Tom Dey, born in New England, graduated from Brown University in 1987, and then went to study film in Paris at the Centre des Etudes Critiques. In 1990 he moved to Los Angeles and began attending the American Film Institute (AFI). He became a writer for American Cinematographer magazine. He graduated from AFI in 1993, and made commercials for Ridley Scott Associates. He made his feature film directing debut on Touchstone Pictures' Shanghai Noon (2000).