Orange County Screenwriter Association Member – Robert Rollins
By Mark Sevi
(Original Posted To www.ocscreenwriters.com On August 21, 2010)
Robert Rollins is a man on the move. Just ask him – he’s more than (enthusiastically) willing to tell about the dozens of projects he’s either done, has in production, or is in pre-production with.
A prolific writer and producer Robert takes his craft very seriously. He doesn’t just sit around and dream about being a filmmaker, he wakes up every day and thinks to himself – “How can I get ‘The Magic Hourglass’ and ‘Lanterns for the Dead’ done?” “Who can I talk to who will fund my productions?” “What can I do next that will get my company, Robert Rollins Pictures noticed?”
The key? “Flexibility and keeping yourself open to all possibilities,” he says as we’re having coffee at Kean Coffee in Newport Beach.
“Like when I was doing ‘Pumpkin Hollow’,” he says, “a film no one but I believed in. I didn’t have any idea where I was going to get a set designer who could make my film look good.” “Set designer?” he laughs as he remembers, “I couldn’t even afford to rent a pumpkin stand for the film so I had to build one out of old wood in the backyard myself.
Then the problem of what to fill it with came up and all I could think of was how much it was going to cost to put pumpkins inside it. But because I had bronchitis, we had to push the shoot to after Halloween and I managed to get all the pumpkins I needed because no one really wants pumpkins after Halloween. I ended up with three hundred pumpkins in my condo – that was a bit surreal.”
Robert has an infectious manner. It’s hard not to be enthusiastic along with him when he’s detailing his many adventures as an independent filmmaker. His love for what he does is evident – it informs his face and brightens his eyes, triggering that engaging smile of his. He is always intense but never overwhelming.
“My love for movies started when I was a kid. I’d let myself be absorbed into those worlds and disappear. It was magical. I know now that it’s a lot of hard work, but in many ways, it’s still magical and will always be.”
Who were your role models, your influences, I ask. “Rudi Fehr was not only my mentor, but was my dear friend.
I met Rudi in my freshman year at California Institute of the Arts – I was taking editing. Rudi and I became friends instantly even though he was many years older than me. He saw something in me that he had in himself – a unabashed love for movies and a willingness to work hard to get to my goals. He gave me more than I could ever give back to him. He’s passed on. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him.”
For once, Robert’s million-watt smile fades as he remembers his friend and mentor. “Rudi listened. Always. It’s something that he taught me to do – listen more, talk less,” Robert says with more than a twinge of sadness. “I can never forget how much he meant to me. Never.”
Rudi Fehr was an immigrant to this country who joined Warner Brothers in 1936 as an editor. In 1952 he became a producer and was elected to the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. He also did many of Warner’s foreign language adaptations. In 1980 he joined Coppola’s Zoetrope Productions and in 1984 he cut “Prizzi’s Honor” for John Houston – a film that garnered him an Oscar nomination.
I asked Robert to give me 3-4 quick tips for aspiring filmmakers:
1. Ask for it – whatever “it” is. You can’t be afraid to ask for what you want in this business because no one is just going to come up and say “here, take this.”
2. People believe in something when they see it. A script, a short, storyboards – when you make it real for yourself, you make it real for investors. Do the initial work and the selling part will go much easier.
3. Stay flexible – nothing, and I mean nothing, goes according to plan. The only thing you can count on is that it won’t be as you imagined or planned it to be.
4. Adapt, don’t collapse. If you’re defeated by a crises, you can’t succeed. Be like a pinball and bounce. But don’t go down any holes. Keep moving and bouncing
5. Goes without saying – love what you’re doing. Of course, right? Your passion impassions others. Just like going to a baseball game and having the people around you jump up and cheer and you do too, people will catch your enthusiasm and stand with you. Maybe even cheer a little.
What are you working on now, I asked him as we clear away the pastry crumbs from the table.
“‘The Magic Hourglass’ and ‘Lanterns for the Dead’ are my latest projects. I am currently in the pre-production phase of the short film ‘The Magic Hourglass’ and we will be shooting in November.
The story of ‘Hourglass’ is a sort of prequel that follows the characters from ‘Lanterns of the Dead.’ Once completed the short will not only be shown in film festivals and posted to the Internet, but will be included as part of the business plan and investor packet we have put together to raise financing for ‘Lanterns for the Dead.’ And I cannot wait to stand on the set, to feel the magic that film brings, and say the word ‘action’ again.”
Robert is on the board of directors for the Orange County Screenwriters Association. He is also involved in theater and working on a play script and heading off soon to be lecturing at a film class at Fullerton College.
Since no one succeeds without the help and support of friends, Robert asked if he could acknowledge the following people who have helped and continue to help in his goal to rule the film world:
Robert and Deanna Rollins
Rudi Fehr (in memory)
Chris and Kathleen Eric