Jordan Roberts leads panel of industry pros at Saturday's student Filmmaking Symposium

3, 2, 1...Encinitas go boom!

Jordan Roberts.
  • Jordan Roberts.

Jordan Roberts leads a lineup of industry pros scheduled to attend this Saturday's Encinitas Student Film Symposium.

Roberts is the writer-director of two terrific family comedies (Around the Bend and 3, 2, 1… Frankie Go Boom), as well as the screenwriter behind March of the Penguins and Big Hero 6.

He'll be joined by Emmy-winning filmmaker and Groovy Like a Movie’s very own, Brent Altomare, who will address the students on preparing for a career in film. Bill Holshevnikoff, an internationally known, Emmy-winning lighting designer, educator, and filmmaker, will hold a workshop on lighting design. Paul Babin, winner of the 2012 Society of Camera Operators Lifetime Achievement Award, will be on hand to teach the cinematography workshops. Paul is known for his work on Terminator 2, X-Men, True Lies, and Magnolia, among many others.

The one-day Filmmaking Symposium takes place on Saturday, April 23, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Encinitas Community Center, 1140 Oakcrest Park Drive. All festival events are presented free of charge to students enrolled in accredited San Diego high schools, colleges, and universities.

For more information, visit the Encinitas Student Film Festival.

Francine Filsinger, president of San Diego Filmmakers, the event's organizing group, knew of my admiration and was kind enough to arrange an interview with Mr. Roberts. When I meet him, I’ll be sure to remove my glove before shaking his hand.

Scott Marks: You made your first film, Around the Bend, in 2004, and right out the gate who do you get to star? A couple of lightweights: Michael Caine and Christopher Walken! Short of having compromising photos of Warner Independent execs cavorting naked with barnyard animals to use as blackmail, how did you find yourself in such fortunate circumstances?

Jordan Roberts: I wrote a script they wanted to do. (Laughing.)

SM: That’s it?

JR: That’s the truth, my friend. It’s definitely proof that writers can get behind the chair if they write something actors want to do.

SM: How did you get the script to Michael Caine?

Michael Caine in Around the Bend.

Michael Caine in Around the Bend.

JR: The Warners executives liked it. I didn’t have compromising photos, but it helped that Michael Caine and Chris would do it. It’s the economics of the movie business. You pay them enough money to come and and do the movie and then offer them a good role to boot. They liked the script. Had I not written the script, I probably wouldn’t have got the job of directing. That’s for sure. It was one of those wonderful stories that was kind of proof the script matters. An unknown relatively new to Hollywood who didn’t know anybody could come and get actors to play with him simply because they wrote something good. There was nothing cynical about that production. It was completely driven by a story that people wanted to help tell.

SM: I’m betting it was the first and last time Michael Caine ever set foot in a KFC.

JR (Laughing): I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you that. He didn’t seem to mind it. The odd thing about that film is the critics radically misunderstood the placement. They actually thought it was product placement. Nobody understood its meaning in the film. It was a tremendous miscalculation on my part. Somebody warned me that they would think it was product placement, and I said how can it be product placement if a character dies in it?

SM: Was it difficult to get the Colonel to come on board?

JR: Oddly not. We paid them a little money, but no, I was surprised they gave us permission. I had fully expected to come up with a fictional chicken franchise.

Martin Scorsese, Paul Bartel, and Sylvester Stallone get the "Cannonball" runs.

Martin Scorsese, Paul Bartel, and Sylvester Stallone get the "Cannonball" runs.

SM: The reason I ask is, there’s a scene in the 1976 picture Cannonball where Martin Scorsese, Paul Bartel, and Sylvester Stallone have cameos as a trio of mafioso. They’re sitting around a table eating out of a bucket of KFC. In the 35mm release prints, the scene ends with Scorsese throwing a leg back in the tub and saying, “I hate this shit!” It’s the only time I’ve ever seen it. The line’s been cut from every cable and home video copy. I’m guessing they sued.

JR: That’s funny. Yeah, I expect that’s what happened. The final shot of a KFC is one that’s been burned down to the ground and the characters laugh delighted that they don’t have to eat it. I can’t imagine how anyone mistook it for product placement. It contributed to the critic’s already...the film is viewed to my mind – utterly subjective here — profoundly unfairly. They trounced on the film.

SM: Both Around the Bend and 3, 2, 1… Frankie Go Boom center around families. The comedy in Bend is very low key, wherein Frankie the laughs go boom! I have to ask, are your parents still alive?

JR: They were alive when I made Frankie. They have both passed now. It killed them.

SM (Laughing): As well it should have!

JR: My mother who lived in Encinitas would love that you wrote my movie killed her. She actually grew very fond of it by the end.

SM: Does big shot Charlie Hunnam still return your calls?

JR (Laughing): I don’t call Charlie often, but when I do, yes.

SM: Chris O’Dowd is one of our finest working comedic actors and you deserve credit for supplying him with his funniest role to date. One of the hardest things for me to accept in a comedy is when a director tries to simultaneously ridicule and embrace a character. Without shedding a drop of sentimentality, you and O’Dowd do it with the greatest of ease.

Charlie Hunnam and Chris O'Dowd in "3, 2, 1...Frankie Go Boom."

Charlie Hunnam and Chris O'Dowd in "3, 2, 1...Frankie Go Boom."

JR: Thank you. I made that film myself. I paid for it myself. I made it for very little money. The recipe to any young filmmaker out there who wants to make there own have to do two things in my opinion: 1) Let the actors sleep in their own beds and 2) give them something to do that no one else is giving them to do. If you do those two things — and you have a good script – you might get stars of a certain magnitude to work for no money, which is what I did.

SM: I can’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone I know who has seen it just falls apart laughing.

JR: You’re clearly a very disturbed man.

SM: Damn right!

JR: I appreciate it. I share your sensibilities. It’s definitely a love/hate film as I intended it to be. I find it to be incredibly funny and incredibly sweet.

SM: What’s the connection you have to San Diego Filmmakers that brings you to town this Saturday?

JR: My mother lived in Encinitas for many years before she passed away three years ago. I used to come to Encinitas all the time. Francine and my mother were very close friends. That’s how I know her.

SM: Why is it important that you to share your wisdom and experience with young filmmakers?

JR: Because the only non-reprehensible thing about aging is wisdom. And by participating in the the sharing of my wisdom I feel slightly, and only slightly less old. SM (Laughing): You have just completed your next project, Burn Your Maps. When can we expect to see it?

JR: We start showing it to distributors in a week. The revelation of the film is that I cast an actor named Jacob Tremblay, who is now a certifiable movie star. He’s the boy from Room and he did me the great service of blowing up in a big way after I finished my film. He was nominated for a Golden Globe and the darling of the red carpet circuit.

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