When TT the Artist started working on “Dark City Beneath the Beat” in 2011 ― an hourlong musical documentary highlighting the Baltimore club music and dance culture featuring city artists — there were times she didn’t think the project was going to happen because she didn’t have enough money.
“There were years that went by where I couldn’t even figure out what the next step was, but through grants, I was able to pick up the pieces up and really have the budgets and means to actually create the film,” she said.
Little did she know her musical — which was funded in part by grants from Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund at Johns Hopkins and Rubys Artist Grant by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation ― was going to hit the big stage 10 years later. “Dark City” will premiere April 15 on Netflix.
When people think of Baltimore, they think of trauma, drugs and violence, TT the Artist said. She wants the documentary, filmed in the city, to change people’s perception.
In addition to TT the Artist, who served as the director, editor and executive producer, it was produced by Issa Rae, creator of the HBO show “Insecure,” Deniese Davis, co-executive producer of “Insecure” and Rose DiFerdinando.
Mighty Mark served as music producer of the documentary. The soundtrack — which will be promoted by Rae’s record label, Raedio — has 18 songs featuring DJ AngelBaby, DJ Class, Michael J.R., Kariz Marcel, Eze Jackson, among others.
“Dark City” shows a different narrative of Baltimore, said Davis, adding that it opens up a conversation about what should be done to provide opportunities for the next generation in the city.
“[Dark City] really changed my trajectory to make me want to say, ‘Why are these issues there?’ I hope that people see this documentary and want to figure out how do we bring more arts programs to the city’” Davis said. “How do we support these talents in the city and allow them to thrive and feel like that they don’t necessarily need to leave home to be successful, but they can actually build their own community there?”
Born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, TT the Artist is a 2006 graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Fine Arts program. She became a part of the Baltimore community while attending college and then grew into an artist in her own right as she performed in the area, she said.
Since moving to Los Angeles three years ago, she said things have been going in the right direction. She’s managed by Color Creative, a company founded by Rae and Davis.
In addition, she’s been selected by Powderkeg: Fuse, an incubator for women directors, to write and direct a short film. Powderkeg will fund and produce the project. Production would start sometimes this year. She declined to discuss details citing the early nature of the project.
Growing up, she didn’t always know she was going to produce films because she was more into music, she said.
“I wanted to be a rapper. That’s it, and then I went to art school,” TT the Artist said. “I thought I wanted to be an artist, but then music kind of walked me into the world of directing because I had to do my own music videos, and then I started directing videos for local artists.”
“Dark City” was still in production when Davis watched it, and said she was intrigued by the first few clips. She, along with Rae, later helped produce the project.
DiFerdinando, who was born and raised in Howard County, served as executive producer and stylist. She said she’s happy that Netflix picked the film that celebrates Baltimore club and dance culture, which is often overshadowed despite its contributions to the music industry.
“I just thought the world so oftentimes thinks about Baltimore and immediately thinks about violence, drugs and murder,” she said. “To have a platform like Netflix that is just so prevalent in influencing mainstream media through the stories they decide to share is just huge. I really hope people come away from the film with a new vision.”