What motivated you to make this film?
The initial spark came from David Born’s team. They knew what he was capable of as a Robin Williams impersonator and approached us about possibly making a film to showcase his abilities. We also knew he was an incredible actor from his previous work and his latest role in Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon. But that’s only what got us intrigued in the project. Our motivation came from being able to tell a Robin Williams story since he was such a big part of our lives growing up. And right from the beginning, the most important thing was telling a story that really captured his essence and what he meant to people. As one of the viewers in our feedback video said, this was basically our love letter to one of the greatest actor/comedians that ever lived.
2. From idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
The total time was around 5 months but probably about 6 weeks of that was us sitting on our hands, waiting to see if we could actually get money to fund this thing. We reached out to a few investors, and many of them thought “you can’t make money on a short film”, which is fair. But we kept the budget very modest and built the entire set in the director’s backyard (where we learned how much 4 tons of sand looked like), so we found a way to make it work. Also, some last-minute sponsors came through to support the story, and from then on, it all felt meant to be.
3. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Hmm… maybe the set design. This was the most set design we’ve ever done for a film. As mentioned befor, we basically transformed our director’s back yard into Iraq…at least a third of it anyway. And in the process learned something very interesting about filmmaking. Something we never really thought about before.
Adam Castillo (director/writer): “So I should preface what I’m about to say by saying that I myself am a veteran. And I’m surrounded by veterans. All of whom were very involved in bringing the set to life. But the thing I learned is that there’s a fine line between what it was really like in Iraq and what the audience expects that it was like. Because the general audience only knows Iraq from TV and movies, which are sometimes not very close to reality. So it was important to us that the film was believable to veterans and non-veterans alike.”
We made each uniform very authentic, from time-period, to ranking, to color, style, everything. These might seem small to most viewers, but it was important to us that the veterans could see the care we took with these details. The movie is about how profound of an impression Robin Williams leaves with his fans, but more importantly, how much he loved his fans, cared for and respected the troops, and had an incredible memory. All of that was true, so we did our best to represent that on screen.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
JD (producer/writer): “This hit me right in the gut. To have people talking about your love for film illustrated on screen, and love for Robin, that just amplified all the joy I have in this business. We have made many films, been involved in many ways in other films for other friends, but this was something truly special to both Adam and myself. When you see people experiencing your work and getting the same inspiration you have telling it, its truly special. In filmmaking there are so many stages, and so many ways a project can fall apart. You could lose an idea that hasn’t even gone to brainstorming yet. You could have a great outline, but other projects take priority over them, and it never sees the light of day. The project could be too expensive, so you save it for later or never. All of these things could’ve happened, but we stuck it out and belived in this, in David, in our team, crew, cast, and its an honor to see others experiencing it the way we always imagined it could be.”
Watch the Audience Feedback Video:
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
Adam: “That happened late in life for me. As a kid, stand-up comedy was the thing I was most drawn to. I wanted to be like Jerry Seinfeld. And I even did it for several years as an adult. But a friend suggested we start making YouTube videos and I very quickly realized that filmmaking was a much better platform for most of my ideas.”
JD: “My parents started me on violin at the age of 4, and there weren’t many other options for me. Film was always something I loved, and my dad did show me some fun tricks with our VHS recorder. This broadened my interest, but it was still understood: you must study music. It wasn’t until I met Adam, some years after college, that I saw what could be done in Houston. Hollywood felt so far away, but his cinematography took me on a trip and my eyes have never been wider with anticipation. We have worked together every since, and he has taught me so much about filmmaking, but most importantly that nothing can exist without a good story to back it up.”
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Adam: “Easy… Back to the Future. It’s pretty much the only movie I can watch over and over again and never get tired of it.”
JD: “Wow, that’s tough. I’d say: Road to Perdition, Goodfellas, Billy Madison, Scott Pilgrim vs the World,
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you help you further your filmmaking career?
We think you’re doing a great job, and the attention to detail is definitely noticed and appreciated.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experience been working on the festival platform site?
Its been great! I’m very familiar with filmfreeway and this festival stuck out.
10. What is your favorite meal?
Hmm… I really love soul food. Perhaps ox tails and fried cabbage.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
Adam: “Writing. Lots of writing. I have one feature film script in the can and am currently working on my second one. It’s a daunting process though. The first script took me 13 drafts.”
JD: “The next step for Row7 is to finish our feature film. We’ve been working for about a year on our first ever feature film: Best of Trades (on imdb). Filming around the city, really showcasing Houston as the backdrop, has been very exciting for me. I’ll also be directing a comedy short film towards the end of the year.”