Now more than ever, we’re in desperate need of inspiring, uplifting stories to give hope and motivate positive change in the world. In movies, we are bombarded with superhero franchises, but what we hope to show is that heroes are ordinary, everyday people who spread kindness and goodwill. Whether you’re paying it forward or giving back, one simple act of kindness can have a ripple effect and change the world.
I had the distinct pleasure to interview Theo Davies. Theo is an English up-and-coming writer/director. After directing an award-winning short film starring Charlie Cox (Daredevil, Boardwalk Empire) that was selected for the BBC Film Network in the UK, Theo moved to Southern California in 2009 to pursue his film career. He previously directed ‘5 Hour Friends’, which was distributed worldwide by Paramount Pictures. His most recent project is a film about the founder of Make-A-Wish, Frank Shankwitz. Its World Premiere will be Hollywood at the Egyptian Theater on Tuesday, June 4th. National theatrical release on Friday, June 7th in select theaters. Release date for domestic, international streaming/online/digital yet to be confirmed.
Thank you so much for joining us Theo! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific path?
I was fortunate enough to see Frank Shankwitz tell the story of how he created the Make-A-Wish foundation with 300 other people at Greg Reid’s ‘Secret Knock’ event in San Diego in 2013. I was filming the event as part of a film I was producing with Greg to be released alongside his book ‘Stickability”. Greg interviewed Frank on stage, and when Frank finished telling the story, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Greg and I had spoken about making a feature film together and we sat down with Frank to discuss telling his inspiring story. Frank was on board straight away an in the Spring of 2013, I started writing the ‘Wish Man’ script. after several different versions of the story and the script, we settled on the final draft that became the shooting script for the film. After 4 years of close calls, many highs and lows, we were able to secure enough funding and support to shoot ‘Wish Man’ in Frank’s home town of Prescott, Arizona in September and October 2017. By September 2018 we had completed post-production, and the film is slated for theatrical release across the U.S. on June 7th, 2019. The film will also be released internationally in the Summer of 2019.
Can you share the most interesting story or surprising moment that recently happened to you on set?
On the first day of filming we had a crew meeting to discuss our first day together as a team and the remaining 24 days left to shoot. Everyone took turns stepping forward, introducing themselves and describing their position within the crew. When it was the turn of our script supervisor, Kennedy Del Toro, we noticed she was crying and very emotional. She then explained she was a ‘Wish Kid’ in her teens and obviously survived and defeated her illness. Being part of telling the story of the man who created Make-A-Wish was too overwhelming for her to bear. Frank was on-hand to give her a hug and we began Day 1 on a positive, inspiring note.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest (and scariest) moment was probably when we were shooting in a remote location with limited accommodation options for all the crew. In the corner of my room was a large hole big enough for a fat rat to come and go as he pleased. I slept with a bedside lamp shining on the hole throughout the night. Greg Reid (producer) woke up with about one hundred bed bug bites and a huge spider in his bathtub. We couldn’t get out of there quickly enough! One of the biggest lessons I learned was to try and always schedule 5 day weeks during principal photography rather than 6 day weeks. The long hours and the intensity of the shoot meant that days off were precious. Two day weekends are essential when shooting on location to allow everyone to recharge and wind down.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. As a Hollywood producer can you share what you have done to make TV and film more representative of the population?
Diversity in the entertainment industry has been a much discussed and debated subject, especially in recent years. Equal opportunities and equality in Hollywood has improved dramatically, with many Hispanic, African American and other races accounting for more of the nominations and winners in the major awards ceremonies like the Academy Awards. There are more writers, directors, producers and actors of color working today than ever before, which is also helping the diversity and variety of stories being told on the silver screen. We were very proud of the fact that both our cast and crew were represented by a diverse representation of different races and ethnicities. To quote the Pixar film ‘Ratatouille’… “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
What are your “5 things you wish someone told you when you first started” out in the film business and why.
1.) Nothing happens overnight. You must remain patient, even if it’s a 6 year passion project like ‘Wish Man’. If it’s a story you have to tell, never give up until you’ve told it.
2.) Find the right team. Dozens of people will come and go while you move through the various stages of making a movie. Find people who will stay. It’s important to find the right team, the core group who share the same passion as you for the story you’re telling.
3.) Surround yourself with talented people. Whether it’s a creative talent or a technician, talent comes in all shapes and sizes. Your final product will be infinitely better by building a team of gifted individuals.
4.) There will be a lot of people who question and doubt you. They will also be the first to congratulate you and always want to share in your success!
5.) Nobody tells you how much you will get the film bug, until it’s completed! It’s sad when it’s over but your passion is fueled to move onto the next one!
What tips do you have for your colleagues about how to get stories they are passionate about made into films, without burning out or giving up along the way?
Never give up. If you have a burning desire to tell a particular story, that fire will never be extinguished until the story is told. You will be thinking about it 24/7, and that’s a good thing. Live it, breathe it, know it inside out. Let it become an obsessive. That passion and desire is exactly what you need to succeed in telling and sharing your story. Every year, millions of people are deterred from following their dreams and their passions for one reason or another — usually because of a fear of failure. Passion is like a magnet and if you want to tell your story, you must project that passion in order to get as excited about telling it as you are. The other tip is to have a great script. It sounds obvious, but make sure you have a strong blueprint for your film. It’s much easier to get motivated by a good story, whether you’re a director, producer, actor or cinematographer. Get feedback from people who know what they’re talking about, make it better and don’t settle for a good script when it can be a great one.
You are a person of great influence. If one of your projects could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Now more than ever, we’re in desperate need of inspiring, uplifting stories to give hope and motivate positive change in the world. In movies, we are bombarded with superhero franchises, but what we hope to show in ‘Wish Man’ is that heroes are ordinary, everyday people who spread kindness and goodwill. Whether you’re paying it forward or giving back, one simple act of kindness can have a ripple effect and change the world.
Thank you for these inspiring ideas!