If you come across Philadelphia’s own Todd Shotz on some blurry Saturday night and end up joining him for a cocktail, you’ll probably leave the joint a colossal film buff. You might also find yourself planning a Bar Mitzvah.
That is no exaggeration. The hotshot film producer and personal networker to the stars also moonlights as a Hebrew teacher and has been running Hebrew Helpers, which according to its website promotes “both traditional methods or creative alternatives” in teaching the faith since 2005. The group is now operating out of four states, Pennsylvania included.
Shotz is versatile, and a bit of a workaholic. When he’s not helping his students recite the Shema, he’s promoting Lazy Eye, which will premiere on the West Coast at San Francisco’s Frameline on June 19, before premiering on the East Coast at qFLIX Philadelphia 2016, July 5-10, at 7:15pm, Wednesday, July 6, at the Prince Theater.
“People are always asking me what do you actually do and I tell them that I really do have two full time lives in both Jewish education and film & TV production”, he chuckles.
Born in Philadelphia, raised in Elkins Park, high schooled in Cheltenham, Shotz graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1996 with dual degrees in English and Theatre Arts before moving to Israel for a year to teach English.
A love affair with the performing arts then led Shotz to Broadway where he spent the next four years serving as an associate company manager for revered productions like Kiss Me Kate and The Real Thing. Both shows have received numerous accolades, even Tony Awards.
His work ethic didn’t go unnoticed. By 2003, he had risen through the rankings of Cheyenne Enterprises (a television and production outfit owned by Bruce Willis) and had landed a cushy position as Vice President of Television and Film Development, a title he would hold for the next five years and at a company that allowed him to collaborate on several of Willis’s film’s including Hostage and the ever popular Live Free or Die Hard. He cites the experience working with the legend as having been “awesome”.
Shotz would then move on to another senior position, this time as Executive Vice President with Spillwall Productions (under Kairos Transmedia) until 2013 when he actively made the decision to begin producing films on his own.
“Life as an executive is great, but you don’t always get to do what you want”, he was quick to admit.
His decision proved to be a fruitful one after the soon to be classic Ghost Team One was released the same year he left Kairos. The film, which premiered that year at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, and chronicles a young love triangle that also happens to be a ghost story, was shot on a shoe string budget and went on to make millions after being bought by Paramount, Shotz proudly and justly boasted.
Still, the producer and partner of T42 entertainment argues without a hint of bias, the best film he’s worked on is Lazy Eye, for which Shotz serves as producer. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also close friends with highly-respected director Tim Kirkman, whose previous films Loggerheads and Dear Jessie received great critical acclaim across the LGBTQ film festival circuit with critics and audiences alike, and premiered in a previous LGBTQ film festival in Philadelphia.
Lazy Eye makes for a steamy LGBTQ drama with former lovers Dean (Lucas Near-Verbrugghe) and Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis) fated to reconnect for a weekend at the secluded desert seated next to Joshua Tree.
“It’s a beautiful, two-handed kind of movie,” Shotz explained, “It’s sort of like Ethan Hawke’s Before Sunrise where you go on a journey to see if they have a life together. Both men are real actors with MFA’s from NYU’s Tisch School of Arts. We wanted guys that would really work well together, because they are the movie.”
As an extra treat, patrons of qFLIX Philadelphia can also plan on seeing the co-stars of the film during the festival as both men, as well as Sholtz, will be in attendance, which will only make the premiere even more special, some might even call it a mitzvah from the rising producer.
“Philly’s so awesome. It’s always great to be able to come home”, he said, “And bring a movie to premiere, too! What’s not to like?”