Skype Interview with Rob Minkoff
There is rob can you hear me? I'm very fine can hear me I can hear you thank you so much. I know you're like deep into production and so I really appreciate that you're taking time out to chat with me absolutely we are definitely deep into production I don't know if you mention it but but the movie that I'm directing right now isn't it it's an animated movie it's actually they first full animated movie that I've directed since the lion king on bits coming out next march seventh uh it's released by dreamworks animation based on mr peabody and sherman which are characters that you may remember from uh bull bullwinkle and rocky on I've been working on it for many years and very excited about almost finishing so oh my gosh that's so great so excited about that I do have one funny story that I'm gonna share I was just recently on a disney cruise my daughter loves disney and you of course have met my daughter and the gentleman that was waiting on us I said wow, you know, disney has grown so ...
much over the years and you know what he said to me he said they were having a pivot point but then the lion king came out in a change he says the lion king change disney's forever and I thought, oh my god, I know rob it's exciting so um thank you. First of all, for being in the book what I wanted to talk a little bit about was you've been very focused on your film career since he were you know, sixteen you decided that you were passionate about animation and film on then you shared a great story in the book about meeting chuck jones and so I just want to talk to you a little bit about why it's been important for you to be focused on your passion and having goals and tell me more about that well, you know, I guess I really believe that you know, people are capable of anything that they really set their minds to and the difference between success and failure is usually just a simple as giving up when people you know have a passion for something uh they usually takes a lot of work and it's usually a tremendous struggle tio achieve anything but I really believe that as long as you're willing to commit yourself to it and work towards it that you can that you can do it. Oh, now with you because we've had some conversations about your career in the past, you know, I know that you didn't automatically go to film school and then direct the lion king that it was a long process between right? So so tell me, you know, if it's not putting you on the spot but were there any failures in your career where you had to pick yourself back up? Oh, many, many probably too many to talk about right right here but some notable failures. Uh, the the biggest one for me was actually before lion king I had actually directed a roger rabbit short cartoon. The first one was called comey trouble. The second was called roller coaster rabbit, and both of them played in front of movies in the late eighties. One was honey, I shrunk the kids, and the second one was bugsy, the warren beatty movie on dh because of that, because of working as a director on the on the roger rabbit films, I got the opportunity to direct the sequel to roger rabbit, which was in development at the time of disney. Now, ultimately, the movie did not get made. Andi I spent more than a year working on it, and and at the time I was actually, uh, just before that, this is a crazy, crazy coincidence as well. I was offered the opportunity to direct beauty and the beast a classic, an amazing disney movie because I was working, obviously in a very small group of people that were kind of on that director track a disney and I wanted to do beating the beast except I had a particular vision for it, but I was too hold that howard ashman who was the lyricist and the producer of it was going to really kind of spearhead the creative vision for the movie and as a result of that I said and I didn't really want to do that and afterwards, some months later I was given this chance to direct roger rabbit well flash forward a year and a half or two years later on beauty and the beast was was nominated for an academy award for best picture on and it's been the first animated movie to make over one hundred million dollars and and I pass that up and meanwhile roger rabbit too was shelved as a project so that was for me was pretty devastating. Wow. Well, how did you pick yourself up after that? It also kind of rebuild your connections internally. Well, it was tough. I mean, I had teo I have to console myself with the fact that I had made I made a decision that I felt was the right decision for me even though maybe in hindsight it didn't feel right um and was fortunate enough to you know, quite quickly be offered the chance to direct what what was then called king of the jungle uh and I, you know, leapt at it obviously because I felt like, you know, things were really right for me and at the time this project king of the jungle was not really considered the premier project at disney. In fact, there was a very seminal meeting where the crews of both lion king and pocahontas which were actually being made, simultaneously met with the head of the studio, jeffrey katzenberg, and he was describing both projects and he said about pocahontas he said that's a home run it's it's, a romeo juliet meets west side story it's, a musical with music by alan menken and it's going to be it's a great project to be on said on the other hand, lion king is maybe you know, an experiment it's very different for us and you know, if the movie makes fifty million at the box office will all be happy. Well, that was that was not what we wanted to hear working on that movie and this was actually before we had staffed up our projects and so many of the artists did not want to work on lion king. Many of the artist decided that they would rather work on pocahontas because it was it was like the project to work on, and so for us it was not only a struggle too, to convince people to do it, but it actually turned out to be a boon a benefit to us because many artists who had not been given that opportunity in the past were suddenly uh given an opportunity to tio take on a leadership role in many of those people have gone on to much, much bigger successes isn't that amazing? So bringing a lot of passion to the opportunity and seeing you know that great things can come out of any project I'm sure that you had to really motivate the team and get everyone to that place. I also want to talk about rob in your career. I know that chuck jones was a pivotal person for you. You mentioned to me before that you met him at a tribute to mel blank can you just paint the picture of you know what? What influenced chuck had on your life? I know he's no longer with us but tell us about his role in your life sure. A little bit more about him too. Yeah, the thing that was when I when I really sort of fell in love with animation I was I was in high school. I think, um I mean, I'd liked animation as a child certainly getting to that point, but I became more interested in it and started to look deeper into it and I literally almost every day would come home from school and turn on the television and watch whatever cartoons were being shown and uh and I started to become a kind of a critic of them and I started to appreciate you know, with ones that I liked better than others and what I started to discover was that my favorite animated shorts certainly the warner brothers shorts, my favorite ones were all always directed by chuck jones on dh, so I became really his a big fan of hiss before I had ever met him, and when I got to cal arts, I'm meeting a lot of people who are also in animation. We're going to be an animation, obviously you get the chance to talk about the things that you like and I had mentioned to one of my classmates that I was really a giant ship, a fan of chuck jones and that that actually telling him that is what led me to meet him ultimately. So I think that's that's a critical thing to, you know, you've got to tell people what you want you got to tell people what we're interested in communication on that level is really the key because when you tell somebody what you what you think, what you, how you feel and what you like, they then you know, look out for you and ultimately what happened was the bell book blank um, you know, tribute was at the academy theater, and chuck was one of the presenters and actually again, one of my classmates was sitting literally right behind chuck jones and he happened to be wearing these sort of a rabbit ears that you know sort of like clipped onto his head was but it was silly thing to do I would never have and you know, sort of bold enough to do it but he was on dh so as a result he was super outgoing guy named jeff to grant this who now works uh doing dora the explorer he's the producer of that show anyway, so jeff started to talk to chuck and struck up a conversation and chuck ultimately told jeff, why don't you give my daughter a call? Linda jones, who ran his production company so jeff a few days later called linda spoke to her for a while and then she ended up calling him back and said that jeff should invite a few of his friends from school and come out to the house come out to chuck jones's house in costa mesa. Well, jeff and I weren't particularly close at that time, but he did speak with my friend kelly who was the one I had expressed this your deep love of checks work and he asked kelly who should he invite? And kelly said, well, you've got invited rob mick off because rob is such a big fan of chuck jones is and so because of that conversation I got invited along with two other people it was just chris bailey chris bailey by the way, who has directed all the animation for all the chipmunks movies and kelly asbury who directed trek two he directed no me and juliet and myself and the four of us on a sunday afternoon and drove to costa may set to meet with chuck jones and had just a credible time isn't that amazing how verbalizing that and really talking about what you're passionate about you know, elin a lot of ways change your life because you had this relationship that really inspired you had probably gave you a lot of valuable insight and connections to yes absolutely so tell me I know that we do have tio let you get back to your production soon I do want to get one question from the global audience because I think that would be fun for them to be able as to question but in terms of you know hollywood in your career obviously in a very competitive career how important has your network been for you in terms of getting jobs and rolls and staffing? Well, you know, I think it's it's important and I suppose to a degree you stop thinking of it as a network you know, you become friends with people that you work with and you know you're in touch with them all the time and so it becomes ultimately completely that this you know the circulatory system for how things get done you know it's who you know how well you know them, how much you're in touch with them and when you need information on what information or want to give information you know you have those connections to do it and a lot of people that watch the show around the globe are photographers or filmmakers or in the creative space what advice would you give to someone that's trying to break into the industry? Is that all about a port folio and you know, getting to the right people or what? What do you think is important these days? You know, that's I think it za good point to make that usually people people get noticed through their work what happens is you need to create something on hopefully it's the thing that you ultimately want to pursue and achieve but you have to create that something and then that something has to has to be seen by people and that work will speak for itself. So whether it's a portfolio or whether it's a gallery exhibition or whether you know any kind of any kind of performance if you're an actor you've got a be an actor you know, it's one thing if you're in los angeles and you you know you're you're a waiter work work at restaurants, which is which is not a bad thing to do to earn a living, but if you're not out there acting, performing and every opportunity that you can be you're never going to get noticed, so you've got to do the thing you love. You've got to put it out there in orderto be appreciated for for the talent that you are, and I hope that the right person will will make that connection. I love it. I also love that you said earlier not to give up on that. A lot of people probably give up too soon. Let's, take a question from the internet rest or chris? Absolutely. Hey, rob, this is rest when the host here, I got a question from darryl m I t who wonders, how do you get past your fear and your anxiety? And then how do you fight procrastination, which seems to affect creatives more than most other types of people? Sure, well, you know, the truth is you can't really do much about fear and anxiety except to feel it, um, and be willing t kind of moved through it. I was fortunate as it as a child. I did spend a lot of time working in theater. I love too perform, and I think you can't be a performer without dealing with butterflies and dealing with the nerves that you get when you're gonna walk out on stage, but what I learned as a child was to sort of take that energy that you're feeling that fear that you're feeling and then use it and try to channel it towards something you know, positive and constructive. Great, great. And what about procrastination? Does that happen for you? I suppose you're on deadline all the time. You can't no? Well, yes, but, you know, procrastination is absolutely a part in parcel out, I think what, what, what we all do and creatively, I do think for me, it's always valuable to have a deadline because I find that there's nothing that motivates better than the clock staring you down and telling him you've got to be done with something, you don't have a deadline if you're if you're doing it for yourself, procrastination is a whole different thing and is much more difficult to deal with because, you know, you don't have that deadline. And and for me, a deadline is a great motivator. Well, what? We really appreciate your time today just so that we kind of understand more about your world. What do you off to now you're I know you're in heavy production. What? What exactly are you doing now? Well, the next meeting I have, I think. That's a good question, but usually my days are filled with a variety of different kinds of meetings. The meetings that I've had so far was to was to look at the animation that we're doing this week on give notes, and then I'll see it later later today we'll do editorial meetings where I work with the editor to go over the latest cut of the sequence to make sure that that's shaping up properly, we do have a screening of the whole movie coming up very soon. So, you know, we're very we do have a big deadline breathing down her neck. Well, well, I'm going to let you go. Thank you for your time. Also. Congratulations on your new son, max he's. Accusing I love the facebook photos. He's adorable. Hello to crystal and thanks for being in the book and for being an inspiration to our class today. Appreciate it.