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Rare is I get the chance to chat with someone that has the passion and drive of Jeff Roe. Most people never get to. He runs like a freight train, seemingly unstoppable, with motivation and ambition at the helm. In these harsh economic times, and Hollywood’s stale brand of “new” ideas, Jeff and his little company Outlaw Laboratories are seemingly on the verge of something big. And he and his team are doing it in their own way.
Starting in 2005, Outlaw Laboratories has been making their money through live TV events, and creating the incredibly entertaining short films that precede such shows as the MTV Movie Awards and The Emmy’s. Feeling like the time is right, Jeff and his team are about to venture into their first feature film endeavor, with the ambition to create nine more in the next five years. I had a chance to speak to him on the phone a couple nights ago. Chatting about everything from his start as a photography major in college, to where he thinks Hollywood is headed, Jeff Roe made me a believer, seemingly something he’s been able to do to people for years.
Ten films in five years? Ambitious wouldn’t you say?
As a writer I have five scripts myself that I’ve been sitting on. Plus, we’re looking to reach out to those people out there who may have a great story, and other production companies won’t take a chance on them. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re just looking for good stories. You gotta risk those types of things if you wanna make a good movie.
What brought you into the film business?
I got my start doing post work at Chainsaw, and was able to work on visual effects on the movie Starship Troopers. It was fun to be blowing stuff up. Then I got asked to do a doc called Stuntwood, The Birth, Life, and Death of a skateboard, and essentially that’s where I got the funds to start my own company.
Being that you studied film in college, where did the interest in film come in?
I always loved film as a culmination of all types of art. I wanted to make movies in college, so I learned to edit on my own, and I became pretty good at it. The fact that I could edit, and liked to work in post, really helped in my career path in Hollywood.
What kind of movies do you want your company to make?
I don’t want us to be pigeon holed to one type of genre. You know who I really respect? Robert Rodriguez. I love what they’re doing over at Troublemaker. I love his ability to make a film like Machete, then do Spykids. His ability to crossover is unmatched. All his movies have a distinct feel to them. That’s what I want us to have. I want all our films, regardless of genre, to have an Outlaw Laboratories feel to them.
Where do you see Hollywood going in the next five years?
That’s a very curious question. I spoke on a panel about four years ago about this kind of thing, and in Japan at that time, ninety percent of all downloads were to mobile devices. And that was four years ago! I guess it all depends on technology. Of course we’d like to get the big distribution deals, but we’re not gonna be closed off to the web, or any other types of apps that might come out for cell phones or iPads.
I saw you worked on Justin Timberlake’s clothing line William Rast. What was that like?
Well, we didn’t do the short films he used for the TV promo’s, but we were hired to go back to his hometown and shoot a little bit about where he’s from and the inspiration for the clothing line came from. We even got to interview the guy who dressed Elvis. It was pretty cool.
What advice would you give guys who are trying to do what you do?
Again that’s a very curious question. I would say this business is unique in that it has no specific road map to success. In my opinion you have to network, network, network. And hustle. Plus, if you have a good idea, shoot it. You can shoot stuff on an iPhone now. I shot some footage for a short film for Cartoon Network with Tony Hawk on my iPhone. After some color correction, it looked pretty good. With Youtube and stuff like that, you can get anything views. It’s sad cause I do feel things like Youtube have made people more accepting of bad cinematography, but that being said it makes it easier to have people like a broader spectrum of content.
What is it you love about filmmaking?
You know, I love all parts of it at different times in different ways. Of course I love the writing aspect. You know, coming up with something from scratch and bringing it to life. But then there are times I love producing, and the problem solving aspects of it. I’m a big fan of testing oneself and one’s own abilities. Writing, producing, directing, editing, what I love about all those things individually is that you have to be creatively on all the time.
What’s the last good movie you have seen?
I really liked Machete, but I watched it at home recently, not in the theater. But I watch everything. That’s how I feel. Watch everything. Watch it, then read the scripts after, and see how they went from concept to screen. It’s really amazing sometimes.
Do you consider yourself an artist?
You know, artist isn’t the right word. I feel like when you call yourself an artist there’s a certain perception that comes with it that is not who I am. When I think about it, I feel there is an art to a lot of things. I think some things I do are art, but I also feel like there’s an art to something like stretching a dollar, or balancing one’s checkbook. Those things are art forms to me.
John Flores is a multi-award nominated indie filmmaker living with his wife and son just outside of Los Angeles.
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