In the world of filmmaking, Tanner Beard has established himself as an actor, producer, and director, leaving an eternal mark on the industry. His experience growing up in the Lone Star State has shaped his creative journey as a proud Texan. His Texan roots have deeply influenced his artistic development, from attending the Dallas International Film Festival to exploring the historical connections of the city.
I had the pleasure of having a lovely lunch and conversation with Tanner Beard and his team during the Dallas International Film Festival, as we delved into how his upbringing has shaped his approach to filmmaking, the inspirations behind his projects, and the impact he has made in the film industry. Our chat also involved a lot of compelling stories and cheery moments that reveal his creative process and insights into success in the industry!
True Hollywood Talk: How did growing up in Texas influence your creative development and your filmmaking approach?
Tanner Beard: My cousin, Russell Quinn, and I grew up going to Possum Kingdom Lake, which is close to Dallas. The first film festival I ever attended was the Dallas International Film Festival with my first movie, “The Legend of Hell’s Gate: An American Conspiracy”, and now it’s been ten years since then. It’s excellent for us to be back here with something completely different as Dallas has been pretty good to us.
THT: Were there any particular experiences or cultural aspects of the city that inspired you?
Tanner Beard: On Main Street, Doc Holiday used to be a dentist in real life as his building still stands downtown by the Jewel Hotel. His first recorded gunfight was on Main Street in Dallas, and I recreated that in a movie using information from the Dallas Archives. It was a cool tie-in to the city because people always associate Doc Holliday with Tombstone, but not many know he was once a dentist in Dallas. To recreate the scene, we shot it in the town of Granbury, which played Dallas in 1881. We filmed on the town square, which was the same spot where they filmed the new show, 1883 with Tim McGraw that Taylor Sheridan did. So, the Doc Holliday connection is a cool piece of history for Dallas.
THT: You’ve mentioned that you were interested in film from a young age! How did your early experiences with filmmaking in Texas set you on your current career path?
Tanner Beard: I used to play with my parents’ VHS recorder as a child! I would watch a lot of WWF Wrestlemania and owned the wrestling action figures and would make movies by filming them coming out and performing their signature moves. These were just little movies that I made growing up and I would often act in them myself without involving any family members. Eventually, Russell and I starred in one of my films! It’s funny how I graduated from making movies with WrestleMania characters to having a real actor star in them. Eventually, I made a short movie with Russell when he came down to visit me from Texas Tech University while I was still in high school. We shot a movie that was reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s style, and I submitted it to a film festival through Auburn University. To my surprise, I won a scholarship to attend school there! Winning the film festival was the turning point for me, and after that, Russell and I moved to Los Angeles when we were around 20. The scholarship was what really caught people’s attention, especially in our small town in West Texas where no one had ever thought that two kids from there could make it!
THT: Were there any specific mentors or programs that helped you develop your skills?
Tanner Beard: When I saw Brad Champion, I got to experience how a movie worked for the first time, with movie stars in town and how they did takes. It was a big deal for me! Barry Tubb was someone in Texas who made it seem like a reachable dream – if he could do it, we could too. Suzanne Weinert, a Texas filmmaker, was also pivotal in providing direction and help whenever we had questions. She used to work for Julia Roberts and was a good friend of Barry, as well as help me produce “Legend of Hell’s Gate”, which was screened in Dallas.
THT: Congratulations on the release of “Radio Telescope”! In your own words, can you give us a brief overview of the latest short film?
Tanner Beard: Thank you! “Radio Telescope” revolves around an ex-NASA scientist and his son who enter their garage in 1984 to contact aliens. NASA had booted out the scientist for being too ambitious with his research on aliens. The father and son then stumble upon a significant discovery, which leads to unexpected consequences. The story is set just outside of Possum Kingdom and the film is authentic and fluid in terms of character and storytelling. I had been working behind the camera in production and expressed my desire to shoot something. I wrote the script and filmed the movie about a month later after discussing the project with the crew. We hit the short film after a hiatus, and I questioned why I was making it, and it was shortly after COVID-19, and getting back into the swing of things was challenging. I hadn’t written or directed anything in a while, and Russell was working on three movies back to back. But we decided to shoot something anyway!
THT: What inspired you to create this particular project, and what themes or messages did you hope to convey through the story?
Tanner Beard: The story has a sweet quality but also a surprising misdirection in the end. The team was working on a feature film with a similar structure but was aware that achieving this effect in a 15-minute short film does not necessarily guarantee success as a 90-minute movie does. The main goal was to exercise those skills in misdirection and to explore their potential for use in larger projects. One theme of the story is the search for meaning in the universe, which the protagonist, aka. The ex-NASA scientist has devoted his life to. His wife supports him but is concerned about the impact of his obsession on their family. When an alien appears, it seems like a breakthrough, but it ultimately leads to the tragic death of his family. The story illustrates the danger of obsession, which can be all-consuming and destructive.
THT: We believe “Radio Telescope” explores themes of connection and the search for meaning in the universe! How did you approach weaving these potential themes into the story, and what do you hope audiences take away from the film?
Tanner Beard: The whole point was to scare the audience. You think you know the movie will end, but then we pull the rug right under you. The goal was to keep the audience’s attention and then completely shock them.
THT: How does this project fit into your larger artistic vision as a filmmaker?
Tanner Beard: We’re working on several projects at the moment, including a werewolf movie that Russell is also starring in. It takes a left turn during the movie and because we learned a lot from this smaller project, it was an opportunity to work with our friends and put our skills to the test. It was a lot of fun to create a new character that Russell had never played before and write a story that we had never written before. The project allowed us to revisit a style reminiscent of the nineties and late eighties movies, with music that makes you feel like you’re at the movies. We shot on anamorphic lenses, so the film looks like it was made in 1984.
THT: Can you tell us about any recognition the film has received thus far?
Tanner Beard: We have participated in several film festivals overseas, including prestigious ones in London, as well as some online competitions. However, the Dallas International Film Festival is technically our first festival where we are showcasing our work to a live audience. While we have won over 30 awards from various festivals, they were judged solely by a panel without the experience of being viewed in a theater setting. So this marks our first traditional film festival, and we’re excited about how it is being received!
THT: How does it feel to see your work being appreciated by audiences and critics alike?
Tanner Beard: I’m liking it! It’s great. In this business, people can get down on themselves, so it’s nice to receive some recognition. Russell’s performance has been getting a lot of attention, and we’re enjoying the accolades.
THT: You’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible actors and filmmakers throughout your career! Can you discuss some of the projects you’re most proud of and why?
Tanner Beard: I had the amazing opportunity to work on four movies with Terrence Malick, which was a dream come true. Although it feels like it was a long time ago, I remember being young and eager to learn from these talented actors such as Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, and Cate Blanchett. It was a surreal experience being able to attend premieres and afterparties with them, and sometimes I felt like I wasn’t worthy of being there. However, it was a great learning experience that helped me gain more confidence in myself. I am grateful for having had that as part of my education, and I am still trying to produce films with my production company Silver Cell Entertainment, where we are focusing on bringing it back into the fold by attending festivals in Dallas and other places.
THT: You’ve had a very successful career as a producer and director, but there are always setbacks and challenges along the way. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced as an actor, producer, and director on those projects, and how did you overcome them?
Tanner Beard: I think we are still overcoming challenges. Even though we are celebrating this moment, we still hear a lot of “no” in auditions, and it can be pretty difficult to pick yourself up every time. But we are really proud of our work in this film, no matter the size of the role. It is enjoyable to create a movie and have people watch it and celebrate it. Being someone from a small town in Texas in Los Angeles has been a major obstacle, but I made a way for myself by doing it myself. I had to adapt to changes and go with the flow. Maybe it is that Texas mentality to just go and do it! We were brought up to get out there and get something if we wanted it, and that is just what I did.
THT: How have those experiences shaped you as a filmmaker and a person?
Tanner Beard: I try to set an example by being honorable. In Hollywood, many people’s words do not hold much weight, so it is important to ensure that people keep their promises. Fortunately, I have been lucky to find some talented and trustworthy friends in LA and I try to surround myself with people I can rely on and who I run with so that I do not get left behind.