Chris Chan Roberson is a 20-year veteran editor, director, cinematographer, college professor and writer.
He has been teaching cinematography and editing at Tisch School of the Arts since 1999 and served as NYU’s Executive Director of Post Production for over two years. Currently he is the Freshman Area Head.
Chris was a contributing writer for Comic Book Resources and Screen Rant, where he wrote over 100 articles. He also edits professionally and has worked with such talents as Sting, Billy Eichner, and Christian McBride. He edited for the YouTube channels The Things and Screen Rant (which had in total over 10 million views) and produced content for Kung Fu Tea and the New-York Historical Society. In 2006, Chris won a Telly Award for his editing work with Robert Small Entertainment, where he edited for Comedy Central, Nick at Nite and The Biography Channel.
From 2012 through July 2014, Chris worked at YouTube. He helped emerging partners devise channel strategy, increase production value, and develop their brand. On a regular basis Chris worked with such YouTube channels as The Key of Awesome and VSauce3.
In 2014, Chris conducted a TEDx Talk, titled “Modern Mavericks”. His one man show "Magnetic Dragons" won the Gotham Award and Staff Choice Award at the 2020 Fringe Festival and Beat Feature Length Theater Project by the TheaterLive OnLine Film Festival.
1. Your project has entered our festival. What is your project about?
“An ambitious musician uses the wrong hashtag and accidentally makes someone else famous. The result is a series of dueling documentaries that has the viewer questioning which story they can trust.”
In a nutshell, my movie is This is Spinal Tap meets Rashomon.
2. What are your ambitions with your project?
I had a great time making the film and I’m looking forward to it being seen by as many people as possible. I know the landscape is changing and lots of films are making their debut on streaming, but the old-school filmmaker in me would love to see my film make its way into a movie theater. I wouldn’t mind someone seeing my movie and throwing popcorn at the screen :)
3. Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?
I filmed the movie like an actual documentary, so with the exception of Rebecca (the main actress playing Eleanor Slaughter), most of the actors only worked a total of 3-4 half-days and were filmed for long blocks opposed to short snippets of scenes.
Because I could only borrow equipment from NYU for short periods of time, I had to have motivated reasons why the types of cameras change in the film. I used about nine different types of cameras to span filmmaking over a ten year period, and the look and style of the film is eclectic yet cohesive!
4. For what group of spectators is your film targeted?
Eleanor Slaughter covers a lot of different genres. Primarily it is a dark comedy and a mockumentary. The film is also somewhat of a mystery. Eleanor Slaughter consists of three smaller films: Eleanors, Damselfly, and Dangerous Cats. Each film provides new context for characters and situations, and the audience is forced to re-evaluate who the heroes and villains are after each movie. Music is a major factor in this film, as the main character is a singer and she sings three original songs in the film.
5. Why should distributors buy your film?
Distributors should buy my film because of how diverse and eclectic it is. Eleanor Slaughter is part mockumentary, part musical, part drama, part comedy, and part commentary on our society’s obsession with fame. The film is filled with young, diverse new talent and it’s good to see these actors before they hit it big!
6. How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?
I grew up watching a variety of movies and shows, ranging from wrestling to Taxi Driver to Night Court to GI Joe. My work reflects this, where it’s a kitbash of nostalgia and pop culture while examining characters that go through life-changing arcs.
I like to think that Eleanor Slaughter is a part of the postmodern/post–genre films that have been recently coming out. Movies like The Favourite and Get Out incorporate a variety of genres harmoniously, keeping the audience on their toes trying to figure out what’s going to happen next. Given how media savvy everyone is in 2023, bringing something new to the table is very important to engage your audience and keep them entertained. Eleanor Slaughter is a mockumentary that is also a musical, a comedy, a drama, a mystery, and more.
7. Why did you decide to become a filmmaker?
When I was growing up, my mom would take me to the movies every week and it was heavenly. I saw anything and everything that came out. Watching so many movies made me want to make movies.
I was always exposed to the arts as a kid. My dad was a jazz musician and my mom was a painter. In fact, my dad composed music for my film and my mom provided several pieces of artwork!
8. Who is your role model?
My role model is my former teacher and mentor, Carlos de Jesus. He taught me a great deal not only about storytelling, but also to go out into the world and live great stories. At the end of the movie, stick around and watch the end credits… I dedicate the movie to him!
9. Which movies are your favorites? Why?
I enjoy movies that create worlds you have to study. I also like films that give you characters that get re-evaluated as the movie goes on. Some of my favorite films are Memento, The Favourite, In the Mood For Love, and Bamboozled.
10. Where do you look for inspiration for your films?
I’m inspired by the stories of people around me. I also love history and feel that some of the best characters you’ll ever discover are people from our past.
11. Which topics interest you the most?
I’m interested in all stories. I love the short films made by a bunch of friends on their phone and uploaded to YouTube, made for no money. I also love the big budget blockbusters that come out every summer. I will watch all kinds of movies and hope to make diverse films of all shapes and sizes and budgets.
12. What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
I’ve been teaching filmmaking for a very long time and several years ago two students that were in my class got married and had two kids. That to me feels like a pretty good win.
13. What do you consider most important about filming?
The most important thing about filmmaking is the collaboration. When you put a bunch of artists together, you should be able to create something that you couldn’t create on your own.
14. Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?
For me, the best film technique utilizes the input of everyone involved. None of us is as smart as all of us, and it’s great when a plot point or a character motivation is solved when everyone puts their heads together and contributes to make it work.
15. How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
I’m so happy that over the years filmmaking has become more and more democratized. We have more opportunities and formats for a person to express their vision and voice. It’s awesome that I can watch several short films on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok on my phone while waiting to see a big, blockbuster in the theater.
16. What can disappoint you in a movie?
What disappoints me is when the movie creates a world and sets up rules, only to violate the very rules they create. For me, it’s about consistency.
17. Who supports you in your film career?
I am very happy to say I am lovingly supported by friends, family, and fellow filmmakers. Independent film is very dependent on the kindness and generosity of others, so it’s great when I get text messages from friends congratulating me on finishing Eleanor Slaughter and how they’re looking forward to buying tickets to see it!
18. What are the reactions to your film? (opinion of spectators, film critics, friends and family)
My friends and family like my film because they’re in it! My daughter made one of the opening video sequences, my mom provided artwork, and my dad contributed the opening song of the film. I also had several friends make cameo appearances as themselves in the movie, so they can’t help but like it!
19. Have you already visited any of the prestigious film festivals?
Not yet! I’m looking forward to attending festivals, meeting new people, forging new connections, and meeting audience members!
20. What are your future plans in your filmmaking career?
I’m hoping the momentum from Eleanor Slaughter will help get other projects off the ground! Originally my feature film debut was going to be Vespertine, a movie about a bored housewife that gets employed as the night manager of an office and her only job is to make sure everyone stays awake. The logistics and cost were too much to self-produce so I switched gears and made Eleanor Slaughter. Vespertine is ready to go into production with much of the cast being the same people that helped me make Eleanor Slaughter.
Learn more about Chris and his project Eleanor Slaughter