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AN INTERVIEW WITH Robin Phillips, PRODUCER & ACTRESS
As a Producer and Actor, please introduce yourself.
Hello, my name is Robin Phillips, I consider myself a citizen of the world, what the French call a “Citoyenne du Monde.”
My route to filmmaking went through theatre arts and writing. After having lived and performed in Europe for almost 12 years,
I returned to the US and joined the acting troupe of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, DC.
At the same time I also worked for a Public Relations firm. I then performed in the dinner theatre circuit here for some years until one day,
when I wasn’t cast in a role that I wanted, began to write and produce my own musical reviews for the association market.
Around the same time, I landed a job as a journalist covering the social and fashion beats and developed research skills which
transformed these reviews into critically-acclaimed musical plays.
For years I had produced successful one-woman stage shows before I became a journalist. In the beginning, my stage shows
had a bit of a superficial Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney feel, “I know, let’s put on a show” on stage. A videographer would come in and film
the show and I would go to his studio and work with him, co-editing the final version and a shorter version for promotion.
So I had that co-editing experience. After I became a journalist, I developed my research skills which you can see in the film.
Storytelling combined with research has become my signature. About my two character, two-act, two hour musical play about Agatha Christie,
the reviewer said, “There is no show in town remotely like “Agatha SINGS”… it tells its fascinating story with power and elegance.”
Why you became a filmmaker as producer?
I have been producing my own musical reviews and plays for years. When, by chance I saw Roland Emmerich’s “Anonymous,”
about the Shakespeare authorship question, I became obsessed about finding the truth about this fascinating subject.
Of course, since it’s my métier, I turned my research into a one-woman stage show with props, costumes and visuals and performed it
in a small theatre in Washington DC. Members of a local Shakespeare authorship group attended and loved it. I was invited to take the show
to a Shakespeare Authorship conference in Chicago but the logistics were too complicated, so I called in someone to film it. It started from there.
Give some more information about yourself and the films you have produced or acted so far, about your experience?
When I lived in Monte Carlo for four years, I performed in several British farce productions with Princess Grace’s British Drama Group
at Salle des Varietes. She would invite visiting British stage actors to come and perform gratis. The Captain of Sam Spiegel’s 150’ yacht was
also an actor, Patrick Campbell, and he directed several of the stage shows for us. During that time, I played the small role of playing
an Italian Chambermaid in the Terrence Young film, “Jackpot,” starring Charlotte Rampling and Richard Burton.
The film ran out of money but it was a cool experience nevertheless. Back in the states, I played the lead role in a local film,
“Flashpoint,’ which received good reviews and was a good experience for me but went nowhere.
I have also worked as a professional public speaker, and many years ago, was co-founder of the DC Chapter of the
National Speakers Association based in Las Vegas. Since 2014 I have been the writer/producer of my own narrations for Opera Camerata.
With the arrival of Covid, our performances at Ambassador’s Residences around Washington have been curtailed.
I look forward to being their “Living, breathing Sub Title,” again, some time in the future.
What are the films or people that had impacts on you and deeply inspired you?
Roland Emmerich’s film “Anonymous” has had the most profound impact of any film I’ve ever seen. Looking for the answers
to the questions raised by that film has altered the trajectory of my life, becoming an all-consuming passion.
The first time I saw the film, I shrugged my shoulders, and thought nothing of it. Went right over my head. But the second time,
for some inexplicable reason, I was gripped by the story. The Man from Stratford had not written the greatest works in the English language?!? WHAT?!? I had to find out how much was the director’s literary story-telling license and how much was true.
I started doing the research and became obsessed with exploring the vast number of enlightened books that has come out
in the last thirty, forty years on the authorship question.
Your film "BEHIND THE NAME SHAKESPEAR: POWE, LUST, SCORN & SCANDAL" has been "Officially Selected" in the "American Golden Picture International Film Festival".
Why you decided to produce it and even act in it?
In my stage shows, my specialty has always been to educate and entertain my audiences at the same time. People would leave the theater saying, “What fun!” and “Wow, I didn’t know that!” Always in the same breath. Melding research and entertainment has always been my specialty.
It was natural for me to produce the film in the same way that I have produced my own stage shows for years.
Since I was the narrator in my own play, and know my own talents and limitations, it was natural to do the acting myself.
The price was right, anyway. And scheduling problems were none. “Let’s see. Am I available now?” Hmm. “Yes.” “Done!”
I also did my own drawing whenever I could not purchase an older graphic that I needed to illustrate the story, I would draw a similar one myself.
What were some of the challenges you faced in this film?
Well, in my basement studio I filmed the stage show, threw it on a thumb drive, edited it, and presented it to a Shakespeare Authorship group in Chicago later that year, and in Oakland, California, the next. The audience loved the charm of it, but it wasn’t a real film yet.
You see, I had also worked as a print journalist/graphic artist, so this film looked more like a magazine layout on a big screen,
interspersed with my narrations. The graphics from Alamy were hauntingly beautiful but static.
Years earlier I had had a brief stint as a TV reporter. I knew about “b-roll.” I smacked myself on the forehead. I needed moving images b-roll!
That’s what’s missing! So, I purchased b-roll and music from Pond5 and transformed my stage show into a real film.
Let us more about your specific experience in this film?
As I continued researching, I would make exciting new discoveries that I knew I had to include. I restructured the film at least five times,
filming, editing, ten-hour days, week after week, and just two of us my co-editor and me transformed that little stage-show
into my first award-winning feature film. My vision was to create a definitive telling of the story of the two authorship candidates,
by showing the stunning contrasts between their lives. Clever, contrasting “ages boxes” float through the documentary,
giving the viewer a new, common sense understanding of the two candidates’ relationship to the events of the day,
and to the Queen --in a way they may never have imagined before.
The cinematography and your performance is wonderful and supports the film in a very effective way.
What was it like to work in this field?
It took fours years and my savings to turn it into a real film and in the process I discovered that filmmaking is the music for which I was born it uses all of my talents as actor/narrator, graphic artist, musician, writer, researcher, co-editor. Luckily, I’ve been co-editor on many promotional videos of my stage shows for years. By far the most pleasurable part of finishing the film was getting the music right.
My associate producer and co-editor, Art Harman, used to tease me. “I think you’ve got something going with the Pond 5 guy, Robin.”
He was referring to the online music/sound effects/b-roll provider. As we would slide another bit of music I’d selected into a scene,
he would say, “That’s perfect! Robin, you’ve done it again!” Yes, every piece of music I chose seemed other-worldly
in the way it fit with what appeared on the screen. Those years as a singer/musician/ actor/playwright allowed me
to direct every nuance and bit of timing of every gesture and moving image, syncing them with the accompanying music on each frame.
It was magical. Of course, finding a talented wizard of a cinematographer and co-editor has been key.
Art Harman and I have a language between us that is special. And you can see that on the screen.
For you what was the biggest lesson you had to learn after producing this film?
Because I was doing two things at the same time, I think it was more time-consuming and expensive than it had to be, the first time out.
I filmed the basic stage show, then did more research, would rewrite, film some more, then edit and finish the thing.
But then I would do more research, throw everything up in the air, pick up the segments from the floor and re-structure it again,
after more writing and filming. I was flying by the seat of my pants but all along the way I was learning more fascinating and telling
details about my subject and learning how to best translate these to the screen.
Now, of course, I have a pretty good idea of what I’m doing. And I’ve now have confirmation that I was on the right track.
Yes, in only si- weeks, the film has garnered 38 Winning Awards in Europe, India, the UK and the US – Best Documentary,
Best Historical, Best Biographical, Best Trailer, Best Female Director, Best Director, Best Original Concept, Best Viewer Impact. Oh, my.
I have confirmation that what I’m doing is really good. What a relief! For the next project, I will be able to be more Hitchcockian well, sort of at least, I will have an overall plan to start with that we can use as a blueprint. The next film will take months instead of years.
What keeps you inspired to continue in film?
I have more stories to tell. And I’ve got a good formula that’s seems to be a winner. I can’t stop now.
The most important part is distributing the film. What did you do for distributing your film?
I have no earthly idea.
What are your goals in film industry?
To keep telling visual stories that are fascinating and fun.
What is your next project?
Working Title: “Behind the SHAKESPEARE Sonnets: a shocking diary”
GOOD LUCK Robin
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