Question and Answer
Robert Collector is the writer and director of “Believe in Me,” a film about a 1960s girl’s basketball team’s run at the state title. The production crew has been filming in Clovis, Portales, Elida and other eastern New Mexico towns. Collector spoke about his role in film, his Hollywood career and what it takes to become an attractive production center of the Hollywood studios.
Q: Could you give our readers an idea of what the director does in the movie-making process?
A: The director translates into images what is on the page, and begins by casting actors for the parts, working with the producers to hire the key personnel, the production personnel, which is a small army of people, and then you go and scout locations, you find the locations with the production designer you’ve hired whose job it is to realize the physical design of picture — what things look like, the color palettes, the look and the color. And all of these have countless meetings about them. When locations are found, the director then goes to the locations with technical staff and figure out how to light it, and then any special effects that are required. When all this is decided upon, you show up one day and then the director’s job is to have faith everything he or she needs to complete the scene is in place. You work with all departments to decide everything from the color of the tablecloth, to the hairstyles, to the shoes and to whether it is daylight or not. And then you work with the actors to perform …
Q: I think I saw that you had done some screen writing in the past?
A:Yeah, I wrote the script. (I’ve been a member of) the Writer’s Guild of America for 20-some years, so I’ve worked as a writer — started out in lower budget films, independent films, and I spent most of my career working for every major studio, comedy and dramatic, and most of the networks. I’ve done half-hour pilots, written hour pilots. I’ve written for cable. So for the most part that’s how I made a living.
Q: Is this your first time to direct?
A: No, I directed a long time ago, but a family circumstance caused me not to direct because I needed to be in town with my family. If you want to pursue a director career you have to be willing to travel, and I had some family obligations. And when I felt that those situations were stable — it was a long time — it took me actively six years, I wrote a script that was sold to New Line Cinema to be produced by Robert De Niro’s company that a lot of actresses wanted to play. And the producers, which so often happens in Hollywood, messed it up. And the script went to another studio, and they had agreed that I would direct that script, a couple of years ago — and is so often the case in Hollywood — some German tax shelter, financing instruments changed, and they couldn’t do it. So then I wrote this and I was able to do this. So that’s what happens, you are directing for Paramount and Showtime, but you can’t agree, and then you are directing for another place, and then the money changes …
Q:Going forward, is directing what you want to do?
A: It’s what I originally wanted to pursue when I came to Hollywood from New York. It is what I like doing. I would hope that this would allow me to do it again.
Q: Clovis was chosen because it kind of looks like it is out of the 60s, in a sense?
A: No, Oklahoma. There were locations that did look like they were from the 60s.
Q: There’s been a lot of talk from the governor about increasing the presence of filming in New Mexico, as you are probably aware. Is that fanciful thinking?
A: Well, (Gov.) Bill Richardson is a smart governor to do this. I think film-making is a clean industry. It puts a lot of cash in economies. It stimulates development. I’m not a proponent of all the film-making that has left America to go to Canada. My Showtime project was in Canada. I think, number one, it is a smart thing to do. Number two: what may be fanciful, is it takes awhile to develop the infrastructure to make it really attractive to Hollywood. Legislators and communities have to be more proactive. States that are aggressive are going to get (film projects), but you have to make it attractive for companies to come and make movies.
Q: Could you just explain the process of getting together with Cotty (Chubb) and John (Manulis) and how that all came together for you?
A: I had optioned the book. I had written the screenplay. Cotty was one of my friends for a long time who has a home near where I live. And he had called for a reason — just a friendly call — and I asked him, I wanted to get a budget on the picture, and some advice on hiring a line person to tell me accurately what I could make the picture for because I did not sell the script to the major (studios). I didn’t want to do that. He read the script and asked to be involved, and the person he had in mind to help budget this project was Manulis. And so, they are based in (Los Angeles) — I live in Santa Barbara — so I thought it made sense to let them do the leg work. That’s how it happened: I chose them.
Q: Correct me if I’m wrong, but Believe in Me Productions is a group formed for this project, right?
Q: Where does all the equipment come from?
A: We rent the equipment. All movies are stand-alone entities, whether they are a production for a studio or an independent production, it is a financing entity, that is a limited liability company. The cameras come from Dallas, Panavision Dallas. Mainly the big production centers have the grip and electric packages that we need. So back to your question about Albuquerque: For cities outside Hollywood to be production centers, you need to have more than two first-rate crews. You need multiple strings of crews, and in a perfect world you have sound stages available, and you have … equipment, so if you have a problem you don’t have to have another piece of equipment flown from Hollywood, or Dallas (or some other production center).
• Compiled by CNJ staff writer David Irvin.