Roy Creating Art: Inside The Imagination Of A Passionate Indie Filmmaker — and Film Viewer
Watching a movie at a local theater can be a mesmerizing experience, even if the flicks themselves aren’t always memorable. Screening them as a projectionist and programmer for Rochester, New York’s Little Theatre, though, has been profoundly inspiring for filmmaker and cinema aficionado Roy, whose daily work showing and seeing films both current and classic is only one way he shares his passion for the silver screen with audiences.
The other is through Roy’s creative collective/production company WillWorkForFame Films, an outlet that unites and boosts the combined talents of Roy’s on and off-camera collaborators, as well as indie filmmakers in general, through an eclectic series of content including the acclaimed 2015 short Adam Imitating Art.
The film, which played at the prestigious Raindance Film Festival in London, was inspired by Roy’s experiences as a working projectionist, was shot inside the actual projection booth at The Little Theatre, and stars actor/writer/director Eric Maira as inept sandwich delivery guy Adam, whose mundane assignment — to bring a sub to a movie projectionist during a local film festival — soon becomes an opportunity to reinvent himself as an up-and-coming auteur.
In conjunction with the Little Theatre’s popular “Saturday Night Rewind” (SNR) series, Roy and his team — Maira, producer/editor Bri Merkel, makeup/special effects artist Lola Rivera, cinematographer JR Kraus and actors Mike Barra and Veronica McClive — have joined forces on three memorable shorts that have preceded some of the SNR’s classic selections, including vintage horror tributes November the 1st (Halloween) Dead Neighbors (Night Of The Living Dead) and Crave’n Coffee (honoring A Nightmare On Elm Street and the works of legendary movie scare king Wes Craven).
Further demonstrating Roy and WillWorkForFame Films’ commitment to often offbeat yet constantly entertaining content made with a DIY (do it yourself) spirit is the surreal Pet Monkey, starring Sky Elobar as a man obsessed with gifting — what else, a pet monkey — to his perplexed new girlfriend Gwen (Diana Kolsky), plus the upcoming live-action/stop-motion series Melvin The Devourer, which follows an alien troll who initially chews through a local cinema’s 35mm film inventory only to begin watching — and loving — the movies projected from those negatives.
Melvin ultimately finds that those same movies, and the unmistakably human art of cinematic storytelling contained within them, possess the same valuable energy that he, planet Earth and his own outer space home urgently need when an evil army of trolls threatens to destroy earthlings and furry alien beings alike.
Like one of his many filmmaking heroes, Oscar-winning writer/director Spike Jonze (Her, MTV’s Jackass, Where The Wild Things Are), Roy began shooting elaborate skateboarding tricks on camera in the early-to-mid ’90s, and his determination to capture just about anything that appears in his viewfinder is as powerful as his love of cinema itself. That passion is also clear in his projects for WillWorkForFame Films, as Roy recently explained to me in the following interview (edited for clarity):
Chris Hadley: What inspired you to get into filmmaking, and what/who are some of your major creative Influences?
Roy (writer/director): In the beginning, it was the Muppets and Godzilla movies. I was more interested in who and how these things were being controlled and created than the actual movies.
CH: You began your career in the ’90s making skateboarding videos and comedy skits. What did working on those projects teach you about film production, and how did you apply everything you learned during that time to the films you made later?
Roy: Back then, in high school, it wasn’t hip to be a skater, so we were natural outcasts in my town and I would pick up a camera and shoot skateboarding or someone waving on the side of the road in their underwear because it was fun and odd. Soon I had all these clips of random cool sh*t and eventually, it led to my first skate video, “High Flyers”, in 1994. To this day my mantra has been to go out and shoot whatever I can, (be it) skateboarding or street art or commercials or short films.
CH: You then started working as a film projectionist at The Little Theatre in Rochester, New York, where you came up with the idea for your first short film Adam Imitates Art. What story does that film tell, and how did you personally identify with it?
Roy: It’s a story about opportunity. Adam (Eric Maira) starts his day out like every other day, boring and normal. By the end of the day he’s had this crazy experience that has changed and inspired him. It also has a “right time, right place” feel, which is very much like the industry I’ve spent so much time in. I try to take every day as a new day to create and be open to the possibilities in front of me.
CH: In what ways did your memories of working as a projectionist while chasing your filmmaking dreams inspire you to create Adam Imitates Art in 2014, and were any of the movies you saw during that period influential in the concept and characters for this project?
Roy: When I wrote Adam Imitates Art, I was just starting to work at different film festivals as a projectionist. I was fascinated by the culture and the movies it produced. First, there are filmmakers from all walks of life creating and expressing their ideas with film and I realized they were no different from me. They had an idea and believed in it and never gave up until it came to fruition.
CH: Adam Imitates Art was the first released by your production company, WillWorkForFame Films, and it went on to appear at the 2015 Raindance Film Festival in London. How and when did you find out that the movie had been accepted into that festival, what was it like to see it shown to audiences overseas, what did you take away from it, and how did that whole experience motivate you to make more movies?
Roy: We found out we were in about a couple of months before the festival and the whole crew went over. It was awesome for us to see our movie at a film festival where no one knew us. It once again reinforced the feeling that anything is possible and that this was just the beginning for our crew. This fueled us to make our second short film Pet Monkey.
CH: Describe how Adam Imitates Art first establishes and demonstrates the DIY (do it yourself) approach you’ve taken to making movies, and how that style manifested itself in your later projects, including your upcoming series Melvin The Devourer.
Roy: We had a low budget, we fundraised and got a few sponsors and pulled every favor to get this made. We used free locations when we could and put together a crew that believed in the project and would help us make it against all odds. That’s the same recipe as when I was younger; DIY by any means necessary. That mentality drove us to make Pet Monkey and all the SNR shorts and even now with Melvin. We have an idea and we create that idea. It’s so hard to make a movie and the only way is to just never give up on that movie.
CH: Discuss the efforts that you, WillWorkForFame Films, and the people you collaborate with as part of that company are engaging in to create opportunities for actors and filmmakers alike to break into the indie film industry.
Roy: Truly we are not trying to break into the industry. We are trying to create our own industry; a place that is obtainable to the common filmmakers. I have worked most of my life to be a part of the industry, I was told to do it this way or try it that way, but that only seemed to carry me further and further away. We are creating our own piece of the industry. (We’re) being confident that there are more people like us and as we grow, we will grow our own industry.
CH: You’ve also worked on four other films with this group as part of The Little Theatre’s “Saturday Night Rewind” retro movie screenings: the bizarre comedy Pet Monkey, and horror homages November the 1st, Dead Neighbors and Crave’n Coffee (honoring the films of George Romero, Wes Craven and classic horror movies like Halloween, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Night Of The Living Dead). What are these films about, how do they maintain the DIY production aesthetic you’ve developed throughout your career, and what are your memories of working on each film?
Roy: The 3 shorts for SNR were homages to our favorite horror directors and they were all made without scripts, which is a fun way (not for everyone) to just explore what filmmaking can be. We would shoot for a day and then come back and edit the dailies and then make notes for the next day and keep building till one day it’s done, which is exactly the way I made all my skate videos, so I have been continually using this type of filmmaking without my career.
Pet Monkey, which was written and directed by Eric, is a bizarre short about a person’s obsessions and how they manifest themselves in relationships. It was a 180 from Adam and that’s exactly what we wanted (it). I don’t want to be a part of a company that makes one type of film over and over again.
Working and being friends with all the people involved makes every moment a memory. We all have other jobs, so when we come together it is truly a special experience and (it’s) something we all strive to do as a living if possible. That’s another reason why we never stop.
CH: Your latest project is the live-action/stop-motion animated series Melvin The Devourer. Besides your love of film and your work as a projectionist, what were some of the other creative inspirations/influences that motivated you to make it?
Roy: I’ve always been inspired by Spike Jonze (Oscar-winning writer/director, Her). He started in the skateboard world, then moved into making music videos and then movies. (He directed) Where The Wild Things Are, (which is) a movie that speaks to me. Also, watching the old episodes of The Muppet Show and Robot Chicken always motivated me. So put them all in a blender and you have Melvin.
CH: How was the title character designed for Melvin The Devourer, and what did you do to ensure a smooth filming process considering that each shot had to be set up according to the creature’s movements?
Roy: Our monster doctor, Magnus, designed him. He is wildly creative and (is) forever filled with ideas to make Melvin better. We went back and forth, tested, and tried Melvin until we found the best material for the character. Melvin’s insides are tough (and made with) durable wire, making it great to pose for stop-animation.
CH: When that series is finished, when and where can people go to see it? When do you anticipate its production will be completed?
Roy: We are filming the pilot episode now, hoping to have it complete by August. We are going to try and get it into festivals to create a buzz hopefully and then pitch it to a few companies to see if we can raise money to make the rest of the episodes in the season. If nothing pans out then once again (it’s) back to the DIY mentality and start making the next episode.
CH: Based on your many experiences in filmmaking, what advice do you have for those who are already working in that field and/or are hoping to start a career in it?
Roy: Never stop creating, even when you want to and (when) everyone else is telling you to quit. If you want it, it will happen!
CH: On a professional and personal level, what do you hope to accomplish and what are your overall hopes for your success?
Roy: I’m not the filmmaker I thought I’d be, but I am happy with the filmmaker I have become. I am accomplishing what I want every day, just to be making movies still. That’s important for success, (and) not what the industry deems as a success but what you as an individual see as your success. Everyone’s journey is different and you have to define your path and your own success.
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Find out more about The Little Theatre and its ongoing retro movie series “Saturday Night Rewind”: