Thomas Torrey is Vice President/Writer-Director of Original Movies at INSP, a family entertainment television network available to more than 80 million households across the U.S. In this position, Torrey writes and produces feature films for theatrical and television release.
Torrey grew up near Hartford, Connecticut, where, as a child, he was a professional stage actor with the Actor’s Equity Association, and worked with renowned Broadway directors such as Mark Brokaw and Michael Wilson. Torrey graduated magna cum laude from Sarah Lawrence College in 2006, where he studied film production and screenwriting. He became the charter recipient for the school’s only film prize—the George Nicholas Award for Excellence in Filmmaking, for his thesis film Price.
In 2011, while Director of Video Production with the Maxwell Group, Torrey was honored with the Assisted Living Federation of America’s “Best of the Best” Project Spotlight Award for his documentary series Life Stories, which chronicled the oral histories of more than one hundred senior citizens; the series was also featured in Assisted Living Executive Magazine.
Prior to his current role at INSP, Torrey was the Vice President of Short Form Programming where he was the creator and director of Moments.org, the network’s public service initiative producing short films for web and TV. While in this role, Torrey wrote, produced, and directed some of INSP’s most critically-acclaimed content; and Moments.org has been honored by the United States Government, the Telly Awards, the Cynopsis Social Good Awards, the Summit Creative Awards, the New York Festivals Awards, the CBC Media Awards and the CableFax Programming Awards.
Torrey is a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, where he serves as a judge for the College Television Awards.
Torrey’s movie, Thank You for Your Service, is playing at the 2015 GI Film Festival.
Where are you from and what is your film background?
I am from South Windsor, CT. I grew up in the arts as an actor and home video filmmaker. At Sarah Lawrence College I focused my studies on filmmaking and was awarded the school’s annual film prize — the George Nicholas Award for Excellence in Filmmaking. My work as a writer and director has included independent film in the New York City and Charlotte NC communities, as well as a staff position with television network INSP, for whom I created “Thank You For Your Service.”
Who are your biggest influences in film and why?
Cinematically, I draw inspiration from two poles. I am inspired by the great populist directors who continue to create challenging and form-formative art for mass audiences; men like Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg and Christopher Nolan. I am also inspired by the fringe filmmakers who create singular pieces for a narrower audience; men like Jeff Nichols, John Hillcoat, and Martin McDonagh. On a wider and more literary level of influence, the complexities of my faith and its integration within humanity continues to be a source of inspiration for everything I do.
What was the hardest part about getting this film made?
This film marked my first production as a new staffed filmmaker with INSP, a television network with a new vision to create short films for web and TV. As such, I was untested, without a track record for the network, and the poignancy of this story was not readily apparent in the script I had written. To that end, I not only was given a shoestring budget to work with, but I would also be scrutinized with a narrower lens. I was able to shoot the film by asking my friends in the local crew pool to work for half their normal day rates and by utilizing some internally owned DSLR cameras. I found a diner that was closed on Sundays and a bunch of other friends to volunteer their day off to be extras. And by sunset that one Sunday in March, we had a film.
What do you want viewers to take away with them after watching your film?
As a young man in his early 30s I was only made aware of the especially unfair treatment our Vietnam veterans received at home when I read a book on the subject in my 20s. When I studied the audience demographic of my network, INSP, I thought that a story honoring these veterans may be both timely and relevant. My hope is simply that a veteran viewer may feel a simple “thank you” and that a civilian viewer be made more aware of the service of the Vietnam troops.
What is a fun fact about you that would surprise people?
Nearly every veteran who watches this film assumes that our lead actor, James K. Flynn, served in Vietnam himself and that his Blackhorse Cavalry tattoo is real. Neither are true, which is a testament to James’ performance, my makeup artist’s technical skill, and the honesty with which the script was written.
Thank You for Your Service, directed by Thomas Torrey, is playing at Angelika on May 23, 2015. Click here for tickets.