Local filmmaker gets up close with ‘Old Henry’

dthackham@fortmilltimes.comJuly 17, 2013 

— Director Thomas Torrey lives a stone’s throw away from Fort Mill Town Hall, but his work as a short form filmmaker is getting airtime in more than 150 countries. With a 45-member crew made up partly of local residents, Torrey recently finished production on a six-part scripted short-form series called “Old Henry,” starring Ralph Waite, a star from the 1970s classic TV series “The Waltons.”

Torrey shot on location this April in Charlotte and Fort Mill, including a key scene in Cupcrazed Cakery, a cupcake and dessert bar in Baxter Village. Torrey, 31, has produced short-form productions for Inspiration Ministries in Indian Land for a year and a half.

“It was an incredible experience,” Torrey said. “When you work at [Inspirational Ministries], you get to know Ralph Waite. He’s had a legendary career.”

Torrey confessed that he sometimes felt intimidated by Waite, a veteran director, producer and actor for more than 40 years, saying Waite would often be ready to begin before anyone else was ready.

“He’s been doing this for decades,” Torrey said. “He can come off as short, but he knows what he needs. Before each scene, he’d put notes in the script’s margin, talk about delivery, and I really enjoyed that process.”

“Old Henry,” spaced out in six two-minute episodes, is the story of Henry, an elderly man – Waite – who is having a difficult time dealing with his advanced age, his wife’s Alzheimer’s and his own place in the world. Along the way, Henry meets Jessica (“October Baby’s” Rachel Hendrix) who shows him that his life has purpose and meaning, regardless of age.

The episodes first aired on INSP networks on June 17 between commercials. They are also available on www.moments.org. INSP programs reach 75 million homes, according to Melissa Prince, director of corporate communications.

Of all Nielson-rated cable networks, INSP rates first in tune-in engagement.

“So when people tune in to our network, they stay there and they want to keep watching,” said Prince. “We give 84 spots a week to short films like this, and that’s 84 spots we could give to advertisers for money, but we give up revenue to do the right thing.”

“Old Henry” is a part of the Moments of Truth series, which is described as scripted stories that are a “slice of Americana and explore timeless themes like family, love and respect.”

“Our tagline we’ve adopted is ‘lunge-free TV,’” Prince said. “If you’re a parent or grandparent, you don’t want to have to lunge for the remote if your kid is watching.”

Ever since Torrey was a young boy making short form films on VHS with his brother, he’s yearned to direct feature-length films. If his new series can reach acclaim among viewers, he hopes his dream will still be in grasp.

“That’s been my singular focus all my life,” he said. “With the impact my short forms have had, it’s been really rewarding. Working here, it’s been like Hollywood 101.”

INSP is available on Dish Network channel 269 and DirecTV channel 364. For more information, including local program guides, visit www.insp.com.

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