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. 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.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.Chad 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 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.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. 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.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.How 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
Official website: https://screenmediafilms.net/productions/details/3202/Girl