Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind...
Director Angela Robinson Goes to the Head of the Class with D.E.B.S.
from the 3/25/05 issue of Windy City Times
by Richard Knight, Jr.
The beaming director, a still from her winning spy spoof, D.E.B.S. and on the set of Herbie Fully Loaded with star Lindsay Lohan
Last April, opening night audiences at Chicago’s gay and lesbian film fest Reeling got a sneak peek at out writer-director Angela
Robinson’s first feature, the young girls in love spy spoof, D.E.B.S. Now the rest of Chicago – and the country – is getting the chance
to see the talented writer-director’s film (it opens here this Friday at the Landmark Century). D.E.B.S. will be followed up this
summer by Robinson’s second feature, Herbie: Fully Loaded, a sort of Disney remake of The Love Bug, this time reinvented as a
vehicle for current hot teen star Lindsay Lohan. With both an independent and mainstream feature appearing in the same year, it’s
safe to say that the 33 year-old Robinson has become something of a hot commodity herself. I spoke to Robinson at the end of a
long day of press interviews.
WCT: “Crime fighting hotties, killer bodies” – that’s a fun tagline. Makes me want to be a D.E.B.S.
AR: Good! Will you please dress up like them for Halloween?
WCT: Absolutely. Is there a male version of D.E.B.S.?
AR: Oh yeah, D.U.D.E.S. The boy’s school.
WCT: Oh not nearly as much fun. Speaking of that, how’s the movie been testing with those all important young teen males?
AR: Great, actually, they’re gearing the whole campaign for them. Thus that tag line. I just hope people get it.
WCT: Well I laughed a lot out loud during it. There were some great lines and visuals. What are your comedy influences?
AR: I actually haven’t written many things before. I used to make these little comics and that’s where the D.E.B.S. originated and
I'd write little bios for them that were comic in nature. I tried writing a bunch of screenplays where I was trying to do it seriously and
when I decided to write like my comics – which is whatever I happen to think is funny right at that moment – it suddenly came very
WCT: Found your own voice.
AR: Yeah, I would say so.
WCT: So, who influenced you, Angela?
AR: Oh, there’s a whole smorgasbord. I’m a big Joss Whedan fan, there’s a lot of “Facts of Life” in there, some “Charlie’s Angels,”
some Romancing The Stone, some Say Anything.
WCT: What about gay filmmakers? Speaking to my gay and lesbian audience?
AR: You know, actually I’m good friends with Jamie Babbit who made But I’m A Cheerleader. I certainly share her camp sensibility.
WCT: Can you talk a little bit about the genesis of going from the short version of the film into how the feature happened? How’d
you hook up with Power Up, the lesbian filmmaker collective?
AR: I had the idea lurking around for a long time and then Jamie told me about this organization called Power Up and that they had
a grant program where they financed three short films by women filmmakers a year so she was the one who got the ball rolling –
along with Andrea Sperling, the producer of the feature. She also produced Cheerleader and she and Jamie are together – there’s a
bit of lesbian trivia.
WCT: Oh this is better and better. So you could have dinner together and plan what you were going to do next.
AR: Exactly. Then I wrote the short and received the grant to make it and we had four days and $20,000 to do it and I teamed up
with a friend of mine who I went to college with and we figured out a really lo-fi way to make the short have high production values
and Andrea was instrumental in producing it. We got into Sundance and I’d been writing the feature script while editing the short film
and at Sundance we got a lot of attention and excitement around the movie and Clint Culpepper at Screen Gems said that he would
finance the feature after he read the script, which he loved. Then we were off to the races.
WCT: So tell me about filming. There you are walking into your first feature, was it intimidating, a dream come true or, “I know
what to do, let me at ‘em?”
AR: It’s sort of weird because I’d been working my whole life to do this and dreaming about it and suddenly somebody’s actually
going, “Okay, we’re going to make your movie” and it’s so unreal when that happens. You’re like, “uh, what?” You expect bells to
go off or fireworks or something but everything happens so fast, you’re right back in production again, right back in the mix and it
was just learning on the go. I call it Pitfall – like that game you used to play. Like you have to grab the next rope and avoid those
WCT: Boy and then you’re flying from there right into the next film, Herbie: Fully Loaded. So what was that day like? Your agent
called and said, “Oh, by the way, you’re going to be working with Lindsay Lohan for Disney.”
AR: Isn’t that crazy? I was like, “What? Alright!”
WCT: Was she great to work with?
AR: She’s awesome. She’s so good and really hysterical. I loved working with her.
WCT: I read that she twisted her ankle yesterday.
AR: Oh, did she? She can’t sneeze without somebody writing about it.
WCT: So I guess 2005 is the year of Angela Robinson, right?
AR: Oh really! (laughs big)
WCT: Well think about this – you have this fun, independent feature that’s coming out and right on the heels of that, this
mainstream Disney comedy plus you’re a lesbian woman of color. Are there any more barriers that you’re going to break through
this year? (laughs)
AR: I think that might be it for this year! It’s true, though, that there haven’t been any bi-racial, lesbian astronauts who have also
directed feature films.
WCT: You’re right, maybe you could just represent one more group this year.
AR: I think I’m going to run for office after this interview.
WCT: So, has there been any backlash for you personally?
AR: Not yet – we’ll see. Hopefully not. I guess the only downside is that I have no life, all I do is work.
WCT: You have a girlfriend, right?
AR: I do, I do and we’re really very happy – even with all the work. I think the best thing personally is being able to knock down
some of the walls and get your vision out there. That’s very gratifying. I feel incredibly psyched and lucky to have that opportunity.
WCT: Is it going to be important to keep gay characters and themes in your work as you go forward?
AR: I would like to. I would like to figure out how to do that. The new gauntlet is not to make a gay film, it’s to make a SECOND
gay film. There’s a lot that I want to do in my film life. I want to direct huge, huge tent pole movies and I want to make another
gay movie at some point. I’m not supposed to categorize them as gay movies but I really think there are more stories to tell and
fresh perspectives to investigate with gay characters and I hope to do that, too.
WCT: I think I have an idea for a way that you can combine both gay characters and a tent pole movie. I think you should do the
next Resident Evil sequel and have Milla Jovovich and Sienna what’s-her-name – Alice and Jill Valentine – fall in love and battle the
zombies at the same time.
AR: (laughs) I’ll work on that – actually the people that financed D.E.B.S. also did Resident Evil so they might be down with that.
WCT: Do you have another project in the works?
AR: I’m reading a bunch of stuff and trying to decide on a couple of things but I’d actually love to write something new and do it on
a bigger scale than D.E.B.S. Bigger budget. I’m working on that as well.
WCT: So I was on the right track?
AR: Let’s just say you weren’t on the wrong track! (laughs)