Next Stop: the Big Screen

Award-winning writer, actor, and teacher shows the versatility of journalistic skills in other professions

Long before the short film he wrote and starred in, “Page One,” debuted in film festivals, Tarik Davis was covering games for the Newark Bears baseball team and the New York Liberty basketball team, trying to make a career in sports journalism. He quickly realized he didn’t want to be a journalist and instead wanted to follow his long-time passion—acting.

Unsure of his future plans, Davis took acting classes at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, created an improv group, auditioned, and performed in off-campus plays while completing his journalism degree.

Davis fondly remembers a talk with Steven Miller, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Journalism and Media Studies, who encouraged him to go after his dreams and continue acting.

“I told [Steve] I was interning and performing at Upright Citizens’ Brigade, an improvisational theatre and training center, he said it was great that I was acting and I should keep doing it. That really pushed me to focus on acting once I graduated,” said Davis.

After graduating from Rutgers, Davis moved to Amsterdam, Netherlands to work for Boom Chicago, a professional comedy theater, for three years. There he performed with celebrities, including Seth Meyers, Jordan Peele, and Amber Ruffin.

“It’s a comedy boot camp. You’re performing seven nights a week singing, rapping, sketching, writing, doing improv and it really hones your skills,” said Davis. “We would close every show with improvised rap. When I told my boss I couldn’t rap, he said, ‘Great, here’s the microphone, there’s the audience, go!’ You suck for a good year until one day you don’t suck as much.”

Following his return to the states, Davis appeared in many theatrical productions, national commercial spots, late night television skits, and TV shows—fulfilling his acting dreams.

Davis has not steered away from journalism altogether, however. Along the way he has written several articles, including some travel writing for Tiquets, a four-part series on the popular horror site, The Stakes is High, and an article analyzing Black representation in genre filmmaking on the site, Graveyard Shift Sisters. Davis also has some published work, his essay, “Inside the TARDIS, Outside the Box,” was selected for “Organic Creativity in the Classroom,” a textbook that is meant to teach creative-teaching.

Beyond writing, Davis has incorporated his journalistic teachings in to a company he co-founded last year, Engage: Improv for Life. A workshop that takes journalism, theater, and improv techniques and teaches children and adults how to be effective communicators. Based in Brooklyn, New York, the workshops were first held locally for groups of up to 25 people, but they’ve expanded to workshops held across the country, accommodating schools, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses.

Davis has also spent more than a decade writing a feature script that was turned into six-minute, award-winning, comedic horror short-film entitled “Page One.” It has been accepted into a number of film festivals, including the Cincinnati Horror Con, the Queens International Film Festival, and the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film festival.

“Seeing the project you’ve worked on for 10 years become a reality, with your best friends on set — it doesn’t get better than that,” says Davis.

The film is about a black actor who has taken several roles in horror movies. In every movie, his character is the first one to get killed within the first few minutes. He then finds himself on the set of a real horror movie, but having been ‘killed’ in several different ways allows him to anticipate stereotypical traps he is able to keep himself alive longer than the rest.

“I’m black and I grew up watching horror films and I noticed people of color were always killed off early on. Why are we inclined to believe black lives don’t matter?  So I created a character to deal with this issue,” says Davis. “In this post-‘Get Out’ and ‘Black Panther’ time there seems to be a demand for black content that can both balance genre and the complexities of racial politics.”

Davis hopes that featuring his film in festivals will give him the chance to turn it into a movie and ultimately get it on the big screen.