Making Noise In Independent Film: Q&A with Timothy Woodward Jr.
We all love movies. For those of us that want to write them, the process of making them seems so nebulous. Maybe you don’t live in Los Angeles or know anyone on the inside. That’s where InkTip comes in. We make it easier than ever for you to get your scripts noticed and into the hands of producers. This month, we sat down with InkTip director Timothy Woodward Jr. to talk about his career in independent film and his recent film, Silencer, whose script he found on InkTip.
Originally from South Carolina, Timothy got his start in front of the camera as an actor, but he transitioned into directing and eventually co-founded Status Media & Entertainment with Lauren de Normandie. In the last four years, they’ve produced 20 films, and nine of those 20 films have been from scripts they’ve found using InkTip. Timothy has directed all of those InkTip movies including Traded, Hickock, Gangster Land, and Silencer to name a few.
Lauren found the script for Silencer from writer Sean Mick on InkTip and shared it Timothy. They both loved it. After coming off several period films, Timothy was excited at the prospect of a contemporary story. Lauren and he optioned the script from Sean and got to work on bringing it to life. The film is now available on Amazon, Vudu, Netflix and more.
Silencer is the story of an ex-hitman pulled back into his old life after his stepdaughter is kidnapped. The film stars Johnny Messner (Running Scared), Danny Trejo (Machete), Robert LaSardo (The Mule), and Nikki Leigh (NCIS).
We sat down with Timothy, and he shared his experience directing Silencer.
Timothy Woodward Jr.
InkTip: Tell us about yourself. How did you get your start directing?
I was an actor before I started directing, and I decided I wanted to jump in behind the camera in order to have more creative control over the projects I was involved in. I also thought it would be pretty amazing to be involved in the creative storytelling process from start to finish. From selecting the script and casting the actor all the way through post-production.
InkTip: I see you’ve directed a lot of action and crime movies. What draws you to these genres?
My focus has been primarily on action/thrillers and westerns. I enjoy the excitement of action and crime projects. The thrill audiences get from the fights and the explosions is rewarding. I love westerns because of the history. Westerns are such a big part of American cinematic history and our culture in general, and I love being able to contribute to that. Cowboys were the original on-screen superheroes.
InkTip: What were your experiences directing Silencer like?
Silencer was a fun shoot. I had just finished three back to back period pieces, Traded, Gangster Land and Hickok, so directing a modern story was significantly less complicated and something my DP Pablo and I could really have fun with. We wanted to experiment with using mostly practical lighting and having a straightforward story gave us the freedom to do that.
Everyone on the project was such a pleasure to work with: Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, Danny Trejo, Robert LaSardo and, of course, Johnny Messner our lead. We also got to shoot things and blow things up which is always fun!
InkTip: What unique challenges did the script present when filming?
The most challenging part of this film was all of the action pieces. We did a big war sequence with gunfire, explosions, and a tank that took a long time to set up and execute. I turned out great, but it was a long challenging sequence.
Danny Trejo and Robert LeSardo in Silencer.
InkTip: Do you have any funny or interesting on set stories you’d like to share?
We had one really crazy day on set. We were setting up for a pretty easy scene inside Danny Trejo’s house when I looked over at my AD and saw his face turn completely white and heard him ask the person he was talking to on the walkie-talkie to repeat what they had just said. They did, and he ran towards to door so he could look down the hill. I followed him out, and we saw black smoke coming from the trailers. One of the producers told people to bring fire extinguishers. Apparently one of the trailers hadn’t been serviced and the engine had caught fire!
The fire department was called and thankfully no one was injured, but it was a crazy, crazy day.
InkTip: Do you have a favorite film or director that has influenced your filmmaking?
My inspiration comes from different places depending on what my focus is. If you’re talking about a western, Sergio Leone is my biggest influence. If you’re talking about modern films, Tony Scott has an amazing visual style, and he is always pushing boundaries. It’s hard to narrow it down to just those two directors though because there are so many amazing cinematic artists.
InkTip: Please tell us about your directing process. How do you approach a new project?
The first thing I do is read the script, read it again, and then read it one more time. I like to really get into the heads of the characters and wrap my mind around the story before I get into any of the more technical aspect. Then, I like to think about how I would tell the story if I had all the time and all the money in the world. This allows me to get the feel of the story, then I can see what I actually have access to and make adjustment from there. I think I can make a better film approaching it this way because I can see the maximum potential of the project and set that as my goal.
When I’m looking at scripts, the biggest thing is character. If you don’t have good characters, it doesn’t matter how great the actors are or how great the film looks. It will come up short. Pretty much everything else in a script can be tailored, but it’s incredibly challenging as a director to build characters with actors when it’s not on the page.
InkTip: What’s one thing you wish you knew earlier in your career?
A lot of what happens in the independent film world is to fly by the seat of your pants and improvise. One of the things I wish I had known earlier in my career is that sometimes it’s better to stop, step back, and really look at the big picture. It saves you from a lot of stress and heartache down the road if you take that extra time in the beginning.
InkTip: Any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
Just do it. You can come up with a million excuses why you can’t do something, but at the end of the day, the only person standing in your way is you. So, just do it. Jump in with both feet. In art there isn’t really such a thing as failure. You create something out of nothing, and if nothing else, you will have learned what does and doesn’t work so you can go out and do it again.