TAMARA BASS DIRECTS TV ONE’S ORIGINAL FILM DON’T WASTE YOUR PRETTY STARRING KERI HILSON
Tamara Bass, (Director, Producer, Writer, Actor) just wrapped directing her second film, Don’t Waste Your Pretty, set to premiere on TV One on February 28th. The film is inspired by the book of the same name. “Don’t Waste Your Pretty” follows a group of tightly knit friends as they sort out their turbulent life issues and love lives – always turning to one another to figure out their next move when jobs, romance, or family interactions prove more complicated than they had ever anticipated. The film is based on the eponymous novel penned by award-winning author and media personality Demetria L. Lucas. The cast of Don’t Waste Your Pretty includes Keri Hilson (“Think Like A Man,” “Almost Christmas”), Redaric Williams (“The Yard,” “The Young And The Restless”), Deborah Joy Winans(“Greenleaf”), Jasmine Burke (“Saints & Sinners”), Kaye Singleton (“American Soul”) and Rainey Branch (“Being Mary Jane,” “Grey’s Anatomy”).
Tamara’s directorial debut, If Not Now, When?, is in theaters now and streaming on demand. She also stars in the film, she wrote the screenplay, co-directed, and co-produced the film with fellow star and close friend of hers Meagan Good. Bass and Good made epic cinematic history with the project because this film marks the first time two Black women have co-directed a feature film that one of them wrote, and both of them produced and starred in. If Not Now, When? premiered at the American Black Film Festival, and was nominated for the Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature, Best Screenplay, and Best Director.
Hustle and Soul Magazine got an exclusive interview with Tamara Bass.
Tammy Reese: How did you get involved with directing the TV One original film Don’t Waste Your Pretty?
Tamara Bass: I met the guys at Swirl Films many years ago when I did a Christmas movie with them. When this particular opportunity presented itself I told them that I wanted to direct.
I was told that I would be brought in as a director as soon as they get the film for me to direct. They remembered me and brought me in. I then put together my pitch and here we are.
Tammy Reese: From screening the film I could appreciate the representation of Black women from the LGBTQ community being represented, as well as Black male positivity, the displayed support of friendship circles, and more.
What would you like for the audience to take away from the film?
Tamara Bass: All of those things, and I want them to feel seen, or that themselves and their friend group is represented. We have a variety of women’s body shapes, and complexions come to the forefront.
I want little girls who eventually see this film to see themselves and their stories in it as well. With this film, we are really giving what our lives represent.
Tammy Reese: What was the experience for you working with and directing the cast?
Tamara Bass: We had a ball filming and we laughed about 90 percent of the time. As soon as I would call cut we would be laughing.
Keri was precast when I got attached to the film. We all just knew we were going to love her and that she was going to be a sweetheart which she was.
With Deborah Joy, I actually got to pitch her and win the pitch. I pitched Deborah based on her stellar work on Greenleaf, but I didn’t know her personally. All I knew was that she’s a Winans and that I was scared because they are churchy, and I curse like a sailor.
Within the first three minutes of our first zoom meeting, she and I started laughing about something and eight months later we literally have not stopped laughing.
We all just got along so well. When I had to slip into director mode to make sure that we were getting what we needed, we had such a great foundation outside of that which made directing the film so easy.
The cast was receptive to my direction. I think because I’m an actor first, actor to actor, I know their language and how to speak to them.
Each cast member has different levels of training as well. Deborah has an MFA from Moscow Art Theatre School, Keri came into it through music, Redaric is trained and started on soaps. My acting training allowed me to know how to talk to each of them to get what I needed as their director.
We still call or text each other and laugh about anything. It was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.
Tammy Reese: How was the process for you transitioning from an actor to a director?
Tamara Bass: The transition is relatively easy because I have not given up being an actor. With the film If Not Now, When? I got to direct myself alongside Meagan while flexing those acting muscles.
I went to film school so adding directing into my repertoire was a seamless transition for me. Even though I went to film school with a writing concentration, we were made to take directing and editing classes to get a well-rounded picture for when we would write a story.
Also, I have a wealth of mentors that I can call on at any moment if I don’t understand something and they could break it all down for me.
I’m finding that I know a lot more than I give myself credit for and a lot of it is also instinct.
Tammy Reese: You and Megan made history with If Not Now, When? As Black women producers, directors, actresses, and Tamara you wrote the film.
How did you both come together to collaborate on the project?
Tamara Bass: We met when we were teenagers, we’ve been in each other’s lives, and have known each other for almost 24 years. Our friendship evolved into a sisterhood.
We’ve spent years trying to get another movie made and then I pivoted and picked this film up. I wrote the first draft years ago and did what is called a page-one rewrite. I sent it to her so that we could try it for our company debut. She agreed and we hit the pavement running.
First, we were attached to direct the film, and then we had another director attached. That director ended up having scheduling conflicts so we went back to being the directors.
We heard the word “no” so many times. We heard no from different studios saying that the writing is great but no one wants to see a drama with black women, or they were not making these kinds of movies anymore and asking for us to bring them comedies.
We kept sticking to our guns and said no because we knew that there was an audience for this movie. We knew that if we just got the project out there the right people and who it’s for it will touch.
We started with Indiegogo and tried that. We made a little bit of money from it which allowed us to keep going and try to get the funding. Then we had this amazing young man Victor Oladipo come in and say yes!
When we pitched the film to Victor, he stopped us mid-pitch and told us that we had him at black women, so whatever we needed for the film he wanted to help. He let us know that he was here to support and he did. He put his money where his mouth was and funded our whole film.
We got to make history because we got to make our film on our own terms the way we wanted to. Those that love it, love it and those who don’t that’s ok you know because everything is not for everyone.
It was important to me as a moviegoer because I don’t get to see these kinds of stories that are very representational of our lives and our experiences as black women. I want to see something that reflects the conversations that I am having during a girl’s night, or during my darkest moments. I want to show the world what it’s like in my sisterhood and what we really talk about.
We deal with the same issues that everyone else deals with. I want to normalize our experiences and the response to the film has been amazing. When we started with the festival run we had not only black women coming up to us but also white women and older white couples too saying how this movie has to be seen.
We did it! Someone brought the film and now it’s out there for the world to see.
Tammy Reese: Please tell us about the award nominations at the American Black Film Festival?
Tamara Bass: Yes! It was our first film festival and we were up for every award that was available to us. We were one of two films that had that distinction of being nominated in every category.
It felt good and it still feels good now when people are commenting on my social media saying thank you to me for the movie, and that they loved it or needed it.
That is who I know we made it for. We made the film for the people who see themselves.
Tammy Reese: I understand that you have ties to my hometown of Syracuse, New York?
Tamara Bass: Yes, I’m from Syracuse! I was born and raised there. I left when I was 17 because it’s cold as hell.
Half of my family is still there. I graduated from Nottingham High School and then moved to Los Angeles to go to college.
Tammy Reese: It’s been 20 years since the film Baby Boy released in which you played the role of Peanut alongside Taraji P. Henson and Tyrese.
Why do you think the film has remained a classic and cultural favorite to this day?
Tamara Bass: People still come up to me and call me Peanut. Sway who is like my big brother, him and his two co-hosts Heather B and Kelly still call me that too. It’s crazy and so funny!
I think that John Singleton had a way of telling those stories that touched that audience. Just like no one can do Black Brooklyn like Spike Lee, no one can do South Central Los Angeles like John Singleton. Even if you’re not from South Central, but you have a similar walk of life, John speaks to you in a way that no other filmmaker was able to. The same goes for Spike he speaks to you like a New Yorker, like a Brooklynite. He gets us like nobody else gets us.
As more generations find Baby Boy and they are still having the same reaction, it’s never going to go away. People are always telling me that my movie is on BET or VH1, I be like of course it is, it runs like all the time.
I think that is because, with classic movies, the new generations are constantly finding it. Just like the classic TV shows. My 11-year-old binge-watched Sister, Sister because it’s on Netflix and a whole new audience is finding it. So that is what’s also happening with Baby Boy, a new audience is being exposed to it.
Tammy Reese: What’s next for you?
Tamara Bass: Since Don’t Waste Your Pretty, Deborah Joy and I discovered how well we work together, we get along, and really like each other. We’re currently pitching a TV show that will star both of us so we are making our rounds on that.
Also, I wrote and am Executive Producer on a film for Lifetime that she is starring in which is coming out around April.
Tammy Reese: That’s amazing! Yes! Congratulations!
Tamara Bass: Thank you! That was the first time where someone hired me to write something and I turned it in and I was able to have a voice in the process. When I turned it in the Executive loved it which was great because I wrote it for a specific actor which was Deborah Joy Winans. Three weeks later, Deborah and I were hicking and she got the offer for my movie.
That is the way that it should work. We have to look out for each other. If you have a voice in the process it’s our duty to advocate for those who don’t have one.
Tammy Reese: What words of advice would give to anyone who aspires to follow your career path?
Tamara Bass: Just keep going because you’re going to hear a lot of no’s. I hear no way more than I hear yes. Every no you hear just gets you back up because it’s moving you closer and closer to your yes.
Also, remember that it only takes one yes to change the trajectory of your career. If this is what you believe that God has called you to do then don’t let anybody stand in your way.
Keep up-to-date with Tamara and her outstanding career journey by connecting on Instagram @mizztamarabass.