Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Interview with Filmmaker Frank Robak

This interview with Filmmaker Frank Robak is required reading for all of those with great movie ideas and no movie to show for them. What keeps you from making your movie? Here, you will find a man that wasn’t going to allow life to happen to him any longer, he made the decision to go out and make his life happen and with that, his movie.

FS: How long have you been a filmmaker and how many projects have you been involved with?

FR: Well let’s see… I’ve been interested in filmmaking for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had a fascination with movies. I spent a lot of time as a kid sitting at home watching movies. When I was 13, I managed to talk my mom into letting me get my own video camera. This was before Hi-8 or digital. I had one of those big VHS camcorders that you have to prop up on your shoulder. I grew up with Scott Rudolph, who plays the character Jack in Statistics, and we used to spend all our afternoons and weekends shooting fun little movies. To answer your other question… I made three short films and wrote five screenplays during my ten year effort to make Statistics. Scott and I would go to these meetings with various producers and production companies, we’d hear a lot of exciting things, but then like a lot of the small projects out there… nothing would happen. So I would get frustrated and call Scott and say we need to forget about these meetings and bullsh*t and just go make a movie. So we did. That’s finally what we did with Statistics. We decided to just do it ourselves guerilla style with no money.

FS: What is your feature film "Statistics" all about?

FR: It’s about life. It’s about how we view the world around us and how we choose to live our lives while we are here. It’s also about change. Before I wrote the script I would sometimes watch the news and think about the people in those news stories. I would wonder what they did that day and how they spent their last moments. News stories never focus on that. It’s all about age, location, and how they died. Statistics follows the lives of a few individuals on their last day.

FS: From original idea to final cut, how long did it take you to complete Statistics?

FR: This film has been ten years in the making. I’m still working on the final cut which will be done in the next few weeks. I originally woke up with the idea when I was 19 years old. I completed the first draft in two weeks. I tweaked the script as I got older. For nearly ten years I played the Hollywood game of trying to raise money. I eventually realized you can play that game forever and never get anywhere. In March 2005, Scott and I secured $17,000 and with the help of two other producers, David Michaels and Kent Harper, we started shooting. Kent Harper plays the DJ in Statistics. Both are great friends and incredibly resourceful producers. We knew $17K wasn’t enough to complete the film so the plan was for Scott and I to come up with another $10,000 before shooting finished in late May. We all worked closely together to figure out ways to cut corners and know when not to cut corners. In a lot of ways Scott and I paid for this movie out of pocket as we filmed.

FS: We understand you had a $25,000 budget for this film. That is miniscule compared to the $60 million dollars that goes into the average Hollywood feature. Did you actually come under or over your original budget?

FR: $25,000 was the round number we worked with, but every time Scott and I really crunched the numbers we saw the actual figure being somewhere between 25 and 30,000…. it all depended on how much we spent on lunches for everyone, how many people were needed for each day. The guerilla nature of the production required us to have a more open budget which was heavily reliant on favors. We really tried to keep the crew minimal, but we also tried to keep it comfortable for everyone. We had a SAG Limited Exhibition Agreement which means we had to pay our SAG actors $100 a day. We shot on digital with the Panasonic DVX100A which we purchased specifically for this movie. I think our average shoot day cost us around $500, but then we had a few extra expensive days like shooting the airplane scene, hospital scenes, DJ booth, and a fight scene in a restaurant. In the end we came in just slightly over $25K.

FS: In order to shoot your movie for the budget you had, you had to attack it guerilla style. What was your shooting schedule like? And what was the size of your crew and cast?

FR: For the first month and half of production I was working a day job that kept me busy Monday thru Friday. So we shot weekends and every now and then I took a day off so we could shoot on a week day. Six weeks later the greatest thing happened. My dedication to my movie became all too apparent and I lost my job. So we immediately started shooting everyday or as close to it as possible allowing for other peoples’ schedules. We shot scenes on Hollywood Blvd, LAX, the 405… all over LA completely guerilla style. I don’t want to give anything away from the story but we managed to get away with staging some pretty horrific things right out in the open. Each shoot day became the test of all tests. We were confronted by police on two occasions, but never shut down. My crew was essentially two people: Sound and DP- with many hats. The cast was usually no more than four actors per day. I’m not sure about the total cast list but there are probably around 10 major characters.

FS: What was it that made you make this feature right now? Why not five years ago or five years from now?

FR: I honestly can’t imagine making this movie at any other time in my life. I’ve grown a lot as a person since that first draft when I was 19. A lot has happened… not only in my life but throughout the world. We’ve all seen some pretty horrific things. Sometimes it feels like it’s never going to end. There are questions raised in the movie. How can we remain positive individuals when we are slammed with so many bad things happening everyday? Will we ever learn to live together peacefully? One side of me says probably not, but the other side has a glimmer of hope that one day we will. Statistics is about the value of life and preciousness of time. It’s about love vs. hate. It’s also about hanging on to hope no matter what happens. I think in this day especially, there are people all around the world who can relate to that.

FS: What have you learned the most from making this film?

FR: I’ve learned a lot in working closely with actors, giving them the freedom to develop their own character. Late night brainstorming sessions help me figure out the easiest and most effective way of getting a point across. I’ve also learned a lot of technical aspects of filmmaking such as lighting and sound and working closely with a DP to develop a style or feel for the movie. I continue to learn a lot as I edit the film and see it come together. I think the greatest thing I’ve learned is how to balance the pursuit of my own creative vision with the talents of everyone around me. Filmmaking is a collaborative process and it doesn’t matter if you are working with a bunch of friends, some unknown talent, or highly established professionals… you want to surround yourself with people who truly understand the project and have great ideas. I’m blown away and humbled by people who work out of pure passion for a project. I’m amazed by all the creative elements that come together to create a single moment. As a filmmaker, you have to be in love with the movie you’re working on.

FS: What's up next for you, what do you plan to do about press, marketing, and distribution?

FR: I recently put a trailer for the film online: STATISTICS MOVIE TRAILER
A lot of people all over the world are seeing it. It’s pretty cool to get an email from someone on a different continent who’s excited to see the movie. We have a few plans, a few specific individuals we’d like to show the movie to first. I’d like to see it go to some festivals. I’m currently going over some concepts for the movie poster and more website ideas. I’d also like to setup something like a forum or blog where people around the world can share their own ‘statistics’ moments or views on life; share experiences that opened their eyes for a moment, that made them wake up from the mundane, to appreciate what they have. Statistics is inspired by those human stories. What else can I say… Hopefully there will be a great distribution deal in the future and everyone will get a chance to experience the film. Whatever happens, my plan is to keep expanding myself as a filmmaker and human being and to continue making the movies I love.


No comments: