Sounds of the Summer is an informative and energizing documentary about the amazing musical culture in the DMV area. This documentary brings a impactful message to any artist- compassion, unity and collaboration are so important to being successful. Black Talent had the opportunity to interview Tavis Houze, the director.
Get to know Travis Houze: He is a photographer based in Washington DC with a background in Portraiture and Event style work. Travis began his creative journey in the early 2000s in high school after gaining access to photo and video editing technology that allowed him to create artwork packaging and short documentary films. This interest continued to grow further as Travis continued to focus in on his photography and filmmaking skills as he attended The Art Institute of Washington in Virginia, when he eventually graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts along with 2 Honor’s Awards for his accomplishments while attending.
Travis has continued to progress as lead photographer for several musicians and small business in the Washington DC area and has been able to travel nationally to document their performances. In between time, he has also been recognized and had his work shown in The Howard Theatre in Washington DC, several art galleries throughout the city.
BTT: What inspired you to do a documentary about DMV culture?
TH: As a born and raised DC native, I’ve been surrounded by the musical culture ever since I was about 5 years old. Occasionally, I would hear Go-Go, a genre of music unique to Washington DC’s culture and have fallen in love with the sound ever since. Around 2010, I got invited to photograph friend’s performance at a local showcase and I was able to single handedly witness all the talent in person and how those in attendance responded to it. That experience evolved into many offers to photograph more and more musicians in the area since then, even organizing the projection for a headlining show in the Howard Theatre. As I got older and becoming more aware of how far my reach is now demographically since when I started, I felt it was time to show where my roots began.
BTT: Tell us more about DMV and what so different about it?
TH:The DMV consists of District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia (hence the acronym). What I feel is different about it is like how most major cities have a distinct recognizable genre, the DMV music scene plays around all types of genres. To name a few, it consists of Go-Go, Jazz, R&B, Hip Hop, Rap, Alternative and even Punk music.
BTT: What is the main message of your film? When people watch it – what do you want them to walk away with?
TH: The main message is showing an optimistic but realistic reflection on the status of music within the urban community within the city. I want to encourage those to search for Washington DC talent, but at the same time to not show favoritism to specific artists. My goal was to never think a specific artist in DC is worth your time, but instead there’s a great array to choose from. To put it metaphorically, leading the viewer to the restaurant and them making their decision what satisfy’s their appetite.
BTT: Throughout the documentary the artists speak about unity and collaboration – why do you think that is so important in todays climate?
TH: A complicated side to the DMV is the factor of supporting one another’s hard work. I have gone to showcases in the past and seen acts only really respond to the people they came for, even when the others deliver great performances and music. I know the radio DJ’s have really worked to start using their platforms on the station to expose their listeners to the music they have heard from the locals that deserve the recognition they believe those acts need.
BTT: One of the DJ’s talked about the need for these young artist to be educated, can you speak more about this point.
TH: As the sudden boom of interest for musicians to recognize the music scene in the DMV, so has the recognition of promoters and some jumping into the mainstream without the right information. Unfortunately, given the DMV isn’t traditionally known for the music business, there isn’t enough information or those willing to provide that information to younger independent acts. It becomes harder for them as they try to elevate and move forward, it makes it harder for these acts to maneuver in a professional business manner and making sure those who represent them treat them with the best intentions.
BTT: What do hope this documentary will accomplish globally?
TH: My hope is that it not only establishes myself as a filmmaker but also exposes the local scene in a accessible light. The music from the city is something that takes sometime to adapt to and I wanted something that would be a easy yet faithful way to get a feel for the sense of the culture within the District.
BTT: How can this movement grow and what are next steps to expansion?
TH: Having the right eyes within the cultures direction is the most important thing from my time working within the circuit. Jamal, one of the people I filmed in the documentary said it simply in the last scene, that you can be important without being in front of the camera. To make any movement happen, it’s never just one person leading the charge, and there has to be enough people willing to provide in the leg work.
BTT: What support is needed to help these artists develop their skill sets and their brands?
TH: I think the 2 most important skill sets a artist can use is understanding the business and branding. I chose business because I believe all artists should be able to make a living on their art and I want others to have better way to monetize their work and know how to magnetize every dollar they possibly can. Branding is one I feel that is very important because I learned when starting to create, you want to make sure that you as a artist establish yourself in a consistent tone or visual expectation for any fan or first time viewer to get a sense of what to expect artistically from you.
BTT: Whats next for you? You are also a Photographer as well as a filmmaker- tell us more about that.
TH: I started establishing myself as a portrait photographer, but I have always had interest in creating films. Ever since I was in high school, I pushed myself to learned how to edit videos and be able to take creative risks, and I was able to apply those lessons learned to Sounds of the Summer. During my time in college, I did make the leap to focus more in photography, as I found it more relevant to my interest at the time, and now reawakening my interest in involvement in video now. It has been a tricky tightrope balancing between Filmmaker Travis and Photographer Travis as many wonder which one is the general focus. However, I do my best to be visually consistent in either situation, and it helps allows for me to a diverse range of projects.
BTT: Will there be a Sounds of the Summer 2 or any other film projects?
TH: As of right now, there isn’t any immediate plans for a follow up, however I would be open to a follow up later in the near future with the right people and seeing how the response goes for this film. I have submitted Sounds to a few independent film festivals and fingers crossed I get accepted into one of them soon. I do currently have another music based project entitled “The Rel Carter Culture Tour” where I followed a showcase tour hosted by Roc Nation’s A&R Rel Carter for the first 4 cities including Los Angeles and New York hopefully to be released publicly either by the end of the year or early 2018.
Another hope and dream is in 2018, I would like to step into narrative based work serving as a cinematographer or editor on either a short or feature length film. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for the longest, and I feel now I have the portfolio to backup my abilities in a new endeavor.