Rabid Nick Refer's interview with Florida Filmmaker Todd Thompson:
RNR: First off, what sparked your interest in becoming a filmmaker? Was there a certain film or director that set you on your course?
[image-1]Todd Thompson (pictured right, on the set of This Man's Life, with Michael Rooker and Bill Cobbs): My aunt and uncle owned the local movie theater in Medina, Ohio, close to where I grew up. I saw all my movies there when I was a kid
and as I got older, I would hang out in the projection booth with Big Charlie and watch him change and re-load the reels. I will never forget the day my dad took me to see Star Wars. It was a matinee screening one rainy Saturday afternoon in February. I was only 7 at the time but I can remember every detail, and I plagued my poor dad for about a year after at the dinner table with one question after another about each and every character and story detail. I was completely fasciated by it.
How did you get started in the Florida filmmaking community? Was it a long struggle to gain experience or was it a smooth endeavor?
I had been making movies since I was about 8 I guess, but after I re-located to Orlando right after graduating from college back in '95, I ran into an old buddy of mine who was working on a TV pilot called The Adventures of Tarzan. He got me on that set as an extra
and the rest, as they say, is history! Extra parts led to featured scenes and featured scenes led to speaking roles. My first was in an FSU thesis film
and then professionally in the series From The Earth to the Moon with Tom Hanks.
I always had a deep desire to write, produce and direct, though, too
and after figuring out that projects that came to Florida (if they came at all) would most of the time already be fully cast and crewed, it got me thinking that maybe I could help make a difference by developing projects from here
create jobs and opportunities for locals and producing good, quality films at the same time.
[image-2]You have had a good deal of experience creating films here in the Sunshine State. What are some of the benefits of filming in Florida?
I think Florida's number one resource is its people. There are incredibly talented people who live and work here in the industry who are not only incredibly creative and at top of their game, but share the same infectious passion for filmmaking as I do. Of course, the locations, resources and infrastructure available here are all great, but it's the people who truly make the difference.
Do you have aspirations to move out to California or another film mecca in your future?
No, although I do realize that filming out of state may be necessary at times if our state legislature doesn't get our film tax incentive programs up to par with other states like Georgia, Louisiana and Michigan. You should see all the big studio projects and episodic television shooting there.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to make films, but currently has no experience or expensive equipment?
Just do it. Technology gets more accessible and affordable each day, which provides an open door for anyone looking for the experience to get involved. Of course, I will always stand by the fact that it always comes down to having a good story, but it's never been easier to arm yourself with the tools necessary to go out and make a film of your own.
Do you have any favorite locations in Florida that you often find yourself filming in?
I have shot in Mt. Dora a couple times
and Orlando and Celebration (where we are based) have also provided some nice backgrounds. The sunshine state offers so much variety, though. I can't say I have a favorite spot. Just whatever works best for the story I am trying to tell.
[image-3]What projects are you currently working on?
I am getting ready to release a short film called Crooked that has been designed to "edutain" kids about the importance of good dental hygiene, brushing and flossing. I also have two faith-based projects in development and have just put the finishing touches on a second draft of a script that I adapted from a novel called The Noticer, by New York Times bestselling author Andy Andrews. A feature film is definitely on the horizon for us. We are just counting down the days
I understand you were a judge this year at the Sunscreen Film Festival. What was that experience like?
It was terrific, and a great opportunity for me to give back for all the incredible hospitality and support the festival has provided me over the years. I have had a film play there at just about every festival since their launch 5 years ago, and it amazes me how much they have grown in such a small period of time. My last project, This Man's Life starring Michael Rooker, Bill Cobbs and Betsy Brantley, won Best Florida Film last year, so it was an honor to be asked to judge that same category and work with John Travolta to award the prize to this year's recipient.
Do you hold open auditions for upcoming actors for your features?
Yes, be sure to sign up for our mailing list (www.starsnorth.com). We send out casting calls whenever we have a project in the works.
The Rabid One would love to get his feet wet in films. Any advice you could give to me and interested readers who want to do the same?
Get involved in as may projects as you can. If you get on out mailing list, we will certainly keep in touch with you. Come out and collaborate with us!
Thank you sir, I truly appreciate your assistance.
For more on Todd Thompson and Stars North, click here for their site.