Saturday, October 14, 2006

Filmmaker Focus: Nicholas Tabarrok

Nicholas Tabarrok, executive producer, A LOBSTER TALE and RUN ROBOT RUN!

Born in Toronto, Tabarrok's film career began like so many do, at the bottom, as a production assistant on a soap opera. He has worked on the accounting and production management side of things, and has been the producer of more than a dozen films, including the sci-fi thriller "Deceived," starring Lou Gosstt Jr., and the television movie "Blackout," starring Jane Seymour.

Briefly describe the two films.
A Lobster Tale is the story of a struggling fisherman who one day finds a mystical moss in his trap that has magical healing powers. Run Robot Run! is a romantic comedy about a guy who gets replaced at work by a very lifelike robot, who then starts dating his girl.

When did you get involved with each of them?
With Lobster I got involved in early 2005. I was involved with RRR much earlier. The writer/director, Daniel O'Connor, and I made our first film together, Stand By Your Booth, in 1998 (which also premiered at the Austin Film Festival, by the way!), and we remained friends. I don't remember the first time be brought be RRR, but it was at least two or three years ago.

They're very different -- a gentle fable and a futuristic, almost slapstick comedy. What drew you to each project?
For Lobster, I thought it was so charming. I just loved this wacky little town it is set in and the funny set of characters. The story was sweet and touching. It reminded me of films like Billy Elliot and Waking Ned Devine. RRR had a lot to do with my friendship and respect for Daniel as a writer/director. I think we make a good team. I also thought it was a film that could be made on a low budget without artistic compromise. The story was about concept and witty dialogue, not big effects and set pieces.

As you were working on them both, did you become more aware of their similarities or of their differences?
Boy, that's an interesting question, and you know, the answer really is neither. The truth is, making a film is such an all-encompassing, overwhelming exercise that you don't really think about anything but that film at that time. No matter how different the content, story, setting, cast, budget, etc., you always have the same set of challenges.

Have you learned any lessons about producing a film from either of these two projects?
I had already produced a handful of films, but I still learned a ton. You do on every film. I would like to think that even veterans like Jerry Bruckheimer learn something new on each film. For Lobster we shot on water, which was a first for me. It's really, really difficult and time-consuming and tricky. I sure learned a lot about that, like next time, don't shoot on water! On RRR, it was a super-low-budget film, so I had to learn how to work with much smaller crews and cast and less equipment. I'm very proud of how it turned out.

The narrative feature A LOBSTER TALE will be screened at 7 pm on Saturday, Oct. 21, and at 7:15 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 25. The narrative feature RUN ROBOT RUN! will be screened at 3 pm on Saturday, Oct. 21, and at 7:15 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Film passes to the Austin Film Festival are just $35 for admission to all screenings (space permitting).

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