Three years ago filmmaker Angela Robinsonmade a $20,000 short film that mushroomed into a $4 million indie picture, which in turn landed her a deal to direct Herbie: Fully Loaded, a $70 million Disney movie set to open June 24.
Though her career only recently kicked into warp speed, Robinson, thirty-three, has been busy forging a quirky aesthetic since her student days at Brown. “There is a continuity to my work,” Robinson insisted this spring while sipping from a bowl of squash soup on the patio of a Beverly Hills hotel, “which is that I like playing with genre a lot and doing this kind of girl-power pop satire.”
Robinson, casually dressed in cargo pants and warm-up jacket, had taken the day off from editing Herbie to talk about D.E.B.S., her feature debut, which opened in April. She said her concept about an all-girl team of miniskirted, gun-toting crime fighters survived several incarnations. “I even pitched a straight version to some movie studios, but I never knew quite what would differentiate it from Charlie’s Angels or Alias or any of the other babe-spy things out there,” she explained. “Then I thought, ‘What if the hero, Amy, falls in love with the villain, and the villain’s a girl?’ And I was like, ‘Well, that’d be different.’ ”
The twist earned Robinson a $20,000 grant from Power Up, short for the Professional Organization of Women in Entertainment Reaching Up, a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting gay women in entertainment. She shot the ten-minute D.E.B.S. piece in four days, screened it at the 2003 Sundance festival, and received an offer from Screen Gems to expand it into a $4 million feature. That full-length version debuted one year later at Sundance and impressed Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group president Nina Jacobson ’87 enough to hire Robinson to direct a remake of the 1966 Disney classic Herbie the Love Bug. Explains Robinson, “They loved D.E.B.S., which might seem weird, but it actually makes a lot of sense. D.E.B.S. is a girl-power movie with heart and a lot of style, and so is Herbie. Lindsay Lohan wants to be a racecar driver; her dad won’t let her. Enter Herbie. They end up racing at NASCAR. They’re both just being true to yourself, whatever that is.”
Hugh Hart writes about the entertainment industry for the San Francisco Chronicle.