HELLO AMERICA!—It is so rare as well as exciting when you meet young creative film makers who are able to ignore the glitz and look at the industry weather it is film or television in a very realistic way. Christopher Paul Robinson happens to be one of those new faces who will no doubt have a long life as director, writer or editor because he has the ability to distinguish the real from fantasy. He is one extraordinary fella!
MSJ: How does it feel to have a film you made over four years ago only recently get attention on YouTube?
CPR: It’s definitely strange, as none of it would have ever happened if a writer in Britain had bothered to email or call me about the film and get the real story. I’m truly glad it happened, but it’s weird to have so many people around the world believing things about my family that are so far from the truth. I never intended for the film’s title to be taken literally, but writers from news entities all over the world did just that and the story spread so quickly after they did. It’s really nice for the film to get some attention, though, so I’m happy to take whatever press I can get!
MSJ: What kind of television program affects you most emotionally and why?
CPR: For a television series to have any kind of lasting, emotional impact on me, it has to be deeply rooted in reality and honestly tell its story. Some shows may have a momentary impact while watching them, but if the sentiment isn’t real and doesn’t ring true, odds are I won’t remember much of it once I change the channel. If a show can tell its story in an honest fashion, avoiding manipulation and cheap, unearned sentiment, I can’t help but be affected in a profound and almost spiritual fashion. It’s those series that I will remember when I’m choosing my favorites to show my children in the future, not the ones that were simply going through story beats and hitting the right buttons to elicit emotion from the audience.
MSJ: Who are some of your favorite film directors in drama or comedy and why?
CPR: My favorite directors capture the drama and comedy of any situation. Ever since I started really appreciating film, my favorite directors have been Joel and Ethan Coen. Every film they make deftly balances the humor and drama of life in a way that develops plot and character like no other director I’ve seen. They’ve tackled so many genres while maintaining their style and trademark humor that I can’t help but eagerly anticipate any story they wish to tell.
MSJ: When working on the “Whitney” television series what was some of the most important things you learned about the business on a professional level?
CPR: The most important thing I’ve ever learned working in this industry is to never be above doing anything. I’ve gotten where I am (which is not that far, but is farther than people I know who started at the same time) by simply shutting my mouth, putting a smile on my face, and doing whatever is asked of me. The business thrives when people do the work they are asked to do and do it well. There’s no better way to prove yourself than to show someone you can take their assignments and complete them in a timely, efficient matter. Everything boils down to being able to accomplish the tasks you are given. If you’re slow, lazy, or inefficient, you’re not going to make it in the long run. When it’s your turn, you will be the one to tell everyone else what to do.
MSJ: Did you learn something new about yourself when given certain responsibilities dealing with the production of a national show?
CPR: When you study film or television or any other creative media, it’s hard to believe that you can just turn off that part of yourself when it’s not your job to be creative. But when I actually got out there and started working in the industry, I was surprised how easy it was to flip the switch. If you’re responsible for proofreading and formatting a script, you have to do just that. You might have studied screenwriting in school, but until you’re paid to do so you had better stop thinking that way at work. It’s not your job. Yet.
MSJ: What was the most uncomfortable aspect of working on a comedy series?
CPR: While it’s not that uncomfortable for me, the most potentially upsetting part of the job is that you have to sit at a computer and type the writers’ most intimate life stories into a computer. In the room you will hear things that you won’t hear anywhere else, but that’s what makes it such an interesting job to have.
MSJ: Do you feel that you matured as a writer because of all of the challenges confronted on and off the set?
CPR: Definitely. When you’re working on a network production you start to understand and appreciate all the cogs in the machine, and just how necessary each one is. Coming from very small scale projects in which I was pretty much responsible for everything, it’s quite the change working on a show where so many people are working together to make each and every episode. Having that appreciation for all of the departments and just how crucial they are will be extremely beneficial for any show I work on in the future.
MSJ: What one television series has influenced you the most in your writing?
CPR: One of my all time favorite shows is “Six Feet Under,” which I still believe is the best representation of family dynamics that has ever been committed to film. Years after finishing the show and balling my eyes out during the finale, I still look back to it for lessons about how to write compelling characters and drama. If someday I convince someone to let me create something of my own, it would certainly be heavily inspired by Alan Ball’s masterpiece. Almost everything I write toes the line between comedy and drama, mostly because that’s just how life has been for me. There are ups and downs, and in the end I think you have to be able to laugh about anything and everything. If you can’t, it’s going to be a rough life. “Six Feet Under” balanced drama and comedy so perfectly that I can’t expect to come anywhere close to it with anything I do, but I’d sure as hell love a chance to try.
MSJ: When you are alone and looking in a mirror, who and what do you see?
CPR: Since I share so many features with both my father and mother, I can’t help but see them looking back at me. I see their strength, their weaknesses, their triumphs and their failures. I see all that they’ve done to make me the man I am today, and I keep all of that in mind everywhere I go. Other times I just see that I have toothpaste in my beard.
By Michael St. John