Timothy Blackwood Discusses His First MPI Original Film

January 28, 2021

MPI filmmaker Timothy Blackwood is the recipient of numerous MPI fellowships and grants and the director of the award-winning MPI-supported film The Conqueror. He is currently in production on his first MPI Original Film, Infraction, which we acquired from the 2020 MPI Short Film Creative Development and Production Lab.

A Canadian-American film director, writer, and producer, Timothy has studied at the European Film College in Ebeltoft, Denmark and the University of King’s College. His films have screened around the world at festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, The Oxford International Film Festival, and Heartland’s Indy Shorts International Film Festival and have won numerous awards.

We caught up with Timothy, as he prepares for principle photography to begin on Infraction, to discuss his experience workshopping his script in MPI’s Short Film Lab:

Q: What inspired you to apply to MPI’s Short Film Creative Development and Production Lab?

Terrance Lewis called me from prison. He had been there for over 21 years. He asked me to tell his story of wrongful conviction. I knew I had to do whatever I could to help share his story with the world. The MPI Short Film Lab gave me the support and structure to help bring this project to fruition.

Q: How does your project embody the theme “Standing Up for What You Believe In Even When It’s Unpopular”?

Infraction reveals an unlikely friendship between a correctional officer and an inmate, Terrance Lewis. These men are tested to do the right thing even though it may result in having negative consequences for both.

Terrance’s response to his years of unjust imprisonment is a humbling, bracing, and, ultimately, a revelatory example of what it means to do the right thing no matter what. I’m honored to be sharing his story.

Q: What was the most important thing you learned through your experience in the Lab? How will you apply that lesson as you transition into the directing stage?

Take nothing for granted. There are a lot of steps in this process that will try your creativity, discipline, and work ethic. It’s a huge undertaking and at the same time there’s no certainty if you’ll advance to the next stage of selection. Terrance himself has been my biggest inspiration to make the most of every bit of this process.

When I applied for the Short Film Lab, Terrance had just been exonerated after 21½ years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. The time he lost living in the free world couldn’t be regained, but every moment in prison was about doing the right thing. He simply does not take the time in his life for granted.

As this project progressed in its several stages, I felt an intense urge to work harder and do better than I ever had before. I realized I needed not to simply tell his story but to be more like Terrance. I needed to see the challenges along the way as opportunities rather than insurmountable obstacles. This allowed me to make the most of the demanding stages of this process. It allowed me to not simply write about lessons the story embodies but to live them out in my life and in the hard activity of creating.

And it is this lesson that I will take with me as we move forward into the directing phase of this project. It’s a joy and I’m really grateful.

Q: Infraction” will be your first MPI Original Film, however, your film “The Conqueror” is an MPI-supported film. What are you most looking forward to this time around working on a film together from start to finish?

First, I have to say I am very grateful for every MPI program, masterclass, and workshop I have had the opportunity to participate in. It has been a huge resource and support to me. Our relationship started with my last film The Conqueror. MPI helped to support that film, which was transformative for its release.

Working together as a team is what I am looking forward to most. I know MPI values this story, and they have been incredibly involved in its development. MPI goes 100 percent. Now it’s time to take that same energy, commitment, and focus into pre-production, production, post-production and, finally, the release.

I know I can trust MPI and that together we can and will do everything possible to make sure this story is authentic and honors Terrance’s experience. This will mean assembling a great cast and crew and finding the locations that will convey the power of his story.

Q: Our 2021 Short Film Creative Development and Production Lab will kickoff in the coming weeks. What advice would you give to the filmmakers whose concepts have been selected?

To have the opportunity to workshop your story with other filmmakers under the guidance of MPI is immensely valuable. The filmmakers that get selected for these workshops are really smart and give feedback generously. Being in a group of filmmakers that are writing at a high level and believe in their work is immensely beneficial, whatever the outcome.

I recommend working really hard to bring your story to the screen and even risk rejection simply because you believe in it and know it’s the right thing for you to do.

Subscribe to our Newsletter