Ten Questions for Director Roger Roth
1) Where did the idea for this movie come from?
The original idea came from my love of playing craps and dreaming of a way to control dice. When I learned there was such a thing as influencing the dice, known as advantage play, the story took on a whole new realism for me.
I had written many drafts about a dice controller and the glamorous life, but all of the drafts lacked a central character, sympathetic, winning but coming to the hard lessons that controlling the dice is not the same as controlling Fate.
After my father died I experienced being left with a big mess where some of the people he trusted took horrible advantage of both me and my family. Ultimately, my sisters and I had to risk everything to hold onto anything. I learned the most important part of my life is my family.
That became a core for the story.
2) Waterline Pictures is an independent company, which translates as small, but you’ve pulled together some names with star power. How did they come on board?
Luck. Pure luck. Wally Lozano, who helped me write the film and produce the film, also took on the role of casting director. We knew if the film had a chance at being commercial we would need great talent with name recognition.
So I suggested to Wally that our first call should be to Clint Eastwood to play the father. Wally and I both knew it was a long shot. But we also knew that if we were on the phone with his agent then we were probably on the phone with someone who might be able to point us in the right direction. As Luck sometimes goes, we were able to get the script to Wayne Newton and Shawn Stockman of Boys II Men and both wanted to be in the film.
It was Shawn’s feature film debut. He still had to audition, and he was great out of the gate. We discussed the character and he delivered it. I can’t wait to work with him again. He seems thrilled with his break into film.
Wayne Newton, wow. He’s a gentleman through and through, a legend in entertainment, but humble as he could possibly be. He lit up my lenses in amazing ways. I can’t wait to work with him again.
3) What did the experience and background of someone like Wayne Newton bring to the picture?
For me, Wayne represented an important piece of Las Vegas history. All my drafts of the film were set in Vegas where the gambler goes to Vegas to beat the house.
This film evolved into a story of two brothers staying in Los Angeles and becoming the house.
It’s a risky bet setting a gambling film in Los Angeles instead of Las Vegas. Wayne Newton brought a huge piece of Vegas with him to Los Angeles, just by agreeing to do the film.z
His performance and just his presence on set made the gambling film feel authentic. I hope that translates on screen.
4) On a small Indy film. Is there room for divas?? Ok, what about ‘artistic involvement/engagement?
In general No Divas, not on my sets, I learned a long time ago that every minute of my time listening to someone complain about someone else is one minute less out of my twelve hour day that I won’t have when I need it.
We’ve all got issues, but true film professionals don’t make their problems mine. I look for signs of that during the casting and crewing up phase to prevent it if possible because with a low budget there is no time or extra money to waste. Divas can become really expensive and suck a lot of time and money from a days work. I’ve learned that the hard way.
Also, in general I pick crews that are down to earth and focused. They won’t put up with it, I won’t put up with it.
That being said, on other projects I have worked with people whose attitudes have changed for the worse, once a scene is shot and then know that I won’t be able to reshoot or recast. It does happen, but fortunately it did not happen on Getting Back to Zero.
5) Let’s assume this was produced on a budget. Define budget.
To me there is is no such thing as a realistic super low budget. That by definition is when you have limited funds, know it’s not enough to finish the film but start anyway.
For me it comes down to staying power and paying for the fixed costs like insurance, permits, food.. and then stretching what is left over as far as you can until nothing is left. Then you find a way to continue on blood, sweat, tears, favors and laughter.
Hollywood is an amazing place where true professional talent shows up to help when they believe in the overall effort regardless of limited funds.
This film found that kind of support on both sides of the camera.
6) The film is being released On Demand and on iTunes and IVOD. Let’s be honest.. is there really life out there? (is it a viable industry?)
There better be or I won’t Get Back to Zero!
I believe the internet is a powerful tool that gives filmmakers the ability to deliver their films to the people who want to see them. The hard part is reaching those people so that the film can be discovered. If only a small fraction of Wayne Newton fans discover the film. Or a small fraction of Shawn Stockman fans discover the film. Or it gets a foothold as a small cult film for crap shooters.. then we should be able to make money
But helping those people find the film is the key. That is always driven by word of mouth, on whatever platform people are talking. I’m always surprised when I ask someone to like the Facebook page. They ask if that really works. Yes, it works. Whether or not that translates into sales or rentals I can’t wait to see.
7) How would you measure success for this film?
How would I measure the Success for Getting Back to Zero? Well... being that any independant film is a longshot by definition and this film found major distribution through On Demand moves it into one level of success, in my mind.
But if I were to be totally honest, it’s about the money. Can I pay this film back and make money? In
Hollywood money is the major measure for success. The next measure is recognition and review. We’re still hoping on success driven by word of mouth and positive viewer response.
8) Making films, sometimes makes for odd moments. Can you share any?
One of the funniest moments of the film was me trying to teach the entire cast and crew how to play craps, That moment was trumped when I tried to teach them how dice control works!
I do remember thanking and then apologizing to Alexis Arquette for coming out to do the film and then only have a couple lines. She said, “Don’t even worry about it, I would have been fine if you had only given me one.”
Another happened in retrospect. Wayne has a couple scenes driving a red Ferrari. However the script called for a yellow Ferrari. On the day of shooting a red Ferrari showed up to set, instead of the yellow one I had requested. Wayne pointed out the conflict, but when I told him it was all we could afford he simply smiled and kept shooting the scene.
It wasn’t until after the movie was made that Wayne told me he almost walked away from the movie. He’s always avoided driving in red Ferraris because as a child he dreamed he had died in one. When I asked him why he agreed to drive the red Ferrari anyhow he said, “because I saw how hard you were working Roger, and I didn’t want to make it any harder for you.”
9) What was the most frightening moment in the making of GBTZ?
Day 4 or 5 of shooting. We had a hell of week with a neighbor who did not want anyone filming in his neighborhood and was doing everything he could to shut us down from the beginning. The police were always showing up. Some cops just let it go, others took up time with stopping the crew while we had ‘discussions’ with the neighbor.
This one night, it was ten o’clock and we were trying to get our last shot when the police showed up and shut us down for the night. Four hours later I left the set. At home, my pregnant wife was having complications.
Call time for the next day was 9am. At 7am I was in the back of an ambulance rushing to the hospital for critical surgery to save her and our unborn twins.
If we cancelled the day’s shoot, that location would be finished and so would the film. Thankfully my wonderful crew continued shooting, and kept the schedule and film alive.
My wife and kids made a full recovery as well.
10) What’s the next project for Waterline Pictures?
The next feature project for Waterline Pictures is in development. The next series of short form projects are webbased ranging from film racing projects to shooting viral content for The Improv Network on YouTube.
Additionally Waterline Pictures rents its streamlined movie making gear through its WLPGEAR.COM division. We call it Movie in a Box. Everything you need to make a movie all on one ten ton truck. Built for our network, Available for yours. How’s that for a plug?