Transforming Can’t into Can: An Interview with Thom Michael Mulligan, Actor, Producer & Writer (Hello, Self… Episode 33)
Host Patricia Leonard was joined by Thom Michael Mulligan, an actor, producer, and writer who shared his life journey from his childhood in Hell’s Kitchen to his acting career. Through his personal experiences and struggles, Thom emphasized the importance of perseverance in achieving one’s dreams.
He provided several examples of his own ‘Hello, Self..’ moments that led him to seize opportunities and take risks in his acting career. He also shared practical advice for budding actors and filmmakers, highlighting the importance of networking and being proactive in seeking opportunities. Thom discussed his involvement in the New Hope Film Festival and stressed how being a part of a film festival can open doors for actors and filmmakers.
Thom Michael Mulligan, Actor, Producer & Writer
Thomas Michael Mulligan is an American actor, film producer, executive director, and playwright. He appeared in two plays, True West and Burn This, and Sweet Taste of Souls, a 2020 horror movie. Mulligan is executive director of submissions at New Hope Film Festival, wrote the play Just Dirty Laundry and won Best Picture for Callous at the Oceanside International Film Festival in 2009.
Originally from NYC, this veteran actor has worked in off Broadway productions, television, feature and short films. He is the founder of Film Dreams Entertainment. Mr Mulligan is also a co-founder and the Executive Director of Submissions for the New Hope Film Festival.
Besides acting, Thom also writes and has had some one act plays produced and wrote the full length play” Just Dirty Laundry” which received critical acclaim. Thom has also been involved in working with various charity groups.
About Hello, Self…
Hello, Self… is a biweekly podcast focused on inspiring stories of turning dreams into reality. Join coach and author Patricia Leonard and her guests as they share life-changing Hello, Self… moments.
Hello, Self… is brought to you by Patricia Leonard & Associates and is based on the new book by Patricia Leonard, Hello, Self.., available here.
Patricia Leonard, Host of Hello, Self…
Patricia Leonard is President of RUNWAY TO SUCCESS, a division of Patricia Leonard & Associates located in Nashville, TN. She is a MESSAGE ARTIST speaker, career & business coach, author and magazine columnist. Patricia consults with clients on leadership, empowerment, career management, entrepreneurship and the power of language. Her work is focused on helping clients find their runway to success!
She has a professional background in management, human resources, corporate training, business consulting and talent development. Patricia has worked with companies in the service, music, banking, manufacturing, publishing, warehousing, healthcare, academic, retail and financial industries, and has taught management classes as an adjunct professor.
Patricia has a degree in Human Resource Management, is certified as a Career Coach and Consulting Hypnotist and is MBTI qualified.
Her volunteer energies are focused on Women in Film and Television-Nashville, where she is a Board Vice President; Dress for Success as the Advisory Board President; and International Coaching Federation-Nashville where she held Board roles for several years.
Patricia is the author of Wearing High Heels in a Flip Flop World, BECOMING WOMAN…a journal of personal discovery, THE NOW, HOW & WOW of Success, Happenings, a full year calendar of inspirational messages and a spoken word album titled, I AM…
She enjoys songwriting, creating poetry and has written a one-woman show and artistic speech she performs titled Hello, Self…, about a woman in midlife reinventing herself, which led to her new book by the same name, available here.
On the personal side, Patricia, describes herself as a woman, lover of life, mother, grandmother, career professional and message artist; AND in that order! Her goal is to continue inspiring others, of any age, to START NOW creating and expanding their Runway to Success.
She believes that life is a gift, the way we wrap it is our choice.
Connect with Patricia:
[00:00:01]Patricia Leonard: Welcome to Hello Self. It’s a podcast focused on turning your cants into cans and your dreams into plans. I am your host, coach, and author, Patricia Leonard.
[00:00:24] Patricia Leonard: Well, hello out there, all of you. Hello, Self listeners and welcome today. I have a guest that you’re going to really enjoy. He has a lot of insights. He’s lived a life that he can share the struggles he’s had as well as the magic he’s created along with other people in his life. Remember that hello, self.
[00:00:50] Patricia Leonard: Hello, self. is a podcast about turning your cans into cans and your dreams into plans. And I am sure after this interview with my guest today, you will get those dreams that you’ve got on that Sunday shelf, take them off and get started on them. That’s our hope for you. So today I’d like to welcome Thom Michael Mulligan.
[00:01:20] Patricia Leonard: Say hello Thom.
[00:01:22] Thom Michael Mulligan: Hello and thank you Patricia for having me on your podcast.
[00:01:25] Patricia Leonard: I’m going to do just a little overview for the audience, just of your bio and then I’m going to let you take it from here and give us a little bit about your life journey from seven years old. So I’ll tell you more about that.
[00:01:46] Patricia Leonard: Thomas Michael Mulligan, or Thom Michael Mulligan, was born and raised in New York City’s Hell Kitchen. Now, this is very interesting. I’m learning as much from these individuals that I have on my show, as I’m sure my guests, or my audience is. Because I wasn’t clear about what Hell Kitchen was. I looked it up last night.
[00:02:12] Patricia Leonard: So it’s around Clinton, New York audience. I just wanted if you don’t know, I wanted you to know too. But anyway, Thom will tell you more about the details. But he was introduced to acting. At the age of seven, he is an actor, a producer, and a writer. And I’ll let him tell you how that all came about. He loves acting, he’s acted all over, not only living in New York, he moved to California 10 or 15 years later.
[00:02:45] Patricia Leonard: And he’ll give you some hello self moments. from his own journey as an actor, producer and writer. Okay, Thom, I’m going to turn it over to you. Tell us about your life journey and the celebrations and the wake up moments.
[00:03:04] Thom Michael Mulligan: I, as far as I grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, very rough and tumble neighborhood.
[00:03:09] Thom Michael Mulligan: My father was a longshoreman. We were pretty poor. We lived in tenement buildings near the docks and it was a very today it’s a very different neighborhood, but back then it was very rough and tumble and I don’t know why when I was about seven, my mom said to me, hey Thommy, I’m having an audition for a play at the Hudson Field Theater.
[00:03:28] Thom Michael Mulligan: And I want you to come with me. I want you to see what it’s like. And my mom was a very talented actress. Then, so I went with her and it turns out there was a role for for a kid in the play and they said, Hey, would you like to be in the play? And my mom said would you like to be in the play?
[00:03:44] Thom Michael Mulligan: And I’m like, okay, all right. And so I had one line and it was a play called street scene. That took place in the thirties in New York. Now this was around 55, 54, 55, and it took place in the thirties called street scene. Anyway, my one line was, and I, she played my mom, Hey ma, give me a dime. I want to buy a cone, a dime.
[00:04:09] Thom Michael Mulligan: But it took place on the street scene, on the street, in front of these tenement buildings, and that’s what the play was about. And that’s basically how I got started acting. I was in, I think, two more plays with my mom, and then people saw me. outside of that in plays and cast me in other plays. So I did another three or four plays.
[00:04:28] Thom Michael Mulligan: But by the time I was 10, I was all about sports, baseball, hockey, basketball. And my dream was to be a major league baseball player and a pitcher. Oh, wow. But I think the seed had been planted all the way back then. And then my mom, my sister Kate was born in 1957. And after that, my mom stopped acting.
[00:04:50] Thom Michael Mulligan: Oh, interesting. So that was, I think it was more of a kind of a application for her. She just loved doing it. You know what I mean? It wasn’t, I don’t think she was really pursuing it as a career kind of thing. And yeah, so that was my start. And I guess it was always there. And I, when I started hitting my late twenties, I started thinking about it again.
[00:05:10] Thom Michael Mulligan: I started thinking about acting and I actually, when I was about, I was living in the city in New York and I picked up the backstage newspaper and I saw there was an audition for a play at this small theater. So I thought, Oh, I’m just going to go and audition for it. A hello
[00:05:26] Patricia Leonard: self, a hello self moment,
[00:05:28] Thom Michael Mulligan: right?
[00:05:29] Thom Michael Mulligan: A hello self moment. But the thing is, so I go, I did it only as a thing, right? I wasn’t looking to get cast. And guess what? I got two callbacks. They wanted to cast me in the play, right? So I said yeah, I thank you, but I don’t think I can, I could do it. I
[00:05:48] Patricia Leonard: gotta play hockey.
[00:05:50] Thom Michael Mulligan: I didn’t I didn’t do it.
[00:05:51] Thom Michael Mulligan: And anyway, I but by the time I was getting close to 30, I really started thinking about it more and more. And I finally moved back into the, into New York city in January of 80. And that’s how I got started with this crazy journey. Isn’t that,
[00:06:09] Patricia Leonard: We never know about the journey, the twists and turns of the journey.
[00:06:15] Patricia Leonard: What happened to your hockey at that point?
[00:06:19] Thom Michael Mulligan: Oh, I still played on and off. Actually, I was still playing baseball, too. I was playing independently. I played until I was about 35 and pitched in what they call independent ball. Yeah. Semi pro independent leagues. And, I played hockey, I continue with hockey and then I had to give it up for a while because I did have issues with a sort of asthma and breathing.
[00:06:39] Thom Michael Mulligan: And so I had to let it go. And anyway, at that point, I was starting to get more focused on the act. I was taking classes. I was, right away I started getting work on the soaps under fives. On all the different soaps in New York and I thought, Oh, this is going to be, this is going to be easy, but no, it wasn’t easy.
[00:06:57] Thom Michael Mulligan: You know what I mean? But it seemed okay. And then in this is in 1981, I was in a restaurant one night and I see this guy, tall guy, tall blonde guy. And he looks really familiar. We wind up getting in a conversation. His name was Rick Johnson. Turned out he was an actor. He had been in the business for about 25 years.
[00:07:15] Thom Michael Mulligan: character actor, a lot of guest star on tv shows. So he’s asking me, what do you know, what are you doing Thom? I’m taking classes, I’m doing this and that. Okay, let me tell you two things about this business. Number one, the business takes you when it wants you and not a moment before. And number two, and this is the killer, the business doesn’t care if you’re in it.
[00:07:36] Thom Michael Mulligan: What? He said, doesn’t care if you’re in it. So if you’re gonna be in it. Don’t complain about it. It is what it is. Because if you decide you’re not doing it anymore, there’s 1000 more coming Thomorrow. Oh, my God. That was like an arrow. What do you mean? It doesn’t care.
[00:07:52] Patricia Leonard: But you know what, Thom, those that is a strategic, um, that is a strategy that everybody should take.
[00:08:01] Patricia Leonard: It doesn’t matter if it’s acting or corporate America where I come from that business takes you where it wants you to go and the business doesn’t care if you don’t try. Oh my God, a lesson. Listen, everybody. That’s a fabulous lesson. You gotta be in charge of what you want to do. Okay, Thom, take it from there.
[00:08:24] Thom Michael Mulligan: So you have. Yeah. So with that, at that point, it was a hard hit to me. Thank you. Because I thought, wow, but I said, Okay I’m going to work hard. I’m going to continue to do this. And then another kind of a turning point was I worked at this restaurant Terra Nova. It was on 50 off of Fifth Avenue and 37 across from Lord and Taylor.
[00:08:44] Thom Michael Mulligan: Yes. And I was like a mater d three nights a week. Anyway, I had to wear a shirt and tie. Anyway, this waitress, Kathy Connors worked here, sweet lady. And she was from Indiana. I remember that. Okay. Anyway, she was, I don’t know what part, but she was from India. Anyway, she was the shop right lady. Now shop right was a huge grocery store chain on the east coast.
[00:09:09] Thom Michael Mulligan: Okay. She had a three year contract. She’s making 100, 000 a year. Okay. And she was still waitressing. So I said, Kathy, you’re the shop, right? Lady, why are you because I could lose that contract Thomorrow, right? I could lose the contract Thomorrow. So she said, that’s what I do. As it turned out about three months later, they didn’t renew her contract if the three years, right?
[00:09:31] Thom Michael Mulligan: Anyway, so one night we sit down after work and she said to me, okay, what do you want to do? What are you doing? What do you want to do? Ask do you wanna be a movie star or you wanna be an actor because you got the movie star looks you, you got, you have charisma, you’ve got the it factor. I believe you could go that way with your looks, but you could fizzle out pretty quick.
[00:09:52] Thom Michael Mulligan: Or do you wanna have a long-term career? And if you do. You’ve got to be really serious about it and you got to start doing theater. So what are you doing right there? She goes, so what is it? What’s it going to be? I needed no, no thinking. What’s it going to be?
[00:10:06] Patricia Leonard: Oh my gosh. She’s just like me. I say
[00:10:09] Thom Michael Mulligan: she nailed me.
[00:10:10] Thom Michael Mulligan: What’s it going to be? I said, okay, I want to be a really good actor. Okay. Then you know what you need to do. And actually her boyfriend, her fiance, Dan Moynihan. He came in one night. I met him. Do you remember a movie called Porky’s? Yeah. Then she goes, my boyfriend just signed a 500, 000 three movie contract to do three Porky’s movies.
[00:10:33] Thom Michael Mulligan: And he came in. I met a really sweet guy, really nice guy. And he did do the movies. I don’t know what happened to him after that, but he did do three. Or he’s movies. So interesting. Yeah. But Kathy I never forgot that. And I got to it, and I, I started doing a lot of theater and auditioning for plays.
[00:10:53] Patricia Leonard: And were you in those? You were in those movies. Porky’s? Yeah.
[00:10:57] Thom Michael Mulligan: No, I wasn’t in Porky’s.
[00:10:59] Patricia Leonard: Oh, okay,
[00:10:59] Thom Michael Mulligan: I didn’t. No, this was probably around 82, actually, probably more like around 82, I would say. Yeah, okay. When I met Dan and Kathy I’ll never, I can still envision her sitting there looking me dead in the eye and saying, what’s it going to be?
[00:11:14] Thom Michael Mulligan: Right now, what are you doing?
[00:11:16] Patricia Leonard: But that was a, yeah, but that was something that has stuck with you this whole time because we have to be committed because the business doesn’t care.
[00:11:25] Thom Michael Mulligan: So if you’re going to be like Rick Johnson said, if you’re going to be in it, go at it, work at it, work hard, so then the first couple of years in New York, I could not get an agent because all I had was my seven credits as a child.
[00:11:39] Thom Michael Mulligan: And they would say, yeah, you’ve got a great look. You look good. You need more credits. Go take more acting classes. Go do this. Go do that. Finally, I heard about an audition for a commercial for Cotyle and all, they were looking for a hockey player at Compton Advertising. I don’t know how, I can’t remember how I heard about it.
[00:11:58] Thom Michael Mulligan: That day, I went right over to Compton Advertising on 3rd Avenue, went up there, went to the creative department, and I said yeah, I’d like to drop off my headshot resume and a photo of me playing hockey, and I said, I’m a hockey player. I hear you’re casting a commercial. You need a hockey player. And the secretary said, yes, I’ll give this to the creative director.
[00:12:16] Thom Michael Mulligan: That afternoon, A couple hours later, I got a call from the creative director saying, Hey, we like your look. We want you to come to the audition Thomorrow. And so I went and it was a lot of dialogue and I, first I read and then they called me back again. And then finally, the third thing was. to skate.
[00:12:35] Thom Michael Mulligan: You had to see me skate, right? Because this was the lead in the commercial. Oh, yeah. So anyway, I show up for the audition that day. It was at the Sky rink in New York where I used to play and I get into locker room. I’m getting dressed. All of a sudden the sky walks in. The other guy was between me and him.
[00:12:55] Thom Michael Mulligan: A blonde guy. He comes in with the army duffel bag with hockey equipment, right? And I’m thinking, nobody comes in with hockey equipment in a duffel bag. Nobody, right? Anyway, he takes the stuff out. He’s looking at it. No, this is funny. He’s looking at it and he goes. Hey, how do you put this on? Yeah. And I knew right then he was not a hockey player.
[00:13:17] Thom Michael Mulligan: Anyway, we get dressed. I walk out, he comes out, his ankles are bending and the director and the producers are there and the creative director is there and they go, the director goes, wait, can you play hockey? No, but I didn’t think you’d find an actor who could play hockey. You know what? You’re done.
[00:13:34] Thom Michael Mulligan: Goodbye. You wasted our time. He was telling me to go out there and skate. I went out, skated around, a couple of laps, came back in and he goes, okay, we’re booking you. A national, co title and all commercial. On my own. aS soon as I left the rink, I went down to the phone booth and I called this agent.
[00:13:52] Thom Michael Mulligan: I don’t want to say, she’s still around. No, yeah. That’s okay. And I’ve been sending her my headshot and resume and calling her every three or four months and she, Thom, I keep telling me, get the, get more credits, get more work, get, develop a, her name is door. I said, Dorothy is Thom Mulligan.
[00:14:08] Thom Michael Mulligan: Okay, Thom. I’m very busy. What is it? I said, I just booked the national commercial. What about the national commercial? How did you do that? I submitted myself for it. Oh, and I said, so I’m willing to give you the booking. If you sign me and she said, really, you’ll give me the booking. I said, yes. When can you come over?
[00:14:31] Thom Michael Mulligan: I went over that afternoon and she signed me. That’s how I got my first agent and I gave her the booking. She was my agent for 10 years.
[00:14:38] Patricia Leonard: This is something I want to stop at. Do you hear what Thom is saying? Don’t let everybody, professional persons know, stop your life. Look at Taylor Swift. Look at Thom Mulligan.
[00:14:55] Patricia Leonard: They both got no’s and But then all of a sudden, they just on a whim, sometimes a hello self moment or an intuitive flash, he just went down and signed up. So audience pay attention to this. Nobody knows what your life is about. So follow through on what your feelings and your intuition tells you and go test it.
[00:15:22] Patricia Leonard: Yeah. Oh, Thom, very important.
[00:15:24] Thom Michael Mulligan: Interesting too, a little bit related to that. I had an actor friend who couldn’t get an agent, couldn’t get an audition. So I had an audition for, this is an 84. It was the smartest vitamins for the winter Olympics. It was a runner carrying the torch and the audition was in central park in New York.
[00:15:41] Thom Michael Mulligan: So I said to my friend, Hey, you know what? You want to come to the audition with me? Why? I don’t have an age. I said, look, come to the audition. If you book it. And it was through my agent, Dorothy, the one who signed me. If you book it, I don’t think there’ll be any issue. Is really you’re gonna bring? I said, Yeah, I’ll just say you came from my age.
[00:15:57] Thom Michael Mulligan: Anyway, I wanted booking it. I got it. He didn’t get it. I got it. But he was so appreciative. He said, Man, you made my day. You encourage me. I’m gonna I’m gonna really work harder now. I just was really down on myself. And but look, I try to help somebody and yet wound up helping me
[00:16:16] Patricia Leonard: that.
[00:16:17] Patricia Leonard: Okay. Another really important point, just because you’re like, this is to my audience. Thom is bringing up so many strategies and so many ideas for how to live your life for making your dreams come true. So he goes ahead and helps others. Not only does he learn for himself, but he helps others. So it’s about giving back to and helping others.
[00:16:46] Patricia Leonard: You never know. So it’s not only taking, it’s about giving too. So that’s a very important strategy,
[00:16:54] Thom Michael Mulligan: Thom. Yeah, that’s why I mean I continue to do that. I’ve always tried to do that. Let’s see what related to that. I continue to work, work on stokes and continue to do some theater.
[00:17:06] Thom Michael Mulligan: I, I had one stretch and I’ve never had the stretch before again, 83 and 84. I booked eight straight TV commercials. eight straight commercials I auditioned for. I booked.
[00:17:17] Patricia Leonard: Wait, did you do those yourself or did your agent get them for you?
[00:17:22] Thom Michael Mulligan: I’d say for at least half of them were through my agent and half of them were through my own efforts, which of course I gave to my agent.
[00:17:30] Patricia Leonard: Yeah, and don’t turn your life over to your agent or to a human resource person in corporate America or a coach. I’m a coach, but don’t turn your life over. Go after your life. Okay. Another important factor.
[00:17:45] Thom Michael Mulligan: Here’s the thing you can’t look. You can’t totally I know some actors that, who I won’t mention, but anyway they’re more waiting for the call from the agent.
[00:17:53] Thom Michael Mulligan: Yes! Yes! Look, you have to be proactive every day. Do something every day. Send out a headshot and resume. It’s easier today. You’ve got all the casting sites, right? Submit. Especially if you don’t have an agent. Put yourself out there. That’s how it’s going to happen. Yeah, you may get turned out.
[00:18:09] Thom Michael Mulligan: Most of the time you’re probably going to get turned down. I’ve been through so many auditions that I did not get. And there were times where admittedly I would wake up and go, you know what, maybe I’m not that good. Maybe, maybe I’m doing the wrong thing. But my father told me when I was young, he said, Thommy, the one thing you have is perseverance.
[00:18:28] Thom Michael Mulligan: You have perseverance. Very important. And I never forgot that. And then a friend of my father said that to me too. One day, I don’t know, he was my coach, baseball coach. And he said, Thom Mulligan, you, the one thing you have is perseverance. Don’t ever lose that. So yeah, I think maybe that’s what keeps me going.
[00:18:48] Thom Michael Mulligan: But again, I had my times where I said, you know what, I’m done. I’m not getting another headshot. I’m not taking another class. I’m done with this. And then, of course, the call comes, right? Yeah. Hey, Thom.
[00:19:00] Patricia Leonard: Yes.
[00:19:01] Thom Michael Mulligan: We got this role, and it takes you back in, you
[00:19:03] Patricia Leonard: know?
[00:19:04] Patricia Leonard: Yeah.
[00:19:04] Patricia Leonard: Thom is bringing up so many tips for you.
[00:19:08] Patricia Leonard: When you just about have given up, a hello self moment may come from somebody else. So we will all go through the journey of life that It’s not always a high. Sometimes it’s a low, he says, but his father said, persevere. So keep going after your dream. Yeah.
[00:19:28] Thom Michael Mulligan: Let me add this little story to it. And I use this as an encouragement.
[00:19:32] Thom Michael Mulligan: So one of my job, many jobs that I held, I bartended, I waited, I worked for three catering companies in New York. And for nine months, I had a job as a room service waiter at the New York Sheraton hotel. Yes. And I can tell you some stories about that, but we won’t go into that. But anyway, I worked there for nine months.
[00:19:49] Thom Michael Mulligan: And I had the four to midnight shift. So one night I come out and in front was the taxi stand. So I get in the first taxi. We start driving. Where are you going? Where? Where was going to anyway? Start talking. And I see on the life on the license in the taxi, it said Oliver Stone. No, where do you hear this?
[00:20:08] Thom Michael Mulligan: He’s got a safari jacket on. He said, yeah, I’m, I’m taking a class screenwriting class at NYU and got to pay the rent. And he said I was in the army in Vietnam. I said, I was in Vietnam too. Okay. Yeah. I said. I was on a platoon. He goes, I wrote this movie called platoon, but nobody wants it.
[00:20:25] Thom Michael Mulligan: Oh my gosh, nobody. And I’m not, this is a very true story. He goes, but nobody’s interested. And so we continued to chat and he wanted to know what I was doing. I said, yeah, I’m taking classes and, trying to work at the hotel, trying to pay the bills. And anyway finally got to where I was going and I said good luck, Thomas said, good luck, Oliver.
[00:20:44] Thom Michael Mulligan: And a year later, I see in the industry news, platoon is going to be made by, I think, paramount. So two sides of the story. The one side is I say to my friends there. I was in a taxi with Oliver Stone before he became Oliver Stone. But what I did not know he had already written. The movie did not express.
[00:21:06] Thom Michael Mulligan: and won awards for it. And here he was driving a taxi to pay his rent. And then he did. Platoon finally got picked up and it went. So I called my agent up Dorothy. And I said, Dorothy, look, there’s this movie platoon. I already submitted you for it. Okay, but let me tell you the story about Oliver Stone. Oh, okay.
[00:21:27] Thom Michael Mulligan: I’m gonna send him a note because I’m communicating directly with him, right? She sends him a note. He remembered. So I actually got to audition. I had two or three calls. I didn’t book it, but here’s the thing, around that time is when I was starting to have a lot of issues with my lungs and my breathing.
[00:21:43] Thom Michael Mulligan: And he said, if we book, if you get booked, we’re going to spend a month living in the jungle in the Philippines, right? Which is what he did because he wanted everybody to really be ticked off and really feel what it was like. I couldn’t honestly, physically at that time, I couldn’t have done it anyway, but he wished me the best.
[00:22:02] Thom Michael Mulligan: And The main thing about that story is here’s Oliver Stone. It wasn’t always Oliver Stone. So you could this director from I said, Why can’t you be Oliver Stone? You’re incredibly talented. You write direct your D. P. wHy can’t you be all of a stone? So anybody out there, how do you know you can’t be all of a stone?
[00:22:22] Thom Michael Mulligan: You can’t be Matt Damon or Ben Affleck or any of these people. Oh, my gosh. Why not?
[00:22:29] Patricia Leonard: Why not? It’s right, Thom. Why not? anYway. Oh, my gosh. I hope that This is going to get so many views, Thom, because these, especially in the Tennessee area, a lot of people are moving here now because of the industry, because of the opportunities here.
[00:22:55] Patricia Leonard: And we’re getting people from New York, from California, all over. And the opportunities that you may run into somebody driving a taxi or working at a bar, you never know who might be the next. So just keep I say to all of you listening. And Thom just confirmed all this with his story so far. Get out there and make yourself visible.
[00:23:23] Patricia Leonard: Open up to every opportunity that you can. I remember one time there was a gentle young man I was on the board of women in film and television here in Nashville and there was a young man that spoke and he was telling about his journey and trying to encourage people at the luncheon and he said, you know how I got into movie production and we, of course, we didn’t know.
[00:23:52] Patricia Leonard: He said I showed up at a film shoot and they said, what are you doing here? He said, I want to work. I want to work on this. What kind of background you got? In high school, I. Do you know that he ended up getting an opportunity in that? And he said, simply because I followed my heart and just went there and showed up and they liked the fact that somebody would come and just say, I have no background, but here’s how, here’s what I want to do.
[00:24:27] Patricia Leonard: And they took him under their wing and. He’s, now he’s doing his own stuff. So you just, oh my God, Thom, this is exactly what I wanted for my audience. Is a story like this that you’ve been sharing. So are there any one thing that I talked to you about before we got started um, is What is wonderful about your life so far?
[00:24:54] Patricia Leonard: How would you Say that this is probably the most wonderful parts of my life to this day in my journey In a lot of different directions. What are some of the most wonderful? Parts or
[00:25:09] Thom Michael Mulligan: okay, the one of the most wonderful things right now present day is that I am here with my family, my son, my daughter in law, my three, three granddaughters.
[00:25:22] Thom Michael Mulligan: And I feel much happier being here, being close to them now that I have in quite a few years. So that I need to say that. I love them. I love my son. My daughter was amazing. My three granddaughters, my little one, Millie, just three and a half out of here on Sunday. Anyway she’s a trip. I just, I love.
[00:25:43] Thom Michael Mulligan: So that’s To me, that’s a wonderful moment in terms of you’re asking about career wise. I would say in first of all, in 1986, I wrote a play called Just Dirty Laundry, a full length play, and I was living in New Hope, Pennsylvania at that point, which is a small town on the Delaware River, about 45 miles north of Philadelphia.
[00:26:05] Thom Michael Mulligan: It’s a very art history of the arts there. Anyway, I wrote this play and a friend of mine called the Citra. who owned the Topaz house dinner theater. I was walking down the street and I ran into me. He goes, what’s that? I was going to make a copy of the play. It was only 30 pages, right? He goes, I wrote this play called just dirty laundry.
[00:26:22] Thom Michael Mulligan: It takes place at Christmas Eve. Oh, I want to read it. No, I just need to make no, let me read it. He took it from me and he calls me later that day and he goes, I like it. I want to do it. Let’s do it, but you gotta make it longer. So the next two or three nights I got on there and I, it turned out a 75 page play.
[00:26:42] Thom Michael Mulligan: And he wound up producing it. And of course we had to do, as we were going through rehearsals, we had to do a lot of rewrites, but he produced it. I was in it as well, and it was critically acclaimed. And it was a pretty amazing experience, not only writing in it, writing it, but being in the play as well.
[00:27:02] Thom Michael Mulligan: And it was done in, in, in New Hope at his theater. And then it wound up after that, almost everything Paul did, he cast me in. And I, if I came to him with a play. He said, okay, let’s do it. I came to him with the Eric Boghossian’s Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll, 12 character one man show. I said, Paul, I really like this.
[00:27:20] Thom Michael Mulligan: I’d like to do it. He said, let me read it. Calls me the next day, he goes, let’s do it. Start prepping. Start learning the lines. I had 95 pages of dialogue, 12 characters, right? He produced that. True West. I wanted to do True West. Sam Shepard’s True West. He produced that twice. And other things that I wanted to do.
[00:27:39] Thom Michael Mulligan: So that was how important he was in my life because he was a great director. He owned the theater, he owned the dinner theater, and he gave me so many opportunities and that was, I would say, the core of my training at that time. Being given all those opportunities to do all these shows that I wanted to do.
[00:27:58] Thom Michael Mulligan: Yes. You know what I mean? So
[00:28:00] Patricia Leonard: you were in charge of your own destiny at that point.
[00:28:03] Thom Michael Mulligan: Was trying to make it happen, but he helped me, thank you so much, Paul, in case you watch this and he knows how much I appreciate him for what he did for
[00:28:12] Patricia Leonard: me. Yes. And you were co director an executive director, you were co founder and executive director of the festival.
[00:28:21] Patricia Leonard: Can you give us a little bit more about that?
[00:28:23] Thom Michael Mulligan: Okay. So the New Hope Film Festival, so how that came about was, that was in 2009. A couple of years before that, a friend of mine knew this family and she said their son has written four or five novels. He worked on Wall Street. He wrote a novel called Shadowfields.
[00:28:37] Thom Michael Mulligan: He wrote his first script from it. Could you help him? Could you give him some guidance? So anyway, I called him up and we started having conversations and I basically helped Doug to, to work on the script and and things like that, and that’s how Doug and I got to know each other. And then in April, I think it was April or May of 2009.
[00:28:58] Thom Michael Mulligan: I went back to New Hope for a visit and Doug and I went to breakfast and we’re sitting there in the Bridge Cafe up in Frenchtown, New Jersey, talking about the industry, right? How hard it is to get noticed, how hard it is to get work. And I was jokingly saying, yeah, I’m on the W list. He goes, the W list?
[00:29:14] Thom Michael Mulligan: I, yeah, Thom who? Anyway, and I said, and then somehow film festivals came up and New Hope. Again, it’s got the history of the arts and Doug kind of said maybe we could do a festival. I said I live in California now. So anyway, I left a week later. Doug calls me up and says, Thom, I went to my attorney.
[00:29:35] Thom Michael Mulligan: I incorporated the New Hope Film Festival. Let’s do it. Okay. And the right elements were there. Doug was 12 years, Wall Street, Wharton School of Business MBA, one of the two most brilliant people I’ve ever known. And one of the nicest guys. Okay. He had that side of the business acumen. And then I knew this industry.
[00:29:57] Thom Michael Mulligan: I knew about film festivals. So we spent the next year on the phone, setting it up and we launched it in July of 2010. And now we’re heading into our 14th year. In April, 2024 Hasn’t been easy. It’s a year-round thing to run a festival. But we’ve kept it going and it’s getting worldwide recognition.
[00:30:16] Thom Michael Mulligan: From the very first year we had people coming from all over the world to do all over India, China, Russia England.
[00:30:26] Patricia Leonard: And do they do their film or do they present what they’ve got? What is they submit.
[00:30:31] Thom Michael Mulligan: So the way film festivals work is you submit this thing called film freeway and so filmmakers submit their films to film festivals and festivals put their, put their info about the festival, what they’re looking for, when to submit, when the festival is, and so that’s how the submission started coming in.
[00:30:49] Patricia Leonard: So if any of you have a thought or show that you would like to, or a film that you would like to get noticed, just listen to what film festivals do. They give you the guidelines and then turn it in. What have you got to lose? Here’s the thing. Listen, you might be able to contact Thom now. Yeah.
[00:31:10] Thom Michael Mulligan: Oh, you hey, reach out to me on Facebook.
[00:31:12] Thom Michael Mulligan: But here’s the thing. Okay, so I know both sides ’cause I’m a filmmaker too. I submit films to film festival because some people have a kind of a negative connotation about film festivals. Yes. But here’s the thing, it’s not just the festival itself. I was saying to people recently, I said, look, even if you don’t have a film in the festival or don’t know someone that has a film, go to the festival for a couple of days.
[00:31:36] Thom Michael Mulligan: Spend a day, Hey, buy a ticket, spend a day, see some films, talk to filmmakers, talk to directors, producers. Network. It’s a great networking venue, even if you don’t have a film, right? And if you do have a film and it gets in, great, submitted, I, my one project, actually, this movie Callous, it’s a feature film I produced in 2007.
[00:32:00] Thom Michael Mulligan: Based on a true story about child abuse and family dysfunction, the first 23 festivals we submitted to, we got turned down, okay? And we thought, my partner and I thought it’s a pretty hard movie it’s based, it’s a pretty hard edged movie, and I said maybe we don’t have it, maybe it’s not that good, and then we decided, you know what, we’re going to do one more round of submissions.
[00:32:19] Thom Michael Mulligan: We picked 15 festivals, and the very next festival, the first one we submitted to was the Riverside International Film Festival in California. Not only did we get in, but it won best picture over films that had name actors. So 23 “no’s”, and the next one was, yes, it’s in best picture.
[00:32:46] Patricia Leonard: You’re right. Your father was right about you. Perseverance. You continue to do that. Maybe Thom will even run a workshop about how to in Nashville, about how to go about entering your film idea. Actually, I just did. We just, you just did a
[00:33:05] Thom Michael Mulligan: workshop. Yeah. And the Tennessee film community had a thing last weekend before last in Knoxville at Pellissippi state.
[00:33:12] Thom Michael Mulligan: They had all kinds of speakers and I came and spoke on film festivals.
[00:33:16] Patricia Leonard: Okay. We got to get one of those in that wasn’t in Nashville.
[00:33:20] Thom Michael Mulligan: They’re planning one in Nashville coming up.
[00:33:22] Patricia Leonard: Oh, they are? Fantastic.
[00:33:24] Thom Michael Mulligan: The next one is going to be in Nashville. Yes. It’s going to be promoted.
[00:33:27] Patricia Leonard: Watch out for it because if Thom’s connected, he can help you.
[00:33:31] Patricia Leonard: He’s got the background. And I, we just had a film festival here in Nashville. Yes. And I had producer and a director, film producer and director. Katie Allman is her name. Yes. And when I met with her, the first time, when I first met her, we met at Panera’s. Okay. Within Women in Film and Television. And so she wanted to show me a film that she had.
[00:34:02] Patricia Leonard: So she had just joined. And so we went down to Panera and… She had a computer with her and a cell phone. And I said, so you’re going to show me your film. So we looked at her trailer on the computer.
[00:34:21] Patricia Leonard: Correct.
[00:34:21] Patricia Leonard: Okay. Then, she said, Patricia, I shot this all on my cell phone. The whole thing on my cell phone.
[00:34:31] Patricia Leonard: And she said, my friend and I created the background. We created every scene, all the things. I said, KD, I’m blown away. It was it a short film? Yes. But she’s gone on and done a lot of things and women in film sponsored her on one of them through a nonprofit because it helped women in film. She has gone on and now everybody knows her name now here in Nashville.
[00:35:03] Patricia Leonard: And not only here in Nashville, she goes on and she’s won film festivals. I couldn’t believe a little cell phone she shot it on. So there, go out and just do it. Just go try it.
[00:35:16] Thom Michael Mulligan: That’s right. We get films every year. We’ve already gotten a couple of films this year that were shot on cell phones. Now, some of them were written, one we got a couple years ago.
[00:35:25] Thom Michael Mulligan: It was an amazing film, beautifully done, acted everything. We find out in the end it was shot on three cell phones, but the people who did it had a lot of years in the industry. They had it planned out, mapped out, shot lists, they knew what they were doing. I, it was amazing. Sometimes they come in off cell phones and you can tell they’re not, they’re not there, but So people are shooting amazing stuff on cell, especially the iPhone.
[00:35:51] Thom Michael Mulligan: And
[00:35:51] Patricia Leonard: the whole thing about it for me is to get it up there and you, it may not be top quality as far as the the look of it. However, it may Say you’re a producer. I can never know that you’re a writer And this is a great subject so it may not I just did. TV shoot at a local thing with my high heels cabaret.
[00:36:20] Patricia Leonard: And I remember the person who directs that studio said to me, Patricia, don’t worry that it’s not perfect this first time, at least you stepped out. And it’ll get better each time. That’s right. These are the things that this is what Thom is confirming to all of you. If you have this desire and you’ve got hello self moments that say, I’m going to start it now, I’m taking that off of my someday shelf and start it.
[00:36:49] Patricia Leonard: Now, then right here is a resource. KD almonds, a resource, a kneecap. studios here in Nashville. A great starting resource. So there’s all it’s all over. Just go step out and persevere like Thomas been
[00:37:06] Thom Michael Mulligan: saying. Let me add to on callous. And so that’s the first movie ever produced. I didn’t produce a short film.
[00:37:15] Thom Michael Mulligan: I produced a feature film. Okay, now I would suggest Do a short film first, because I, this was back in 2007, okay, I met this guy, Joey Linai, he wrote the script based on his life story, about a very abusive, dysfunctional family, and it was very raw and real, and I thought, this is a story that should be told, because it could be helpful to people, even though it’s very hard.
[00:37:41] Thom Michael Mulligan: Anyway, long as it is. We decided we’re going to do it. We had no money. We went to investors. Investors said, yeah when you have a budget and you’re ready, come back to us. And it was almost a year and a half later, because we both kept getting booked in work. And finally, it’s okay, are we going to do this or not?
[00:37:57] Thom Michael Mulligan: Because we could wait another 10 years and we shook hands. Remember, we shook hands on it. And in front of it, we had lunch in Burbank and we’re standing on the marquee of a movie theater and shook hands and said, we’re going to do it. And I said, I never, I said, Joey, I want you to look up on that marquee, right?
[00:38:13] Thom Michael Mulligan: I’m going to tell you, we’re going to see Callis on a movie marquee. He was okay, whatever, right? Anyway, sure as shootin one of the festivals we got into was the Indie Fest USA at Downtown Disney. We got in and we show up for the screening and it was an AMC theater and on the marquee was one of the movies was callous.
[00:38:39] Thom Michael Mulligan: He stops. He goes, getting chills. I, okay. All right. When you say, I’ll believe you from now on, whatever you say. Okay. There it was. And it won best picture at that festival. Okay. And it out of, and again, beat out films with name talent in it. And it wound up winning, six, I think six or seven best picture awards at festivals after being turned down by 23 festivals initially.
[00:39:09] Thom Michael Mulligan: So now, was it artistically successful? Yes. Was it financially successful? No, never made a penny on it, even though it got on. 35 cable outlets in the US and Canada for two years. Okay, never made a penny on it. Artistically it, it was an amazing experience, right? I learned a lot and it gave me some cachet because now all of a sudden I’m a multi award winning movie producer, right?
[00:39:37] Thom Michael Mulligan: Big deal.
[00:39:38] Patricia Leonard: No, but that’s exactly, yeah.
[00:39:40] Thom Michael Mulligan: People started coming to me. I got this movie, but nobody has money. They come to you with a script. They go, Hey, I read some of them go, yeah, it’s really good. You have money now. When you get money, when you raise funds and I can help you because I’ve connected to a lot of talented people, the hardest thing doing this business raise is raise money and make money back.
[00:40:00] Thom Michael Mulligan: Those are the two hardest things to do. Once you raise the money. Now, how are you going to make the money back? Yes. Yes. Okay. Because I would say, hopefully I’m not out of hand here, but most of these indie films do not make money. Yes. You need to have at least one good name actor or actress or a name director, and not only that, but the right name, the ones that have, sorry, but this business is who has the most value to a distributor.
[00:40:26] Thom Michael Mulligan: I’m sure you know this, right?
[00:40:28] Patricia Leonard: It’s the same thing in business. In any kind of business. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You
[00:40:32] Thom Michael Mulligan: gotta, that’s part of it. And did Callis get me work? No, but it opened a lot of doors and to this day, it helps. Yeah. Yes. You know what I mean? That’s, from two, it released in 2009.
[00:40:46] Thom Michael Mulligan: I
[00:40:47] Patricia Leonard: think there are so many pearls of wisdom that you have given us today, Thom, the listeners about specifically the film industry, but not only that, just personal commitment is very important, and you have stressed that and. Another point you’ve stressed is following your heart and reaching out.
[00:41:12] Patricia Leonard: If you think you have no chance, go and see. You never know. Step up. You never know. Yeah, just go. No, it’s true. You don’t, go tell somebody your dream. I just was on a panel recently, or emceed a panel recently, and they were telling me what all they wanted to do with their, they were writers, book writers, and what they wanted to do, and I said, so what are you doing to get out there?
[00:41:39] Patricia Leonard: You just can’t sit in your living room and say Okay, I want this. I want that. You got to take a step toward it. And that’s what Thom has been stressing all day. And so I’d like to bring this to a close just because I think the things that you have shared are going to be some things for people to work on.
[00:42:02] Patricia Leonard: If. If you’re committed, if you’re not, then find another career or another journey that you feel more committed to. Because Thom has tried to tell you the good news and the bad news.
[00:42:17] Thom Michael Mulligan: Did you see Untouchables? Did you see the movie Untouchables? Yes. Okay. With Kevin Costner? Yes. Okay. And Sean Connery.
[00:42:24] Thom Michael Mulligan: When Sean Connery’s shot, and he’s dying in Kevin Costner’s arms, right? Yes. And they’re going after Al Capone, right? And there. And this, I use this moment and he says to Ke he’s dying and he says to Kevin Costner. What are you prepared to do that struck me as an actor as okay, what am I prepared to do as an actor?
[00:42:44] Thom Michael Mulligan: Like how hard am I going to work at it? I know it didn’t mean it in the moment, but it was like, what are you prepared to do to get take down Al Capone? What’s your commitment? Yes. I always think on that moment, what are you prepared to do? sitting in the house.
[00:43:00] Patricia Leonard: So that is a nice way to leave this. What are you prepared to do?
[00:43:07] Patricia Leonard: What are you audience? This is to you. What are you prepared to do to Make your dreams come true. So Thom, I’d like to tell leave the audience it. Would you be open to connecting with somebody if they wanted to connect? How can they connect with you? And if they can email,
[00:43:28] Thom Michael Mulligan: they can email me at Thomichaelmulligan.
[00:43:29] Thom Michael Mulligan: com. My act, my name, just like that, or, find me on Facebook. Send me an instant message. Yes. And also, I’d like to say this, too, about the Tennessee Film Community. Their goal of the Tennessee Film Community and Tony Caudill is to connect people, to create, collaborate, and make, do projects, okay? And the way to do that is come to these events, meet people, because things are happening.
[00:43:55] Thom Michael Mulligan: When you gather with people, a friend of mine in California used to say, Thommy, you never know who’s sitting to the right, not only who’s in front of you, you never know who’s sitting to the right or left of you. And it’s true. You might be sitting next to, Steven Spielberg. You don’t know. Go to these events.
[00:44:12] Thom Michael Mulligan: Come out to the events. There’s gonna be one in Nashville. Come out. Meet people. You know what I mean? Tell people what you do. Find out what they do. You never know what might happen. Anyway, I’ll leave it on that.
[00:44:22] Patricia Leonard: Take a cab. You never know. It might be Oliver Stone driving that cab.
[00:44:28] Thom Michael Mulligan: That is the
[00:44:29] Thom Michael Mulligan: most amazing thing.
[00:44:30] Thom Michael Mulligan: I’ll never forget that. He’s so chill. And he had won an Oscar. Yeah, express and didn’t say a word about it didn’t say one word
[00:44:38] Patricia Leonard: about it. Okay. We could talk forever and we just may do another one later on about another subject, maybe one of your films that are coming out or a workshop that you have coming up.
[00:44:51] Patricia Leonard: But for now, as always, I’d like to say this is Patricia Leonard, your podcast host for HelloSelf. Thank yoThomTom. For your insight, your ideas, your strategies, and to my audience, keep dreaming.
Thank you for joining Hello Self today, and may it offer insight and inspire you to stay on your runway to success. Like, share, and subscribe, and remember this, keep dreaming.