George Loomis: American Writer, Director and Actor
George Loomis is an American actor and filmmaker raised in Moscow, Russia, and born in Manhattan, where he gained a BA in film from New York University and starred as a child actor on ABC’s Loving. He won Best Film at the 2019 Santa Fe Film Festival for his debut feature, dramatic thriller Unthinkable from Unified Pictures. Unthinkable had its International Premiere in the Cannes Film Festival. George starred in the national stage sensation Point Break LIVE! for three years in Hollywood, while appearing in Target and United Airlines commercials, films like Broken Vows, and TV shows The Doctors, Kroll Show, and Making a Scene with James Franco. Before writing and directing, he held positions at MTV News and MTV Networks. He has a deal with an international production company for his next feature. He is developing other films under his own production banner, Persona Pictures, including adaptations from The New York Times bestselling author, Mark Mathabane, of Kaffir Boy fame. (Taken from IMDB by Steven Nash)
Unthinkable centers on a young medical student (played by Loomis) who finds himself entrenched in an international conspiracy after being sent to care for the hospitalized former U.S. Ambassador to Syria.
And here are all the places Unthinkable will be available on 10/9: Video on Demand with iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, FandagoNow, Redbox TVOD, Movie Spree, and also available via Comcast and Charter cable companies.
Here is the trailer for the film, Unthinkable: https://vimeo.com/464403613
George Loomis’ can be found at: Instagram (@georgewloomis) and Twitter (@GeorgeLoomis).
The Facebook Unthinkable page is: https://www.facebook.com/unthinkablefilm.
TSM: Thank you so much for doing an interview for the magazine. It’s really wonderful to have you in TSM.
GL: Thank you for having me.
TSM: What inspired you to get into acting and filmmaking?
GL: Well, I was actually just one or two years old when my mother and father’s friend, Barbara Duggan at ABC needed a main character’s child for her ABC soap opera, Loving. She didn’t want to deal with stage parents and knew my parents; they have many degrees, they go to the opera and don’t care about entertainment or fame. So, Barbara honed in on that, as she didn’t really want to deal with stage parents. She begged my parents to let me do it. I think my parents were very resistant to be honest, but they finally said yes. Then John and Stacey on ABC’s Loving gave birth to a giant baby. I don’t know how believable that episode was as I was a big baby. I did it for about three years.
I was always in SAG and the unions, and it was a big money maker for me. I actually didn’t really have hang-ups like other people who were raised in environments where they’re told, “oh, you’re not going to make any money if you’re an artist,” but I have the opposite perception. Even through college I always thought of it as a money-maker because it actually is what paid for me to go to NYU film school. I continued doing voice-over work and commercials, and some film work during NYU for extra money. Then I went to Los Angeles, and became a full-time actor in 2013. I had SAG insurance for the first time since I was a child. That year is when I finally realized that my perception was not what everybody else had, and that I would really have to fight to keep my insurance and make that amount of money to stay insured. So, I guess it was kind of a good way to enter the industry. I was overly confident too, and just blind to any sort of possibility that I wouldn’t make a lot of money.
I was always a really big writer, and I would say I’m just as much of a writer, not more of a writer in terms of the way my brain works. I kind of realized back in 2014 that I had made all this money, but I wasn’t really happy with the list of things that I had done necessarily. I was happy, but not that proud. So, in 2014 is when I jumped really strongly into producing a screenplay that I had written, not the film that is about to release in October. It was a different one, and then I was also really fighting to produce the film version of the book, Kaffir Boy. It’s an Oprah club book and taught in the curriculum in high schools all over the country; it’s a phenomenal book. In that same year, I really started to fight to make a film as well, not necessarily one in which I would make all my money from acting. To be honest, I generally did have that perception of acting as a money-maker instead of the real perception, which is probably more accurate that it’s risky.
TSM: You wrote your first feature length screenplay at the age of seventeen called, “Feels Like Home.” How would you say you’ve progressed as a writer from your first one to your recent film you wrote, Unthinkable?
GL: Yes, I did write that film when I was very young, it’s a coming of age story. I don’t really write that genre, and do remember that I thought it was the best thing that anybody could read. I graduated from the same high school as David O. Russell, whose the filmmaker of American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook. He visited my film class, and I gave him a copy of the screenplay and said that he had to read it. It’s pretty good, and I’ve learned a lot, and obviously have become a lot better. It’s a very dark story, and I think a lot of coming of age stories are very dark. I remember giving it to my English teacher, who I really admired, and was like, “this is a little disturbing.” I mean, of course, I made up a lot of it.
Now my screenplays are adjusted, as I pick up on patterns, a kind of rhythm, pacing, and can add so much more nuance, like the seasonings of life that I have experienced that I put into the the thrillers I write now. It’s so much better. I like to write a fun, suspenseful film. My major in film school was writing thrillers. Even then I can remember being able to write the first twenty pages of a thriller really well, and I would always get feedback, like this is the best. Then I couldn’t really follow it up with the full screenplay because I didn’t have the life experience. So, I find that to be really interesting. I was so passionate and determined to be talented, and it didn’t really matter because I couldn’t make it past the first twenty pages. Where I’m at right now, I can really carry it through. I can find those patterns, the pacing, rhythm, and understand what the characters would do. Earlier when I was younger, I didn’t know what the characters would do next, I had no idea. I don’t think I had enough life experience.
TSM: What inspired you to write and make Unthinkable? And can you share a bit about the process from concept to the final creation.
GL: I remember really wanting to be in the medical world. When I moved to Los Angeles out of film school, I started to admire my friends in medical school. I was like wanting to live vicariously through them. I really love that in medical school they can just progress, and they know where they’re going. I think it was from my desire to be a doctor, and that’s why I was thinking about transplants. The ambassador in Unthinkable is obviously, and the story begins after his attack in the embassy in Syria, and he needs a new heart. I started reading books about transplants, and it really all followed from there. I get a lot of inspiration when I walk my dog, at night and when I’m reading I’ll suddenly just get a vision for something. Although, it really started from reading these medical books and knowing that I wanted to be in that world. Everything that I write is a political thriller, so it was always going to involve some sort of international back story because pretty much everything I write has that.
TSM: What was the most challenging day and/or experience on the film?
GL: There are just so many…You know there are celebrities in my film, which I’m so grateful that they wanted to be a part of it. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not extremely difficult, and you’re still getting rejected all the time. I think that probably the most frustrating thing is that people have an idea of what it’s like, after certain names are attached, but the reality is different. When I got to film festivals, it was so difficult and there was so much rejection. Friends imagine that maybe you’re like rich now, or maybe your life is as good as it looks like at a film festival that you got into. I was rejected from so many of them though, and so that’s probably the most difficult thing about filmmaking.
In terms of a really difficult day on the set…so many days, but I’ll tell you this story. One of my producers was driving the U-haul, so I could do notes on the way to the set. Unfortunately, she was overcoming cancer, so I was driving her to treatments in Pasadena for a couple weeks leading up to this shoot day. We thought she would be okay, so she was driving the U-haul while I was doing notes to prepare because we were always kind of running out of time. We just didn’t have much of it, and I was working on three to four hours of sleep every shoot break. So, I needed that time in the U-haul, but she was really wiped out from the treatments. All of a sudden, we didn’t see it coming, but she could not drive. We had an episode at the wheel and had to pull over, and then we ended up on this really terrible detour because we kind of got lost; there was an exit that was closed. I ended up having to go to the set an hour late, and I didn’t have my notes finished because I had to drive the rest of the way, and figure out how to even get there with some highway exits closed. So, imagine starting your work day that day when you’re the captain of the ship, and you’re an hour late unprepared. I mean that was only one day, but it was terrible. When we got there, I didn’t have my producer, as she had to rest. Things happen, and it doesn’t look like that’s what happened when somebody sees a poster with Vivica A. Fox on it. They don’t really see these experiences, and especially on a first feature they really do happen to everybody.
TSM: If you were to shoot the film again, would you do anything differently?
GL: No, and I will explain why. When my producer was battling cancer (she won the fight), I lost my producer that day, but there was no time in that scenario to do anything else. I wish I could have protected more people on the set from trauma of all kinds, and wished certain people had been more respectful. It was never going to be that way, there was no time and there wasn’t enough money. All I can really do is learn for the future. Everything really works out if you just keep going and learning. I really want the best in people and this story inherently. So, I don’t really need to learn those skills, but I’m always learning about everything else. All I can really do is build a bigger budget for my next film, so I can establish better working environments where everybody feels good all the time. In terms of doing anything differently, it was never going to happen.
TSM: How did you prepare for your role in the film?
GL: I was pretty intense about that. I think I mentioned I was studying medical school books, so I have this pile of them. I asked a friend, who is a doctor at Cedars-Sinai, so many things. I had a big pile of these books next to my bed, some from Cedars-Sinai. Pretty much all the time, I would read one every night before going to bed for about an hour. So, that I really believed that I was a medical student, and my character also lost his father, so he’s abstaining from alcohol in order to face his grief. So, I abstained from alcohol for about two weeks prior to shooting. It’s kind of difficult when you’re shooting a movie, and the hours are so long that you really need to go from coffee at 6am to beer at 5pm in order to keep working. However, I felt really strongly about feeling like I was really facing his character’s grief, so that is another thing that I did. Then I also wore scrubs all the time, it was kind of disgusting. It felt really natural, if anything the performance is pretty scaled back, it’s like a minimalist performance that I gave.
TSM: What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
GL: First thing, I want audiences to have fun. It’s a thriller with a twist ending. Have a good time, try to figure it out. I don’t think anybody has figured it out yet. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to anybody yet, who knew what was going to happen. The point of the movie is entertainment value. I didn’t have that much money to make this film. When I started doing film festivals, some festival folks were judging it as if I had five million dollars because Vivica A. Fox, Breaking Bad actor Christopher Cousins and Missi Pyle are in it. So, it looks expensive, but this is a dirt cheap film. I made the film at a low cost. It’s entertainment value, and then I want them to think about world issues. I really like to make people think about the world. I really love to force people to think about international affairs, so I hope it does that a little bit. The main character has this tenacity to really fight for ideas. He’s young, and really believes in what he’s doing and helping people. That means breaking through bureaucracy and protocol in order to do the right thing. I think it’s important to do that, and to risk breaking a procedure in order to do the right thing because bureaucracy hurts a lot of people, and sometimes it makes people fall through the cracks. So, I would want people to admire that quality in the character, and a few other characters in the film have that quality too. Hope that the characters remind certain adults, while they are hopefully having a good time, about who we used to be. Like I want to always feel like I’m twenty-two, just graduating. When you feel like you can really change things in the world. I would love to remind people of that, and make them feel like they can still do that.
TSM: Out of all your acting roles to date, is there one role in particular that stands out as a favourite for you? And do you have a dream role that you’d love to play?
GL: My favourite role that I’ve played so far is definitely Unthinkable. I never got an opportunity like the one that I made for myself. None of the work that I did was really complex until now.
I have been very hungry, like within the past month, to really throw myself into a role. When I think dream role, it would honestly be something like, The Silence of the Lambs. It’s such a nuanced film.
TSM: What do you love most about the filmmaking process?
GL: I really love when everybody is there and maybe a little early, and everyone is getting along with their coffee. There’s not too much to shoot, so you know it’s not going to be too stressful for anybody. I really like everybody working together thoughtfully, and not just opening their mouth just to critique someone’s acting for no reason. When you’re all in the zone, and you’re really helping each other, and nobody’s interjecting without thinking. There’s something really special when everybody’s on the same page, and everyone is seeing things kind of the same way. I love getting notes, and having them be so correct and making it better. Sometimes you have to give notes, obviously, as well. I love that process. It just has to be thoughtful from everybody there, which does happen.
TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, what would it be and why?
GL: I would stop the fires. I really believe in democracy. Honestly, I don’t want to be controversial, but I grew up in Moscow when there was a President and it was becoming a democracy, when President Yeltsin was in power. Then after I left to go to college, Russia obviously flipped backwards away from democracy. I would love to see democracy all over the world.
TSM: What is one of your favourite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?
GL: There are so many…I have a white board on my office wall right here. On the top of the white board, it says, “Drown the noise.” I think there is a lot of noise in the world, and you really have to stay true to your core.
TSM: Anything else you’d like to share?
GL: No, thank you so much. I had a really great time. Hope you had fun too.
TSM: Thanks so much again for the interview and have a great day.
GL: Thank you so much for having me, and have a good evening.