Thyrone Tommy is an award-winning filmmaker whose work has been supported with grants from NBC Universal Canada, Kodak Motion Picture Film, and the Ontario Arts Council. Thyrone’s films have been celebrated internationally at over 30 festivals, including his most recent short, Mariner, which premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and was named one of TIFF Canada's Top Ten shorts of the year. He is currently in development of the feature films To Live and Die in Rexdale and Learn to Swim, the latter of which through Telefilm's Talent to Watch program. Thyrone is an alumnus of TIFF Talent Lab and the Canadian Film Centre's Directors Lab.
Check out our Exclusive Interview with the Trailblazer Below
Q: What Drives you?
When you’re going through the landscape of Canadian film and television, and you don’t see yourself or your stories reflected, you begin to wonder who is going to step up and tell them. Or when you finally do see your stories or your body shown on screen it’s often being crafted by someone who doesn’t look like you. That pushes me a lot. And I’m passionate and obsessed with the craft, so I want to apply as much of it as possible to telling these stories, and showing our faces.
Q: Is there a theme in the work you pick?
My films deal a lot with the fear, pain, strength, and motivations that drive young black men. About showing us in places we exist but are often not shown. That’s the through-line of all my work, and I feel will continue to be going forward.
Q: Was it luck or strategy that helped you find success?
Most of this business is a mixture of luck and hard work it seems. I’m led by my tenacity, but the stars and planets must align for any movie to get made, so the fact I’ve gotten to do it as many times as I have is a blessing.
Q: Who impacted your career the most?
I feel like there’s so many names and people who could be mentioned here. Almost anyone you interact with can become impactful. I have a deep admiration for my producer Alona Metzer, and John Melluso of NBC Universal. They’ve supported me through and through the entire time I’ve been doing this, unconditionally. My mentor Randall Okita has also been such a large influence on me - both as a filmmaker and even more so spiritually.
Q: How did you build the team around you?
I’ve always gravitated towards people who have the same goal as me. I’ve also learned to empathize with the fact that while your goals may be aligned, your processes may be different. We sometimes disagree, and we’re passionate, and from different backgrounds. But we have the exact same goals, so once we listen and empathize with each other, it’s incredible how in sync you become.
Q: Did you ever give up hope that you’d not make it?
Working in this industry isn’t easy, and I often find myself assessing if there’s more fuel left in the tank to move forward. I don’t think I’ve “made it”, but I think as time goes on I’ve begun to appreciate the journey that this passion has taken me on. This year has been a lesson in acceptance and control. There’s a beauty in accepting you don’t have any control sometimes. You just show up and do the work, and allow the rest to fall where it may.
Q: What was your worst experience in this business?
The moments of self-doubt that can sometimes cripple you or take you away from the work.
Q: What was your best
experience in this business?
The small moments when you realize that this thought or feeling you imagined is being felt and imagined by the people around you working on your film, and by the people viewing your film.
Q: Advice to someone just starting out?
Try to figure out your why. Why this story, but also why this format. There are so many ways to tell a story, why is film the right medium for this one? That answer will help you answer the rest usually.
Q: How was Reelworld instrumental in your career?
My first short film played at ReelWorld in a theatre I used to clean at my first job! It was a very serendipitous moment. I can’t express the support ReelWorld has shown and continues to show to myself and our community. I’ve had a chance to play the festival twice, and attend countless programs that challenged and introduced me to collaborators. It’s an honour to be celebrated by a festival that itself should get all the celebration!