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BUSY WRITER/PRODUCER/DIRECTOR THOMAS MICHAEL JUST CAN’T SLOW DOWN DURING COVID

Back in the early 2000’s, I was privileged to promote the launch of a Toronto-based indie film production company (Five Faces Films). After several projects, the three partners split, going in their individual directions, both career-wise and geographically. Thomas Michael has gone on to successfully write, direct and produce feature films (Hank & Mike and Back Country – pictured below) shot here in Canada while living in Los Angeles where he resides with his wife and 2 children. Over the past several months, he’s been busy creating more feature film scripts and producing the chilling new feature GIRL that stars Bella Thorne, the incomparable Mickey Rourke and Chad Faust who also wrote and directed the film.  thumbnail (2)thumbnail (1) I recently e-chatted with my old friend and asked him what he has been doing to keep busy over the past 6 or 7 months and damn, this man ain’t no couch-potato!

After establishing your own Canadian production company and writing/directing/starring in a number of hilarious off-beat comedy films, you moved to LA approximately ten years ago and have been working as an actor on a number of popular tv series (Transporter, Nikita, The Listener). How was that transition to west coast working actor?  I actually don’t act very much anymore. My focus has shifted mainly to writing, producing and directing. As an actor, I loved appearing in my own films or in those of talented friends, but a lot of the work I was getting was in TV shows. And coming from a place where I was used to being the writer and producer and often the director as well, I found acting in TV to be mostly frustrating and unfulfilling. I just craved being a part of the storytelling process more. As for the west coast thing, I love living in LA, but I (thus far) make all my films in Canada. However, I have a film we’re planning on shooting in Colombia coming up.thumbnail (4)All the while you’ve been guesting on tv series, have you been writing and developing scripts? And if so, can you share any news about upcoming productions?  I never stop writing or developing. I have now written and/or produced 8 feature films, 2 of which I also directed. I also have a number of TV series in development. I can’t help myself. An idea for a film or tv show comes to me, I try and bat it away and tell it that I’m far too busy, but if it won’t leave me alone and keeps haunting me, then I need to exorcise it. And that means writing it. Once I write something, I then put on my producer hat and find a way to get it made.

With GIRL, you took on the mantle of Producer – was it difficult to secure funding for the indie thriller or were you able to secure support from past collaborators?   I’ve always produced. Right from the start when I was 15 and was doing a sketch comedy series for a cable access station in Ottawa. That led to two seasons on the Comedy Network of a show I created and also produced. For GIRL, the project came to me from some past collaborators. It was a terrific script and I loved director, Chad Faust’s vision for it, so I came on board and helped secure some financing and dived in to make it happen.ok1-VTEIChad Faust (pictured below), who appears in the film opposite Bella Thorne, also wrote AND directed the film…is he a friend or industry colleague?  He is now both. But when I first met him, his script was brought to me. I had worked once before with a first-time writer/director on Backcountry. I felt for GIRL, as I did for Backcountry, that I could help support an up-and-coming talent who I believed in.GIRL_Still04 (2)GIRL is a very dark story, a contrast to your hilarious Hank & Mike and Running Mates films. Is this a genre that you’d like to continue exploring?   To the frustration perhaps of the industry, I can’t seem to limit myself to one genre. Comedy is still very near to my heart and I have some comedies I’ve written that are moving forward. But I also love dramas and darker stories. I do believe that adage is true that if you can do comedy you can do drama, but not necessarily the other way around. I have a gritty western we’re making next year as well as a revenge thriller and a coming of age dramedy, and I just wrapped a romantic comedy. If it’s a good story and I feel it needs to be told, genre is the last thing I think about.GIRL_Still11 (2)How was the experience working with award-winning and Oscar-nom’d Mickey Rourke, an exciting but sometimes volatile actor? He has always been a favourite of mine and he’s chosen such diverse film roles – how did he approach his role in GIRL?  I have always loved Mickey’s work and was very excited to watch him work. He’s very mysterious and mercurial. Sometimes it feels like he’s not doing anything at all, and then you watch the dailies and you go “Oh my God! He’s mesmerizing!”. He has an ineffable quality that makes him incredibly captivating. GIRL_Still10 (2)Singer/actress Bella Thorne plays the bad-ass heroine in the film – do you see more women taking the lead in action/crime/horror films as indicative of the more positive audience attitude towards women as “heroes”?  Totally. Backcountry was a big success both critically (holding at 92% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes!) and that film featured a strong female lead. The last film I directed, “Nowhere To Be Found” was about a mother desperately searching for her missing daughter. That film won my lead actress, Kate Drummond, a well-deserved CSA award for Best Lead Performance. I have two sisters, was raised by my mom. I’m married and have a daughter. Starting out in more male-oriented teenage comedy, I take my responsibility as a storyteller very seriously in terms of how women are portrayed on screen. I’ve also been a long and proponent of working with as many women behind the camera as I could. It’s just always seemed obvious to me.GIRL_Still01 (3)You’ve worked with Paolo Mancini (stars as “the mechanic” in GIRL) for many years – as a close friend as well as actor, does he bring a sense of security to you to the set?  Paolo is my long-time writing partner and best friend. We’ve been writing together since we were 13 years old. Writing is such a lonely occupation, so to be able to do it with your best friend is a joy and privilege. Paolo is also a stellar actor and I always know when he’s on set that he’ll not only deliver a great performance, but will also be a stable and solid presence in a sometimes frantic and hectic environment.

Is GIRL currently playing the festival circuit during Covid lock-down? Where can audiences find the film once it goes to general release?  The film has done the rounds of Canadian and American festivals and comes out in theatres across the US on November 20th, and then on VOD and all digital platforms on November 24th in the US and Canada.bannerHow can fans follow your films and production activity? As you well noted, I haven’t updated my website in a little while. I need to get better at that. I guess Facebook is the best way to keep tabs on what I’m up to. I don’t post much, but when I have a project coming out, I make an effort to let people know. I focus on the making and not on the selling. I do need to get better at the selling part. Here are the official social media links for GIRL
https://www.facebook.com/GirlMovie2020/
https://www.instagram.com/girl_the_movie/
https://twitter.com/Girl_The_Movie
Official website: https://screenmediafilms.net/productions/details/3202/Girl

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VIFF NAIDOC Film Festival Poster FINAL SML 2

AUSTRALIA’S FANFORCE TV TO PRESENT 2ND ANNUAL “VIRTUAL INDIGENOUS FILM FESTIVAL” NOV.11-15

Over the past 6 months of Covid quarantine and isolation here in Toronto, I’ve spent a lot of time online getting reacquainted with my homeland of Australia, its film and TV industry, its leading players and cultural ambassadors – yes, as you can already tell, I’m homesick and can’t wait to board a QANTAS jetliner and get my butt back Down Under. My quest for Aussie content took me to Amazon Prime, AcornTV and other streaming platforms, resulting in binge-watching shows like Water Rats, City Homicide, and the feature films and tv series of Mystery Road…the common thread being star Aaron Pedersen (pictured below) who has captured my heart and imagination. Behind-the-scenes-shot.-MYSTERY-ROAD-THE-SERIES.-Aaron-Pedersen.-Photo-John-Platt.36310144-e1526434876208The award-winning indigenous actor has led me to more in-depth research of the state-of-the-art for indigenous filmmakers, writers, directors and I was amazed at the depth of talent currently working in Australia. So why don’t we know about them up here in Canada and the U.S.? Lack of distribution deals? The assumption that other countries wouldn’t understand the specifics of cultural heritage and Aussie politics? I remember back in the 80s, Australia’s “new wave” of filmmaking ignited worldwide interest with such classics as My Brilliant Career, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Gallipoli (pictured below), Man From Snowy River, the int’l commercial hit Crocodile Dundee and TV mini-series such as The Thorn Birds that made Bryan Brown a huge int’l star. But these were all told by and for the “new” Australians, the white population. gallipoliI remember watching Walkabout (1975) featuring a young aboriginal actor, David Gulpilil, but his character sadly ended up rather badly. Where were all the positive cinematic images of indigenous actors and their stories?  Were there any indigenous actors or filmmakers? We never saw them on TV or in the cinemas. I’ve been away from home a long time and as I plan my return as soon as Covid allows, I’m comforted in the knowledge that this previous lack of inclusion is being addressed now thanks to the brilliance of directors such as Ivan Sen, Rachel Perkins, Wayne Blair and Warrick Thornton, and actors like Pedersen, Deborah Mailman, Ernie Dingo, and the now-legendary Gulpilil who remains a great presence on screen. I’m excited to be introduced to even more talent this coming week thanks to the 2nd annual Virtual Indigenous Film Festival and I encourage all film fans to join in online to celebrate the creativity and educational opportunities presented. Here’s all the info you need…..fanforceFANFORCE TV, the new Australian community-based streaming platform presents the second Virtual Indigenous Film Festival from the 11th of November till the 15th of November as part of NAIDOC* Week 2020. The festival will present award-winning Australian Indigenous films followed by live Q&A discussions and audience participation via Live Chat. *National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week events are held across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. [#NAIDOC2020 #AlwaysWasAlwaysWillBe ]

FANFORCE TV is showcasing 5 virtual events including film screenings of In My Own Words, The Song Keepers, The Flood, Wik vs. Queensland and Westwind: Djalu’s Legacy.   The-Song-Keepers-Naidoc-Thumbnail In MY Own Words Westwind-Naidoc-Thumbnail Wik-Vs-Queensland-Naidoc-ThumbnailTickets for the individual virtual screening events are $6.99USD with an all access pass available for $19.99USD. For more information visit:  fanforcetv.com  
There is also an exciting lineup of guest speakers and expert panelists involved throughout the week including filmmakers’ Erica Glynn (In My Own Words), Naina Sen (The Song Keepers), Dean Gibson (Wik Vs Queensland), Victoria Wharfe Mcintyre (The Flood), Ben Strunin (Westwind) and Keri Tamwoy (Mayor of Aurukun). More guests to be announced!mma9255-stills-master_2 mma9288-stills-master_3FANFORCE TV uniquely enables audiences to ask questions and discuss topics in real time with the guest speakers and community leaders via live chat and live streaming features. “We are thrilled to have a special screening of The Flood as part of VIFF and NAIDOC Week” says Victoria Wharfe McIntyre, writer/director/producer of The Flood. “Our film was born from a unique collaboration and tells a highly emotive, provocative and revisionist story about our nation’s history, it is fitting to showcase the film in an equally unique way via Live-streaming with a public discussion. This Q&A will be cracker and we are looking forward to some passionate, hard hitting and insightful comments and questions from the audience.”The-Flood-Naidoc-Thumbnail THE FLOOD IMG_0349The Flood will follow its VIFF NAIDOC Premiere with Cinema screenings across Australia and New Zealand (and hopefully the rest of the world in early 2021). Dates to be announced shortly.

FANFORCE TV acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this page may contain images or names of people who have passed away.

I encourage you all to expand your understanding of Australia – its people, its cultures, its history….and its inspiring Indigenous filmmaking community. naidoc-logo-300

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MEET KIT LANG: CO-WRITER/PRODUCER & STAR OF “BATTLE SCARS” FEATURE FILM COMING SOON TO A SCREENING PLATFORM NEAR YOU!

10+ years ago during the Toronto Int’l Film Festival, I met a young up-and-coming actor, Christopher “Kit” Lang, in the bar of the Four Seasons Hotel where I always set up shop during the festival meeting actors, filmmakers, the money men and media reps from around the world. I remember Kit’s enthusiasm and excitement for being part of the annual schmooze-fest and over the years since then, I’ve watched his career progress through shorts, tv appearances and now as star of a major feature film, Battle Scars.Kit blueThe handsome actor transforms himself to play the war-weary Michael Delucca, a Vietnam vet who’s trying to cope with PTSD amidst a troubled and violent civilian life – checkout the trailer on the website: www.BattleScarsthemovie.com  I had the pleasure of chatting with Kit who shared his thoughts on the film, and taking on co-writing and co-producing roles as well as acting.

Congratulations on your inspired performance as Mike DeLucca in Battle Scars – from what past experiences or influences did you draw on to portray DeLucca’s intense internal struggles?   Thank you so much. In short, for me, research was an absolute must. What do I know about being a combat veteran? I was fortunate to have our director, Sam, a combat veteran himself,  to guide me through that. In particular spending time with Veterans and visiting the Fort Hamilton Veteran’s Hospital was instrumental.Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 2_45_03 PMDid you and your fellow actors have to endure “boot camp” or any other bonding experience in order to make the battle scenes seem authentic? Ha ha…yes we did actually…of sorts. We were driven to upstate New York, led into the woods with very minimal gear (it rained!) and for four days we had to “survive”, build a shelter, go on mock patrols, and various training “war-like” scenarios, do a fire watch every night (taking turns staying awake and alert while the others slept) and so on. It was absolutely a great bonding experience. And it’s amazing how close we all got in such a short period of time.14054901_1079885625399702_8534525803781222453_nYour performance as the PTSD-afflicted Mike may trigger memories for real-life Vets in the audience – any advice how to be on guard when watching the film if a viewer suffers his own PTSD flashbacks or issues? Actually, no I don’t. But you raise an important point and question. I think PTSD is such a misunderstood, invisible disease that it’s not easy to fit neatly into a box. It’s very different for everybody, and I feel truly honored to be a part of telling this story and helping raise awareness of this mental health issue. That being said, the feedback we’ve received from Vets is that this film, if anything, is very therapeutic for them, so stick with it… But if anything was to trigger a PTSD attack, what I can say is having witnessed this myself and it working well: just pause the film, walk away and get some air, then come back to it when you’re ready.107036104_579583282951131_1585574476818428294_nYou also pulled off some sensitive, intimate romantic scenes in the film – what do you enjoy most as an actor, the challenges of a brutal shoot ‘em up scene or the love scenes…and why?  Thank you, I appreciate that. I think any actor will tell you that romantic scenes are the most challenging and difficult. Most of the time you’re having to work with someone you’ve never met before, complete strangers! And then you have to create this believable intimacy. It’s really, really difficult. But it also comes with the territory, just part of the job. I’ve been fortunate to work with fantastic actors and that makes the work so much easier. But action is actually much, much easier to perform and more fun, too! Haa haa14045765_1077570962297835_6578143147299403050_nYou’re also co-writer and co-producer on Battle Scars – what was the most difficult or challenging job and why?  There’s so much to unpack here, but in a sentence, I’d say as a writer: The most difficult part was really nailing the voice and message of PTSD. It took a lot of research and work, as it should, to figure out the best way we could embed it into the story.

As a producer: I’d say the most challenging job for me as a producer was simply producing, period. Shout out to every indie filmmaker out there. It’s a VERY difficult job. And you’re having to constantly troubleshoot. I remember one shoot day for instance – we unfortunately fell behind in our schedule and we were about to lose a whole scene, but we realized we had a second camera, so we decided we could split the crew into two units and get what we needed. Coming up with solutions, that’s the job. And it’s VERY hard to do non-stop, but well worth it! I think. You have to be crazy enough and love movies enough to do this.facebook_1593761671169_6684720952432404925What’s next for actor Kit or writer Kit?I’m working on an English/Spanish horror-romance film shot and set in Mexico. We were set to resume filming but we’re still waiting for Covid to subside down there, hopefully soon!

Thanks, Kit, for sharing your experiences and thoughts on portraying this troubled character. Due to Covid-19 cinema closures, the film will not be enjoying it’s originally planned theatrical release, however, Battle Scars is available for DVD sales from Walmart & Amazon as of July 21st (you can pre-order now via the film’s Facebook page – see link bottom of web home page) and will be available for online viewing/streaming August 4th, 2020.  THANKS FOR SUPPORTING INDIE FILM!

https://battlescarsthemovie.com/

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More film festival fun in Toronto with Nollywood stars

On Wed. Sept. 14, Nollywood filmmaker OMONI OBOLI had her first public screening for her film OKAFOR’S LAW at the Scotiabank Cinemas in downtown Toronto where she was joined onstage by co-star UFUOMA McDERMOTT for an audience Q&A afterwards. 20160914_224701Looking lovely in one of the gorgeous gowns supplied by Gail McInnes of Stylist Box, Omoni fielded numerous questions about her career and meeting the challenges of being a female director in a predominantly man’s world. 20160914_224645 20160914_224703 20160914_224649Ufuoma (above) sported a short sparkly cocktail dress that twinkled brightly on the stage.

Omoni then greeted fans outside the theatre, posing for selfies for nearly an hour!20160914_23063120160914_230858 20160914_23071920160914_231409And so did Ufuoma!20160914_230817Omoni was joined by TIFF/City to City Programming Associate Olena Decock, who also moderated the Q&A session, for a few photos, too.20160914_231857The fabulous Uche Jombo (below) then joined us …20160914_232443….and then once the moviegoers had left the theatre, we decided to have some fun and play!20160914_232726

Tomi Adeoye kicks up her heels

Tomi Adeoye kicks up her heels

20160914_232512The cinema’s cocktail lounge was closed and deserted so our little group took advantage of the cool lighting and views across the city of Toronto.20160914_233722 20160914_233600 20160914_233750 20160914_233900 20160914_234318 20160914_234735My one quick photo opp with Omoni….it’s been fun working with her and her cast during TIFF. This woman is a real pro and I was honoured to be a part of her film fest experience.
20160914_234813We found a lot of cool spots to take pics so every few feet it was a case of “strike a pose”!20160914_235441 20160914_235036 20160914_235323I love this pic of Ufuoma (below)….very moody, very “film noir”.20160914_235501We had waaaay too much fun but fortunately we were all able to sleep in a little in the morning after.  It’s been a blast working with these incredible women from Nigeria’s flourishing film community and I look forward to continuing the relationship once they head home. 20160914_235603 20160914_235606

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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OUT THERE @ TIFF WITH THE FABULOUS MELISSA DIMARCO

And so the dance begins….20150911_133522

20150911_133526The fans are lining up outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel (above) in hopes of spying visiting celebs during the Toronto Int’l Film Festival (TIFF) – the annual high holidays for the movie industry.

Got a great start to my TIFF’ing this year…I got to visit the media hospitality suites in the Hotel Intercontinental on Front St West and my first stop was the www.OutThereWithMelissa.com suite, hosted by the gorgeous, friendly MELISSA DIMARCO (yes, she’s even prettier in person).

Her team of hosts (below) welcomed me to the suite and I had fun with the photo wall….can’t wait to see how “fabulous” they made me look – only hope their Photoshop program was working overtime..LOL!20150911_134618

20150911_134627Downstairs, there was lots of schmoozing going on, as well as tons of nibblies and sponsor drinkies….20150911_134943

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20150911_13501920150911_135023…and more networking opps with industry folks like Dixon and Bruce (below)20150911_135412and I caught these two fellas below mid-chew (sorry)…. LOL20150911_135548Young ACTRA party organizer Sarena Parmar (below right) was working the room like a pro!20150911_135614…and here she is again with Rodger Edralin of Napintas Films (centre) and one of the numerous casting guys (left) in town over the next 10 days.20150911_135634Here are more of Melissa’s great team of room hosts and her official photographer (below right) who looks quite a bit like Chrissy Teigen, don’t you think?20150911_135652

20150911_135700Sadly I left the party a bit too early as I missed fellow countryman and Oscar-winner, Geoffrey Rush (below with Melissa )Geoffrey RushAussie star Rush is famous for The King’s Speech and numerous other films but I will always remember him for his award-winning portrayal of pianist David Helfgott in the movie SHINE which holds a special place in my heart. It’s based in my home town of Perth, Western Australia, and I remember seeing the real David play in the piano bar of the Parmelia Hotel which I frequented after work in the early 70’s (I was under-age to drink booze but kids and dogs were allowed in hotel bars in Oz – civilized or what, eh?). G’day, Geoffrey…if you need any Vegemite or Lamingtons, I got a stash here!

As I left the suites I ran into the adorable and super talented Katie Boland who was making her exit with her hands full of goodie bags. Such a pretty dress!20150911_142502So a really big thanks to Melissa and the Out There with Melissa DiMarco gang, and a special thank you to Caron Nightingale, Director of Sales for APM Canada (one of the suite’s sponsors), who kindly extended the invitation to me.  Check out what APM does here:  http://www.apmmusic.com/  

I’m looking fwd to visiting the ladies of Sirius XM’s What She Said next week so check back for more TIFF news.20150911_141038