Art: Wednesday, January 26, 2005
Roberts’ Rules of Filmmaking

A Fort Worth director discusses making it in the local business.


Local product Randy Roberts is an energetic, forceful presence as he sits at a Fort Worth café table and effuses on a wide range of subjects from Italian food to the success of his latest short film, The Visit. The 10-minute piece about an Alzheimer’s patient remembering his younger days recently screened at a local benefit and raised $1,100 for the Alzheimer’s Association. He’s proud of this, but he’s quick to credit a production crew that gave the film the same production values as a feature.
The 56-year-old Fort Worth native has had a variegated career. He graduated from Texas Tech and spent the better part of two decades as an architect in Dallas and in southern California before the recession of the late 1980s drove him into a different business. Friends who saw him playing different characters when he moonlighted as a motivational speaker — he is a member of Toastmasters — persuaded him to try acting in Hollywood. “Half my roles are cops or law enforcement types,” he said. “I look like a cop.” With his muscular build and close-cut hairstyle, it’s easy to imagine him in uniform. He’s still active as an actor; currently, he can be seen on a tv commercial for Medical Center of Arlington.
It was in this environment that he learned about filmmaking. “I sat behind John Travolta and John Woo on the set of Face/Off,” he recounted. (He had a bit part.) “It was the best film school I could ever have attended.” On the encouragement of a friend, he started to write scripts about seven years ago. His part-time architecture business allows him to spend one or two hours each day writing.
Family issues brought Roberts back to Fort Worth, but the move hasn’t hampered his filmmaking plans in the slightest. Indeed, he calls it the best decision he ever made. “L.A. can be a difficult place to shoot,” he explained. “When we shot The Visit in Grapevine, they welcomed us. They aren’t so jaded ... they were extremely helpful and enthusiastic.” Though he admits the talent pool of actors is much shallower, he notes that careful casting can make up for it and that there are always good cinematographers and sound people for the crew. He’s also maintaining his Hollywood connections — a draft of his script about the legendary beginnings of the 6666 Ranch is making the rounds.
He also reports that local investors tend to be more enthusiastic, something he found while raising money for an untitled low-budget western that’s now in the planning stages. “They’re willing to put up the money as long as your business plan makes sense,” he said. “You have to be smart. It’s not just about cutting corners [in your budget.] It’s about, ‘What will you do once the film is in the can?’ ” To that end, he’s talking with cable channels to see if his movie might snag a tv release instead of going straight to DVD as originally planned.
While many of his projects have western themes (he expresses great admiration for John Ford, Howard Hawks, Sergio Leone, and Clint Eastwood), he has no desire to box himself in. Among the many scripts in his drawer are cop thrillers and showbiz comedies. In the meantime, he continues to press his short films on the festival circuit — his First Place won the prize for Best Short Subject at the 2003 Festival of the West. He plans to do a couple more short films in the near future. “I’m a filmmaker,” he said. “I have to shoot film.”

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