the actual events and things that you or others you know or may not know into your story. Bashment was a quilt of things that happened, things that could happen and things that are happening, but in no way is it a biopic.

Q: How did you fund the movie?
The movie was funded independently with limited funds and alot of creativity.

Q: Your first film, Foreign, is an underground hit in the Caribbean community.
Tell us about this film?
Foreign was my first film, I also wrote that with Mykal Fax. We had no budget, zilch, zero! I shot it with a very small video camera I owned and Directed it with very little experience, but as the principal writer I knew it would resonate with people in the Caribbean Community. My focus with all of my films is always on the story first, because I believe it is the most important thing in making a movie. Yes having the right equipment and people are important, but if you have the best cameras and the best crew and a
terrible story then that’s all people will remember, so from day one I told my partner, “We may not have the money, but I know how to write a good story and they won’t be able to beat on that.

Foreign is a comedy about a Jamaican man (Hookworm) who comes to America in hopes of pursuing a better life, but when he finds himself moneyless and
overwhlemed with boredom, he is naively lured into the promise of a quick money-making scheme that throws his whole world out of whack.

Q: Are there plans to re-edit and release this film?
Yes! But we’re not in any rush to do it now.

Q: How did you become interested in making movie
Before I was making movies I was touring the world as a performance poet. After my longest and most ardous tour (Mind Magician Int’l Poetry Tour) in 2001, where I performed in over 7 countries in Europe, atleast 30 cities in the United States, visite Canada and the Caribbean I was spent. I also was looking for a new challenge as a writer and at first I planned to write a novel, but after a friend of mine asked me to read a screenplay he had written which he subsequently turned into a novel I was so intrigued that I went out and bought a few books on writing screenplays and I began downloading scripts of my favorite movies and movies that I was familiar with. I learned the format and began sketching out a few of my ideas. However, during this time I also had unequivocally decided that my pursuit in making movies would revolve around being a writer and a Director anything else would be secondary, so I began to study the master: Spike Lee, Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen Spielsburg, The Wachowski Brothers, The Hugh Brothers Michael Mann, Brian Depalma, Martin Scorcese, James Cameron, Perry Henzel, and a much longer list of others. I read and read and read about the industry, I also tried to position myself around actual filmmakers where I picked up a few things here and there. Then one fortuitous afternoon I ran into Mykal and who I hadn’t seen for years and we reconnected. A few weeks later we came up with the idea foreign and wrote the script, casted it, shot it and before we knew it, it was bootlegged and being sold all over the US.

Q: Any plans for a new movie?
Yes I’ve already written my next film. It’s tentatively titled: American Boops, a romantic comedy that will be shot part in America and part in Jamaica. Right now I am trying to find investors to help produce it. Hopefully everything will fall into place and I’ll begin principal photography in Spring 2008.

Q: Is the movie entered in any festivals?
Yes Bashment is entered into a few festivals (Toronto, Miami and godwilling Sundance).

Q: Are you going to Jamaica film festival Firefly this year?
Yes

Q: How difficult was it to film a low budget film in New York with no funds to
block areas?
Well it’s difficult because you can’t control the traffic rumbling by, the people walking by and staring into the camera, the annoying hammering, or humming of streetworkers, buses, trucks, etc. No to mention if you have a scene where you are using a blank replica gun, it can be extremely frustrating to do what you want done the right way, but it’s part of the growing pains, so I take it in strides.

Q: What was your biggest challenge making the film?
Not having a real budget.

Q: What you want the audiences to say after leaving the movie?
That the story was good, it held their attention and hopefully that they can’t wait to see it again.

Q: Who are the filmmakers do you admire?
Spike Lee, Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen Spielsburg, The Wachowski Brothers, The Hugh Brothers Michael Mann, Brian Depalma, Martin Scorcese, James Cameron,
Perry Henzel

Q: Are you striving to be like any of these filmmakers?
I’m striving to be the best Director Tehut-Nine can be, I study the best to learn from them and apply what I’ve learned within my vision and creative
approach to visually tell the story. My aim is not to be the next Spike Lee, or the next (fill the blank) so and so. I am Steve “Tehut-Nine” McAlpin and
if I’m striving to do anything like the filmmakers I admire it is to make great, lasting films.

Q: What Jamaican movies are your favorites?

The Harder They Come, Smile Orange, Shottas.

Q: What are your other favorite movies?
The Network, Sunset Blvd, Rope, Citizen Cane, The Matrix 1 & 2, Irreversible, Jungle Fever, Rosewood, Scarface, Goodfellas, Godfather (all
of them), Heat, Menace 2 Society, Cinderella Man, I just love good movies that are well written and well acted.

Q: Where in Jamaica are you from?
Portmore (Big ups to Milton Road)

Q: How long have you lived in New York
I have been in New York since 1989.

Q: Any final thought or comments for visitors to Jamaicans.com
Keep supporting us at SunRASon Films, go see Bashment when it arrives in theaters in Jamaica October 24, 2007. To those in the states if you are promoter or know a promoter you can contact me at [email protected] or (917)531-5704 to set up a screening in your city. My website is www.sunrason.com and my myspace page is myspace.com/tehutnine. Check out the trailer for Bashment at www.sunrason.com/open.html

Respect and God bless Jamaica and Jamaicans wherever we are. One love

About the author

Xavier Murphy