Tom Quinn, Inventor/CEO at Quinn & Sherry, Talks About “Things”

The path for inventors in the toy and game industry is as varied as there are toys and games! One common thread we see time and again is a penchant for creativity that spills across media, a healthy sense of humor and FUN paired with disciplined strategic thinking. Tom Quinn embodies all these things, so it's no surprise that his story is a multifaceted narrative of ability, talent and accomplishment.  We're excited to help him celebrate the 10th anniversary of his award winning "The Game of Things" and glad to have his support directing the 2014 TAGIE Awards in November.


You have a background in film and will be directing this year's TAGIE Awards Program in November. What kind of exciting things can we expect to see at this year's event?

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I have been a game inventor and CEO (The Game of THINGS...) for over 10 years now but I have also been working as an Assistant Director (A.D.) in the Hollywood film industry for the past 29 years.  As an A.D. I am hired by the Director as the manager of a film, responsible for walking the line between the money and the art.  I make sure the Director's vision is being executed by the crew.  I  work closely with the Producer and Studio to keep the project on time and on budget.  I'm also the guy who yells "ROLLING" when I'm positive it's time to turn on the camera.   

This will be my second year directing and producing the TAGIE AWARDS.  In the 6 years that I've been attending the show its always been a classy event that celebrates the inventor community and the companies that support them. My mandate is to make the TAGIES as entertaining as possible so that its appealing, not just to industry insiders, but to anyone who loves Toys & Games.  Just like in 2013 we have started by mining the exceptional talent that is present within the Toy & Game industry to help us make you laugh, cry and applaud.  So while its too early to let you in on the specifics I guarantee the 2014 TAGIES will be a lot of fun.

Tell us more about your film side. What kind of film projects do you like to work on? Do you have a favorite project that makes you particularly proud?

The film industry has taken me across the US, Canada, Mexico, Africa & Europe.  As a young man I had the honour of working with some of the great directors I watched as a kid such as Sidney Lumet (SERPICO, NETWORK, DOG DAY AFTERNOON) John Schlesinger (MIDNIGHT COWBOY, MARATHON MAN, SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY), Norman Jewison (MOONSTRUCK, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT), Martin Ritt (HUD, HOMBRE, THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD) and actors like Marlon Brando, Sofia Loren, Rod Steiger, Alan Arkin, and Anne Bancroft.  

There is no genre of film that I prefer to work in but I usually choose a project because of the people involved.  I did "TO DIE FOR" to work with Director Gus Van Sant (DRUGSTORE COWBOY, GOOD WILL HUNTING, MILK ) and Screenwriter Buck Henry (THE GRADUATE, GET SMART, CATCH 22);  I did "THE VIRGIN SUICIDES" to work with the Producer, Francis Ford Coppola (APOCALYPSE NOW, THE GODFATHER TRILOGY, THE COTTON CLUB);  I did "PUSHING TIN" to work with Director Mike Newell (HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE, DONNIE BRASCO, FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL); and I did "KICKASS" to work with Director/Producer Matthew Vaughn (LAYERCAKE, STARDUST, SNATCH).  

I am quite proud of my first feature film job, David Cronenberg's "THE FLY" with Jeff Goldblum & Gina Davis in 1985.  Another is "TO DIE FOR" which I think is the best performance of Nicole Kidman's  career.  CHICAGO won the "Best Picture" Oscar in 2002 but I only had a minor roll heading up the 2nd Unit which did dance sequences and exterior establishing shots dressed to look like 1920's Chicago.  

If you are interested here's a link to my page on the Internet Movie Data Base IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0704016/?ref_=fn_al_nm_6) that lists most of my credits. By the way, just like Brian Turtle (Co-Inventor of the game "6 DEGREES OF KEVIN BACON") I am only one degree from Kevin Bacon as I spent 4 months in South Africa and Kenya with him shooting the film "THE AIR UP THERE".

How do you think your experience as an Assistant Director helped you with your entry into the toy industry?

My experience as an AD has taught me how creative businesses work.  I know what's involved in taking a concept and producing it.  

Another thing that film taught me that works in toys and games is to think big.  It was on my first film job, "THE FLY" that I saw an entire apartment/laboratory set literally turning upside down to make it look like Jeff Goldblum was walking on the walls and ceiling.  After that I thought "anything's possible."  And that was before computer animation. 

Film has made it hard to intimidate me.  Once you've argued nose to nose with Keifer Sutherland (we became friends) or told Kathleen Turner she has to wake up at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow (I still have the scar), what's left to fear?

Your award-winning game "The Game of Things..." celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and has sold 1.5 million copies in North America. What was the tipping point for the game's success?

Its hard to believe but in February we launched our 10th Anniversary Edition of The Game of THINGS... with PATCH PRODUCTS at the New York Toy Fair. Fifteen years ago my brother Ted, our friend Mark Sherry and I had an idea for a game that would make each other laugh.  Five years later we developed it into "THINGS..."  and got it onto almost every independent Game Retailer in Canada.  

The tipping point for our present success would have to be in November 2005 when we won the Canadian Toy Testing Council's top ten award.  Thats when the game companies started to pay attention to THINGS...! At the award ceremony 2 companies inquired about a license agreement. 

What was your biggest hurdle in getting "Things..." from idea to the retailer's shelf? How did you overcome it?

There are two hurdles that stand out.

  1. Packaging - I use to stand in the game aisle at the big stores looking at all the boxes... and colours... and graphics... and caricatures... wondering how will we ever make our product stand out on that shelf.  Our graphic designer suggested an old wood candy box that she had received as a gift.  It was perfect.  Problem solved.

  2. Editing the topics - We had 7,000 topics and we only needed the best 300 for the first version of the game.  With all three partners working in different countries we created an elaborate colour coding of topics we loved, liked and or didn't like and then sent them back and forth continuously by e-mail until we were at 300. Whew!  

What's Next?

We have other games we are about to pitch.  
We are planning the launch of THINGS... into new markets.  
We are developing a TV show based on THINGS...! 
I have a number of film projects in various states of development.

What else do you like to do when you aren't working on film or toys and games?

I have a wife and three children with great senses of humour so spending time with my family is a lot of fun. 
I love to play hockey but I'm not fully recovered from shoulder surgery a few years ago.
I help coach my two youngest kids in soccer and hockey. 
I love music and my oldest daughter is in a great pop band called Motel Raphael out of Montreal.
Toronto has cuisines form all over the world and I love to eat.

How do you jumpstart your creativity when you find yourself stalled on a project?

Great question as I have this problem frequently.  I have a dog-eared copy of  "The War of Art" by Stephen Pressfield (He also wrote the novel "THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE) which is a guide for succeeding in any creative sphere.  A little exercise always helps.

What single piece of advice would you share with inventors who are new to the industry?

Don't rush into anything. Study all the angles before making major decisions.  This industry is huge and there are many ways to launch a product and even more pitfalls.  I recommend attending the T&G Inventor Convention at CHITAG  in mid-November. The two days of seminars deal with all aspects of the industry from the inventor's point of view.  You will save a lot of money if you know what you are doing before you take too many steps.