Top 10 Movies of 2017

This was a weird year for me and movies. The two biggest awards-contending films, Three Billboards and The Shape of Water, both disappointed me. And I found it hard to find twenty films to really love -- even fifteen -- which has made me settle on the following ten as my favorites for the year. 

Performance-wise, three actors stood out: James Freedson-Jackson in The Strange Ones, Hong Chau in Downsizing, and, yes, Meryl Streep in The Post. 

With a few films left to see, most notably Call Me By Your Name, Hostiles and The Florida Project, here are my Top 10 Favorite Films of 2017. 

10. Lady Bird
09. Logan
08. Get Out
07. Good Time
06. Split
05. Molly's Game
04. Win It All
03. The Strange Ones
02. A Ghost Story
01. Dunkirk

Special nod to my own feature film, Fare, which release February 21, 2017.

A few films I really wished were better than they were: Personal Shopper, It Comes At Night, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards, and Baby Driver.

Fort Mill Film Society

Film Society Logo.png

I've had a vision to help shape the artistic culture of Fort Mill ever since I moved here.

When I lived in New York, I was a member of the Jacob Burns Film Center, which was an amazing service to the Westchester County area. Not only did the Burns Center have a four-screen theater, showing the best of independent, foreign and documentary cinema, but the non-profit would have weekly educational seminars and workshops, featuring renowned filmmakers, actors, and critics. They would host film premieres, Q&As with producers and directors, and regular film showcases. Eventually, the Burns Center grew to be able to offer lab fellowships and year-round educational classes to teenagers and adults, educating the local population in the art and science of film. As a film student at Sarah Lawrence College, twenty minutes south of the Jacob Burns Film Center, the vision to create a culture of film for my own community was born.

One of the reasons that my wife and I chose to settle in downtown Fort Mill -- coming from Charlotte, her home city, where we settled after our education was completed and our first child was born -- was because of the potential for economic growth that Main Street presented. As this potential energy has slowly become kinetic over the last five years -- with the exciting addition of new shops, restaurants and bars -- I have been excited to more firmly dig my roots into the Fort Mill culture. In June of 2017 I leased an office suite on Main Street (three blocks from my house), christened it Borderland Studio, and relocated my film production companies to this new headquarters. 


The reason I named the office suite Borderland was to establish that name in the Fort Mill economy. Part of my vision to enable a filmic culture in the area is through establishing an annual film festival. That's still a few years away, but my vision is to have the Borderland Film Festival become a nationally respected annual event, with a well-programmed schedule of films, dynamic seminars and workshops from renowned filmmakers, incredible parties and social events featuring the best local food & drink offerings, and an amazing showcase of all the charm that Fort Mill has to offer. 

When I made my first feature film, Fare, I had the opportunity to tour the film festival circuit throughout the country. Every festival I visited had something unique about it that I loved. I was taking notes. Whether it was SXSW, Newport Beach, Cucalorus, Naples, LA or New York, I loved every aspect of the film festival tour, and I wanted to apply that love toward creating a new film festival for Fort Mill. As a juror for the Charlotte Film Festival, a judge for the College Emmy Awards, and member of the Television Academy and Emmy voter, I have been able to see just how rich and abundant the field is of the short form and feature length films that the general population will never get a chance to see. How exciting to bring many of these, along with their filmmakers, to Fort Mill. 

 Thomas Torrey accepting the Best Director award at the 2017 Beaufort International Film Festival.

Thomas Torrey accepting the Best Director award at the 2017 Beaufort International Film Festival.

I am still a working filmmaker, with a fulltime schedule of commercial productions, feature films and passion projects. But I am laying the foundation now for what I want to achieve in the future. A wise man once said "we overestimate what we can do in a year, and we underestimate what we can do in a decade". Therefor I am beginning now the work of establishing Fort Mill as an influencer in the cinematic arts in the Southeast. 

Phase 1 is creating the Fort Mill Film Society, a 501c3 non-profit organization that will present the annual Borderland Film Festival. Phase 1 is complete -- the Fort Mill Film Society has been created -- and its first tasks will be to grow its membership base via regular film screenings, social gatherings and discussions, as well as build its Board of Directors. In addition, the Film Society will solicit founding sponsorship from local philanthropy and national grant programs. 

Phase 2 will be launching the annual Borderland Film Festival, which will be a four-day event in the heart of the Main Street and Kingsley neighborhoods of Fort Mill. We will utilize temporary exhibition equipment for our theatrical screenings and various space rentals for seminars and workshops. As the film festival will require a substantial working budget, volunteer base and infrastructure, the goal will be to work toward a 2020 festival launch, and find our primary founding sponsorship in 2018. 

Phase 3 will be the creation of Fort Mill's very own brick-and-mortar Film Center -- a facility entirely unique to the Carolinas. The Film Center will have its own state-of-the-art exhibition screens and projection for regular film screenings, educational facilities for filmmaking workshops and classes, and a film library with an exhaustive collection of movies and literature available to the community. 

At some point along the way -- hopefully between Phase 2 and 3, we will raise enough working capital to employ full time Film Society staff year round. While the flagship annual event of the Society will be the Borderland Film Festival, the goal of the organization will be to expand to include regular film screenings, premieres, galas, workshops, and seminars throughout the year. 

The Fort Mill Film Society exists to build a culture of film amongst our vibrant community of artists and art appreciators. I see this culture as an expansive one -- reaching beyond Fort Mill, into Rock Hill and Columbia, as well as Charlotte and its surrounding metro area. Indeed, that's always been part of the meaning behind "Borderland", as Fort Mill is a literal border land between the sprawling and culture-rich Carolinas. 

I invite you to join me however you can. Come to our early events -- they will be modest but passionate. Become a member. Become a volunteer. Connect us with philanthropists and grant organizations so that we can build upon our vision and begin to execute our phases. And above all, keep on loving good cinema, and support its filmmakers.

Visit to sign up for email updates.

Fare: What It All Means (Major Spoilers)

I've always called Fare an experiment. And I concede that it's a film that demands discussion, and, perhaps, explanation. For those that are looking for answers I give you this interview, which I did with Timothy Winterstein of the Boars in the Vineyard podcast. 

We cover it all, and of course it includes major spoilers. Watch it first, here. 

Listen directly above from the embedded player. 

Or listen here, from Boars in the Vineyard. 

Top 15 Movies of 2016

Here's my Top 15 English language movies for 2016. Honorable mentions go to: Jungle Book, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and The Witch. 

In addition, from four of my top five films, there was a singular line of dialog from each movie that stuck with me for days after. In many cases, these lines haunted me. True poetry. Those lines are listed below, beside each film, and whether they are word for word accurate is beside the point. 

15. Don't Think Twice
14. Moonlight
13. Hacksaw Ridge
12. La La Land
11. Don't Breathe

10. The Magnificent Seven
09. Sully
08. Sing Street
07. Fences
06. Nocturnal Animals

05. Midnight Special ("I'll always worry about you. That's the deal.")
04. Arrival
03. Silence ("Where's the place in this world for weak men?")
02. Manchester by the Sea ("I can't beat it.")
01. Hell or High Water ("Maybe I'll bring you some peace." / "Maybe I'll bring it to you.")


Fare: Timeline of a Movie

2015 - April 1 - Justin Moretto and I incorporate our production company Bad Theology Pictures. The plan is to pitch investors in order to raise several million for a four film slate.

2015 - April 4 - We receive our first investment as a good faith seed money offering, in the low five figures. 

2015 - July 30 - With no additional investment in the bank (though some is committed), I get the idea to make a "test" movie prototype -- something we can film for the little cash we have, which can serve as the company's first film and let us cut our teeth. 

2015 - August 3 - First draft of the prototype film, Fare, is completed. 

2015 - August 7 - Second draft of Fare completed. 

2015 - August 26 - Cast read-through of Fare at Rooster's, Charlotte NC. 

2015 - September 7 - Four days of of rehearsals begin.

2015 - September 11 - Fare begins principle photography with cast and crew agreeing to deferred pay. 

2015 - September 13 - Fare wraps principle photography. 

2015 - September 26 - First cut of Fare is completed and submitted to Sundance. It's not a good rough cut. The ending is weak. 

2015 - October 14 - We reshoot the ending. Much better. 

2015 - October 27 - Lock edit on Fare. 

2015 - November 23 - Rejected from Sundance. 

2016 - February 3 - Final sound mix and color completed. 

2016 - March 2 - Cast and crew private screening at Arysley Cinemas in Charlotte NC. 

2016 - March 7 - Fare is accepted to world premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival. We were 0-11 in film festival acceptance prior. 

2016 - April 3 - A freelance film publicist comes across us via NBFF and offers to help us get some press. 

2016 - April 9 - First review of Fare published. It's bad. I get sick to my stomach thinking I blew it. 

2016 - April 10 - Second review of Fare published. It's glowing: "A stunning feature debut." There's hope. 

2016 - April 12 - We cold call about a dozen sales agents and all but one decline representing us. We sign with Circus Road Films, who will leverage our NBFF premiere to pitch us to buyers. 

2016 - April 26 - World premiere at Newport Beach. Packed theater. A week of glowing, four-star reviews. 

2016 - May 3 - First offer for distribution comes in, from Random Media, a sub-distributor for The Orchard and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

2016 - June 3 - Fare screens in Los Angeles at the South Bay Film & Music Festival. 

2016 - June 5 - Fare wins Best Film at South Bay, and I get an Emerging Filmmaker award. 

2016 - June 17 - With two additional offers on the table, we sign with Random Media for worldwide distribution in all media except theatrical. They give us 90 days to complete our Deliverables check list. 

2016 - September 6 - New final master of Fare completed, with a couple small changes requested by Random Media, including new end credits song because my friend John Mark McMillan costs too much.

2016 - September 19 - Fare final Deliverables completed. I Fedex the hard drive to Random Media. They prepare for a February 2017 digital/video release. 

2016 - September 29 - Fare has its East Coast premiere at the Charlotte Film Festival. Almost 200 people pack the theater at Ayrsley Cinemas. An amazing night. 

2016 - October 7 - CFF announces Fare has won the Audience Award for Best Film. 

2016 - October 22 - Fare screens at Push! Film Festival and wins both the Jury Award and Audience Award for Best Film.

2016 - October 29 - Fare has two sold out screenings at the Naples International Film Festival and wins the Rising Star Award for director Thomas Torrey. After one of the screenings an emotional audience member tells Thomas that Fare just changed his life. 

2016 - November 29 - Phone call with distributor, Random Media, confirms February 21, 2017 release date. Thomas & Justin consider self-financing a limited theatrical run prior to release to qualify for industry awards. They later decide against it. 

2017 - February 16 - Fare has its South Carolina premiere at the 11th Annual Beaufort International Film Festival, where it wins two awards for Thomas Torrey, as Best Actor and Best Director

2017 - February 21 - Fare releases on iTunes and all video-on-demand platforms in the US, Canada, UK and elsewhere. A week of great press and great reviews. Fare peaks on the iTunes Independent Charts at #30. 

2017 - September 20 - Get first revenue reports and proceeds from Random Media covering release through June. A modest sum, but cast and crew deferments start to be paid. 

2017 - September 29 - Fare streams on Hulu.

[to be continued...]

Fare Deliverables

One of the many things I'm learning in the process of doing my first feature film is all of the paperwork and media required by our distributor as part of our Deliverables. Here's a screenshot of everything we've had to send to them. 

An Open Letter To Myself

[Update: 02-27-17] The below is a document of the time in which it was written. I have grown a little since I wrote this and would not necessarily say the same thing to myself today. There's a difference between living in the present, and striving for the future. But it's a document of its time nonetheless, and so I leave it here from when it was first published. - Thomas

April 23, 2016:

I’m living the dream. So why don’t I feel happier?

I remember a good few years of happiness. Three years at Maxwell. Three more at INSP. Stepping stones toward the dream. Honing my craft. Kicking ass. Earning a good income. Building relationships. Getting experience. Improving.

Lots of joy, those years.

But then it was time to move on. Alas, the playpen was but for a season.

Now, the mountain of destiny stood before me. But there wasn’t an elevator. There wasn’t even a damn stairway. Destiny, it would seem, was content to sunbathe at the mountain’s peak, not giving two shits if I was able to find my way to her.

That’s what they don’t tell you about destiny. She’s not paving the way for you. She’s giving you the finger. And at every painful juncture climbing up the mountain – each one claiming more and more drop-outs, fall-offs and quitters – she reminds you that the only thing keeping you on the course is your resolve.

Your singular desire to just want it.

That’s the secret to making it, ladies and gentlemen. It’s not a popularity contest or a talent contest. It’s an endurance test.

At least, that’s what I’m concluding on my way toward making it.

I quit my comfortable job in the playpen in May of 2015 and started my own company with my friend Justin. We hustled and we bled. We raised a little money and made our first feature film.

We did it. A feature film. A real movie. My debut feature, mind you. As if the world was waiting for it… (It wasn’t.)

Fare is probably my favorite thing I’ve ever made. People are responding to it. Early reviews have been beyond my expectations. I made good art and enough people get it. We’re premiering Tuesday at a big, respected film festival. We signed with a sales agent who says they’ll have it sold within two months.

Living the dream.

It’s just that I thought I’d be enjoying this more.

The truth is I’m worn out from the grind it took to get here. I look behind me and see a lot of mountain between where I am and where I started. But then I look up and see Destiny flipping me off again – at least that’s what I assume she’s doing. She’s too high up for me to actually get a clear look.

Oh you thought it’d be easy, Thomas? You thought the playpen was preparing you for a happy journey, with shits and giggles to be had along the way? You thought that “struggle” would feel like the time you forced yourself to eat your first piece of sushi? Or the time you lifted an extra 20 pounds on the barbell?

You didn’t think it’d look like despair, did you? You didn’t think it’d feel like depression. Or hopelessness. You didn’t realize how lonely and lost real struggle feels like, did you?

If you wanted it easy you should have stayed in the playpen.

But if you want to be a man of influence then get back to climbing. You talk a big vision game. How big is it, bro? Or let me put it another way: how big are you willing to make it?

Or was it all just conjecture?

Take heart, Thomas. What you’re learning is that the path to success isn’t an open freeway. It’s a slalom course of stone roads paved with the bodies of the ones who wanted an easier journey. The ones who let the dream die when it was most tested.

Remember well your past seasons of joy, and let them serve to remind you of what lay ahead. The peace. The happiness. You’ll remember it all again when you get there.

And you’ll get there.

But I won’t bullshit you and say it’s just around the corner. I’m not from the future. I don’t know how long it will take. I’m just your True Self speaking through the pretense that you sometimes hide behind.

But when you do get there, you’ll look back on the climb and thank Destiny for not installing that elevator. I promise.

The cuts. The bruises. The broken bones. That’s the stuff of experience. That’s the stuff of influence.

I know it’s hard. But believe me when I tell you the struggle is the point.

Remember the book of Job and that thesis statement you like to impress Bible students with: only through suffering can wisdom be discovered.

Only through suffering can Wisdom be discovered.

Only through suffering.


This is what living the dream looks like.

And in the immortal words of Andy Dufresne, “get busy living or get busy dying.

That’s goddamn right.”

Top 25 Movies of 2015

Here’s my 25 favorite movies of 2015. I restricted the list to English language narratives.

25. Jurassic World
24. Cinderella
23. Ant-Man
22. Z for Zachariah
21. Slow West

20. Spy
19. Bone Tomahawk
18. Star Wars: the Force Awakens
17. Age of Adeline
16. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

15. Sicario
14. Bridge of Spies
13. Creed
12. The Gift
11. Room

10. Spotlight
09. The Revenant
08.. The Hateful Eight
07. Mad Max: Fury Road
06. Ex Machina

05. The Martian
04. It Follows
03. Steve Jobs
02. The Big Short
01. The End of the Tour

Fare Shooting Script

I did something I'd never thought I'd do: shoot my first feature from a working draft of a script that had been written inside of a week, barely a month prior. But when you commit to filming a movie so quickly that you don't second guess it, you embrace the limitations you're surrounded with, such as a screenplay that, like all good screenplays, could benefit from another twelve months of thoughtful revisions. And there's no better way to strip yourself of your film auteur pretentiousness than by embracing limitations. 

So here's my shooting script to my first feature film, Fare. I had the idea on a Thursday. I opened up Final Draft that following Monday. I kid you not, by the end of the day that Monday I had my first draft completed. Granted, it was only forty-odd pages, but it was a draft. By mid-week I had an official first draft that I floated by my producing partner Justin, along with a few friends. By that following Saturday I had our second draft, the finished 60 page script that we shot a month later. 


Fare Shooting Script - 09/01/15

Fare Cinema References

Associate Producer Chris Calnin, Cinematographer RC Walker and I spent a lot of time looking at other films which focused on interior night car shots. Here's the list of images that we referenced as we planned our shoot. 

Films include: Taxi Driver, Collateral, Nightcrawler, Locke and Drive.

Top 25 Movies of 2014

Here’s my list of my 25 favorite movies of 2014. I restricted the list to English language narratives.

25. Under the Skin
24. The Drop
23. The Lego Movie
22. The One I Love
21. The Grand Budapest Hotel

20. The Rover
19. Chef
18. Foxcatcher
17. Gone Girl
16. Boyhood

15. Edge of Tomorrow
14. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
13. Snowpiercer
12. Nightcrawler
11. Locke

10. American Sniper
09. Inherent Vice
08. A Most Violent Year
07. John Wick
06. Whiplash

05. Birdman
04. Blue Ruin
03. Noah
02. Interstellar
01. Calvary

Top 25 Movies of 2013

Here’s my list of my 25 favorite films of 2013. I restricted the list to English language narratives.

25. Her
24. Philomena
23. The Conjuring
22. Only God Forgives
21. Drinking Buddies

20. World War Z
19. All Is Lost
18. Fruitvale Station
17. Mud
16. Upstream Color

15. Monsters University
14. The World’s End
13. To The Wonder
12. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
11. Prisoners

10. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
09. Lone Survivor
08. Inside Llewyn Davis
07. The Wolf of Wall Street
06. Captain Phillips

05. Short Term 12
04. Nebraska
03. 12 Years A Slave
02. The Place Beyond the Pines
01. Gravity

Top 20 Movies of 2012

Here’s my list for my 20 favorite films of 2011. I restricted the list to English language narratives.


12. ARGO



Top 10 Movies of 2011

Here’s my list for my 10 favorite films of 2011. I restricted the list to English language narratives.

10 Rise of the Planet of the Apes
09 The Artist
08 Source Code
07 Crazy Stupid Love
06 Meek’s Cutoff

05 Hugo
04 The Descendants
03 Take Shelter
02 Tree of Life
01 Moneyball