Interview with Robert J Morgalo
Robert J Morgalo is an actor, producer, writer and published author. He is the grandson of renowned Cuban actor and poet, Jorge Raul Guerrero. Robert is a retired US Army combat veteran. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies from American Military University and a Master of Arts in Diplomacy from Norwich University.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a filmmaker? This all came to me rather unexpectedly. I am a retired US Army Iraq war veteran in the later chapters of my life. My mother passed away a little over two years ago and I found myself struggling to find a coping outlet. I saw an ad on Backstage.com for acting auditions and I said, what the hell. Why not? Fast forward two and a half years later and I’ve done over thirty film and television projects, more than thirty commercials, a leading role in The Adams Family Musical, and I even wrote an original play that was selected and staged off-off-Broadway to sellout crowds at the Hudson Guild Theater in New York City. To say I have enjoyed some success is an understatement. I know I’m doing something write. I just don’t know what that is.
But filmmaking was never part of my plan. It just happened naturally and organically. I wrote my first script last year after a chance encounter with Joyce DeWitt at one of the film festivals where one of the films I was in was screening. That weekend I wrote Three’s Company Two and a few weeks later it was submitted and accepted to the NYWinterfest Theater Festival. It played three shows this past January and Richard Kline even came to the opening night. From there I co-wrote with Ozz Gomez a feature action comedy titled The Mick and The Trick, which is currently in pre-production and scheduled to shoot in October. I adapted my stage play to a feature comedy titled Three’s Company Too, which will be shooting in the Spring of 2021.
Ozz and I formed our production company Outhouse Production Films and now, I guess you can say we are filmmakers.
When did you make your first film and what was it like to work on your first film project?
The dispensable is actually my first film. I wrote it on April 16th while sitting at home during the pandemic. It was filmed on July 21st, edited and submitted to film festivals by July 29th. It was a truly gratifying and educational experience for me. I had an excellent and supportive team of experienced crew and actors. I couldn’t have made this film without them. Together we overcame all of the obstacles associated with COVID-19 protocols as well as time constraints. We literally went from script to screen in roughly ninety days.
What kind of films inspired you as a director?
I think my greatest inspiration comes from real life. There are so many stories out there every day just waiting to be told. Riveting, engaging, thought provoking stories. I am currently in negotiations to develop some more original content that is relevant and timely to our current social conditions.
What genre of filmmaking are you trying to create in your work? Although I am generally a funny guy and love to write comedy. I also like to write dramatic pieces.
I love to create. I didn’t know I had such a knack for storytelling and writing original scripts. In fact, while sitting at home during the recommended stay at home lockdown, I was asked to write for Wonder Pictures on a web-series for the Pandemic Playhouse and the Isolation Players. I wrote several short comedy skits. One of them, Whatsamattaforyou Pizza, even won an award. It’s on YouTube. I currently have three original scripts I am developing.
Please name three of your most favorite directors?
There are many directors that I like across various genres, races and gender. However, Quintin Tarantino, Spike Lee and the late Stanley Kubrick are among my favorites. One of my favorite movies of all time is Spartacus. Every time I watch it I am mesmerized by how he conveyed and evoked so much thought and emotion even with little to no dialogue through imagery and music scoring.
What were some of the challenges of making an independent film for you?
The biggest challenges for me was figuring out and coordinating all of the elements of keeping everyone safe during this pandemic. There were a lot of moving pieces and each needed to be addressed with the realities of COVID-19. From location, to meals, to testing and crew. Once all of these hurdles were addressed, everything went like clockwork. Thanks to my very agile and talented crew and cast. We were able to pull it off.
Do you plan to continue working on indie films? Absolutely. It’s hard to imagine that at 54 would I find a new lease on life. But, I am loving this new chapter that is ahead of me. I am energized and have been more productive and creative than I have ever been in my life.
Do you recommend film schools or does making a film teach you more than a film school? I do recommend film school for anyone who is young and has the time in front of them to invest in their future. Educating yourself in the field you are looking to make a career in is always advisable. But don’t let lack of a formal education or training keep you from creating content and making films. You could spend four years in film school and learn your craft. Or you can go out there and make your films. Either way you will learn one way or the other. I believe that the mistakes made while making your films are well worth the tuition in the school of hard knocks.
How challenging is it to distribute indie films and find an audience for indie films? I am not sure I am entirely qualified to answer this question. As I said, I am still very new to this process. But, I believe that there are opportunities out there. If someone is dedicated to their craft and produce quality work, then those opportunities will come.
'The Dispensable' is about human condition, Covid-19, capitalism, justice and equality. What was the inspiration behind the making of this film and the themes involved?
I was sitting at home watching the news when I heard someone say that it was perfectly acceptable to lose a few hundred thousand lives in order to save our economy. This premise was deeply troubling and personal to me as my mother-in-law had just recently passed away from the Coronavirus. I saw and felt first-hand how it affected those closest to me. I was moved to write this script.
How can cinema improve the world and make it a better place? I think that there is a space for film to awaken consciousness and provoke dialogue. Though not always. Sometimes films can and should be just a medium for entertainment and escape. But there are times when films can provide the catalyst for change.
Why do you want to make films?
Because I can’t sing, dance or play an instrument. I did, however, discover that I’m pretty good at it. I have some talent at storytelling, screenwriting and producing film. I enjoy this very much and I am having lots of fun and success at it. I’m like a kid at a toy store and I don’t want to go home yet.