Editor’s Note: “The Reel Black List” is our annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity on a daily basis. For the next 29 days, you will be able to celebrate wonderful human beings, like Taheim Bryan with us.
Growing up in Queens during the height of the drug epidemic in the 1980s, Taheim Bryan made a living and gained status in the same way many others who grew up in the the New York City projects did – dealing drugs. Seeking the leadership that his abusive and mostly absent father hadn’t provided, Bryan became captivated by the streets, rising to prominence in the community after his first arrest and trip to notoriously hard prison, Riker’s Island.
It would be the first of many bids, and the aspiring screenwriter would spend much of his late teens and 20s in a cell.
After his last release, Bryan was hired in the mailroom at Loud Records. His reputation in the streets would precede him, and he leveraged relationships he’d made there and in prison, along with hard work and a resolve not to return to his previous activities.
He’d go on to meet some of rap’s biggest influences, including Fat Joe and Ice-T. It was during this time he began writing – for Bryan, it wasn’t fiction. It was life. He knew that he had a knack for storytelling, and there weren’t many production company executives that could tell tales from the trenches the way he could.
With his debut film, Equal Standard, coming to theaters on May 7, and VOD and Blu-Ray on June 1, writer/producer Bryan reflects upon relationships between police officers and the community through a lens unseen – a lens focused on uniting neighborhoods and communities. Equal Standard received the Independent Filmmaker Day award in November 2020.
Let’s meet Taheim
What’s Your Origin Story?
My origin to Equal Standard is based on the current situation of black and brown people around the nation that we still face in America. To be in in the 20th century and still fighting for equality. Still being judged by our color of our skin and not the content of our character.
How did you break into the film industry?
I got into filming to pursue what was not only my passion but my craft as a visionary. I started out working at Loud Records. That was the home to some industries biggest artist. Like, Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, Big Pun etc.
Who were your mentors?
Well, Ice T, Treach of the rap group Naughty by Nature, for their longevity in the film game. Master P and Jay Z for investing in themselves and building an empire.
Sean Diddy Combs for his countless times of reinventing himself and remaining consistent in the game. Tyler Perry, Ron Howard, F. Gary Gray so many people in the game I was and still am influenced by by their body of work.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement was getting it done. Not just talking about it, but making my vision materialize. Getting passed the fear. I feel fear and doubt rob most people of their action. At least for people that look like me. We are subjected to so much adversity by not only the industry but at home and community peer pressure.
So I hope they use me as a staple to show that it IS possible. Tho you may need to work harder than some, the objective is it’s possible. Work harder talk less. Let your work be the first sound that comes out and your voice follow if need be.
How about your biggest disappointment?
I don’t see nothing more disappointing than not trying. I read something the other day and it stuck with me. It stated and I quote, If you’re not willing to sacrifice to achieve what you want, what you want will become the sacrifice. If that makes sense.
How has possessing the superpower of your Blackness helped you?
The superpower of my blackness huh, I guess you answered that for me. My Blackness is a superpower.
What is your kryptonite?
Since Black culture is my superpower, I would say the culture’s Kryptonite would somewhat be the perception that is displayed from the ones other than Black or lack the understanding of Black culture while buying into the culture but feel everything they perceive about the culture is our reality
How did last year’s BLM movements affect you personally?
The BLM movement has always existed it only now has a title and money behind it. I love how it helped shed light on to the issues that has been on top of the list to the ones on the bottom of the list.
Topics like racism and systemic racism geared towards Black and Brown people. Or ones that seem to want to live in their own truth. There is not one temperature that is set for all people to live in. Some like cold, some like hot others like it warm, and that’s fine. The key is to remain morally driven.
Lead with integrity and end in humility. Live in your truth and that truth may not be in sync with the next persons truth and that’s fine as long as it doesn’t have an affect on what one is planning to leave behind for their legacy. Thats why it’s called your truth. Not the truth.
What can the industry do better to promote true inclusion?
Easy. Be more open to it. Stop trying to tell a story about people you may no nothing about. Let black writers write about black people. Not saying white writers can’t do great by writing about people of color. But depending in the issues or message you’re trying to convey can come across offensive.
Nothing is wrong with collaborating or doing the proper due diligence. That research can be done by book or even better by speaking to the actually culture you’re looking to write about.
If you rush what you may see as 100 percent correct. Will turn around and be 100 percent incorrect. And now you missed your mark.
If you’re Batman, who’s Robin?
My pen or computer.
What drives you to create?
Everything relatable. There is always something to write about. Doesn’t mean it will make the cut but things happen everyday. If not you develop one , the mind sometimes makes its own demands with me and I follow it. Ideas come in daily. So as quick as they come in I write them down. Then at times while I’m alone add-ons come to fill in the blanks to something I thought of earlier or scenes take place and I put it together.