Named to IMDb.com‘s “Top 20 Up & Coming Hollywood Directors Under 40,” David Rountree has found his true calling as an award-winning filmmaker. Here, we learn how he managed to go from thrilling sports fans on the field to providing entertainment to movie lovers.
How did you get started in the movie business? Were you always interested in it?
I’m from North Carolina so, I really didn’t do any acting or on-camera work growing up. I remember when I was about five years old my dad turned on the Little League World Series and asked me if that might be something I’d like to do. Of course, he was referring to baseball, but I was referring to being on TV (laughs). I said, “Yeah! Let’s do it!”
I ended up playing three sports in college before finally graduating from North Carolina State University. I was hoping one of them would take off and provide a career after college, but no such luck. I got drafted in football as a kicker, but it never really manifested into anything. I guess, in some ways that was my route to getting in front of the camera. After college I got into coaching kickers for football, and also swimmers. Well, I wound up meeting this guy who was a kicker at NC State, and his girlfriend was working at an acting school. She asked if I had ever thought about acting, and suggested I take some acting classes. So, I started taking acting classes and that ultimately led to me exploring the behind the camera side of things.
What was that key opportunity in film that set you on the path to saying, “I want to be a filmmaker?
After I started taking those acting classes, I ended up landing a role on a regional TV series my first year. I worked about 11 episodes as an actor on that show, but I was so intrigued by the behind-the-scenes process. So, while still being an actor, I started following what was going on behind the camera. When I moved to Los Angeles, I kept acting; doing a lot of athletic commercials in the beginning, before booking some acting roles. But, that’s where it started to take off.
I was part of a writing team for the 48 Hour Film fest back in 2003, and we ended up making the film that won “Best Film”. Then, we got accepted to Cannes Film Festival based off what we did at 48 Hour Film. Just having a little say in the writing side of that kickstarted my desire to be a filmmaker. After that I kept writing and in 2004, directed my first film. Now, I’m five films in as a producer and four (films) as a director.
You have a new film, CUT! Can you tell us about that film and what your role in the creation of the movie was?
It started with me being a writer. David Banks (lead actor in CUT!) and I were in acting class together a few years ago, and collaborated on a lot of scenes together. One of the ideas we wrote together was a comedy script that got really close to being made in 2007 so, in 2011 it started to pick up steam again and we got some interest from a major studio. The ball got rolling and everything was looking positive for me to come on and direct this film, but we were faced with having to wait about 8 months before we could start shooting it in the summer.
David and I started talking and we didn’t want to wait until the summer to do something creative, so we decided to shoot something in the meantime for fun. My production company has a lot of the equipment we needed, so that was an expense we didn’t have to cover. Our idea was to do something like “Blair Witch Project” or “Paranormal Activity” where they didn’t need the major production budgets to shoot the film. We decided to shoot this horror film in a week, guerrilla style with no script, and some improv actors.
Well, long story short, we shot the opening scene to CUT! and I showed it to a few friends of mine who work in distribution. They thought it looked really good and asked if the whole film was going to look like that. So we crafted more of a script, put together a small budget to hire some professional SAG actors and paid a crew, then shot the project. We lost the hand-held style and really went for more of a professional feel. CUT! took on a life of its own, which wound up being a good thing because the comedy we were waiting to shoot never happened.
What’s the most challenging part about getting a movie made? And how do new filmmakers overcome those issues?
For a new filmmaker you always have to prove what you’ve done because, everyone wants to know what other movies you’ve made. Like, when you’re approaching an agent about a certain actor and the response you get is, “What has your production company done?” It’s understandable because, you don’t have a $20 Million budget and the agent is trying to make sure their actors are going to be well taken care of and not in some crappy movie that’ll make the actor look bad. So, that’s one of the most challenging things as a new filmmaker.
But, I cut my teeth in film doing short films. I learned from my days in sports that you’re not going to get great by showing up on game day having not practiced at all, and then trying to just make something happen. It’s like playing a basketball. You might go in the gym and practice free-throws by shooting 200 of them, just for the chance to make 5 in an actual game. It’s that practice time that will put you in a position to be great. It’s a marathon.