He’s Here…An Interview with Oliver Robins
Hello Darlings! You host here bringing you yet again, another interview from Fatality Fest! It seems like these will never end, but hey that is good for you right? I do believe I was more productive that weekend then I had been in over a year! Tralalala! Anyway, this next one was with a true film prodigy. You would never guess it either. It was with the little boy from Poltergeist, Oliver Robins! This very talented guy was willing to sit down with the furry-hatted-madman to chat about the current state of film and beyond. I don’t want to pull your leg any longer than I have to so let’s get to it. Hats on Darlings because…
He’s Here…An Interview with Oliver Robins
Malice Psychotik: Your first film was Poltergeist at the age of 10. How did you land the role?
Oliver Robins: Well you know I had only been acting for a short period of time and I had only done a couple of commercials and it was an open call. Hundreds of people were called up at this audition and we were waiting outside MGM amongst the hundreds of people. To make a long story short, after a series of call backs and auditions for everyone including Mr. Spielberg, they said their one concern was I didn’t know how to scream. And Toby said to me that the key to a great horror movie is someone who knows how to scream. So I panicked! “What am I going to do mom?’ So I met with a coach and this person, believe or not in Hollywood there are people who specialize in helping you learn how to scream.
MP: Really? Wow
OR: Yes! So I learned how to scream. learned how to take it up from my chest and diaphragm and that’s how I won the role.
MP: You’ve got one hell of a scream in the movie too!
OR: They taught me well haha
MP: Were you ever actually scared by what was going on?
OR: No you know what’s funny, they shoot the film entirely out-of-order and you get kind of bored. And while I was bored, I actually began watching what they were doing and that’s what got me into the film making process. That is what made me want to become a filmmaker. And Mr. Spielberg gave me a Super 8 camera and I started making films out of it. Not out of it but I started making films from that experience. And to answer your question in long form, everything about a movie is about the special effects. I mean a movie like Poltergeist that is. And all the stuff is put in afterwards so I was never actually ever scared because we didn’t know what to be scared of. When you see us screaming at the various effects, they were waving a stick and we were like what are we screaming at? They said “we have no idea yet”, it was going to be layed in by ILM and that’s the scariest thing you can think of.
MP: So when you actually saw it in the film, did you just say “whoa!”?
OR: It’s funny because when I actually saw the movie, I jumped! I was scared when I actually saw the film. And I had no idea what I was actually going to be looking at and I’m looking at all these ghosts and creatures flying around.
MP: could you tell us about the scene where the clown doll comes to life? I was reading that the arms actually wrapped around your neck and you turned blue.
OR: You know what’s funny is I don’t remember that. But it was a very fast shoot that day. Believe it or not like the tree sequence took almost 2 1/2 weeks to shoot. This sequence was shot in a matter of hours. Maybe like half a day, 5 hours of shooting. The way they did it was tedious. More tedious than scary. They used a reverse camera so I had to start at the pinnacle, the climax of my fear and had to act backwards. And so I started up at my highest intensity and go to my lowest intensity so when the movie was played forward, it was as if the arm was wrapping itself around me. And in the different pieces of coverage, they broke it up to look like as if I were being dragged underneath the bed. My understanding is the clown dolls arm caught around my neck. I guess I put it out of my mind because I can’t even remember what happened.
MP: Oh wow! Must have been very traumatic.
OR: So traumatic I just forgot about it. All I remember is having a great time on set. I didn’t really have that many scary experiences. For me it was like going to summer camp. Everyone made that shoot a happy place for me. I mean everyone from Frank Marshall to Steven Spielberg and Toby Hooper. You couldn’t ask for a better team of people. I remember Frank Marshall on the set. He was telling me about all the sets they built and he said it’s going to be great! we have all these things you can play with. All these toys and everything else. So it really made it feel like summer camp for me. It wasn’t an awful experience at all. And he never played any tricks on me to get me scared.
MP: At age 15, you wrote, directed, and produced The Crystal. How did that compare to your acting experience?
OR: I think acting really helped me as a filmmaker. Because what a lot of directors don’t understand, they’re very technical filmmakers. To understand what an actor is going through is invaluable. So by acting prior to directing, I knew the kind of performances I wanted and how to talk to actors. I understood a certain sensitivity an actor is feeling. So all of that really contributed to my ability to direct. And I think it’s critical that all directors act once or at least take an acting class. So they understand not just the technical side but also the aesthetics of acting. So my experience helped me to not just direct actors to get the coverage but how to best get the performances and cater to an actor.
MP: you have written, directed, and produced around 50 films. Which has been your favorite?
OR: I loved working on this Hallmark movie that I wrote obviously for the Hallmark Channel. But I almost think that Hallmark movies are a genre unto themselves. The kind of movie I could watch with my grandparents. It’s a very wholesome and sweet movie. I have made films that are a little more adult. I love making something for television that is timeless. I think they have shown it over 50 to 60 times. It’s this story about a young boy who befriends this outsider in the town and helps him build a soapbox racer. So they need each other in their own special way. The boy becomes a champion and at the same time, helps this recluse in the town come out of his shell and discover the kind of person he has the potential to become. I love that Story. It’s a very sensitive story and I was really inspired by Cinema Paradiso. That was my inspiration or prototype. And I just put the Americana into it.
MP: Are you currently working on anything you can tell us about?
OR: Right now I’m working on some studio projects. I have been signed to secrecy but I’m working with one of my film school partners. We’re really hopeful this thing will get made. We had to sign off and not give any details about it right now. But that’s what I’m working on right now.
MP: Have you ever thought of returning to the horror genre? Like a ghost movie or something of the sort?
OR: As a filmmaker I would LOVE to do a horror film. I’ve written a couple of pieces, but as you know, it’s really hard to get something off the ground. I would love to have the opportunity to write a horror movie and direct if possible.
MP: And it’s such a shame that Hollywood is obsessed with this concept of remake, remake, remake. And no one is willing to go off and take a chance on a new idea. Very seldom do you see that. It’s like they are obsessed with recapturing the old days.
OR: I agree. I think there is a concern because films are so expensive to make that they want something certain. That they want to know the film will make money at the box office. So I think that has prompted a lack of creativity. I think that’s why we are seeing a lot of derivative films. Not just derivative, but remakes and sequels. I think they just think they have sch a fan base already. But if people took more of a risk, I think you would see a lot more original movies. Eventually that day will come, when they run out of sequels to make, and we see a whole new set of fresh film makers. it doesn’t take a whole lot of money to make a great film. It takes a good story, good performances , and a fresh directorial vision. I just hope that executives will start taking chances again like they did in the 70’s.
MP: OK last question, Poltergeist was the original ghost movie. Or at the least the one that made the sub-genre famous. How do you think that stacks up against the films today like Paranormal Activity?
OR: A movie like Paranormal Activity is drawing off of what Poltergeist started. Without Poltergeist you probably couldn’t have a film like Paranormal Activity. You have this set standard of what is a Poltergeist is, because no body really knew before then. It’s kind of like a stepping stone. When ever I saw Paranormal Activity, I was terrified. I was at the edge of my seat. I thought it was brilliant that they could tell a story that basically takes place in one place. entirely in one location. That’s where Poltergeist is a very different movie. It’s more of a family horror. It’s really about a mothers love for her daughter. Paranormal just doesn’t draw from that. And that makes the two films entirely different animals in the genre.
I hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did. I really enjoyed chatting with him. He is a very friendly person and makes you feel like an old friend. Can’t possibly say enough good things about Oliver. I do hope to hear more from him soon. And believe you me, if I hear of anything I will let you all know. Stay tuned for more in this series of interrogations…I mean not forced interviews!
Until Next Time, My Freaky Darlings,