We had the good fortune of connecting with Peter Dobson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Peter, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk- That’s what I think any artist has to do…As a young kid opting out of college to study drama at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. Having a vision is one thing, going after it, takes 100%. commitment. Coming to LA after graduation and continuing studying to be prepared if you get an agent, show the work. Within a year got the agent and was prepared for the audition process which landed starring roles in Sing, Last Exit to Brooklyn and The Frighteners leading to a successful acting career in TV and Film. The “Risk” was lessened by being prepared. The same applied for wanting to direct. Making sacrifices which is really taking a Risk. Taking what was learned on productions. Having the vision once again but to follow through with it.. Making short films learning the camera, the lenses, all aspects of production, to a point where one says “Ok I’m willing to risk it”.. I’m looking to bring it home now with a full length feature called “Asbury Park”…Wanting to secure my place as the director for the film, I used the time during this pandemic as things were shutting down there was still an open window for smaller productions to be allowed to operate provided all safety precautions were met…Making the decision to put forth a short musical production from the project itself. Only way to do it was fiancé it myself. Again, the Risk factor comes into play. But if done properly, it can only help the project itself and (As mentioned) secure my position as director when the full length is finally made…The short film has currently been selected into The Garden State Film Festival and The Toronto Short Film Festival…All done so far on Risk. With no Risk there’s no chance. Only fantasy’s. Risk is what all have to do to achieve ones goals in any line of work.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
King” is a music video you directed and Produced with Melissa Prophet and Marc Clebanoff associated with “Asbury Park” a movie script you co-wrote and are very passionate about. Please explain your passion. It goes back to childhood memories of growing up in Red Bank NJ and going to Asbury Park on weekends to visit my grandparents. It was like going to Disneyland on steroids with the amusement park, the music scene and an auto culture called “The Circuit” where on weekends they held local drag races on Ocean Ave. it was an like an East coast American Graffiti. The imagery of it all left an indelible image that seared into my soul to this day. Obviously Springsteen is forever affiliated with the town, for he himself was a kid from Freehold searching for a music career. Asbury Park was the mecca for so many talented musicians. Its musical roots go all the way back to the 1930’s golden age of Jazz. Count Basie (also from Red Bank) was part of its musical roots along with Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn then into the 40’s WW II swing era onto the Doo Wop groups of the 50’s. Then it continued into the hard rock & roll era of legendary performances that were all held there throughout the 60 & 70’s, including The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Lynryd Skynrd – all locked in as part of its musical past. Mix in the car culture – it was a very special place. You’re an actor who has worked with several Oscar winning directors and films. As an Actor, Writer, and Producer yourself who are your mentors? Please acknowledge the films and directors you have worked with and how you are inspired. It started with Uli Edel in Last Exit to Brooklyn. A powerhouse filmmaker out of Germany. He had an apocalyptic yet beautiful sense on how to shoot the film based on Hubert Selby’s best selling book starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Stephen Lang. That was my first real experience working with someone completely unique who artistically marched to his own drum – An incredible director. Also working with Michael Mann, first in the TV show “Miami Vice” along with creator Anthony Yerkovich. Although Michael didn’t direct any of the episodes his fingers were all over the production. Michael’s approach was style and rawness at the same time and a great sense of music & timing which was the trademark of the show. The other, was a TV movie called LA Takedown. Michael had already made great films in the 80’s, most notably “Thief” and “Manhunter” which in essence was a prequel to “Miami Vice”. Working with him again on “LA Takedown” proved vital to see a technician at work. “LA Takedown” not many are aware, was the original version of “HEAT”. It was done as his blueprint before he made the feature two years later. It is literally the same film. I portrayed Chis Shiherlis, later played in the film version by Val Kilmer. Working and watching on the shootout scene after the bank robbery was like watching Picasso do a painting, not a detail left out, his sense of realism mixed with a high tech approach was mind blowing. Then I had a fortunate run working Robert Zemeckis – four times. First, a short lived but way ahead of its time TV comedy for CBS “Johhny Bago” produced by Bob, Frank Marshall, Peter Seaman and Jeffrey Price. Between them their films included some of the most iconic films of the 80’s. “Raiders of the Lost Arc”, “ET”, “Back to the Future”, “Who Framed Rabbit” and on and on. This was the Holy Grail for me. Bob is an epic filmmaker in every sense of the word, with an insatiable gift for comedy. Working on that show was like going to film school. I was surrounded by the nicest creative bunch ever devised. Their love of storytelling and filmmaking was addicting. Learning lenses, angles and depth was all because of Bob’s eye for detail. After the show ended, he asked me to do a small stint in “Forrest Gump” to portray Young Elvis. I had no idea while filming that scene, how enormous that film would become. Bob made his epic masterpiece without question, winning his first Academy Award for best director and best picture. From there, an episode of “Tales from the Crypt”, a series he also produced. He is a huge horror fan as well and from that episode, he set up a meeting with a new director out of New Zealand named Peter Jackson. Bob was onto Peter’s genius and executive produced his American debut “The Frighteners” starring Michael J. Fox. Peter is a pioneer of special effects far beyond anyone’s time that to this day are monumental. I did 80% of the film in front of a green screen and learned quickly that Peter was in fact a mad genius. His “Lord of the Rings” films certainly display that. I was extremely fortunate to have worked with all of these creative giants and absorbed as much as I could into the foray of filmmaking. Davey LA is the songwriter for “King”. He also wrote ”Gloria”. Both songs were inspired by your movie script. How did he get involved with the film project? Why is your passion his? How did you meet him? Do you feel he Blue Printed and captured your movie script? He is from England Word had gotten around about the project “Asbury Park” 3 yrs ago, which is also a good time to bring up my producing and writing partner Marc Clebanoff, who has been with me since day one on this. Since the film was very music-oriented, I started receiving demos from across the country from various artists. All were very good, in fact some were superb, but not quite the vibe of the project. My manager and other producing partner Melissa Prophet came into play and said “there is an individual I think you’re going to like.” It turned out Davey who had taken the time to read the screenplay and he himself got immersed in the world and sent me two tracks that literally blew my mind. When I heard his demo of “King” I couldn’t believe how on par it was with the project. It turned out Melissa had told him my personal story of what I was going through to get the film made and how many obstacles there are to get through. Davey took that into account and it was like a double edged sword. It was perfect for the film but also beyond that, it was personal. It was like an anthem of never giving up. When we finally met, it was lightening in a bottle and I felt compelled to make a music video. Gloria is another another gem he wrote as well. It turns out Davey knows the history of Asbury Park well. He spent much time there so it was perfect. Then we get hit with the pandemic and had to shut down production in March. A decision was made to hold off but we could only afford to wait until September. So another hard decision was made to move forward with all the new Covid safety precautions now in play. I knew if we didn’t shoot this year all would be lost. I made phone calls to the entire cast and crew to get their feelings on working. All were in, provided everyone was tested and all safety measures were made. All were met and we miraculously pulled it off in a 3 day shoot. It was like jumping into a time machine for 3 days. I didn’t want it to end. Honestly I don’t think anyone did. You mentioned Travis Payne Choreographed the Music Video “King” he is a well known name in Hollywood for his work with Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. How did that come about? Again, Melissa Prophet. She knew Travis well through her good friend and mentor, the late Frank Dileo who was Michael Jackson’s manager. Also, her and Frank both appeared in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”, both in iconic roles themselves. (Melissa, always very musically inclined) had currently produced a music video with one of her clients Asher Knight that Travis directed and choreographed. After the treatment for the King video was written, also with a dance sequence written in, Melissa suggested we start with the top in terms of choreographers. Knowing it was a long shot, I had nothing to lose by approaching him. Travis has choreographed some of the biggest videos of all time starting with Micheal and Janet Jackson, En Vogue, Lady Gaga and feature films like “Coyote Ugly” all with his signature choreography. When we spoke to Travis, he asked to read the treatment and the following day he called back and said “Count me in”. After that, we were off to the races to put production together. What is the time Period for “Asbury Park”? How did you create your characters? 1962 and 1974. All through the eyes of an older mechanic reliving his youth. The characters for the most part are loosely based on real individuals that I remember well at that time and others that Marc Clebanoff and I would have fun inventing for story purposes. What is the process for Producing a Movie like “Asbury Park” How much money do you need to make this a reality? We have two very strong attachments that I don’t have the liberty to announce yet. Our budget is very modest, however. Certainly enough to get this done properly. Where do you get the cars for the music video? . One from a very close friend and the others at an actual real drive-in that is still in operation, Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank. They have cruise night there on Fridays so that’s where we wrangled the other classic muscle cars. How did you pick the location to shoot the music Video? The drive-in was built outside of an establishment called the Cowboy Palace Saloon out in Chatsworth, CA. For interiors we used their own stage while other locations were in Burbank CA. Tell me about the key actors in the Music Video. Did you have a casting or reached out and scouted your talent? . It’s a wonderful cast that stars Joe Cortese from the Academy Award winning film “Green Book” and many others great films like “American History X”. We were really fortunate to have him. Also an array of talented newcomers that are repped by Melissa and an exciting new actor that we did find in casting, Zack Cosby who portrays BOBBY, the title character in the video, and of course Davey LA with two amazing musicians. It’s been some journey to get this done but one I would do all over again without hesitation.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Monument Valley AZ..Where some of the greatest westerns of all time were ever made..Also know as John Ford country. To see it in person is overwhelming. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My producing partner Melissa Prophet for believing in me all these years and urging me to fight on..And my mentor Sam Peckinpah..”The Wild Bunch” changed my life and was instrumental in wanting to make the switch from acting into directing.