THYRONE TOMMY ON HIS  DEBUT FEATURE LEARN TO SWIM, NAMED ONE OF TIFF’S CANADA’S TOP TEN

Learn to Swim, Thyrone Tommy’s feature debut, received huge buzz and critical acclaim at TIFF 2021, and is back at the Lightbox starting this week for TIFF’S Canada’s Top 10 series.  We spoke to Thyrone about the origin of Learn to Swim, his experience directing his first feature, setting a love story within Toronto’s contemporary jazz scene, and the projects he’s excited to tackle next!

Tell us about the origin of Learn to Swim.

The film began as a conversation in 2017 between myself and my co-writer Marni Van Dyk while we were attending the Canadian Film Centre. We spoke at length about my experience with past love and loss and the guilt and grief that come from that. As part of a class project, we made it into a 13-minute short film (also called Learn to Swim) but felt that we hadn’t quite confronted that actual experience. So we decided to expand it into a feature-length film.

Tell us about shooting a love story within Toronto’s contemporary jazz scene.

We shot the entire film in Toronto and I’m super proud of that! So many institutions and locations I’ve frequented opened their doors to us and allowed us in their space. Iconic performance venues like The Emmet Ray, 918 Bathurst, and Adelaide Hall. Orange Lounge on Queen West, where countless records have been made. Sakai Bar in Little Portugal, and Mahjong Bar near Ossington. I think Torontonians will like seeing the familiar texture of their city on screen. 

Learn to Swim is your feature directorial debut, and it’s a very impressive one! How did your previous shorts prepare you for embarking on your first feature film?

Both Mariner and Avalanche were ambitious short films on their own. One was shot on Super 35mm film, with children and archery, and one was shot partially underwater and at my old marine college, so they were such great lessons in scale and orchestration and that really helped when I began working on Learn To Swim. We also assembled such a great team who had the experience and fearlessness to try all the things I imagined, and some of them have been with me this whole time. So we’ve matured as filmmakers together. 

Thomas Antony Olajide in Learn to Swim

The music in Learn to Swim was almost entirely composed specifically for the film. Take us through that process.

All the music performed in the film is original and written for the movie. Chester Hansen and Leland Whitty wrote a majority of the songs for the band in the film and worked with another Toronto singer, Meagan De Lima (who plays Nia), to craft the main song Selma sings. It was such a fluid collaboration, but also an unnerving one as we hadn’t shot a single frame yet. So you’re making these very bold decisions about what something will be beforehand, which isn’t the way you usually build films. It was tricky finding music that seamlessly worked with what we created but that’s when having good producers that support your vision comes in handy!

What can you tell us about your newest project, Black Life, A Canadian History?

The project traces the history of Black Canadians and their lives and contributions to the fabric of this very country. I’ll be taking on one episode of the series, with athletics and sports being the central focus. I’m really excited for everyone to see what we’re making. 

Related Posts

TIFF 2021: Picture Editor Jorge Weisz On Night Raiders

TIFF 2021: Picture Editor Jorge Weisz On Night Raiders

Night Raiders, a story of Canada’s ugly postcolonial history told through a dystopian lens and directed by DGC Ontario Director Danis Goulet, will be screening at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10th. Ahead of the TIFF premiere of Night Raiders, we spoke to DGC Ontario Picture Editor Jorge Weisz about his work on the film, editing speculative science fiction, the film’s allegories to the residential school system, and more.
Mark Dejczak And J.R. Fountain: The Fun And Exciting Sounds Of Paw Patrol: The Movie

Mark Dejczak And J.R. Fountain: The Fun And Exciting Sounds Of Paw Patrol: The Movie

PAW Patrol: The Movie, the film adaptation of one of Canada’s most successful children’s series, hits theatres and streaming this Friday, to the delight of preschool kids everywhere. Ahead of the film’s release, we caught up with two DGC Ontario Members on the Post-Production team, Supervising Sound Editor J.R. Fountain and Sound Editor Mark Dejczak, to talk about their creative process, designing sounds that aren’t scary, Toronto as a global destination for post-production, having your work heard by millions of kids, and more.

Subscribe to get our newsletter

Scroll to Top