Director Tevin Tavares Shares His Vision Behind Season Two of ‘Top Class’


At simply 28-years outdated, award-winning director Tevin Tavares already strikes like a seasoned professional within the movie and leisure trade—Forbes as soon as wrote that he was “poised to comply with within the footsteps’ ‘ of the legendary Ryan Coogler. And but, Tavares’ resume speaks for itself: he’s labored on movies for Nike, co-directed Damian Lillard’s first music video for his single “Dre Grant” and in 2020, he each wrote and directed the animated movie for Springhill Leisure’s “Extra Than A Vote” marketing campaign which featured Stacey Abrams, Dame and LeBron James. Final 12 months, he made his directorial debut with the primary season of ‘UNINTERRUPTED’s Prime Class: The Life and Occasions of the Sierra Canyon Trailblazers’—a docu-series streaming now on IMDb TV that offers an all-access look into the whirlwind of the powerhouse program geared up with highschool basketball stars akin to Bronny James, Amari Bailey and Shy Odom.

‘Prime Class’ is again for a second season and continues to attract again the curtain, revealing how the crew grappled with the pandemic, fame, and the strain of attempting to win their third-straight Southern California regional title.

Telling trustworthy, actual and impactful tales that reveal the human expertise has at all times been essential to Tavares. “On the finish of the day, it’s all about human emotion and feeling. I believe that all of us as people, whether or not you’re Black, white, Mexican, Asian, I believe all of us can really feel a means once we watch one thing [and] expertise one thing. The most important factor that I am going into any shot, rating, coloration choice [and] storyline is how can we create an expertise the place individuals can really feel one thing, whether or not that’s good or dangerous, or motivational, or unhappy. It’s possible you’ll not keep in mind sure scenes and what you watched, however you already know what you felt on the finish of watching it. Who is aware of how that might impression your life transferring ahead—that  may encourage you to go create one thing, [or] go go to your grandma who you haven’t talked to in some years, or simply ship a textual content message to someone who you haven’t seen shortly, saying I really like you.

“These human pillars and people feelings that we face on a each day foundation is one thing that I put in my filmmaking, [and it] turns into relatable. That’s my purpose with any movie that I contact.” 

Tavares first made waves with a brief movie he created that was impressed by Kendrick Lamar’s track “Lust.” He was attending the College of Oregon on the time and had heard the track enjoying in his automotive in the future and immediately was moved: he heard, repeatedly, what a Black man was taking up and having to cope with on a each day foundation. Tavares then hit up his buddy Eugene and requested if he wished to make a movie. 

The highly effective video immediately caught everybody’s consideration, together with retailers like XXL and Complicated. “Individuals truly thought it was the music video for the track,” Tavares says. 

SLAM caught up with Tavares final month to be taught extra about what led him into filmmaking, what it was like working with Dame, and what his imaginative and prescient was when capturing probably the most well-known highschool basketball crew on this planet. 

SLAM: We all know you’ve labored on various completely different tasks earlier than ‘Prime Class,’ however can you are taking us again to once you first began moving into filmmaking and directing?

Tevin Tavares: There was this business referred to as The Ring Maker by Nike, and it was when LeBron [James] had received his first ring. Sarcastically sufficient, I broke my arm my senior 12 months of highschool and I actually didn’t know what I wished to do with my life. I used to be sort of going via a second the place my grades have been sort of so-so [and] I actually know what I wished to do transferring ahead.

Then, I keep in mind I noticed this business [of] LeBron going via trials and tribulations as he obtained his first ring… [When] I noticed, “Simply Do It” in the long run, it made me cry. It impressed me and it made me really feel a sure sort of means. That’s after I was like, ‘Yo, you already know what. I’m about to go to College of Oregon [and[ I’m gonna try to do work for Nike and make commercials. Eventually that led to doing filmmaking. 

And Ryan Coogler. We’re from the same hometown and seeing what he did, going to watch Fruitvale Station, Creed and Black Panther, it’s kind of like you’re watching in the shadows of this big figure. I’m going to theaters that are packed with people like, ‘Oh, man, I gotta go support Ryan Coogler because he’s from Oakland, too.’ You hear those rumblings [and] you see newspaper clippings, like ‘Bay Space Filmmaker is Placing On’—after I noticed that, it simply added gasoline to the fireplace, like, I might try this, too. Happily sufficient that’s what’s occurring. Once I see individuals speak about ‘Prime Class’ within the Bay Space they usually’re like they’re watching it, it’s sort of paying homage to after I was rising up, and I used to be seeing Coogler doing what he’s doing now. 

SLAM: After the “Lust” brief movie dropped, how did you begin working with Dame and different artists? 

TT: My finest buddy, Marcus, had simply hit me up and was like, ‘Yo, Tev, Dame is doing a music video in Oakland and he’s searching for administrators. It’s best to do it.’ And I used to be like, ‘Man, he ain’t going to choose me.’ So, I simply DMed his cousin, Brookfield Duece the Forbes article and he was like, ‘Yo, let’s do it.’ 

I obtained an opportunity to type relationships with Dame from that video, after which from there, the subsequent music video that I did was for Guapa Le for the movie referred to as, “Homeroom.” I set to work with the legendary director, Pete Nicks and with Proximity, Ryan Coogler’s manufacturing firm.

SLAM: What was it wish to see Dame in his musical ingredient? 

TT: He’s a real hometown hero. I believe in all probability certainly one of my most proud moments within the video was when individuals speak so extremely about him coming again. And, once we filmed that there was a second the place he legit was behind a scraper and it was like a parade nearly in a means. It’s him and his cousin, and I actually watched youngsters run outdoors in direction of the scraper to attempt to get on digital camera. It was like a parade in Oakland, in his neighborhood. 

The one factor that I discovered is that Dame might be one of the crucial humblest, all the way down to Earth, actual those who I’ve ever met. He’s at all times down—I keep in mind I used to be like, ‘Dame, I wish to get on prime of this roof for one shot’ and he was like, ‘Yo, let’s do it.’ That’s the factor that was dope about working with him is he’s at all times down for the artwork and once you work with individuals [like that], they’ll do something to make good artwork. Damian Lillard, him being an artist himself and realizing what issues seem like on display, that was what we have been in a position to create. I see that music video as a chunk of artwork.

SLAM: That’s hearth. On that notice, what was your preliminary imaginative and prescient with ‘Prime Class’ and what have been you trying to seize or present individuals going into season two? 

TT: Even relationship again to season one, we wished to seize cinematic rage. Cinematic rage is, you have got these younger youngsters in season one which might be rock stars. Season two wasn’t about cinematic rage, it was about household ties and intimacy. I believe that you just tackle sure themes yearly—our first first 12 months was like gang gang, it was Travis Scott [and] going loopy. [Going into] the second 12 months, I keep in mind writing in my pocket book earlier than each season, what’s the theme? What do I wish to seize? I used to be like, Okay, properly, what’s the theme? What do I wish to seize? Round March I put intimacy and household ties, and “Household Ties” the she track hadn’t even come out but. I used to be nonetheless spooked by that as a result of after I learn it, ‘I used to be like, dang, I wrote household ties?’

I believe that this 12 months, the theme of season two was extra about emotion, not excessive flash dunks and loopy followers and all that. No, it’s about intimacy, emotion and watching these youngsters go from boys to males. It’s about watching a household come collectively via wrestle [and] watching these younger males cope with adversity. However how do they overcome that adversity? It’s about watching these younger Black males work out this world and I believe that’s what we captured in season two.

Compared to season one, it was extra enjoyable, however season two is much less about having enjoyable and extra concerning the classes which might be wanted to change into a person.

SLAM: Have been there any moments whereas filming that stunned you most? 

TT: I might say that the second that I really like probably the most is when Coach Andre says, ‘We reside in a one strike world.’ In episode two he talks about why [he doesn’t] let Amari get away with a lot as a result of he tells them that as a crew, as younger Black males, you reside in a one strike world. 

I keep in mind after I was sitting there doing the interview with him, I requested him what [that] meant and he began crying. He actually stated that might [mean] strolling on the incorrect facet of the block, getting pulled over by the police, simply any little mishap, one strike. This polarizing determine, I watched him as he cried speaking about that [and] it confirmed how a lot love he has for these youngsters. While you watch that, I believe that’s going to be a second that actually makes individuals sit down and be like, Wow, these younger Black males actually do reside in a one strike world. That was in all probability probably the most rewarding expertise, with the ability to interview him and witness him have that comfortability with me, as a younger Black man, and speak to me about that and let his feelings out on digital camera. 

SLAM: With that, how did you get him and the gamers to be weak and open up like on digital camera? 

TT: It’s remedy. Generally individuals don’t ask you these questions. And once you get requested these sure questions, it actually makes you suppose. So there’s moments the place I interviewed Bronny or Shy or Amari and it [was] nearly like a way of like, let me acquire my ideas and really take into consideration how I felt in that sure second. Generally once you let it off your chest, it’s therapeutic. I might ask them a sure query and possibly it’s been on their thoughts for months, they usually’ve been excited about it they usually lastly are in a position to let it out, [like] a way of reduction. 

I believe filmmaking is a way of remedy for myself, an actor [or] may very well be someone who’s a personality in a documentary or a fictional movie. You’re in a position to let loose and categorical feelings that you just maintain again. I believe that’s the great thing about the artwork of it. 


Photographs by Cameron Look.



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