Indie filmmaker Thomas Tulak was practically born to make movies. Starting off as that adorable kid from Hook to today with his feature film debut, Who Dunt Dunt Dunnit? : The Movie. It’s the story of the ominous night the esteemed Nigel Ainsworth invites his colleagues over to celebrate his early retirement and then mysteriously dies (which was not in the script); what started as an innocent game turns into real-life foul play and fourth-wall breaking as the guests try to figure out whodunnit. The meta-cinema turns deadly in this self-aware comedy. We chatted with Thomas about his career and his challenges taking on the most difficult indie genre…the comedy.
Is there a moment you can identify where you thought, “I’m going to make movies when I grow up”?
For seven months, on the set of Hook, I worked closely with Steven Spielberg and Robin Williams. Robin and I became fast friends off-screen. He was like a big brother to me. Robin seems to thrive on making people laugh, as though his whole mission in life was to bring laughter. That became my mission, too. Because of Robin Williams, I knew I wanted to spend my life making people laugh… Then we’d go to set to, ya know, make a movie… and I would watch Steven work. He always knew exactly what to do, he had all the answers, and he commanded the room. Everyone respected and listened to him, and every day he created magic right before my eyes. I knew, while watching him work, that I wanted to be a director, I wanted to be a storyteller, and that would be how I would make people laugh. Yes, I took some time to grow up out of the public eye, but my life’s mission, since I worked with Robin Williams and Steven Spielberg at age 6, was to tell stories that make people laugh.
“Do you know how hard it is to make a movie when people keep dying?”
What were your challenges in getting the film off the ground and into production?
Well, I mean, people kept dying! That wasn’t supposed to happen. At first, the script called for Rachel to be the victim and die. Then for Nigel to be the hero that solves the murder and saves the day, but then he somehow dies! Then people started dying left and right. Do you know how hard it is to make a movie when people keep dying? Not only is it an insurance nightmare, but how do you keep the rest of the cast from quitting? I did my best to keep the production on track and keep the murders under wraps, so everyone would think things were going as planned, feel safe, and not quit, but more and more people kept dying! Man, that was NOT easy, lemme tell ya!
You’ve spent most of your career writing screenplays, would you care to divulge your process? (Wake up at 5 AM and write for three hours, dictate scripts into your phone, I mean, how do you do what you do?)
I don’t do any illegal drugs, but I’m so happy caffeine is legal! As ideas develop in my brain, I become Tunnel-Vision-Man! I can think of nothing else until I get it all out. Everything develops in my head, and I can’t type fast enough to keep up. It’s like I’m discovering it, not writing it. I’ve spent 10, 12, and 14 hours a day typing away until I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s like a superpower, but one that I can’t control. Like The Hulk! Tom write! …Not to say that I’m always writing, I’ve certainly stared at the blank page before while trying to work it out in my head, but once I see it in my head, then it just goes, man! …it just… goes.