Filmmaker Q&A: Demetrius Stear

Demetrius Stear

Demetrius Stear is the producer of The Getback, a throwback buddy action-comedy film that premiered exclusively on Tubi on May 19. The film was shot entirely on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

What initially drew you to Mississippi?

I grew up in the South and I love Southern hospitality. I was born in Peoria, Illinois, but I grew up in Kentucky. I was stationed in the U.S. Army at Fort Stewart, Georgia, which is just outside of Savannah. So, I’m pretty familiar with the South.

With this script specifically, I wanted to lean in to that specific quality you can only get with the South as the location. When I originally read the first draft that the writer Chad Law gave to me, I immediately thought, man, this would be great somewhere like Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi. And originally, we were set to go to Georgia. Then my line producer and I took the liberty and went down to Gulfport and Biloxi and scouted, just kind of on a whim. Even though I’ve been all throughout the South my whole life, I’d never been down to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I was like, let’s check it out there. One of the cool things we found is that there’s a few different variations of geography in Mississippi.

We came down there, and I fell in love with it. We met (Mississippi Film Office Gulf Coast Manager) Bill Webb and (location manager) John Read, and they welcomed our entire production crew with open arms and they really helped us on the entire project. Once we got a taste of that area, we were hooked, man. We’re coming back soon for another project.

In what ways did filming here help you tell your story?

One example is we use a lot of bluesy music in the movie, and we kind of leaned into the subculture that’s there around the music, and the blue-collar roots of it. There are some local musicians in the movie. The lead character, Mal Cooper, who’s played by Theo Rossi, he’s a very blue-collar guy. We really tried to lean into that as far as locations. And we also heard one of the big things you guys do down there in October is Cruisin’ the Coast, so there’s a lot of classic car culture too. I wanted to get some older cars into the movie, to give it a classic ‘70s movie feel. I’m a big fan of that retro vibe, movies like Jackie Brown inspired by those revenge-themed action classics.  So we tapped into the local scene and we’ve got a ‘78 Trans Am in the movie, a ‘70s model Cadillac and more.

What was the most surprising thing about filming in Mississippi for you?

Just how friendly the people are. Everybody was so kind, so generous. Bill and John were tremendous. We had a lot of local crew members. Our production designer Julie Toche, her husband Perry and her whole team—just our whole crew was phenomenal for us. They went above and beyond. I don’t know if we would have got the movie done without them. It just really worked out, like a perfect storm. This is a true indie film where everybody had a hand in it. And I have to thank the people at our locations like the Hancock County Correctional Facility and Club 34—the list could go on. We were fortunate to have a lot of people open their arms up and help us.

What was your favorite location that you used and why?

I really liked Snowball’s Service. It’s a local gas station, convenience store and mechanic shop. It’s just so true to Gulfport. He’s got a great story. He’s probably in his eighties, and he grew up there. I’m a big traditionalist kind of guy. So, anytime we can have a place that we can shoot at that is ingrained in the community and everybody knows about that’s always good for the movie, you know what I mean, because it’s real. I got me a T-shirt from Snowball’s, by the way.

What was the most memorable moment for you working on the film?

Ironically, the original title was Sweating Bullets, which we were doing at times, because there was a small hurricane that made landfall in New Orleans. And we got heavy thunderstorms and showers from that. Once it lightnings and thunders, you’re pretty much at the mercy of the weather. There were a couple of times we thought we were going to miss our days. But lo and behold, we leaned into the rain when we shot the movie. The rain you see during one of the scenes, I think it was at Snowball’s actually, it’s real rain, it’s not VFX. When you see the movie, it actually looks really cool. Basically, we took a negative and turned it into a positive.

I think when you have a little luck when you’re shooting a movie, you just know when you’re in for a good project, right? So I was very happy that we were able to get through that. At one point, when the hurricane hit in New Orleans and was coming towards Gulfport, we were shooting in a parking garage. We had to put the cameras up and had to put the entire crew and cast in a hallway of a condominium for like 3 hours until everything calmed down. I’ve never had to deal with a hurricane before while shooting a movie, so that was kind of unique, you know what I mean?

The Getback is premiering exclusively on Tubi, a free streaming service that has been branching out to offer more original programming. How did that come about?

I’ve done a few movies for them. I did a movie a couple of years ago called Lord of the Streets that did really well for their platform. They came to me and said, we want to do four more movies with you and your team. I pitched them this script, as well as Lord of the Streets 2 and a couple other scripts. They really fell in love with the script, as did I, and they gave me the green light to make it. They’ve had a few other original films, but I think this is one of their most anticipated original films for 2023.

I was excited. Once they gave the green light, I got Theo Rossi and Kim Coates—both from Sons of Anarchyand Dermot Mulroney (Scream VI), Shane Paul McGhie (Deputy), Sufe Bradshaw (Veep) and Treach from Naughty by Nature in the cast. They all loved the script and they were excited to be part of the project. We were off and running from there.

I really love what Tubi is doing. They do what’s called a AVOD model, which is advertising video on demand, and it’s been very successful for them. Fox bought them out a few years back and they’ve had a long-term plan. I’m excited to be doing a lot of projects with them, and they’ve instilled a lot of trust in me.