Interview: Producers Christa Campbell & Lati Grobman discuss ‘Experimenter’
Producers Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman are making a name for themselves in Hollywood and people are starting to take notice.
Want proof? Since combining years of individual acting and behind the scenes experience to form their own company; Campbell-Grobman Films, the duo has achieved success in a variety of film genres and documentaries as well as being named one of 10 Producers To Watch by Variety. What’s even more special is the fact that Campbell and Grobman are involved in a new film project, “Experimenter”, that will be screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival!
Directed by Michal Almereyda, “Experimenter” tells the story of famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram who, in 1961 conducted a series of radical behavior experiments that tested ordinary humans willingness to obey authority and the shocking results. The film stars Peter Scarsgaard, Winona Ryder, John Leguizamo, Kellan Lutz, Jim Gaffigan, and Taryn Manning.
In addition to the screening at Sundance, Campbell and Grobman have many other projects in various stages of development, including “Leatherface” – a prequel to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” as well as the Jennifer Aniston/Owen Wilson comedy, “She’s Funny That Way”.
I recently spoke with Christa Campbell and Lati Grobman and asked them about “Experimenter” and some of their other upcoming projects!
What does having one of your films screened at The Sundance Film Festival mean to you?
Christa: It’s been a dream of ours for quite a while. Sundance is one of the best festivals ever and for us to have one of our films there this year is just amazing!
Lati: I remember when I was a young filmmaker (or even as just a film fan), I would often go to Sundance but never thought it would happen for me in my lifetime. It really is a dream come true!
What can you tell me about your film, “Experimenter”?
Grobman: It’s a story of an evidence of the human kind that asks the question: “To what extent will we go to listen to authority?” It’s really scary. Here you have someone who is a very nice and decent person but is also doing these horrific things. You start thinking to yourself, how could these things happen?
It would be like asking the question, “How did some of the things in World War II happen?” On the outside, it was obvious that the SS Officers were terrible. But some of the most horrific things about World War II were the people who were living there at the time. The ones who knew that their neighbors were disappearing and being killed but did nothing about it. Those are the kind of people who are the scariest. The ones who don’t take action. This movie is a little piece of life showing what we’re capable of.
What was the casting process like for “Experimenter”?
Campbell – Peter Scarsgaard is a friend of Mike Almereyda (director) and the two of them had been attached to the film for a few years. They had passion for getting the film made and about getting Winona Ryder involved. Lati and I then called up Kellan Lutz and asked him if he’d be interested in doing the movie. Kellan read the script and within an hour called us said, “Absolutely! I’m in!” You always hope that you get the people you want and hope that they will have the same passion as you and in this case, we got both!
You’ve both done a lot of work separately in front of the camera as well as behind the scenes. When did you decide to team up and work together?
Campbell: Lati and I have been friends for a long time. She had been producing movies for many years and I was an actress at the time we became friends. Eventually, there came a point where I started producing without actually realizing it.
Grobman: Christa was actually producing movies but not taking any credit for her work. I remember there was this one movie where she had put the cast together, got the financing and even some of the product placement. Basically, she had pretty much done everything. I said, “Christa, you realize that you made this movie happen and deserve producer credit, right?” That’s when she said, “Oh, no! I just want to act. That’s all I care about.” I remember telling her that whether she knew it or not, she was the producer of the movie.” She wound up not taking credit for that film but then she started to get the “bug”. Christa is one of those people who once they get a passion for something; they go all the way with it! That’s how it all started.
As producers, what do you look for in a project?
Grobman: We both have our personal preferences. Christa is a big fan of horror and I’m more into documentaries. Both of us love good action movies and thrillers. But it’s not necessarily about what genre we love. Sometimes, it’s about the deal.
Campbell: The cool thing about the two of us working together is that we can split our time. Lati is currently closing two of our documentary deals and I’m focusing more on “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”.
What other projects are you working on?
Campbell: Right now, we’re doing “Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Leatherface)”. We’re prepping to shoot with directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury; who worked on the film, “Inside”. We’ll be shooting that in Bulgaria. We also have a Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson movie (“She’s Funny That Way”) that will be coming out. “Shut In” was a little horror movie we did with Steven Schneider from Paranormal Activity. We’re in post-production with that and will be hitting the festival scene very soon. All of our movies are in different stages. Then of course, we have “Experimenter” at Sundance!
What excites you the most about the year ahead and the next phase of your careers?
Campbell: Just having the opportunity to make the films that we love and travel the world is what excites us. It can be challenging at times but we both have the kind of personality that wants to take it on. Some of the deals we’ve made have been amazing.
Grobman: Every day and every deal is a challenge and you definitely have to earn it with a lot of sweat and tears. But even though it may not be as glamorous behind the scenes, whenever you get the chance to walk the carpet it’s just wonderful!