by Shazreh Malik
Following an award-winning streak across the country and beyond, the film Motivational Growth recently screened locally to an anticipating audience at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival (STIFF). And the film hasn’t come alone into town. Director Don Thacker, producer Alexis Thacker, and their company Imagos Films, have found in Seattle their new home.
Chicago provided them with a good cast and crew to work with for Motivational Growth. But Don and Alexis wanted to be surrounded by a more vibrant and bustling film environment. And Seattle was just the place. According to Don, “Seattle is a very good home for Imagos, because it is community-based.” Much like that pair of good old suburban neighbors, these two are big on sharing and caring. They have filming equipment that they lend out to students, and are eager to help fellow artists. In return, the newcomers have received their due welcome. Local filmmakers have been quick in embracing them, and these two are part of the gang now.
Don is a spirited storyteller. You know those kids glued to their television sets watching Transformers, Robocop, and Star Wars? Well, he used to be one of them. For him, these movies were “like magic.” And when he realized that they were, in fact, made by “regular people,” he decided that he too would become a film-making magician when he grew up. Instead, he became a computer programmer. It is, after all, a much more lucrative career than that of an independent filmmaker. He kept practicing his childhood dream as a hobby, but it never really developed into a full-time profession.
Then, after several years in the programming business, Don got hold of a gig. The job was to shoot a documentary, and it was on this project that he met Alexis. Together, they envisioned Imagos Films, and shook hands on it – or rather, held them. This wasn’t just the beginning of a professional relationship, but also that of a personal one.
The couple formulated a business plan for their company. They attracted investors, emptied their own pockets, and put everything on the line. These two have worked on a number of films and commercials. They are also developing Medium Popcorn, a web-series starring puppets that review movies. Add to the exhausting list another business that they run in parallel – Studio Crash&Burn, a video game company operating in partnership with Pixeljam, an organization of the same nature.
Motivational Growth was by far Imagos Films’ biggest project. Ian (Adrian DiGiovanni) is devastated at the loss his long-time, and one-and-only friend, Kent. He has nothing to do but cry and sleep as he mourns the loss of his buddy, that, by the way, happens to be an ancient television set. His unimaginable loss forces him to set off on a suicide mission in his bathroom. Instead, he finds a new friend there. See, Ian hasn’t left his place in months, and hasn’t cleaned in probably even longer. The piles of garbage in his apartment accompany the mold infestation that has been building over time. The Mold (Jeffrey Combs) is alive, it talks, and even manages to help rebuild Ian’s life – or does it? He is torn between the real and the unreal, as Ian goes down a twisted path caused by his isolation.
The treatment of story-telling in the film is quite unique. A pile of mold and an old television set influence an entire series of events in the main character’s life. What’s great about Motivational Growth is that minimal computer-generated alteration has been made to the original filming. Most of what we see is the work of real cosmetics, performance, and camera settings. All preparations, filming and post-production were immediately followed by screenings at various film festivals. Somewhere between all of this, Don and Alexis managed to squeeze in a wedding. “We’re like okay…,” they joke, “…we have a few minutes, let’s get married!”
Imagos has a specific style of filmmaking. The rocket in the logo signifies ‘space,’ and the idea is to take the viewer into a completely different universe. The stories are a bit twisted and employ plenty of exaggeration, yet indicate some form of regularity. “I want to make fantasy worlds that reflect reality,” says Don. He strongly believes in working relentlessly just like his mother did when he was young. He admires director Werner Herzog for the same reason, and respects Michael Bay for making movies that do really well.
Alexis went to NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Her knowledge of the inter-disciplinary arts has helped her career, since she has had to “wear a lot of hats” as a producer of low-budget films. Her list of chores includes securing funds, scouting for locations, managing film sets, supervising staff, and even locking doors. She aims to become a producer with great business skills and an impressive portfolio, quite like Jane Rosenthal. Nothing like combining that with an ability, like Jennifer Roth’s, to recognize and hoist independent filmmakers that totally deserve it.
Imagos Films is getting busy in Seattle. Next in line for them is Flexure. In this sci-fi thriller, a group of physicists run an experiment on a particle accelerator about to get shut down. This causes a fold in reality – an alternate universe that they have to escape before it starts to deconstruct itself. The film is about hubris and denial, and how all of that leads to trouble. A commercial is also in the works, as well as another film called Kapsel.
The Thackers’ priority is to find local investment, cast, and crew for their projects. They are looking to help build a bigger film community in Seattle – one that has its own identity, fame, and respect. “There seems to be a lot of opportunity here,” says Don. “Seattle could be the next giant independent film city.” Don and Alexis hope to spearhead the prospect, and to fill the void left by filmmakers that skip town following their success.
They are also bringing to Seattle their strong business ethics. Though most of their encounters with people they contract have been pleasant, there have been situations that make them wary. “Bad business practices,” says Alexis. “Very, very, very problematic.” It is not uncommon for some people to go back on their word, and still take monetary payment for an unfinished task. But Alexis is an optimist and believes that “the best way we can fight bad business practices is by having good business practice.” Not only are they looking to hire locally, but are also promising a thoroughly professional exchange.
Alexis’ greatest achievement is the happiness she gains from her work. And isn’t that what we’re always looking for? While this businesswoman never doubts what she does – “I can’t afford to!” -, the artist in Don is always doing the exact opposite. He has “this constant need to improve.” He feels accomplished by making the best out of having to “kill a darling,” and the ability to walk out not only unscathed, but better off, of what he calls a “happy accident.”
Awarded Best Narrative Feature at STIFF, Motivational Growth, is now all set for screening at the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, Grand Rapids Film Festival, and Housecore Horror Film Festival.