V7: You won the Visionary Award at the first Visions festival with Bedford Park Boulevard (2010), and now you’re coming back seven years later as our keynote speaker. Can you give us a brief summary of what you’ve done in that period? What happened post-Visions?
FT: I attended Visions and won the Visionary Award in 2011 with my senior film at NYU. I got to graduate with Bedford having done the festival circuit, and after Bedford I really wanted to make another short film because I think you’re always worried that your success was a fluke or an exception. So I made another short called The Third One This Week, which had a similar trajectory. I went to London to work on my Master’s degree, and after a few other shorts that made the festival circuit I finally got around to writing King Jack. We went to Tribeca with it and it gave me the impetus to move to LA and really dive into film as a career."
V7: How exactly did King Jack come about? How’d you get the ball rolling?
While I was in London working on my MA in screenwriting, a few friends and I made a few other shorts and I tried writing a couple of features that never saw the light of day. With King Jack we sent it to the Sundance Producing Lab and they actually took us under their wing and became an instrumental part of the film. Sundance allowed us to get in touch with our casting director Amy Kaufman, who was like our Yale -- we never thought she would agree to work with us, but she read the script and fell in love with it. As a young filmmaker I was so lucky to have someone with such experience and such an eye for talent. She really made it all come together.
V7: What was it like working with such young actors?
FT: We knew that King Jack had to feature kids because, at its core, the film is about growing up and learning how to care about someone more than you care about yourself. Working with young teenagers is exciting because for the most part they have a sense of maturity and self-awareness, and if you really dig, you can see these kids as incredibly talented individuals in the earliest part of their career. As a director it was so exhilarating to work with that prospect and perspective in mind.
V7: What advice can you give to young filmmakers?
FT: It’s difficult to follow a creative passion because you’re so heavily saddled with a balance of self-belief and self-doubt. You have to know when to push against criticism but also when to be honest with yourself. Know that an artistic life is chaotic but when you realize that everyone is trying to balance these two ideas all the time, things get a lot less intimidating. Don’t focus on where you want to be in six or ten years -- just focus on the story you need to tell.
V7: Gotta ask: What’s your favorite film ever?
FT: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Interested in more Q&A with our keynote speaker? Attend the King Jack screening on March 30th at 5:00PM in King Hall and Visions Film Festival & Conference on March 31st to hear Felix Thompson as our Keynote Speaker!