Tommy Lee Thomas knew from an early age that filmmaking was something he wanted to pursue. By the time he graduated from high school he and his brother had produced four short films, one for each year of high school. His first professional movie starred Mr. Universe Tom Platz.
When did you first develop an interest in filmmaking?
I first started getting interested in movies back when I was only five years old. I had gone to see Superman, The Movie for the very first time with my family (my parents, brother and me) in 1978 and was instantly and forever mesmerized by those AMAZING images on the BIG screen! I recall at that age looking back behind me and trying to figure our where the images were coming from and of course I saw the projector and the film itself and I was totally hooked! I wanted to copy this and started immediately collecting Superman the movie Bubble gum cards, once I had enough of them to basically recreate the main story of the movie, I taped the bubble gum cards to a roll of toilet paper in chronological order, gathered by family around and started my own movie theatre experience whereby I re-enacted the story myself as I unrolled the toilet paper spool, showing each Bubble gum card! As silly as this now seems to recall, this was my start – at age five! Once into my teens, my brother Allen and I started making our own movies with the “Camcorder” we talked our parents into buying for us! We made FOUR movies this way, one each year of High School. I look back on this time now and have very fond memories and feel that I learned a lot from these experiences in terms of how to get something made with little to no money!
What were those earliest home movies like?
Making home movies with my brother Allen, our friends from school and my parents were truly some of the best memories of my youth! I would come up with an idea for a movie I wanted us to make – usually was largely inspired by our hero’s at the time, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvestor Stallone, Tom Cruise to name a few, then I would write the story, pass it on to my brother Allen, who would write the script…Allen was great at polishing my ideas, fleshing them out into script form. We would then go about getting our friends to co-star with us. Allen and I were always the leads in our films. I would play the Hero and Allen would play the Mentor/Chief – Allen would be “Colonel Trautman” to my “John Rambo”…We had a great time and again, truly learned that you can make movie with next to no money if you just set your mind to it and gather what resources you do have available. I still draw on those experiences today when I make a film, knowing that I can get a movie made, because I have already done it on a smaller scale…Matter of fact, here is a trailer to one of those first home movies we made when I was 15:
Why did you choose not to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, California?
Good question…As a teenager, I realized I wanted a career in film. I wanted to not only produce my own films, but I also wanted to act in them as well. So when I was a senior in high school, I met up with the actors Jason and Jeremy London (who were also attending my same high school – Desoto High School). Jason London had just starred in his first feature film, “Man in the Moon” with Reese Witherspoon. I was very inspired by his having made a BIG TIME movie. He had also seen or heard about my movies that my brother and I had made, as one of these movies was actually shown at Desoto High School in several classes. My teachers there were VERY supportive of me and saw my leadership abilities in having made these movies. Jason, Jeremy and I became friends and Jason actually introduced me to his acting coach, Mike Perkins, who in term eventually got me connected with my first talent agent there in Dallas. Upon graduation from High School, I had been accepted into the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in CA and was planning to attend, when I heard back from that first talent agent. She wanted me to stay in Dallas, start auditioning and trying to book jobs! So I thought, “A Bird in the Hand” and started auditioning while continuing to take acting classes that summer after graduation. I booked my 2nd audition, a National Television commercial for Domino’s Pizza where I played the Pizza Delivery Boy. I had made both Fun and money – A good combination! So I opted to stay in TX, keep auditioning/booking work, which I did and attend college. Eventually I realized that I really wanted a four year College degree, so I worked really hard, earned an Academic Scholarship and went to Southern Methodist University, where I majored in Organizational Behavior and Business Policy (OBBP) or more simply, Business Management. During this time in college at SMU, I continued working in television commercials that ran on local and national television. I even produced and starred in two of those. Here is a link to one of those commercials:
Tell us about More Than Meets the Eye.
More Than Meets the Eye was my first professional feature film. My cousin, singer, BJ Thomas was glad to help me by getting me the rights to one of his songs to use in the movie. Never being shy or afraid to Cold call someone for my films, I cold called one of my teenage hero’s Mr. Universe, Body Building legend Tom Platz to be in the film opposite me. Here is a link to an interview with Tom Platz as he talks about this at that time:
What other movies have you been involved in?
I have produced a total of 5 feature films – More Than Meets The Eye, Proverbial Justice, Con Games, So Wonderful to Be Alive and now, my latest and without a doubt my best movie, the faith-based One More Round which stars Kevin Sorbo, myself, TC Stallings (Courageous), Franco Columbu (The Terminator, Conan The Barbarian, 2 time Mr. Olympia), Mindy Thomas, Jeremy London – who I went to Desoto High School with – (Party of Five, 7th Heaven), Don “The Dragon” Wilson and many other very talented performers! Chip Rossetti directed this movie, which is now in post production and he and I produced together. Michael Toay also produced and co-wrote the script with me along with Donald James Parker and Christopher Abram.
What are you currently working on?
Right now we are still right in the middle of post production on One More Round. Editing is coming along well and I am very pleased with all of the great footage we shot.
I am also involved with the development of a potential reality series that William Morris Endeavor Agency has repped to all of the TOP television networks. We are hoping to get this one placed with a network before too long.
What is your goal as a Christian filmmaker?
My goal with faith-based movie making is simple, I want to make films that lead people Jesus. We want to entertain people, but our focus is to encourage others who are not saved to consider asking the Lord into their hearts as their personal savior. This is why my wife Mindy and I set up a Non-profit Ministry underneath the Full Gospel Fellowship in 2008. We wanted our ministry to develop, produce and promote the Gospel through media. Our first feature film, One More Round will hopefully encourage people when everything seems to be falling apart to give life, family and the Lord that one last shot!