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Chasing Emmy

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Brent Roske and Allen Daviau
Brent Roske directs five-time Oscar nominee for Best Cinematography Allen Daviau for an NBC shoot.

What do you get when you take Angelina Jolie’s body double, sexy female detectives, a who-dunnit murder mystery and combine them to form a Web-based episodic series? Evidently, an Emmy-nominated online show…

Breaking new ground and boldly going where few NBC employees have gone before, director Brent Roske tells MM why shooting with an online format (and audience) in mind is surprisingly liberating.

Lily Percy (MM): How did you come to work in film?

Brent Roske (BR): In 1995 I was an actor performing in “Hamlet” at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland with some pretty well-known British actors. When the play was done I decided that it would be fun to make a short film, so I wrote it and a lot of the actors from “Hamlet” were in it. We had a great time making it and I guess that was that.

MM: How did Sophie Chase come about? Where did the idea to do an online television series come from?

BR: I was at lunch with a TV colleague and the idea just popped up, mainly as an excuse to work with Kate Clarke (an award-winning actress and Angelina Jolie’s body double) and Chuck Bowman (who directed “The A-Team,” “MacGyver,” “The Pretender,” “Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman” and “TJ Hooker”). I came up with the concept and title and two weeks later the pilot was finished.

MM: You’ve been working at NBC for five years now. Was there ever a time when you thought of pitching this show to the network, or was it always intended to be exclusively for an online audience?

BR: It was always intended to be an online show, mainly to have fun with a project and not have to deal with the “committee producing” common to most projects.

MM: Having shot feature films as a director, and having worked for many  years in television, how do you prepare for shooting a show like this? What limitations of the format—technical and otherwise—have you had to learn to work around?

BR: I’ve directed some of the best feature film crews in the world and certainly that offers a level of precision you can’t easily achieve on a smaller scale. But the freedom of a shoot like Sophie Chase for me is equally satisfying. Henry Jaglom showed me a phrase he has mounted over his edit bay that Orson Welles told him: “The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.”

MM: As a moviemaker, you’ve played the role of writer, producer, editor and director. How have all of these different tools complemented one another? Is there one role in particular that you consider to be your true calling?

BR: Especially in shooting Sophie Chase, I was just looking for quick moments that make the biggest visual impact. Over the years I’ve learned to direct and shoot with the edit in mind. I direct about 85 percent of the projects I oversee at NBC, but over the years I’ve also edited about a third of them as well, so I’m always looking for the quickest way to get the best shots for the edit. I also was the DP on most of Sophie Chase, which speeds up the process.

MM: Would you recommend the online format to other moviemakers? What advice would you have for them in this regard?

BR: In today’s marketplace you need something to show your potential as a visual storyteller if you’re going to get gigs and online is an easy place to do that.

MM: Sophie Chase was recently nominated for the first Emmy Award given for New Media content. Has this changed your original vision for the show at all?

BR: I think the nomination will help us take the show to the next level, which would be a financed production with a television version sometime in the future.

MM: What’s next for you?

BR: First we have to see what’s happening with Sophie Chase, as there is talk of it going to a network. I’m about to start producing and directing a different online dramatic series for NBC and am directing two independent features this spring. One of the features is called Badge—sort of The Limey meets Bad Lieutenant, which I’ll be acting in as well.

For more information on Sophie Chase, visit www.sophiechase.com.

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