Nicole: Thank you for taking the time out to give us an interview. Let’s jump right into it 1, 2, 3, Action…Who is Theo Davies?
Theo: I was born in England and moved to San Diego in 2009. I’m married with two sons, ages nine and three. I have a bachelor’s degree in English, Literature Film & Theatre from the University of Reading in the UK (Reading is a town about 40-50 miles west of London). I also graduated from the New York Film Academy in 2001. Since then, I have been working in the film industry and teaching film production and screenwriting.
Nicole: What lead you down the path to becoming a director?
Theo: I have worked in the film and television industry since 2001 and back then my focus was simple – to learn as much as possible about every crew position on a film set such as what they did and how they did it. I worked in production offices and gained years of hands-on experience in every department. I was always making my own short films on the side – I produced and funded the films myself, directed them, and edited them. In those early days, I collaborated with a couple of talented writers I knew. As I got older and more experienced, I began studying writing and wrote more of my own material. It was a natural transition to become a writer/director, which is what I am today. What has made me a better director goes back to the experience I gained when I was younger. I can speak to anyone on the production and post-production crew, knowing exactly what their roles are and how to work with them to realize the vision of the story we’re telling.
Nicole: What was one of your favorite films to work on and why?
Theo: My favorite experience was working on “Wish Man”. It was the first feature film I wrote and directed, and I was one of three producers, so I was heavily involved from start to finish. I had a decent budget to work with, and the other producers allowed me complete creative control to tell the story. It doesn’t get much better than that, especially on an indie film.
Nicole: “Wish Man” is currently in theatres, congratulations, can you give us a little insight into the film?
Theo: At an event here in San Diego back in 2013, I saw Frank Shankwitz, the creator of the Make-A-Wish foundation, tell the story of how he helped grant the final wish of a 7-year-old boy with leukemia shortly before he succumbed to his illness. I had talked with producer, Greg Reid about making a film together, so I suggested telling Frank’s story. Greg acquired the rights to Frank’s life story and two months later I started working with Frank on the script. Six long years later, and the film is in select theaters across America and received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. What a journey!
Nicole: That is very inspiring! We are so lucky to have such a talented director as an instructor here at Platt. How long have you been teaching at Platt College San Diego?
I have been a film production and screenwriting instructor at Platt College San Diego since August 2018. It has been a wonderful experience, and all the other instructors, staff, and students have made life at Platt such a pleasure. I’m proud to be part of the Platt family.
Nicole: We love having you as part of the Platt Community! Can you give five tips that you wish you knew as a film student?
1. When I was a film student I was taught there were strict film-making rules that should be followed. The more experience I gain, the more I realize there are only guidelines and the so-called “rules” can be bent.
2. Don’t be afraid to fail. Film-making is a process, not an exact science. A lot of the time it’s trial and error and trying new things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but if you don’t try you’ll never know.
3. When you’re starting out as a filmmaker or film student, it’s very easy to find reasons why you can’t make a film – time, budget, resources, etc. Find the reasons why you can make a film, go out and shoot it.
4. Never give up. With all the setbacks and restrictions you face as a film student, if you believe in the story you want to tell, that passion will fuel your whole process. Don’t stop until the film is produced.
5. Find other like-minded, enthusiastic and talented students to collaborate with and make your film. It’s inevitable that your fellow students will be the cast and crew of your early work. The team you assemble must work together in order to create magic. Find others who share this desire.
Nicole: As a whole, what advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers, directors, or screenwriters?
Don’t try and be a jack-of-all-trades. Focus on one role, one crew position. Practice that craft, hone your skills and become a specialist in that field. When you get to the point where you are looking for work within the film industry, producers don’t want to hear that you can produce, write, direct, light, record great sound and edit. A producer wants to hear that you specialize in one position and your talent shines through in this area of production. They will be a thousand times more likely to hire you, especially if you have a good reel, presenting impressive examples of your work. As you gain experience, maybe you’ll end up being a writer, director, and producer, but starting out as all three is not attractive to a producer looking to collaborate with you.
Nicole: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Theo: “Wish Man” will be screened at the Rooftop Cinema on Thursday, July 11th at 8:30pm on top of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego. I will also be doing a Q&A afterward with one of the other producers and hopefully some of the actors from the film. Please come down – it should be a fun night! For ticket information please visit “Wish Man” Screening: Rooftop Cinema