Guest interview by Larry Williams
Greg Robbins is the writer/director/star of the movie C Me Dance. He recently agreed to do an email interview with BNC’s on-again off-again contributor Larry Williams about his influences as a filmmaker, as well as how he reaches a secular audience as a Christian filmmaker.
LW: First off, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to have this chat with me.
GR: No problem at all I am grateful that you care about this movie.
LW: You’ve been writing your own projects for years, and they all seem to be wildly different from one another. Where do you get your ideas?
GR: I get my ideas from life, visions, experiences and listening to others. For example I was visiting a 92 year old man in the hospital and this person did not know Christ. His granddaughter who I was with said to him, “You have had a wonderful life”. He looked at her and said with a sad voice. “I have lived a life of worry…Ahh but what can you do”. That was very powerful to me, I lead him to Christ he died shortly after and I put that into my sitcom PASTOR GREG. Everywhere you turn there you will find real drama, comedy, adventure and wonderful stories.
LW: When you first set out to make a movie, did you start with the intention of combining as many film genres as you did, or did that happen more organically?
GR: C ME DANCE is classified as a Thriller/Drama. I just set out to tell a story that would hopefully make people think. Spiritual warfare is very real (1 Peter 5 vs 8 says Be self-controlled and alert, Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.) Joshua 1:9 – Have not I commanded you? Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. BY FAR THE GREATEST GIFT EVER RECEIVED BY US IS THE HOLY SPIRIT HIMSELF. THOSE WHO DISCOVER THE VALUE OF HIS PRESENCE ENTER REALMS OF INTIMACY WITH GOD NEVER PREVIOUSLY CONSIDERED POSSIBLE. OUT OF THIS VITAL RELATIONSHIP ARISES STORIES OF POWER THAT FORMERLY WAS ONLY A DREAM IN MY HEAD. THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE BECOMES POSSIBLE BECAUSE HE IS WITH US. “I WILL BE WITH YOU” IS A PROMISE MADE BY GOD TO ALL HIS SERVANTS. IT COMES WHEN GOD HAS REQUIRED SOMETHING OF US THAT IS HUMANLY IMPOSSIBLE, LIKE MAKING A MOVIE, BUILDING A HOSPITAL, FEEDING CHILDREN ETC. GOD DOESN’T HAVE TO TRY TO DO SUPERNATURAL THINGS. HE IS SUPERNATURAL. IF HE IS INVITED TO A SITUATION, WE SHOULD EXPECT NOTHING BUT SUPERNATURAL INVASION.
LW: Who are your biggest influences as a filmmaker?
GR: I enjoy writing styles of people like Frances Goodrich, Timothy Craig and Frank Nugent. As for directors, I like work from John Ford, Clint Eastwood and Frank Capra. Some of the best actors on the planet are people you might not have heard of, names like Hugh McLean, Laura Romeo and Lesley Bowen are amazing talents that I am a fan of.
LW: You seem to have a very dedicated cast of actors following you from project to project. Do you write roles for specific actors, or do you write the project first, then cast?
GR: I write the project first and then I pull from my acting ensemble.
LW: You’ve also got a few big names appearing in film, such as Peter Kent and Nelson Scott Simpson. How did you get them involved in the project?
GR: Peter Kent and I broke into the biz together 27 years ago we worked for Jim Cameron. I cast all the extras stand-ins and stunts on TERMINATOR. I hired Pete as Arnold Schwarzenegger stunt double and he went on to do 15 films with Arnold and became one of Hollywood’s top dogs. We have remained friends since then and I asked him to play the role 8 years ago and he humbly agreed. In addition to being a top stunt coordinator he is a highly trained actor, he tore that part up! As for Nelson/Nikita he to and I have been friends for along time and this is the 2nd movie I have done with him. Plus Laura Romeo is my wife/biz partner (Missy) in Pastor Greg and we are a acting duo we have produced, acted, written countless TV series documentaries and movies together.
LW: The film has several quite intense scenes of horror, with the heroine having to confront Satan himself. I’m curious: how does one go about writing the role of Satan?
GR: As for writing for Satan, I will just say in our journey to serve God with this company I have experienced true attacks and I just documented some things. I know, that sounds crazy.
LW: Since you seem to know horror: what’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?
GR: I don’t watch scary movies at all, I am a big baby. Like I said I have experienced spiritual warfare while on my journey to bring people to know the love of Jesus Christ. I wanted to grab people with a story that would shake them up. I wrote this movie for the lost, not the religious. It is my prayer that non believers will walk away asking questions and believers will look past the 4-walls of their church. I hope the movie does what happens in the movie. That people’s lives will be touched and we have a deeper passion for life and service. I personally have been living this movie. I am in awe of the love of GOD!
LW: In regards to the big fistfight sequence, how was it choreographed? Did you do any training in preparation for it?
GR: As for the fight scene the stuntmen/actors and I trained for 1 day before the production and then Peter Kent came in the day of shooting and refined us along with where to place cameras. That scene took a full day to shoot.
LW: The movie opens with a quite intense chase sequence. I’m assuming that it’s an homage to Stephen Spielberg’s Duel, but what other influences did you bring to the table for this scene?
GR: I never considered Duel when I wrote this movie in 1980. In reality when I was 4 weeks old I was in a car accident with my parents and both my legs and right arm where broken. I spent several months in body casts – because as I grew the doctors kept breaking them and putting new casts on me. I added my own drama to it as that was an attempt by the dark side to take me out! Again its just story telling.
LW: You mainly appear as comic relief in this movie, and you previously spent several years writing and starring in your own sitcom. Who are your biggest influences as a comedian?
GR: Wow, I don’t think my character in C ME DANCE has any comic relief. This is a very serious role. As for the past roles of playing comedic characters I have pulled from Charlie Chaplin, John Ritter, Lucille Ball and Bob Denver. I love physical comedy!
LW: What’s your favourite joke?
GR: My favorite joke…I honestly don’t have any. Im not much of a joke guy I guess.
LW: On a more serious note, do you believe that movies like this stand a real chance of appealing to a non-Christian demographic?
GR: I do believe faith based movies I have mainstream appeal if we do them right. More people buy a movie ticket then go to all the sporting events put together, making the movie screen a very powerful and influential force. These influences are very sad to say the least. David Frost put it best when he said “TV and movies are inventions that allow us to be entertained in our living rooms by people we would not have in our homes”. We all complain about this problem. Well we now have a voice! When we support a faith based movie we send a signal to Hollywood that we have had enough. It is part of my mission to bring you entertainment that is pleasing to God. The TV set and movie screen can be a joy and a wonderful tool – please join me in the fight and let’s get them back for HIM.
LW: What’s the biggest mistake you see modern Christian filmmakers making, in regards to appealing to a secular audience?
GR: The biggest mistake we make as Christian filmmakers is NOT appealing to the non-believers. Sure its great to give entertainment to Christians, that said I believe we need to go further.
LW: Christian filmmaking has become a lot more mainstream since the unheard-of success of The Passion of the Christ several years ago. Has this helped you as a filmmaker, or is there still a reluctance to fund films with a potentially limited audience?
GR: The Passion has been a huge help and yes it is still hard to get funding for Christian films. But I have learned if we do something that is pleasing to God and conduct ourselves and men and women of God then HE will open the doors to please HIM!
LW: I see you’re working on a new project called “When Christ Was Alive”. Is there anything you can tell us about it?
GR: WHEN CHRIST WAS ALIVE 60-minute Docudrama Available NOW at www.christiandvdstore.com
Take a step back in time to when “Christ was Alive” in Christmas. Visit old-fashioned Christmases with stories, activities and ideas of how your family can give Christ His proper place in the Christmas season. The most important truth in all of Christianity is stated right here: We are made alive together with Christ. That is the most important fact upon which to build all the rest of Christian faith and experience–this great, tremendous statement that we are made alive with Jesus Christ.
LW: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me. Best of luck in the future!