A Conversation With Robert J Emery
establishment. Bob cast local theater actors and rehearsed them in advance of filming, hired a professional film and sound crew, and shot the film over four days—also unheard of. That was the beginning of his five-decade career. Over the years, Bob has written and directed eight feature films, his last in 2001 for the Lifetime Television Network. Swimming Upstream starred two-time EMMY © winner Michael Moriarty, Matt Czuchry, Kelly Rutherford, and Elizabeth Harnois. The film remains available on Netflix.
Bob has written and produced such award-winning television programs as: The 4-hour PBS mini-series The Genocide Factor, hosted by Academy Award © winner, actor Jon Voight; the MSNBC special For God & Country: A Marine Snipers Story, hosted by NBC’s Lester Holt; the cable series The Directors for Starz/Encore: 91 one-hour episodes, which paid tribute to motion picture directors. Among those honored: Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters), Gary Marshall (Pretty Woman,) Penny Marshall (A League of Their Own) George Lucas (Star Wars), Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets), Richard Donner (Lethal Weapons), James Cameron (Titanic), Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), Barbara Streisand (Yentl), Milos Forman (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest), Ron Howard (The Da Vinci Code), Noman Jewison (Moonstruck), Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing), Alan Pakula (Sofie’s Choice), Robert Altman (MASH), and the legendary Robert Wise (The Sound of Music). Over 250 actors, writers, musicians, and producers participated, including such notables as Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep, Brat Pitt, Paul Newman, Julie Andrews, Mel Gibson, Johnny Depp, Burt Reynolds, Al Pacino, Robert de Niro, Morgan Freeman, Jodie Foster, Arnold Swartzenegger, and Nicole Kidman. The series ran for ten years in the U.S. and over 75 countries around the world.
“The schedule for ‘The Directors’ kept me hopping: one day at Universal Studios with Steven Spielberg, Warner Brothers with director Richard Donner, a 20th Century Fox soundstage with Robert Wise, Sky Walker Ranch with George Lucas, Barbra Streisand’s magnificent Malibu estate, James Cameron’s spacious L.A. offices, Greenwich, Connecticut with Ron Howard, L.A. with Robert Altman, a soundstage in Toronto with Norman Jewison and Whoopie Goldberg, New York with Spike Lee, Alan Pakula, and Milos Forman. Before I knew it, we had produced 91 episodes in all.”
Bob fondly remembers the taping of director Gary Marshall’s episode.
“Gary had a big, broad personality and was naturally funny even when he wasn’t trying. During the three-hour taping he kept us laughing so hard, we thought we’d never get the show in the can. Later we shot an episode featuring his sister Penny Marshall’s career. Now, Penny has a wicked sense of humor also, albeit a bit dryer than Gary’s. We thought it would be fun to cross-cut between their episodes their comments of growing up as siblings in the Bronx, New York. The results were truly hilarious. And then there was the interview with Jodie Foster and Tom Hanks. Tom had worked with several directors we were featuring and was kind enough to appear in four episodes. On one such occasion, he came to the L.A. Directors Guild on Sunset Blvd., where we often shot interviews. When he arrived, he said with unusual excitement for a major film star. ‘I just met Jodie Foster for the first time… in the elevator of all places.’ The next day we were shooting an interview with Jodie in the same venue. She walks in and said… ‘You’ll never guess who I met for the first time yesterday.” And I said, “Let me guess, Tom Hanks… in the elevator.”
After retiring from active film and TV production, Bob pursued his life-long ambition to write books. First up were four nonfiction volumes with his recollections of the interviews sessions with each director, followed by the unedited interviews since large section failed to make the final cut because of time restrictions. Next came his first novel, In the Realm of Eden, published in the Fall of 2010. It took five-years of research and writing before he completed, The Autopsy of Planet Earth, published in 2017 under his new pen name, R. J. Eastwood. This past April, his science fiction novel won the Author’s Circle Novel of Excellence Award for Fiction. It has garnered rave reviews from readers and is rated 5-stars on Amazon. In December, 2018, Bob released his third novel titled “Midnight Black - The Purge”, a dystopian suspense thriller to 5-star reviews. Next up is The White Prize: a singing icon’s international fame propels him to the highest office in the land; the Presidency of the United States.
“I’m interested in what makes us all tick. For that reason, I write fiction that delves, often with a jaundiced eye, into the human condition. That demands that I get into my character heads, giving each a well-defined personality that readers can relate to. When I read a novel, if I can’t see the characters in my head, the author failed, and I usually don’t bother finishing that book. My goal is to write stories that engage and challenge readers on subjects we often take for granted, even if it means receiving an extreme reaction from someone who disagrees with what I’ve written. But then again, I write fiction, so who’s going to prove me wrong? My other passions are traveling to Europe when we can and cooking Italian dishes, thanks to my Sicilian mother who taught me how.”
Bob’s film career officially took off in 1965 when several business men funded the production of a screenplay he had written. The projected budget was $32,000.00—a laughable amount for a full-length feature film, even in 1965. He had fashioned a story that could be filmed in a single location; a local bar. The idea was to follow a number of bar patrons as they interacted, some violently, during the course of one evening. A local bar owner agreed to allow filming to take place in his