Bret Thomas is one of the hardest-working independent filmmakers that I know. From his work on Anywhere But Here and The Lakeside Killer, he’s always at work, always trying something new.
I’m very happy he agreed to answer 10 questions for me. He tells us about some of his favorite movies, some firsts in his experience and a little glimpse at what’s coming next for him.
We might not ever remember the first movie we ever saw, but can you recall the first R-rated movie you ever saw? What was it?
The first (unedited for television) R-rated movie I saw was Child’s Play 2. I saw it in the theater with my sister. We snuck in. Both of us were under 16.
You’ve worked on a lot of your own projects and have acted in other people’s projects, too. What was the first movie you were involved with as either an actor or a stand-in?
The first movie I was involved with was Eating The Sun written and directed by Paul Iannone in 2002. I played a bit part, but I went on to star in Paul’s second feature Spineless.
Lots of cool movies play locally thanks to Filmbar, and there are always fun movie-going experiences like the madness that was Grindhouse (two movies for the price of one!) and the excitement of Snakes on a Plane. What was the most fun you’ve had seeing a movie in the theater?
The most fun I’ve had as a movie going experience was the first time I saw The Room at Madcap Theaters in Tempe. When it comes to bad movies, The Room is a true masterpiece. Experiencing it for the first time with friends and a rowdy audience was unforgettable.
You yourself have genre-hopped a bit and dabbled in horror with The Lakeside Killer. What horror movie scared you the most out of any you’ve seen?
As I’ve gotten older, it’s rare that movies scare me anymore. The movies that have given me the most chills in recent years were The Conjuring and Insidious, both by James Wan. He’s one of the strongest voices in horror currently. But the movie that scared me the most in my life was Hellraiser. I saw it when I was about 14 or 15 and it scared the shit out of me. That was the only time in my life when I felt like I got in over my head while watching a movie. Evil Dead was a close second.
“Hate” is such a strong word. But, still, what kinds of movies do you hate? What kinds of movies will you just avoid or not be bothered with when you see it advertised?
Hate is a strong word. I try to be open minded when it comes to movies. As a filmmaker, it’s equally important to watch the bad as it is to watch the good. I guess the only movies I tend to pass on are the over the top Christian movies like God Is Not Dead. I don’t want to be preached to for an hour and a half. Having said that, I’d probably be more likely to see God Is Not Dead than the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. But then again, I kind of want to see that as well. Even though I’d most likely be cursing Michael Bay the entire time for degrading a precious childhood memory.
I think everyone has that one movie that made them think about film differently, that made them want to be a part of that world. What movie is most influential to you? What movie reaffirmed or redefined how you think about cinema?
The film that first made me believe I could make a movie was Clerks. I was 15 when I first saw it. Seeing, at a young age, an example of a great movie made without a large budget or big name stars inspired me to do the same. However, the single most influential movie for me is The Royal Tenenbaums. I love it’s balance of humor and drama. It’s beautifully shot with a stellar cast who all perform at their best.
Are there any favorite directors of yours? Is there anyone you check up on periodically on IMDB and hope there’s a new “in production” credit ready to pop up?.
Wes Anderson is my all time favorite director. He has a unique, one of a kind voice. His love for cinema shows through in every scene. He handles his films with meticulous attention to detail. The humor is hilarious and the drama is deeply felt and meaningful. His movies are a cinematic experience. He’s never let me down. Quentin Tarantino comes in a very close second.
If you were given the opportunity of a lifetime to work with a specific actor and actress, who would it be? Who would you have a mild-to-severe heart attack for if they agreed to lead in a script you wrote?
Joaquin Phoenix and Tilda Swinton would be my top actor and actress. Phoenix’s performance in The Master is one of, if not the best I’ve ever seen. He exudes energy and raw emotion. And Swinton is fantastic in every role she’s played. She has the elegance and grace of old Hollywood with a dose of hipster aesthetic. And I love that she’s gorgeous in an androgynous sort of way.
I know you’ve gotten into some crazy adventures on productions, but what is the single craziest thing to happen to you during a shoot?
Weird things seem to happen when we start shooting. A guy drove his car onto the sidewalk and ran into a building downtown while we were shooting Anywhere But Here. He put his car in reverse and drove off like nothing happened. But that was nothing compared to what happened while we were shooting The Lakeside Killer on Mill Ave. A guy was fighting with his girlfriend. His hand was bandaged for some unknown reason. He took out a knife and began cutting his own neck. The police came and he kept telling them to shoot him. He didn’t really do much damage to himself, but I kept looking away. I didn’t want to see him open his jugular and bleed out in front of everyone.
Tell me, what have you got going on next? Can you tell us a little bit about the script you’re working on now?
My next project is an action/comedy set in Arizona about two young guys who lose a briefcase belonging to a dangerous drug dealer. Their search takes them all over the state while in constant pursuit by a rival drug gang who wants the briefcase for themselves. Along the way, they enlist the help of a psychic and a hitchhiker with a mysterious past.
Bret’s website can be seen here: Dark Frame Productions.