Timothy Lynch has worked with talent that most producers can only dream of. After graduating from USD in 1995, he forged a successful career in the media industry and continues to advance the art of storytelling. In addition to producing music videos for bands like Green Day, the White Stripes and Ben Harper, he also produces documentaries with the likes of Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia. In addition to running Woodshed Films, a documentary film house, he recently started Farm League, a new production company that brings filmmakers together to create compelling films and content for artists and brands.
Your recent project "Big Easy Express" follows three popular music groups on a cross-country train trek. You've said you enjoy working with artists. What was this experience like? How did you enjoy living and traveling with them?
Traveling with the musicians and living on that old-time train, as it chugged across the country, was one of the most amazing experiences. I've traveled to a number of beautiful places in different corners of the earth, but this was especially unique in that I was seeing this country with new eyes and a fresh point of view—and with a live soundtrack! There was such a positive energy and outlook from the folks on the train despite the fact that the stress was intense and the stakes were high. We never knew if the train was going to make it on time to the venue with 8,000 plus people waiting each night. We didn't know if what we were capturing was compelling enough to make a film, so we kept rolling and barely slept. Between the bands, the road crews and our tiny film team, there were a couple hundred people on the train living together in very close quarters. Everyone had a role. It sounds cliché to say, but we all vowed to do our jobs and pull it off. Everyone could see it was a once in a lifetime experience unfolding right in front of us. We all cherished each and every moment.
You have won several awards for your music videos including a VMA for Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." What have you enjoyed most about your career in video music production?
I enjoy working with talented artists and directors and then playing my roll in the creation of the project—especially when it’s an inspiring piece of film (short or long). Between the music videos, the documentaries and the commercial projects, I've learned a valuable take away with each one, and that drives me to improve my craft. I love the unique situations and challenges only filmmaking seems to attract. I love the camaraderie that develops with the crew. I love the diverse influences each contributor brings to the table, the quirky artists and the random subjects that I get to dive headfirst into and figure out. I love that part of my job is paying attention to when the sun rises and falls, and where it is in the sky at any given time.
Why is a liberal arts background valuable in your business? What is your advice to students who would like to work in entertainment?
I believe it helped me because I was well rounded. There are so many people that focus on one specialty—which is great but that was never my strength. I believe it’s also important to be good at a lot of different jobs in order to understand how to accomplish something that involves many facets. I produced the film 180° SOUTH with Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, and he used to say "I’ve always thought of myself as an 80 percenter. I like to throw myself passionately into a sport or activity until I reach an 80 percent proficiency level. To go beyond that requires an obsession and degree of specialization that doesn’t appeal to me." Now I don't know if I'm even at 80 percent with a lot of things, but with producing it helps to be capable in a lot of different roles so I identify with his sentiment.
As far as advice, I suppose I would encourage students to chart a course as ideal and un-exact as it may be out of school, then dive in headfirst and immerse yourself in the work. Get your hands dirty and really learn it. Follow through and keep at it. With technology, our environments are changing so rapidly that people are losing focus and changing directions too often. If you push through, you’ll be shocked at how far you’ve come and what you’ve learned in only a couple year’s time. Reevaluate your course and build again from there.
What was your reaction to news that you had been named the 2012 recipient of the Author E. Hughes Career Achievement Award?
I was floored with the news. I still feel a bit unworthy for a career achievement award at 39 years old, but I'm honored and humbled to come back to USD. It's such a special place for my wife and me.
I understand you keep in touch with other alumni in your field. Why do you think so many USD grads have found success in the entertainment industry?
You know it's funny, when I moved to LA I didn't know any other alumni working here working in this business--zero. I wish I had. But as I learned the trade and established relationships, I found more Toreros in the field. There are so many factors for success, but I’m sure one reason why USD grads find it is that we are prepared and well rounded. Also I think there's a quality to the graduates that come from USD because it’s great at building character. Producers and businesses gravitate to those sorts of people.