Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Steve Roberts and Sandy Moore Shine a Light on Indie Filmmakers

Every day, kids all around the world dream of a future in Hollywood. Some hope of being stars. Others imagine what it would be like to be a big time director. That was not the case decades ago for Steve Roberts or Sandy Moore. But not only did they end up in the film industry, they have become champions for independent filmmakers everywhere.

In reality, a young Roberts never imagined he would end up in the entertainment business. After all he grew up in Nebraska, which he joking called the "film Mecca of the world" in a recent exclusive interview.

Still, he was a film fan growing up. In college he developed an interest in photography and majored in Business Administration. Those skills made him the perfect candidate to be a field rep for a video wholesaler in the early days of home video. His work in that arena led to a job with Paramount Pictures' home entertainment sales team.

After 18 years with the company and a promotion to Vice President of sales for their retail and distribution team along the way, Roberts finally decided to hang his own shingle with Moore.

She, too, had a circuitous path to a life in entertainment. A native to the suburbs of the Chicago, Moore also worked at Paramount where she met Roberts 22 years ago.

But when she decided to move West, Moore found herself choosing an unlikely destination. As she recounted, she "landed in Denver because my rear view mirror melted off in Arizona."

Fate may have led her to a job in the cable and telecommunications side of the business. She first worked as a recruiter and then decided to focus on marketing in that industry. When Roberts relocated to the Colorado area they decided to become partners.

The result was House Lights Media - a distribution company that looks beyond Hollywood's big budget movies to find the entertainment industry's hidden gems. As Moore explained, "We decided to take our expertise - his in the selling side, mine from the marketing and operations side - and offer our capabilities to truly independent filmmakers. So that's what brought us here."

The duo scours film festivals, builds relationships with filmmakers and sales reps and reviews submissions and referrals to choose the movies they want to distribute. Their criterion is simple enough, as

Roberts acknowledged, "We're after quality projects that look like they're made with a lot higher budget than they are. Production value is probably at the top of that list."

Of course, they also are drawn to films that appeal to their own sensibilities as moviegoers. Roberts conceded, "Sandy and I are both fans of the romantic comedy genre so we tend to gravitate a little bit towards that."

But they don't limit their choices just to their own personal taste. Moore recalled signing their first project. Before they were even officially a company in 2010, they attended the Starz Denver Film Festival. There, as Moore reflected, "We met a set of filmmakers from London who had an English, black and white, dark comedy called The Drummond Will - heavily influenced by Monty Python and the Ealing cinemas of the 1940's in England... And we signed them in March of 2011, which was when we officially launched our company, when we signed our first film."

Their latest release, Language of a Broken Heart, may take them back their love of romantic comedies. But in true House Lights Media form, it comes with a bit of a twist. Per Moore, "The thing that actually touched me about that film is that it's a romantic comedy that's written by a guy. The lead actor, Juddy Talt, was also the lead writer. So it's a romantic comedy written by a guy with very strong female characters and very well developed female characters, which you don't usually see in a romantic comedy."

And even though their movies don't star big name actors like Julianne Moore or George Clooney, the House Lights team has pulled off a major coup - getting theatrical distribution for many of their projects. As Roberts remarked, "The most recent film that we brought out theatrically, Language of a Broken Heart, we got it into nine markets. And Regal Entertainment, who is the largest theater exhibitor in the country picked it up in seven of their markets."

As Moore noted, they had similar distribution for another recent film. "We just launched a musical, road picture, comedy, good ole' boy movie called Pickin' & Grinnin', which also had a limited theatrical release. That one features Kenny Loggins and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and again, it's just a nice story that we really liked. It was a passion project for the writers and actors of that film and it was the feature directorial debut of Jon Gries who played Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite."

Clearly Roberts and Moore are equally passionate about their work, as their company's success is proving. Learn more about House Lights Media by visiting their website. See Pickin' & Grinnin' now on DVD and VOD and Language of a Broken Heart when it comes out on DVD and VOD on October 1.

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