SU student’s “Nightfall” short earns spot at film festival

Film fest to premiere SU student’s movie

Tevvon Hines’ suspense movie will debut at the REEL East Texas Film Festival in November.

Syracuse University film graduate student Tevvon Hines stands by a window in his art studio in Smith Hall.
Julia Carden
Syracuse University film graduate student Tevvon Hines in his studio in Smith Hall.

Nightfall, a short suspense film produced by graduate student Tevvon Hines, will be featured in the 2023 REEL East Texas Film Festival in Dallas on November 11. REEL judges selected the film for the College Filmmaker category. The seven-minute short debuted at the Pulling Focus African American Film Festival of the Quad Cities in June.

According to Hines, he has long been interested in storytelling and film, but he didn’t decide to pursue it professionally until college. In 2020, he received a bachelor’s degree in Media Arts from the University of North Texas.

Hines fell in love with the process of filmmaking when creating YouTube videos with his friends. Now a graduate student in the film and media arts department at Syracuse University, he is required to complete one film each academic year.

Nightfall is a survival film that follows two characters who find themselves lost after traveling deep into the woods for an afternoon fishing trip. After frivolous arguments over blame, the older character trips and falls to the ground injured. 

The characters’ relationship and individual strengths are tested as the younger character sets off for help, leaving the older character immobile as the forest becomes dark and the weather worsens. The short film features actors Roger Moore and Parfait Nsubayi. 

“I had the idea in my head of characters getting lost, unable to escape,” Hines explained. “To me, the film is about letting go of pride. I tried to illustrate that through brotherhood.”

The two main characters of the Nightfall film fishing
Tevvon Hines
A still from the film Nightfall featuring actors Parfait Nsubayi and Roger Moore.

When writing the script, he found inspiration from his relationship with his older brother. Hines originally imagined the main characters as brothers, but as the film came together, the relationship on screen grew cloudy.

“Their relationship is kind of ambiguous. And that’s okay because the message still comes through, of one person needing to lean on another,” he said. 

For Hines, the first step of the filmmaking process is the visuals. “I can’t help but start there. I have to see it first,” he said. Hines had a vision early on of a remote setting in the woods. “I wanted to film before the leaves fell off the trees. I just thought it would be beautiful.” 

Filming outdoors in Central New York in the late fall was a “learning experience,” Hines said. Nightfall was filmed near Split Rock in Onondaga County. Scenes of the film that feature heavy rain and snow were not intentional nor planned. 

“The weather changes so quickly in Syracuse. There were times we had to stop filming because it was raining. At some point, we were ‘Let’s just go for it,’” he said. “You have to be adaptable when you’re filming.”

Although the weather presented challenges, the elements ended up contributing to the suspense and overall theme of the film. “The snow adds tension, which I was already trying to create. It makes the situation much more dire. It was kind of a blessing,” he said.

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Tevvon Hines
Tevvon Hines works with his film crew behind the scenes on the set of Nightfall.

He described the filmmaking process as a “team effort.” Hines extended thanks to his team of students who helped him brainstorm, work through the rain and edit the film. “Directing and producing is difficult. You’re in charge of two departments. So, I had to get a lot of help,” he said. He also received advice and guidance from his professors at SU. 

Film program coordinator Alex Mèndez Giner, for example, provided Hines with thoughtful feedback. Hines works closely with Giner as an instructional assistant for several classes, including the Italian Film Studies in Bologna summer abroad program. 

“I think the film is outstanding. It’s visually stunning and beautiful to watch,” Giner said. “It has a unique voice—Tevvon’s voice.”

Staying true to his roots, Hines submitted his film to festivals in proximity to his home state. “I’m from Dallas, so I was submitting to festivals in Texas,” he said. “The festival is close to my Nana’s house.”

Hines received notification of the official selection for the film festival on his way to another movie set staffed with his academic inspirations and classmates. “I got to drive to set and tell everyone who helped me,” he said. “I had a huge smile on my face all day.” 

Currently, Hines is in his third and final year of his Master of Fine Arts degree in Film. After graduation, he plans to continue his career in film. 

“Tevvon has been growing as a filmmaker at a lightspeed,” Giner said. “His evolution is really amazing to watch.”

Hines’ short film, Nightfall, will premiere on November 11 at the Texas Museum of Broadcasting and Communications.