The Rise and Peak of Thought Plane Media (A TPM Story)

Hello Interwebs! This week I have something different for you: a story. I want our website to be a place where you get to know our team better– our creative process, our histories, and our personal best tales (be they film-related or otherwise). To that end: read on to learn why our company was at its most productive in 2016-2017 but become wildly inconsistent with our output afterward…

To understand the rise of Thought Plane Media, a little history on my relationship with Justin Church (a co-founder of TPM) is required. Justin and I met in a Grade 9 technologies class through a mutual friend. A common passion for film-making and entertainment planted the seeds for our friendship. But it wasn’t until Grade 10 Drama where those seeds began to sprout into a relationship. That year we became each other’s go-to class partners for creative enterprise and, through the rest of high school, we developed a stellar reputation amongst our peers for consistently entertaining performances. By Grade 12 we socialized more outside of class, and frequently partnered on each other’s films (notably Planet of the Beavers). Yet Justin and I still maintained separate YouTube channels and barely considered ourselves a full-fledged partnership.

That all changed in our first year of University when he and I accepted offers to the same school. Hoping to maintain some semblance of normalcy in this sea of strangers, Justin and I became dorm roommates. It was quite the transition from “high school buddies who often collaborate” to “college guys sharing a small space with one another for 8 months”! Our room wasn’t even partitioned, so that didn’t leave a lot of room for privacy.

Even if we hadn’t been friends already, that eight months was a crash-course bonding experience unlike any I’ve had before or since. Justin and I spent almost every waking moment of that time together when we weren’t in class! The experience had a good chance of making us intolerable to one another (and we did have our fair share of arguments) but we’ve been best friends ever since.

Aw 🙂

Now, here’s where we get to the meat of the story. That 8 months of university is when TPM’s creative output reached a level it’s never matched since. In that time, we released Forward From the Past, “Speech Jam”, “A Study of Attention”, “D’oh Re Me”, “Texan Attornies at Law”, and The X. Files web-series. We also began production for PoB 5 and collaborated on multiple projects with our friends (specifically Steven EcclestoneRyan Walker and Mahlon Bast). In addition: Justin and I brainstormed, fleshed out, and/ or began writing dozens of concepts which still haven’t seen the light of day.

Creativity was constant during this period. From breakfast to bedtime, almost all Justin and I did was think up new ideas. That year was almost a total immersion in conceptual thinking. And it helped that we operated on similar wavelengths. We understood and appreciated each other’s concepts, and worked to develop the best possible versions of them.

Steven Ecclestone moderates a “typical” brainstorming session between Justin and I…

But what would be the point of all this brainstorming and teamwork if we didn’t actually produce anything? With loads of free time and more ideas than we could reasonably get to, Justin and I set ourselves a goal: one new YouTube video a week for the duration of the school year. I can’t recall if we achieved that goal or not, but we definitely got a video out most weeks. By my count, there was 20 videos (many of them blooper reels for The X. Files, but still). Considering we’ve only (officially) released 6 videos in the past 4 years, I’d say our productivity has gone down some… I’ll get to why in a bit. I’m still talking about the “rise” of TPM.

​Our process often went something like this: Justin came up with an outlandish idea, brilliant but rough around the edges; I would smooth those edges out and determine the best plan of execution, then write a script with Justin’s input; I then organized our production; Justin took charge of the technology bits, like camera settings and special effects; we would perform together; and he would handle post-production with my input. ‘Twas a great system! Still is actually. Nowadays I have more of a hand in post-production, but we still do basically the same thing.

Few pictures in my lifetime have captured my essence so perfectly…

As I mentioned earlier– Justin and I had yet to merge our brands in high school (Shade the Animator and JNLJ Productions respectively). But after all our previous collaborations, and considering the long list of films we planned to make together in the future, we declared ourselves an official partnership. This was late 2016, about halfway through production of The X. Files.

Now we had some small issues to work out: like which channel would we upload our videos to? And what would we call ourselves? Turns out both questions had simple answers. Throughout 2015-2016 we’d uploaded all our collaborations to Justin’s channel. So declaring “ShadetheAnimator98” the place where we’d continue to post our videos was a safe choice.

As to our name: that was Justin’s idea. See, back in college Justin spent large chunks of the night on YouTube learning various things about the world. One of the things he came across in his internet deep-dives was the Thought Plane: a theoretical realm of existence where thoughts live once they’re conceived. Sounded like a really cool name for a production company; hence “Thought Plane Media”.

Justin (Francis) X. Files modeling our sweet merch!

By early 2017, Justin and I began to merchandise our content. We made posters and t-shirts based on The X. Files, with plans for Planet of the Beavers merch (which we never got around to). He and I also established our brand identity and TPM’s ideals: quality, creator-driven content; artistic expressiveness which didn’t lose entertainment value; hopes to lean away from controversy, if we could help it; and the creation of a space where us and our friends could have fun, doing the hobby we love.

We had a lot of grand ideas! Unfortunately, Justin and I packed away our ambitions once the school year concluded, and Thought Plane Media stagnated overnight– April 5, 2017, to be exact– the day I moved out of residence. “Texan Attornies At Law” (yes, I know it’s spelt wrong) was filmed that very day, released soon after, and the TPM channel laid dormant for a year afterward!

And life changed a lot for Justin and I within that next year. Justin in particular got a new apartment, moved away from our home town, and carried a full time job. His schedule grew so busy that filmmaking became harder to make time for. The only thing TPM worked on throughout that whole year was Planet of the Beavers Part 5 (which is still not releasing any time soon).

The “Solo Sherriff” trying to seduce us all

2018 saw an uptick in our content with my film-review series, a travel documentary, and a few more production days. But most of the work we did from that year remains unreleased. I spent most of that summer saving up money for fancy new film equipment (the stuff we currently use). The following year saw Justin and I tight for time once more, so not many projects got completed then. And as for 2020-2021? Well… The world’s been shut down. So the lack of productivity isn’t really our fault.

Of course I can’t leave co-founder Matteo Mustari out of this story entirely. What the heck was he up to this whole time? Up until 2017, Matteo was only loosely associated with Justin and myself. He was our friend, and he was always game to film PoB with us, but that was all. Then, sometime during production of PoB 5, Matteo became a fully-fledged employee of TPM with a voice in company operations. However, he remained in the same boat as Justin and I from 2017-present. That is to say: busy with an actual job and a personal life.

Thought Plane Media began with a lot of promise. It started with two guys who were passionate about their work and who desperately wanted to entertain. And that original iteration of TPM hit its peak 4 years ago… Some might see that as a bad thing but I see it as a surface-level sign of our progress as a company. Have we released much since 2017? No. But we sure as heck haven’t stopped working. And the best is yet to come. TPM may have hit a peak a long time ago but that peak will hopefully be one of many in our careers ahead.

What’s your favourite TPM video from the “Peak period”? Should we get that X. Files merch back out to the public (Yes or definitely)? If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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