Tim Phillips, an insightful and creative cinematographer, writer, and producer, began his journey into film through a non-traditional pathway. Studying chemistry and calculus in college, Phillips found his passion for film by coming to the realization that his major was not an exact fit for his life. Phillips enrolled in an ‘elective’, film and video production, which changed his life.
While studying chemistry at Virginia Tech, Phillips needed an elective. He was grappling at the time on whether or not his major was the right for him, and decided with his future business partner and friend, Steve Agnew, to take an introductory film production class as an elective. At the time, Phillips wanted to explore what was possible and what he could accomplish in film.
Phillips discusses his interaction with a mutual friend and his conversation with his future business partner Steve Agnew, “My buddy would talk about how much fun his film production class was. So the two of us (Phillips and Agnew) said, well, why don't we take that as an elective next semester? I'll help you on your film; you'll help me on me my film. It was a lot of fun. I think that's sort of – the point of this story. How did I get into this industry? Well, you know I fell into it backwards. But once I fell into it, I realized this is where I'm supposed to be. I'm a very visual person. I think in words. And I'm able to translate what I see onto the page. It was a good match for me.”
While still in school, Phillips and Agnew started working at the Learning Resource Center at Virginia Tech, which had a television studio supporting educational needs throughout the university. Both changed their majors to communications, and produced many film and video projects together as part of their coursework. Phillips ultimately obtained a Bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in film production and a minor in chemistry.
His collaboration with Agnew continued after graduation. They began their professional collaboration through working together at both the Essex Corporation and Applied Science Associates, where they honed their skills working for clients such as: SEAL Team 6, Department of Labor, and the Bureau of the Census, and other primarily government clients. This ultimately brought Phillips and Agnew into a business partnership, and the establishment in 1995 of a production company, Rock Creek Productions. The fledgling production company began working on government and corporate contracts as well as independent projects.
Phillips counts several of his ‘pro-bono’ films for charities, NGOs, and independent documentaries as among his most rewarding experiences. A recent project, Peace through Education: Stealing the Light, (available on I-tunes.com) is a documentary film about education in Afghanistan.
“We worked with an Afghan physician, Mohammad Khan Kharoti, who lives in Portland, Oregon and emigrated from Afghanistan when the Russians first came some 30 years ago. He went back to his home village in 1999 and realized that there was no school. So the village of 11,000 people had no school, no educational opportunities. Mohammad Khan Kharoti and his brother, who still lived there, built a school. At first it started very small, about a dozen students, but within a few years it had grown to 1,200 students. It was an amazing thing. They had built a secure compound, a computer lab, and dormitories for their teachers, a library, 24 classrooms, books, desks, and paper and pencils. It became a real school and the center of the community, but unfortunately it was destroyed”, explains Phillips.
Phillips goes on to explain the primary subject of the documentary, “We made a documentary film telling this story, which our subject, Mohammad Khan Kharoti emphasizes, "The biggest enemy of Afghanistan is illiteracy." The lack of education is really a key issue in a country like that. If you're educated, it doesn't matter what your culture is, you can make good, informed decisions.”
From this point on, Rock Creek Productions has completed a pro-bono documentary for Habitat for Humanity, Better Built Together. Both films have gone on to win several notable awards; Best Contemporary Documentary at the Miami International Film Festival and CINE Golden Eagle awards.
Rock Creek Productions continues to concentrate on regular projects, but makes a point of working on pro-bono and inspirational projects as well. Most notably on a recent film, From Hell to Here, produced and directed by Rachell Shapiro, about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder based upon the experiences of Vietnam War veterans was completed, and had a showing at the Pritzker Military Library on January, 26th 2013 followed by a Q&A discussion.
Rock Creek Productions, Inc. led by Steve Agnew and Tim Phillips, and supported by their talented crew of professionals intends to continue creating many more inspirational and interesting films that speak to our world today.