Carnegie Mellon University
October 02, 2015

This Guy

Things aren't always as they seem according to "The Perfect Guy," a movie in which one woman's interest in a charming man evolves into fear.

OliverThe movie's down-to-earth producer Tommy Oliver (DC 2006) isn't the type of guy you'd expect either, not amidst the glamour of Hollywood.

At Carnegie Mellon University's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Oliver did double majors in economics and digital media. He has a brilliant business sense and intense creative energy, a combination one might see in marketing or technology. But he loves film.

"I truly believe in the transformational power of film, that someone can watch a movie for two hours and come away with their perspective changed completely, or be open to having conversations about something new," Oliver said.   

CMU gave Oliver opportunities to flex his creative, technical and business muscles. One teacher was the late Steven Klepper, an iconic economics professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences and the Tepper School of Business.

"Economics has completely influenced how I think about everything today, from opportunity costs to complex decision trees. It's ingrained in me and influences how I make decisions," he said.

Multimedia adjunct professor Radoj Glisic and Heinz College's Michael Smith also were strong influences.

"As a student, Tommy had a wonderful passion for both art and business and a vision for what he wanted to accomplish in his career," Smith said. "I smile when I think back on the tremendous talent he showed, and I'm thrilled, but not at all surprised, to see him succeed in his craft."

While a teaching assistant, Oliver met students Claudia Duran (A 2005) and Jonathan Martofel (BHA 2005) who asked Oliver to be the producer for a feature-length movie they were writing called "Sophia For Now."

"For whatever reason, I said 'yes,'" he said about the pivotal moment.

He completed his first film, with thanks partly to Vice President for Campus Affairs Michael Murphy, whom Oliver met sophomore year as a residential adviser. Murphy was not only a mentor but also gave funding to "Sophia For Now" when support languished. While a student, Oliver also would attract funding for student films from a Small Undergraduate Research Grant and former President Jared L. Cohon.

"Tommy is quintessential CMU. He has unbelievable talent and enormous energy, whether he is debating economic theory or pitching a new idea. At the same time, he has a genuine, humble nature and cares for others on a personal and societal level. Coupled with his incredible intellect and creativity, he has the capacity to touch people's lives in ways that really matter, and he does," Murphy said.

After graduating, Oliver had several successes, particularly "Kinyarwanda," a romance that takes place during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and "1982," a drama that explores a family's struggle with cocaine addiction. "Kinyarwanda" won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival and was on Roger Ebert's top 10 list for 2011.  

In the future, Oliver said that he has the opportunity "to work with good people," including his wife, Codie Elaine Oliver, who is directing a documentary under the working title "Black Love." He also speaks regularly to students in CMU's Master of Entertainment Industry Management (MEIM) program and stays in touch with MEIM Director Dan Green.

"CMU will always have a big place in my heart," Oliver said.

Meanwhile, Hollywood is making a place in its heart for him.