Tay (Janese Taylor) and Thuc Doan Nguyen are “Tn’T Dynamite” or Hollywood’s #BlackPowerYellowPeril screenwriting duo who’ve upped the game on a New Orleans set feature horror comedy called The Stroke After Midnight that follows a Voodoo Priestess, whose younger sister is murdered by the city’s notorious serial killers. The Priestess uses her powers to bring her sister back to life, in order to take revenge upon the men who have terrorized their city, racing against the clock and risking her own life to do so. This feature has a grindhouse feel and is heavily influenced by Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. “She’s every woman, it’s all in her” - Thanks, Chaka Khan!
Tay and Thuc met on Twitter and instantly hit it off and kept in touch. Both women are from the south and have roots in the state of North Carolina. Tay lives in Charlotte and Thuc grew up in Kinston (a small town in the Eastern part of the state) and then in Raleigh.
Tn’T feel fortunate to have their wonderful mentors from #StartWith8Hollywood (a free diversity and inclusion program that was founded by Thuc and run with partners WOCunite.org, that matches Women of Color with entertainment industry experts). The mentors Tay and Thuc have for guidance include Producer Rebecca Cutter, Bea Sequeira of Blumhouse, Win Rosenfeld from Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, Emmy winner Javier Grillo-Marxauch (Lost, The Dark Crystal) and more.
Tay’s specialty is horror and science fiction. She’s known to dabble in comedy and romantic comedy if the idea is right. Her script MANTIS advanced to the Austin Film Festival’s second round and is on Coverly’s The Red List, also Semifinalist in The San Francisco International Screenplay Contest.
Tay has been approached by Buffalo 8, a full-service film and media company to help as a script doctor to punch up screenplays they have on their roster- on the tv and feature side. She is currently working on her own personal horror feature called To The Bone, under suspicion for the death of her husband and daughter, a housewife takes it upon herself to protect her youngest son against a creature she once thought was town folklore. Next up for Tay is tackling an idea she has for a romantic comedy with Pedro Pascal and Tracee Ellis Ross in mind to play the leads.
Thuc writes in various genres, with horror having dominated the last year. She also enjoys writing comedies and even historical dramas. She’s written a biopic of multi-ethnic Woman of Color protest leader Lucy Parsons that is #1 on this Indiewire List. Thuc’s feature called Scent of the Delta was in Round 2 of The Sundance Film Institute Labs and is about Vietnamese-American women in New Orleans.
Thuc finds that Tay really helps with making sure their screenplay, A Stroke After Midnight is balanced, even adding in more Asian male characters. Together they made sure that Black people and Vietnamese-Americans in New Orleans are represented.
As for writing techniques, Tay and Thuc take turns doing passes on their script until they’re both happy with a stopping point. Issues they improved on the story are increasing the number of diverse characters, adding more action sequences and reinforcing the relationship between the two sister lead characters.
The biggest challenge of updating the screenplay was making sure there was a signature NOLA vibe throughout the story and to make sure the Voodoo religion that is a prominent part of the story is respected. Many Voodoo practitioners will tell you “what Hollywood does wrong.” Tay and Thuc try to avoid tropes and stereotypes.
For Tay, the best reward of writing a story like this together is working with someone of Thuc’s talent and creative skills which inspired her to level up. For Thuc, working with Tay is a dream, “Not only is Tay just a stellar human being, she has some amazing comedy and action chops.”
The pandemic provided more time for the two women to make these rewrites of The Stroke After Midnight possible. Thuc says, “Even if we were lucky enough to hang out in the same town every week, I think we would still write this way, but maybe we’d be able to have better in-person sugar-highs to fuel some joint dialogue. That can happen for projects together in the future. We just know how to make things really easy for each other.” Tay is Thuc’s first writing partner ever. As a solo writer, Thuc enlisted Tay because of the trust that was already between the two as friends. Tay reminds Thuc that, “We kept in communication about the changes to the stories and gave ourselves deadlines to meet and stuck to those deadlines.”
Overall, the through-line of The Stroke After Midnight is: women can make all kinds of things happen for one another if they are intersectional and stand-up for each other, that an injury to one is an injury to all and that we must rise together. Collective power is a wonderful thing and like the sisters in the story, Tay and Thuc are there for each other and empower one another.