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Filmmaker Spot - Quint Scott

In life, there are the kinds of friends you drift apart from, and there are friends that you can always find your way back to like no time has ever passed. That’s definitely the case for Quint Scott, a fellow SCAD alum that I first met on the set of a short-lived student project. Quint is a filmmaker with a curious mind that has been doing incredible things in the industry – and though he’s clearly just getting started, he was kind enough to sit down with me for June, the month of Pride. Below, Quint and I talk about the films he’s been working on, as well as the films that continue to inspire him, and how he creates work that he feels proud of at the end of the day.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

Lyvie Scott: When did you first fall in love with film?

Quint Scott: I think the first time I fell in love with film was … this may be a generic answer, but it kind of feels like the same thing that a lot of people feel: it’s just the escapism. When I was younger, I was a big bookreader, and that’s how I kind of found all my stories. There came a certain time where I started leaning more towards film and TV, because I was getting the same effect but I was visually seeing it, and learning that there were people who were making these decisions … I kind of just wanted to know, “How do you do that? [How do you] tell these stories and then make such creative decisions, then work together as a team and then just make this magic on screen that everyone’s just sitting in awe of?” So it just started with curiosity, honestly: Just wanting to know how they did it and how I can do the same thing for somebody else.

LS: Who or what are some of your biggest influences in film?

QS: I love Guillermo del Toro and David Fincher. They both play with tropes of suspense and horror. I know del Toro leans a little bit more into like fantasy; the whimsical world – and I know David’s more into serious dramas – I love both of their spaces. I love both of their worlds. I love the type of stories that they tell, that are both dark and a bit twisted and tackle the darker side of humanity. I also … can I even just say horror as a genre?

LS: Absolutely!

QS: I just love playing with the tropes within it. [Fear is] such a universal feeling – I know not everyone loves watching horror movies but, for people who do, there is such an addictive feeling towards it. Even just the way it’s structured, it’s very similar to comedy – so to know that something that can be viewed as so light, and something that’s viewed as so dark, have so much in common with one another, has always been very fascinating to me.

I’ve loved horror movies since I was little. My first experience was like, walking in on my aunt who was maybe like twenty, and she was watching I think Scream or Halloween … maybe both, back to back. But that was my first time seeing horror movies: watching these white-faced, empty-eyed slashers going around killing people – and being like, “I don’t feel like I should watch this! This looks scary! … But I’m intrigued.” And then also just kind of being told I wasn’t allowed to celebrate Halloween growing up. It just caused more of an interest in the holiday for me.

LS: It’s interesting that you mentioned horror because, if I remember, your first film, when we were still at SCAD, it was like an Antebellum-era, witchy kind of horror film.

QS: Yeah, Manifestation! That was my senior thesis. It was essentially a narrative music video, set in the 1860s, on a slave plantation. It was about an enslaved witch who brought her son back to life after he was killed by the plantation master. So 100%, as you can tell from my senior thesis: I loved witches, I love demons, I love ghosts, I love horror … I love all that stuff. Being able to make a story that also, honestly, was just like a kick in the nuts to slave narratives as well. [Laughs] With music, on top of that, [and] making it with good friends, it was like “Yeah, I would love to make stuff like this more often.” I definitely wanna make more things like that.

Quint Scott sits behind-the-scenes of his senior thesis, Manifestation, with his cast.
Art by Lyvie Scott

LS: What do you do in film now?

QS: Professionally, I am an assistant to a filmmaker by the name of JD Dillard. He was my mentor for about a year and then I was working at a production company as an assistant to someone else, and we’d always been in communication. He got this movie; he said “Do you wanna come work on it?” I said “Please, 100%” – and I’ve been working with him for … it’ll be two years in November. I say that my job is essentially The Three R’s: I do reading, runs and research. I love it.

It’s great because I knew him as a friend and as a mentor first, so he gives me the space and time and platform to be able to ask questions if I’m curious about stuff, lets me listen in on meetings and calls … If I want to go make something, he’ll give me the time and space to do it. He is willing to give advice – and he’s just a great boss. He’s a sweetheart, and I love working for him.

Personally, I lean towards directing – but I’m very much at a stage where I wouldn’t say no to any great opportunity that presents itself. [Producing] is kind of what I studied the first three years at SCAD before my senior year, when I decided to direct my own senior thesis. Creative direction is another thing I have a passion in. Because yes: With directing, you get to be involved in a lot of story, in creative decisions … but with creative direction, sometimes it’s just about what looks good. “Let’s just talk about clothes. Let’s talk about colors; let’s talk about sets or lighting. Let’s talk about blocking, and dancers, and makeup” or whatever. I’ve definitely been interested in that world and curious about how I can dip my toes into it. And then I say writing-ish because, based on the writers who I know – I mean, you can also probably advocate for this – sometimes I can’t do it. I definitely try my hardest! But there is a bit of me that’s like “You got ideas, but … I don't know if you’re an actual writer.” I think there are definitely way better writers out there in the world than me.

LS: Honestly, I feel like a lot of writers feel that way. It’s hard. And especially screenwriting. It’s very difficult, because you can have an idea, and an idea is fine. And you can write it in prose – for some people prose is easier than formatting for a script. For me, a lot of what I feel when I’m writing, it’s very visceral. And to say “CUT TO” or like, “INSERT: We’re seeing x, y and z” … it’s not enough. I want to inject my scripts with a mood but I can’t always do that. I’ve gotten so many notes along the lines of “If it can’t be shown on the camera, don’t write it.” It’s frustrating.

QS: Yeah. When those conversations come up – ‘cause I’ve even caught myself, very early in my journey, being like “Oh yeah, if it’s not something you can physically see on the screen, there’s no need to write it because everyone needs to watch what’s happening” – [I realized] that that’s not the case for everything. Sometimes they do want you to add a little bit of spice or flair or personality to where you can kind of write inner dialogue or write a certain feeling that someone had. Just to throw it in there every now and then to show that you’re alive and you have a personality, it’s such a tough balance to be able to do. It is hard to, like you said, just sit down and write “CUT TO,” “INSERT” – but then also give mood and action – but then also give personality – but then also make it entertaining – but then also make sure a person can read it and know how to budget it. It is a tough game to play!

LS: It’s like driving.

QS: [Laughs] Explain.

LS: When I was first learning how to drive, my dad would tell me to do something, and I’d stop doing whatever it was that I’d been doing and mastering before that moment in order to do it. He’d be like, “Go into this other lane.” And while I’m looking in the side mirror, I start to slow down. Or when I’m moving into the next lane, I start to slow down. And it’s like no – you need to accelerate, you need to do the clicker … you need to look and you need to keep looking.

QS: No, that’s real. Comparing all the little nuanced bits that you have to do while driving … that literally applies to writing. That balance of all the things you have to make sure all stay in line so that the story makes sense … that is a good analogy.

LS: At Blossom, this month’s theme is Pride. What does Pride mean to you? And that can be as an artist, as a human being…

QS: I find that question so interesting, because I look at it three different ways. The first one, I’d say, is probably taking ownership and feeling confident within oneself and just owning it. Definitely the second part is just, identifying as a gay man myself – and for all my homos and queers out there – it’s just having that confidence within your sexual identity, within our queer culture in history … and just clearly another excuse to partake in celebratory daydrinking. [Laughs] And I guess my third one is just being, “Well, it is a deadly sin.” And it’s something that you have to be kind of cautious about because you don’t want to be too prideful. Then you kind of lose vision, lose track and lean towards darkness.

Two portraits of Quint Scott, photographed by Mikaela Bernstein
Art by Mikaela Bernstein, Lyvie Scott

LS: Film can be a tough industry to break into, and an even tougher industry to stick it out in. What motivates you to continue pursuing it as a career?

QS: Shit, that comes at such a great time. When we were [talking] on Instagram, I had just gotten out of a semi-dark place – and part of it was about being within the industry. There was a moment where I was really questioning, 1) Do I wanna direct? 2) Do I even wanna stay within the industry, like altogether? And I really did have to sit there and kind of ask myself, like, “Okay, why the fuck do you wanna do this?”

I think my answer kind of came from being able to help other people. I love being able to have conversations with other creatives, even if it’s as simple as just giving them notes on a script to make a story better; notes on an edit or a cut of a project to help improve it; being able to give someone exposure or a platform; get them a job. Honestly, just being able to elevate someone’s experience within the film industry – and being able to just make stuff that I would hope could change someone’s life. No, we don’t save lives within our industry, but we greatly influence them.

I think I was just talking to an actress friend of mine like last week, and I said a comment like, “I don’t know why people take this so seriously, or get so offensive or like mean about things, ‘cause we’re not saving lives.” And she was like, “No, I get you: We’re not like doctors saving lives. But we kind of are in a way – because when a doctor saves a life and they wanna decompress, what are they typically going to do? Go home and watch Netflix.” I was like, “You know what? You’re not wrong!” In a way, yes: We provide that escapism and we can provide somewhat of an education. I think being able to take serious note of that influence, and knowing that there are people who are just putting out bullshit in the world, and knowing that you could actually contribute something positive … why wouldn’t you go into that industry? And we’re already in it anyway. I’m already here, so what am I gonna do? I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t in the film industry.

LS: It really is tough. I used to think that TV and movies weren’t that important – but I literally saw a tweet the other day that was like, “For anyone who thinks that fiction doesn’t influence reality: People think that cats drink milk because of pop culture. But cats are lactose intolerant!”

QS: Interesting! I mean, so are we, but…

LS: [Laughs] Right! But it’s like, think about how many cartoon cats you’ve seen drinking milk. If something is reinforced often enough – like, white protagonists, or the “bury your gays” trope – people are gonna think that that’s the norm, and that’s how it’s supposed to be in real life. And it’s … not so much our responsibility, but also an opportunity to reorient the way that your community is seen on film.

QS: The fact that you say that is so real because … I don’t wanna go as far as to say that kids that go to film school, we kinda leave with this pretentious, snooty thing where we think we’re better than other people … I mean, it kinda happens, but –

LS: Sometimes, yeah!

QS: Yes, sometimes. Some people are far worse than others – and not to say that was us – but there was a lesson that I felt like I had to learn, actually getting into the industry. Just because we’re seeing content that has Black people in it, and it might not be the type of Black content I wanna see us in, or [it might not be] telling the kind of stories that I wanna tell, or elevating us as people … sometimes I have to sit there and be like, “Well, it’s getting made.” Like, 20 years ago, a story like that would never have been made [with] a Black actress as the lead, a Black writer, a Black director, a Black editor, a Black cinematographer. No, it isn’t Moonlight. No, it isn’t If Beale Street Could Talk. But, alright – who cares?

The fact that the stuff is getting made, and it’s able to expose people to perspectives and allow others to work and do things and be seen … I think that’s still gonna be beneficial in the long run. We ain’t no longer playing just slave roles! We are now actually able to play other roles besides just the one maid who comes in and says something funny, or just watches the white people’s children. So thank God that we’re finally able to be in other roles and do other things at this point.

Art by Lyvie Scott

LS: Issues of inclusivity and accountability seem easier to bring up during Pride month – and I feel like that’s because people have started to notice corporations being like…

QS: “Rainbows!”

LS: Yes! And I feel like [people believe that] Hollywood kind of has that [energy] too, just … all year round. Like this pandering energy. Are those issues you’re interested in unpacking or addressing in your work?

QS: Good question. I am in an interesting perspective because, when I first got into the industry, my first job was as an intern at a production company. And our neighbors were literally Time’s Up. So when I finally got into the industry, I was exposed to all of that straight out the gate. It doesn’t feel trendy to me. I can see how it looks like that to Hollywood, but personally, it’s not about, “Oh, just because Hollywood wants to start putting Black females in lead [roles], then it’s trendy” or, “Just because we wanna start actually letting trans people play trans people in films, it’s like a trendy thing.” For me, that was like a minimum. That’s a requirement.

It’s not even about dissecting it in my work; it’s more like it’s in my actions. Am I making sure [that] not only are people of color and queer people in front of the camera, but also are they behind the camera? Who’s in the writer’s room? Who are we letting direct episodes? Who’s giving notes, who’s a consultant, who’s a producer? Are we giving them a chance to learn more about the actual art of filmmaking? Because I think one problem that Hollywood does need to get a little bit better at is just mentorship. I’ve been blessed to be able to have someone who guides me and allows me to ask questions and just watch, because … we can sit up here and learn as much as we want to at SCAD or any other film school and like read books and look at TikToks and YouTube tutorials on how to make a film, but if you’re not actually making a professional film, with professionals who’ve been in the business for decades, there’s just gonna be things that you’re not gonna know. I think we gotta stop gatekeeping.

LS: I was literally thinking that. I feel like the problem with both of those issues is gatekeeping. For so long, it’s been old white men (and even sometimes white women…) perpetuating this standard and keeping other people out, to the point where now, when we actually do get in, people are like, “That’s not normal!”

QS: Yeah, or “We’ve never worked with them!” or like, “They’re not shooting it the way we do it!” Like, alright. Why didn’t you teach them? Why didn’t you guide them? Why didn’t you give them a mentor, like someone to bounce off of, or work with? Why are you setting someone up for failure by just throwing them into the fire? And then when they’re rolling around in the fire, burning their ass off, you just act like, “Oh, well. We gave them a chance!”

LS: “We tried! I guess we shouldn’t hire anymore Blacks!” That’s the energy. It’s sabotage.

QS: It’s a cop-out. Yeah, exactly. So when it comes to my actual work, I feel like I’m not overly cognizant of it – but even this project that I’m working on right now, something I’m personally writing – I kind of went into it like “I … don’t think I want any white people in this.” And it wasn’t to be spiteful, but for the story I was telling, they’re just not necessary. It just isn’t. And that’s sometimes the argument that they used to use, like “Well, Black people weren’t here at this time” or “Why would a Black person be here?”

LS: Or when they’re like “I can only write what I know! Do you really want me to write from a Black experience?” That’s their favorite thing to say. Just put the character in there.

QS: That’s another thing we have to figure out how to debunk. One of the things that – I mean, I love Zendaya for various other reasons than just being a style icon to the gods – but one of the big things that I love is that when she says that she gets roles, she’s like, “Look, don’t give me the Black girl [roles] because I want the dark skin black girls to go get that. Give me the white girl roles.” And that mindset of being like, “I know my privilege of being biracial, being light skinned, being what’s conventionally more palatable to white people. So gimme the white people roles, and I’ll fuckin’ kill ‘em and take all of ‘em.” That’s why we see her in Dune. That’s why we see her in Spider-Man.

I want more light skinned women to have that mindset, and not to be like “white women can’t have roles!” But … [Laughs] being able to give those roles to other people who wouldn’t particularly always have them – and [those roles] not being, at the end of the day, [all] about their identity as a Black woman. Why can’t we let Zazie do it? Why can’t we let Jurnee do it? Why can’t we let Tessa do it?

LS: There’s a rumor that Denzel did that too, towards the beginning of his career. I think he said “Send me everything that Harrison Ford is turning down.”

QS: I think I remember hearing that. I love that energy so much. “Send me the white people shit!”

LS: Yes! Because it’s teaching them that it shouldn’t matter, that it doesn’t have to be specific to race. In fact, sometimes we prefer that.

QS: And we don’t have to be in pain all the time.

Art by Lyvie Scott

LS: Are there any projects that you’re currently working on?

QS: Yes. We are wrapping up post production on a feature film that my lovely boss was the director of called Devotion. It just dropped its trailer, which is just fantastic. It’s a Korean War-era film, and it follows the story of Jesse Brown, who was the first Black naval aviator in a group called the VF-32s. And it’s just about his strength and courage and his journey as a Black aviator – and also his relationship with a fellow aviator by the name of Tom Hudner. It’s based on a true story, and a book called Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice. The film stars Jonathan Majors, Glen Powell –

LS: Two fineeee ass men. When I saw the Vanity Fair first look I screamed.

QS: [Laughs] This is the first feature film that I’ve ever worked on, and it’s a war movie and I am not even a big fan of war movies, but JD – it’s been spectacular and amazing to watch him work. It’s slated to come out in October of this year. I’m really excited.

LS: I wanted to ask, did they film in Savannah?

QS: They did! We filmed from February to April in Savannah, and then we went outside of Atlanta for about a week to wrap up. And it was so great to come back to Savannah; it felt like such a full-circle moment. Going there for school, being from Georgia, going through a lot of things creatively and professionally and personally, and then going to a place where a lot of just kind of emotional trauma has happened before – and to be able to face it again, and be a different person, and be there for a different reason … It was a great experience. I loved it and I enjoyed it so much.

And then personally, I am in post-production on a short that I actually shot right before the pandemic hit. Right before the day we were told to no longer go into the office. The film is called Alex. Our friend Kevin Halloway Harris, he’s in it with another friend of mine, Philicia Saunders. It was just a small personal project of mine that I did where I just wanted to challenge myself to do something dialogue-heavy. So I was like, “I’m just gonna shoot a conversation between two people – I just wanna see how it goes.”

I wasn’t expecting post to take this long, but COVID and [Devotion] coming up, and work and just life in general pushed it along. But I’m hoping that by the end of next month, it’ll be done and we will be bringing it around into festivals and just get it out there to people. And I’m working on outlining a feature that I’m kind of happy about. I’m having a lot of pride and confidence in it now to where it does feel like it would maybe be the first feature I would like to direct – but clearly, if something else comes along, I’m not gonna say no to it. I just wanna make something fun soon, honestly.

LS: I felt that.

To learn more about Devotion, check out Vanity Fair’s First Look at the upcoming film. You can also find Quint on Instagram.

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