By Amber L. Vernon
A wide grin spread across his face as John Tucker reminisced about how he came to be the award-winning video director he is today.
The key was creating a brand.
Because of his cheerful nature, he became known for his signature smile.
He is known as “Dr. Teeth”.
“They used to call me that in high school when I used to play basketball because I used to smile all the time,” Tucker said. “When I was at [Black Entertainment Television] BET, I was always thinking about how to market myself to get to the next level. John Tucker is such a common name and I wanted something that would make me stand out.”
Tucker graduated from Texas Southern University in 1997 with a bachelor’s in radio and television broadcast technology. Not long after graduation, he landed a job at BET and flew to their headquarters in Washington DC in August 1998.
Over the course of his career, Tucker was nominated for several awards including BET’s Hip Hop Award for Director of the Year in 2001 and Video of the Year Ozone Award in 2008. He won the NAACP Image Award for Best Children’s Programming for “Teen Summit” in 1998.
He has worked with such high profile artists as Ludacris, T.I., and Lil Wayne.
Tucker went from working in news at KHOU-11 in 1994, to entertainment at BET, to senior producer of “Rap City” before he branched off to start his own production company under the now iconic name “Dr. Teeth”.
Outside of producing music videos, Tucker said he is now looking to make the transition into episodic programing.
“With the emergence of ‘Empire’, the networks are open to more black programming,” said Tucker. “I’m a comedy person and ironically Black people get in through comedy. Two of our projects we want to pitch include a politically incorrect animated series and a reality show based on the people who make popcorn.”
Tucker said he went for a fellowship with Disney, but found he did not have enough narratives to show in his line of work. Now he is revisiting a couple of scripts that he had not had time to get into.
Tucker said the plan is to take the short films he is directing to major film festivals under his name to show what “Dr. Teeth” is capable of doing.
In five to ten years, he wants to be making it happen in the world of episodic programming.
“What Lee Daniels is doing, that’s where I see us,” said Tucker. His brown eyes lit up with the vision of his dream. “I see us at the top of the food chain producing programs and having a hit television show.”
Tucker said reinvention is key in this field.
“There’s always reinvention going on in this business whether you’re going from a reporter to a news anchor or reporter to a producer,” said Tucker. “You have to constantly reinvent yourself and maintain a high level of work.”
Walking through the familiar halls in the School of Communication, Tucker said he would not have made it if it had not been for the help of his professors.
“If it wasn’t for professors like Dr. [Louis] Browne and Dr. [Reza] Poudeh I wouldn’t be here,” said Tucker. “Dr. Poudeh gave me two cameras before I was even a student at the School of Communications. He didn’t even know if I was going to return with them, and yet he gave them to a student he didn’t know so he could work on a project he had in his head. If it wasn’t for Dr. Brown pulling me to the side and telling me to pursue film academically, I would be lost. If it wasn’t for Mrs. [Serbino Sandifer-]Walker taking my cover letter and rewriting it, I wouldn’t know the word lauded.”
Tucker laughed and flashed his famous toothy grin. He said because of Walker, lauded is his favorite word.
Tucker said if he could tell TSU students one thing, it would be “don’t bs”.
“You have to work hard,” said Tucker. “Don’t fool yourself. You know you’re ‘bs-ing’ when you’re cutting corners someone else wants and people know when you’re doing it. If you want to be elite, you have to be the best.”