A former WaMu VP redefines what success means

May 24, 2010, 2:45 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

If you’ve ever thought of changing careers, this is a story for you.

timothy watkinsTimothy Watkins grew up in a blue collar home. He was the first in his family to go to college, and his idea of success was getting a good paying job. He did that. He became a Vice President at Washington Mutual – one of the largest savings and loan associations in the United States. Everything seemed fine there until the fall of 2008 when risky loans and investments caught up with the company.

“The very high executives were saying, ‘no we’ll pull through this,’ and I kept buying stock right up until the end even,” says Watkins. “I lost a lot of money that day.”

“That day” was September 25th when the federal government seized Washington Mutual Bank. The Office of Thrift Supervision withdrew $16 billion in deposits during a 10-day bank run. Later, the FDIC sold the WaMu banking subsidiaries to JPMorgan Chase for $1.9 billion.

Even before WaMu failed, taking Watkin’s job with it, he was starting to write stories and movie plots in his spare time. Thinking about film making started to occupy more of his mind. But he felt like he was wearing “golden handcuffs.” He didn’t think he could quit his job, which supported his family, to pursue what seemed like a “frivolous” hobby.

“I had heard people talk about do whatever you’re passionate about and the money will follow, or something like that,” Watkins says. “When WaMu failed it ended up being so fortuitous.”

Even when you’re forced to change careers, Watkins would be the first to say it’s not easy.

“Now I’ve technically not been working for a year and a half or so, which is strange and challenging on my dear wife at times, but the funny thing about it is that I feel more successful than I ever have,” he says.

Last year Watkins wrote and directed a short comedy film called Dishonesty – a look at what happens after a couple decides to stop putting forth the effort to be honest. Dishonesty premiered at the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival yesterday.

His new project is the short film Photo Booth, co-written with Charlie Forsgren. It is a noir film set in 1970’s Seattle about an idealistic young writer, a night of passion, and murder.

He describes it as “double cross and crime with a femme fatale.” They’re filming this week at several locations in Seattle with the hope of finishing the short movie by September.


A storyboard from a scene in Photo Booth, via No Slack Productions

“I could work on film making all day. Literally wake up at a six in the morning and work till midnight and get a call in the middle of the night even and I’m just excited to talk about it,” says Watkins. “I feel like I’m successful even though I’m not really making any money.”

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A former WaMu VP redefines what success means