As staff writer on the CTV series Motive, Film Production grad Thomas Pound spends his days thinking about all the ways you could kill someone. Not surprising for a guy who started writing Quentin Tarantino-inspired screenplays as a young teen. We spoke with Thomas about pursuing a life in the entertainment industry, his year at VFS, and writing for a hit TV series.
Did you always know you wanted to work in the entertainment industry?
Thomas: I was fortunate to realize I wanted to work in entertainment at a young age. I was writing since the age of fourteen, starting with one act plays and horrible screenplays which were poor imitations of a Quentin Tarantino script. I wasn’t sure how I would get there, but I knew I wanted to work in film – the pursuit of television came later.
What were you doing before coming to VFS?
Thomas: Before coming to VFS, I was in high school. While other friends were pursuing an education in medicine, law, or anything else sensible, I leaped at the chance to study filmmaking. Coming straight out of high school, I still had enough youthful innocence to not worry about what life would be like after VFS. In retrospect, I think I would have cowered at the uncertainty following, had I decided to study film older in my life. But, that’s just me.
Tell us about your experience in the Film Production program.
Thomas: The Film Production program gave me the hands on experience and insight into every facet of making a movie. It’s obviously on a micro scale compared to feature films or even television sets, but the principals and roles are the same. A set works like a rube Goldberg machine, every piece essential for the whole to work. The Film Production program gave me the chance to try every role on set. The challenges obviously came with the positions I wasn’t as skilled in. The greatest highlight I took away were the relationships I made. I remain close with many of the friends I made in the program, and we have all helped each other create our own films, scripts, and projects. That’s what it’s all about.
You are now a writer on the CTV series Motive – how did you get involved in screenwriting?
Thomas: I have been writing since I was a teenager. Even when my professional pursuit more geared towards producing or directing, I always wrote. I reached a crossroads where my writing was getting more attention than my producing or directing and I had discovered a passion in television. In Canada, I found all the major opportunities to write for TV were in Toronto. So, I took a leap of faith, packed up my truck and moved from Vancouver to Toronto. Then it was two and a half years of writing, building my material, showing it to anyone who would read it, and networking with everyone working in TV. If you politely bang on enough doors, you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to give you ten minutes. All of those ten minutes built the opportunities which led to Motive.
Tell us about your role on the show and a typical work day.
Thomas: As one of the staff writers on Motive, our typical day is spent pontificating all the different ways we could murder someone. As our show is grounded in average people pushed to the point of killing, we spend a great deal of our time turning over the elements which bring out the worst in people and how it may cause someone to snap. If we are not plotting a murder, we may be breaking an episode together. We break down the episode into specific beats, laying out an detailed map of how the story will be told. Because our show is simultaneously telling three different stories including flashbacks, the storytelling can get complex and confusing. We wade through the confusion so what the audience gets is a complex and entertaining murder mystery.
Any advice for those who want to break into the world of writing for television?
Thomas: The biggest advice for breaking into writing for television is to start writing today. You can network with the top television executive, but you’re going to need material to show what you can do. Watch all the television you can get your hands on. New series, old series, foreign series, even series you wouldn’t normally watch. Absorb it all and see what it inspires in you. People want to work with creators, leap into a world from your imagination and put it on paper. The difference maker between getting your opportunity to write for television or not is perseverance. You’re going to be told “no” more often than you’ll be told “yes”. Persevere. If you do, a “yes” will come, and it’ll make every “no” worthwhile.
Thanks for speaking with us, Thomas!
Read more about the writing team behind Motive, which also includes VFS Writing for Film & Television grad Julie Puckrin. Over half a dozen VFS grads from Film Production, Writing for Film & Television, and Foundation Visual Art & Design work behind the scenes on the Vancouver-filmed series, including Executive Producer Erin Haskett and Producer John G. Lenic.
Season two is filming now and is set to air later this year in both Canada and the US.