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Student Focus: Meet the Up-and-Coming Tarantino of Television

Tai Bassin '15
Tai Bassin ’15 learned that in film you have to take risks and go out on a limb to meet people, because the most influential people are often the most willing to help.

Imagine pitching an original script to 40 HBO executives in a competition against 24 of your peers-and you're the underdog. Tai Bassin '15 not only knows how that feels; he knows how it feels to win.

The summer after his sophomore year, Bassin interned at the HBO office in Santa Monica, Calif. "I was on the post-production side, which provided a great education in the final steps of the filmmaking process," he said.

While his primary duties involved editing and audio mixing older HBO content, he and the other interns also had a creative assignment called Project HBO. Their task was to take on the new show "Hello Ladies" and draft its marketing plan, including an original script, production budget and social media campaign.

"We were essentially playing the part of a creative development executive, which is my dream job," said Bassin.

In Bassin's episode, titled "The Coach," the show's two main male characters hire a dating coach off of Craig's List to prime them for a speed dating event-hilarity ensues.

At the end of the 10-week internship, the interns presented their final projects. Although the majority of interns attended well-known film schools, Bassin won the competition and was given the opportunity to go on set and meet the actors.

"I felt like Davidson was on the map with these bigger schools," he said. "Even though I felt like an underdog, I knew I had worked so much harder just because of how rigorous courses are at Davidson and how much you are pushed to think for yourself."

Passion Becomes Career Path

Bassin knew he wanted to be a writer and English major when he came to Davidson, but he didn't realize that he could seriously pursue TV writing as a career until he took a film and media course with Prof. Maggie McCarthy.

"I saw the different media components and scholarship behind film and enjoyed being able to pause any scene and discuss it knowing that every object is intentionally placed," he explained. "I fell in love with discovering those intricacies, especially in my favorite director Quentin Tarantino's films where he alludes to other directors."

After his first year at Davidson, Bassin landed a summer internship at BBC America in their scheduling and programming department. There he learned how they built their linear programming schedule for cable-determining when to show certain types of movies, which re-runs get the most interest and more. "It was a great way to get an overall grasp on how the cable industry works. I found that at the end of the day, it's all about numbers," he said.

Back at Davidson, Bassin continued to work on his writing and filmmaking. In courses such as "Writing the Sexy Novel" with Prof. Brenda Flanagan, he learned creative writing methods that are applicable to film. He also used an FS 700 camera to produce a mockumentary on campus twins.

With help from his adviser Prof. Randy Nelson, he learned how to write and pitch screenplays. "He was very knowledgeable about the process, and I appreciated that he kept it real with me," Bassin said.

As a junior, following his internship at HBO, Bassin studied abroad in Prague at FAMU, the oldest film school in Europe. There, students chose from two tracks- screenplay writing or film production. Students on opposite tracks were paired together so that they could both make their own films and work on someone else's.

"They gave us nice equipment and just threw us in the field. They showed us things that I could only learn by doing," Bassin said. "It solidified that I was passionate enough about film to do it everyday."

Bassin and the BBC

Bassin returned to BBC America last summer, but this time on the creative side writing and editing trailers for the marketing and promotions team. He even named the show "Hidden Habitats" while sitting in on a meeting in the writers' room.

Upon graduation Bassin plans to return to BBC America as a writer/producer in the promotions department, primarily tasked with helping people come up with music for trailers. In addition, he'll be working with his own freelance company, Bassin Media Group. "I eventually want to be on my own and be like the Quentin Tarantino of television," he said.

He has been working with McCarthy on a show based on the book Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. "It's basically Entourage meets Gossip Girl for sake bombs," Bassin explained. "I've been working on it a lot because the Asian American community is underrepresented in film and television, and we're often forced to play stereotypical roles. I want to give more freedom to Asian roles and give a voice to underrepresented populations."