Don’t let the dream die. You know the one. The fantasy you’ve held in your mind since you were a child. The seemingly unrealistic future where you’re the person behind the movie camera, calling the shots, putting your story onto the screen. Don’t let it die. The world has gotten in your way, but the dream is still there, and it is still attainable. You just have to go out there and get it done. It’s on you.
Ant Timpson let the dream stew for decades. He found himself in the industry he adored, and while he was not sitting in the directing chair, he was acting as caretaker for the dreams of others. As a producer, Timpson has unleashed all manner of unforgettable projects: The ABCs of Death (1 and 2), Turbo Kid, The Greasy Strangler, and more. He loves the gig, but its not the dream.
“I came out of the cocoon wanting to be a director, but lost the plot decades ago,” says Timpson. “I started off making things but ended up on another path and looking after everyone else’s dreams. Producing dreams, being rewarded by that, but knowing deep down that I was kidding myself.”
Timpson buried the dream so deep within himself that he thought it didn’t matter anymore. He was wrong. Time is finite, and he didn’t want to betray the original passion. There was no better time to Come to Daddy.
“It’s not the end of the world,” he explains. “I thought, fuck that. Then this vehicle is the one where it was just like, ‘This is it!’ It seemed like this was D-Day; it has to happen. From that point on it was, ‘Yeah, let’s get this thing made.”
Come to Daddy is a gnarly little champer piece. Elijah Wood plays Norval Greenwood, a self-pitying man-child desperate to maintain his false front of cool. Thirty years ago, his father abandoned him and his mother, but merely days earlier he received a letter from Pop asking to reconnect. The film opens on Norval knocking on the door of his father’s coastal cabin and Stephen McHattie answering. Their first exchange is awkward, and it only gets more so…then some other stuff happens. Gulp.
“Last year, my dad passed,” says Timpson. “That inspired the whole style of the film. It’s a tribute to the type of films we both watched together. The British thrillers with Oliver Reed and Michael Caine. We bonded over tough guy ’70s cinema.”
Putting this story before the camera was a cathartic relief for Timson. It was an opportunity to process his grief and leave a memento to his dad within the artform he adored. Every film they had ever consumed together was flowing through Timpson’s veins, and while making a movie of this scale is a run-and-gun event, not allowing much consideration for homage or cinematic references, Timpson recognizes that it’s impossible to keep the influences from rearing themselves.
“I mean everyone has these influences,” he admits, “but they all go out the window the minute you’re dropped into it. I’m sure that changes as you get more experienced in your confidence and your ability to focus on the thing at hand strengthens. I found it so overwhelming that you had to draw on gut-instinct. I’m sure a lot of that came naturally by being a cinephile. You don’t know where it’s all coming from on the day, but it’s ingrained in your DNA by being a life-long movie viewer.”
Timpson only had 22 days to get the film in the can. He did the groundwork of watching other two-handers like Deathtrap and Sleuth. Taking notes and trapping the inspiration they sparked in his soul. That would be enough to get him through the grueling production process.
Step two was finding the perfect house to plop these dueling personalities inside. The actors were key, but the house had to do a lot of the work as well. Once they selected the location, Timpson tweaked the script, letting the structure take a part in the telling of the story.
“I wanted the claustrophobia of it,” says Timpson, “but I didn’t want it to feel like a static, inert environment. With something that close to the rocks, that close to nature, you can have some real fun with a great sound design. It was one of those glorious circumstances where the location exceeds all your wishful thinking and delivers on all fronts.”
Learning to let the environment and his team work for him was a bit of a challenge at first. Timpson is a get-out-and-do-it kinda filmmaker. He’s tinkered in every department, and he has a solution for nearly every problem, but he also knows that he’s hired a helluva crew and he should let them do their damn job.
“Coming from a background of someone that grew up making crazy home movies with his brother,” recounts Timpson, “you just want to get it. You have to pull yourself back from being that idiot that just wants to get busy with every area of the filming because it’s all so much fun. I want to do the blood pump! I wanted to own it! But you got to get the fuck out of there and focus on what you need to do to make the scene work. You have hired brilliant people. You don’t need to get in there, so get the hell out of the way. It’s big vision, picture stuff instead of being lost in the details.”
To say that Timpson is ecstatic to have his directorial debut behind him is the most absurd of understatements. He loved his movie and he wants to get it out in front of as many eyes as possible. He knows the film works, and he knows that his dad would dig the film as much as he does.
“There were a couple of weird tricky coincidences on set that gave me, not the heebie-jeebies, but I felt like Pops was looking down on the production and just making sure that we didn’t make a shitty tribute to him.” No doubt, at least one dad in Come to Daddy ends the experience satisfied.
Come to Daddy is now playing in select theaters and on Digital HD and VOD.