Director/Writer/Producer Tim Chey studied law at Boston and Harvard Universities, then attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, before being accepted at the USC Film School. He practiced entertainment law for two years before stepping into the world of film production.
After writing and directing “Fakin’ da Funk” for a Hollywood studio, he turned his talents to writing, producing and directing the Christian films Gone and, most recently, The Genius Club.
What was your goal in making The Genius Club?
Tim: I wanted to make a film that 'de-brainwashed' the masses of people who have succumbed to the thinking of the 5 big media companies. I love 1 Corinthians 1:19 - ""I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
How did you select the cast and why were they interested in working on this film?
Tim: We had 7,000 actors submit so we went through extensive auditions. I wanted the acting to be on target this time.
What were challenges of shooting this dialogue-driven film? You had pretty limited locations, so some of logistics are removed.
Tim: Great question - I think dialogue had to engage the audience to think. When you think of why 60 Minutes is so popular it's because of the issues and topics - you usually only have 2 people sitting down and talking.
How did you choose those particular questions?
Tim: All of those questions were 'red-herrings' that led to the ultimate question: Does God exist?
Why do you think "Who am I?" is the ultimate question?
Tim: 'Who Am I' has been the central question from Plato to Kant to Mills to Hume to finally the average Joe on the street. The problem is most Hollywood studio films almost never broach that topic. Rather it's always 'How did I get into this mess?'
Why this film at this time?
Tim: We've reached a point in our society where we are saturated with the same answers from the same 5 media companies. I wanted to make a film that addresses questions and answers that you don't see from these companies, that by way, control 85% of all the content in the U.S.
If you were to select your own "Genius Club," who would be in it?
Tim: 1) CS Lewis; 2) Amy Carmichael; 3) Hudson Taylor; 4) Brother Yun; 5) My wife; 6) My pastor; 7) Anyone who is a true Believer in Jesus Christ;
Were there any unusual constraints you had to work under?
Tim: We're always getting attacked by lawyers. The legal system needs as much revamping as the financial market (and I say this as a former lawyer).
The Los Angeles Times said the film "is effective at feeding the audience a liberal critique of capitalism, cleverly disguised as a thriller." Your response to that statement?
Tim: I didn't mind it all. The same critic said I would have a future in Hollywood if I would get rid of the Christian music!
What's the most surprising reaction you've gotten to the film?
Tim: Our film was in the movie theaters in Mexico for over 11 months. It was unbelievable.
What's your next project?
Tim: We just finished a movie, 'Live Fast, Die Young' which takes place at a Hollywood party. It opened theatrically on October 24th.
What actors would you like to work with?
Tim: I would love to work with all of the cast of "Live Fast, Die Young" again. We had over 11,000 actors submit and I spent 2 months auditioning.
Who are your film influences?
Tim: I love John Avildson (director of 'Rocky' and 'Karate Kid'). He really knows 'emotion' more than any director on the planet.
Why write and direct? What draws you to that combination?
Tim: It's a great combo. You see your total work realized. Pure. Untainted.
What are your strengths as a writer/director? Any weaknesses?
Tim: My strengths are story-telling. My weaknesses are hiring the right crew members in the right departments. Another weakness is dealing with psychotic people who turn up on the set. Another weakness is lack of patience. A final weakness is not loving those carnal Christian movie critics who continually stab Christian filmmakers in the back.
How has the study & practice of law informed and improved your filmmaking?
Tim: I can defend the frivolous legal threats made from lawyers who want to stop Christian filmmakers from sharing the Gospel. It's so funny, these lawyers really think get surprised that I have a litigation background and it costs me absolutely nothing to defend our films.
Is there a Biblical story you'd like to tell? If so, what is it? And whom would you want to cast in it?
Tim: I wanted to do Job with Charleton Heston, but he died before we could get it moving further.
Is the partnership with the Bonnemas an ongoing situation for you?
Tim: I love Arch and Jacob. They're sold-out Believers. We were going to do 'Live Fast' together, but they had an important ministry in Africa.
Audiences, filmmakers & critics are all struggling right now to define "Christian films". Do you think that's necessary? How do you describe your films about faith to people?
Tim: The reason Hollywood can't figure out what to do with Christian films is very simple: There are very few authentic Christian films for them to distribute. Because of this, they embrace 'family' films like 'Christmas with the Kranks' and re-market these type films as Christian films, complete with a Bible study kit (I kid you not!).
But Christians want authenticity. They know great authentic Christian films like 'Facing The Giants', 'Six', 'Moment After', and 'Genius Club' from the carnal quasi-Christian films.
The mistake Christian filmmakers make repeatedly is they give into their fears of being maligned by the carnal, world-loving Christian who drools over Hollywood product. They also fear the Christian-bashing secular movie critics.
But Jesus Christ said, 'If they hated me, they will hate you," and 'In this world you will suffer persecution."
These Christian-bashers hated my second film, 'Gone'. But you know what? I received tons of emails from people who say their lives were changed from seeing the film.
One person wrote me and said 7 people went forward to receive Christ after showing 'Gone'.
I can just imagine these carnal Christians rolling their eyes at the horror of that. But the true horror will be on Judgment Day when Christ says to them, 'Depart from me for I never knew you.' Despite the fact that they casted out demons and prophesised in His name, Jesus Christ still says 'Depart from me.' It's one of the most chilling and sobering passages in the Bible and I believe it applies to the carnal, tradition-based Christian today. They don't truly love Jesus, they just treat Christianity like it's fraternity.
What are some projects you're working on?
Tim: I'm going to make 'The Underground Railroad' next, God-willing. It's the world's first Gospel musical.
Do you have any interest in partnering with studios for productions? Why or why not?
Tim: Possibly. But I already did that in my secular life before I came to Christ. My first film was a studio-level film.
What's your "dream film" - if you could write, produce, and/or direct any film, what would it be?
Tim: All of my films are dream films.