Our North Europe 2019 Festival feels like a lifetime ago now- there we met the talented and very cool Robert Butler. We never managed to grab a recorded interview and we are delighted that he is with us now in The Green Room! Thank you for joining us and we hope you have been keeping well during lockdown.
Great to be here Dan.
I love to find out what motivates people to create projects and keep the ideas flowing. What is the process that you follow when developing an idea?
A great story needs great characters. So when I initially get an idea for a story I begin to develop the characters. What are their motivations, their goals, their dreams and aspirations fleshing out who they are help me figure where to take the story and how to make sure the story stays true to the characters and who they are.
When we met you last year you had a couple of projects on the circuit, tell me a little bit about ‘The Lottery’ and what inspired the idea?
The Lottery was an idea that came from a friend of mine Ed Shields. We worked together at Apple and I just finished my first short film Colour of Life. We were on break at work and said hey I got a film idea and I want to run it by you. We went out to lunch that day and he laid out the story for me.
I went on vacation that next week and while on the plane I wrote and finished the script. Sent it to him when I landed and with his approval we started pre-production on it.
You work as a Director, Producer and Writer- do you have a preference of what you enjoy most?
I definitely love the writing aspect of it because you get to create the story, the characters, and the world they inhabit. Then as a director you get to bring that story to life. So I would say both directing and writing go hand in hand for me. I love them both.
You suffered a life-changing stroke in 2018. You are a survivor and inspiration. How has that moment in your life changed you?
Having a stroke at the age of 28 was the most unexpected curveball life could have ever thrown at me. I was so young to have one it perplexed everyone the doctors, my family and myself. Having the stroke helped me realize how strong of a person I truly was and no obstacle in front of me could stop me from reaching my goals. I was completely paralyzed on my left side. Everything I learned from a baby to an adult I had to relearn to do. I had to relearn to walk, talk, bathe myself, cook, clean, read, run, drive, tie my shoes, and so much more.
I remember the doctors telling me that 80% of the people who go through what I go through die. It was a miracle I survived and it was a miracle I progressed and recovered as fast as I did. We premiered the Lottery four months to the date of my stroke. So the Lottery holds a special place in my heart because I was working on the film while in the hospital. There was a fear that I would never be able to film again, hold a camera again, write again and I was determined to get my life back and do what I love.
Religion and God is a huge part of your life. Do you feel that God has guided you from the lows to the highs and is pushing you on each day?
I would say so. Without my faith I would have quit long ago and without my faith I wouldn’t have made it through my stroke. God has definitely guided me through tough times and turbulent waters.
In tough times it’s when you need your faith the most. I’ve seen God work in my life so many times it’s hard for me to deny the impact in my life.
At Fusion we love bringing filmmakers and creatives together. In London you met the very cool Eddie Torres, who is a wonderful composer. I understand you are working together, how did that come about and what is the new project about?
My main man Eddie Torres. That’s how I greeted him the second time after meeting him at the London festival. We met each other at one of the mixers. He was with the wonderful Reem Kadem and their project Nawal the Jewel. I went over and introduced myself to them and they both told me they’re from the states. We got to talking about the projects we had at the festival. He told me he did the score for his project and told me to check it out. I heard the score and I was blown away by his talent. Musical scores in films can elevate a film to higher heights.
What’s Star Wars without John Williams masterful score? What’s Jaws without its main theme? What’s Jurassic Park without hearing the sweeping score when we see the dinosaurs for the first time? Music plays an important part in films. After hearing his score I said we’re going to work together on a project soon. He gave me his card and I told him we would keep in touch.
When I was putting my new project together, Life Ain’t Like The Movies, I knew exactly who I wanted to compose the score. Eddie was one of the first people I called when putting the team together. We just started shooting Life Ain’t Like the Movies, it’s a coming of age story about an awkward black teen trying to figure his way out in life. He goes through first love, bullying, tragedy and more. It’s a great story and we have a great cast. Paul Bates from Coming to America is starring in it and Cynda Williams from Mo Better Blues is in it as well. We have a great young cast as well and we’re all super excited for the finished project.
As well as this new project is there anything else exciting that you have been developing?
Well we have so many ideas and we’re always looking to do something different at my company to push us further than what we did previously. We have a Romantic Comedy that will go into development after this current project is done and we might sneak a horror short in between projects as well but our dance card is full. I’m excited about all the future projects.
Robert, thank you so much for the wonderful insight into your world. We hope we get to see you at another one of our festivals really soon. For now- take care, keep on creating and you are free to leave The Green Room.
Thank you for having me! I can’t wait to be at another festival in the future!