Thursday, June 25, 2009

R.D. Robb Is No Stranger To Daring Films

It's almost hard to imagine that R.D. Robb, one of the producers of What Goes Up, began his career as the precocious Scott Schwartz who double "dog" dared his classmate to stick his tongue on a frozen flagpole (and was later dared to do the same). But he did exactly that in the 1983 holiday classic, A Christmas Story.

Since, Robb had added more than 20 credits to his career as an actor, director, and producer, before being introduced to the What Goes Up screenplay. Although he was still overseeing production at a company called ZentAmerica, he immediately fell in love with the clever characters and then the undeniable passion exhibited by writer/director Jonathan Glatzer.

"From a creative standpoint, I always look for personal stories, interesting journeys, and nuanced characters. The screenplay had all of that," says Robb. "The making of the film was trying at times, but they all are for different reasons and circumstances. Throughout though, Glatzer was really great with the actors, coming from a background of directing theater."

The effort paid off, with all of the performances in this poignant independent film receiving nods for their contributions in one review or another. Most often described as a dramedy, What Goes Up also presented a different kind of movie making as it captured the chance relationship between a reporter and a group of adolescent social misfits. As perhaps best put by Pete Hammond from, it "marches to its own surprising beat."

“Life contains both funny and tragic moments. So should any good film, no matter what the genre,” Robb said. "In a film like What Goes Up, it needs to strongly address both elements, but the comedy needs to carry us to make the tragedy work and pay off. It’s challenging to find that balance in tone, especially because there is a fine line.”

While the fine line of presenting a fishbowl glimpse of life seemed too daunting for some, What Goes Up has since captured a growing cult-like following of fans who appreciate the steady pace of the film. In fact, many of these fans say they are surprised at how the movie has a stronger and stronger impact with each new viewing. Robb attributes the repeat allure to the actors.

“It was great to work with so many talented actors in What Goes Up,” Robb said. “They were all so smart, talented and intriguing in their own right. Personally, I really related to Campbell’s character with all of his struggles, fears, and dilemmas.”

Part of reason, Robb recalls, is because he vividly remembers the events that led up to the shuttle tragedy in 1986. They were not watching the television because his English teacher chalked it up as just as another shuttle launch and there was work to be done. That all changed when a second teacher entered and handed her a note.

"The look on her face was sheer horror," Robb said. "She then told us there had been a tragic accident and pulled out the television. It was on every channel, and we all watched in shock. English didn't seem all that important any more."

The parallel, minus the hometown build up as seen in the film, is striking in that writer/director Glatzer and writer Robert Lawson never dwell on the shuttle tragedy. While the pending disaster might loom in the background, they offer an anti-climax that is much more true to life. While not every critic imagined it, people are often caught up in individual struggles that seem larger than life. And then, something suddenly and unexpectedly happens that overshadows all of it and forces us to grow.

The same could be said for Robb's work on this film. As a Hollywood veteran who has worn so many hats in the film industry, he says every new project strengthens his resolve and passion for film. Every project, he says, has encouraged his growth as an artist and a businessperson. And, What Goes Up is just one more brilliant stop in his film career.

In truth, "stop" is not the right word. Robb's newest project, Triple Dog, is already in post production. He is also working on a sports film about the triumph over tragedy for one high school football team in Pennsylvania; a dark comic noir film called Killer Joe, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts; and looking forward to working on a horror/thriller from the creators of Boogeyman, which is expected to be produced by James Hoke and Tony Miranda.

"Hey," Robb muses over the prospect of working with Miranda and Hoke on a film set in Las Vegas. "There are only two executive producers in Vegas for me, baby.”

Along with the executive producers of What Goes Up, Robb has long list of people he wants to work with in the future. They include: Daniel Day Lewis, Carey Mulligan, Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Stephen Fears, Chris Young, Paul Greengrass, Michael Mann, and Anthony Mandler. And while this "short list" might cause some to wonder if any of them have been influential on his career, Robb says that honor will always belong to someone else.

"Oh, that would be my mother," smiles Robb. "She's encouraged me and supported me every step of the way." All the way, up.

1 comment:

  1. Ha ha! I remember that movie. RD seems like he grew up into a nice guy.

    But what's the difference between producer and executive producer?