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Capturing Hearts and Minds: A Cinematic Odyssey with Filmmaker Chris Robert

Miami Living Magazine was honored to engage in an exclusive interview with the esteemed filmmaker Chris Robert. Known for his distinguished work on acclaimed films such as "Dallas Buyers Club" and “The Big Wedding,” Chris brings a fresh and vibrant energy to the screen. With his upcoming feature film "Expectations" generating buzz, we eagerly anticipated diving into the captivating world he has created. But there's more to Chris than his blockbuster success; he is a humble, kind-hearted storyteller with a passion for making a difference. Get ready for an illuminating exploration as we delve into the depths of Chris Robert's inspiring journey as a filmmaker.

ML: Hey Chris! We're thrilled to chat with you about your upcoming film “Expectations”. Can you give us a sneak peek into the unique elements that make it stand out from the crowd?

CR: These days, Miami is like my backyard. So it’s really exciting to have the opportunity to connect with you all at Miami Living! So far, I’ve found that South Florida amounts to so much more than all of the positive things on the surface. The colors, flavors, and people are so vibrant. There’s nowhere quite like it anywhere else in the world. The same can be said about my upcoming film, "Expectations". We had a saying when making this film, that our endeavor was to bring the classic Charles Dickens novel to a new generation and a new audience. I think we did just that, trading in what was once the drab and gray Victorian England of the traditional literature into a vibrant winter wonderland of contemporary characters that feature bright colors, and even more luminous personalities. No one needs to be familiar with the source material to go on this ride. Just be ready to find the love of a found family of siblings who have chosen to hilariously compete with one another for an enormous inheritance, while being snowed in during a holiday getaway where there might be a questionable death, or two. You know, the usual entertaining stuff to watch as it plays out.

ML: "Expectations” features a diverse and talented cast. How did their unique personalities and backgrounds contribute to the on-set vibe? Any memorable moments you would like to share?

CR: The characters of Expectations are only as fun as they are because they were all brought to life by the extremely talented cast that we were so fortunate to assemble and collaborate with during this cinematic journey. And you’re entirely right, all of them brought unique, and diverse personalities and experiences, which we leaned into when bringing the characters to life. I grew up internationally, and so much of the casting was done to reflect the way that I’ve had the pleasure to see the world. Featuring a multitude of various ethnicities, cultures, and accents. Even Estella, as played by the dynamic Blu Hunt, can be seen in a different way than ever before in any other adaptation of Great Expectations. Because we had the fortune of visiting this collection of characters fresh and anew in their 20s and in our modern society of 2023, we had the unique opportunity to show them all growing over the course of their weekend together. I’ve found, at least in my experience, we often have seminal moments in our lives that can change the entire course or path that we are undertaking. This weekend does that through hijinks and humor, but also because every single character finds themselves in a new place at the story’s end. All thanks to this delightful group! As far as memorable moments, I fear there are too many to share without giving away too much of the story. But I will say, if you enjoy Samuel Arnold’s cheeky and comedic chops on Emily in Paris, you’ll be very excited to see an entirely different and hilarious performance as he portrays his character, Bernard.

MLM: "Expectations” has been described as a film that makes a difference. Can you elaborate on this? And in what ways do you believe cinema has the power to create impact and influence society positively?

CR: At the very least, I sure hope that Expectations creates some laughs! But in sincerity, the film is really an exercise in identifying something that I’ve come to very much believe in, including in regards to my own life. We’re all so fortunate to be touched by the many individuals and lives we encounter. Many of those people become our found family, which can be just as important as the one we are born into. Expectations is really a journey we’re all going on, to find not only a healthy way to express ourselves, because that’s incredibly important, but also how we fit into our societal and familial units without friction or fray. Over the course of the film, you’ll see all of the characters both familiar from the source material, and new, struggle with this notion and how it affects their own individual identities. For my part, that’s okay, because I think that’s a journey we all undertake in our twenties. There’s nothing wrong with taking time to answer the questions of who we are, what we stand for, and where it is we’re really going. We’re all so lucky to live in an age where we’re afforded the time and opportunity to do just that. For these characters, who are all adopted siblings of a sort, to be thrust together after years of feeling a sense of competition with one another for success or funds from their guardian benefactor, to have to deal with one another in person and face to face is now a shock, both dramatically, and in a comedic sort of way with how it all plays out. But this notion of competition and what we all feel we must do to be heard and get ahead is very real, and also understanding the vows we hold to ourselves and what is healthy and what is not is just as real and important to me today as it was when I wrote the script. I think cinema is one of the artistic tools we have in society to showcase these real issues that many of us struggle with, and like this case and this film, hopefully bring some solace and comfort through laughter as we all work our way through it, knowing we’ll be better on the other side. At least our characters in Expectations certainly hope that’s the case!

MLM: Your personal journey as an orphan has undoubtedly shaped your perspectives on family and belonging. How do you infuse these themes into your projects, including "Expectations,” and why are they significant to you?

CR: I’ve had the luxury and privilege of being able to work on many films in my career, and the ones that have always connected with me the most are the ones about community and family. I learned a long time ago when I was a child that no one can control how they start their journey. That part in life is not up to us. But where we go, and how we get there, well we certainly have a say in that! I’ve been really fortunate to make many relationships along my journey, and most of those people are still with me in my life today. I think what’s critical for all of us is to take the time to reflect on the type of energy we all permit into our lives. There are certain people and situations we all will vibe with, and there’s nothing wrong whatsoever when there are certain circumstances we just don’t vibe with. Being able to determine that, and determine the type of individuals we let into our lives is so important. For my part, it’s because of the strength of those relationships that I’ve made that I get the opportunity to create characters in my projects that are both on point, and off the mark. Just like people, no one character is just plain good or bad. We’re all shades of the environments we come from and the tapestries that our lives weave. Because I’m always interested in understanding these fundamentals, and trying to accept the many differences of the people around me, I feel very fortunate to get to utilize all of that material into my films. You’ll find Expectations is not an exception to this whatsoever. In fact, if you pay very close attention, you might find glimmers of people in my life and artists I’ve previously collaborated with inside each and every character.

MLM: You are intriguingly known for bringing a unique superpower to every project you sign on to. What is your special superpower charge and how does it shape your approach to filmmaking?

CR: I’m flattered to hear that! If only I did have a superpower, perhaps I could use it to make more of a difference. But in lieu of such a skill, I will say that something that’s important to me for every one of my projects is to grow at least a little bit on every outing. That doesn’t mean necessarily artistically specifically. Sometimes it can be as simple as learning something about myself, something that works, or doesn’t work. Because I’ve found knowing that things that do not work or that we do not like can be just as valuable as finding the ones that do work. Don’t laugh, but for me, the best life charge is going on an adventure! Because of the international influence on my upbringing, I’m always a bit fired up with every trip I take. Because I travel frequently for work, as I do quite a bit of international shooting, I try to mix in some travels for fun every chance I get. There’s also so many fantastic places in South Florida to visit, from equestrian experiences in Hollywood, to the rich art deco-infused history of Miami, to the majesty of the Everglades themselves. I’m learning something new every single day, and that charges me up and inspires me to continue to expand the stories that I’m telling through my films.

MLM: In addition to your film work, you're also involved in various philanthropic endeavors. How do you balance your passion for storytelling with making a positive impact on the world around you?

CR: I’m a big believer in all things in balance. Of course, balance can have a different meaning for different people, so I’d encourage everyone to sort out what that means to them! But for my part, philanthropic endeavors have always been very important to me. I’ve been interested in horses ever since I befriended my very first one in Australia when I was a child. For that reason, the opportunity to be involved in equestrian medical research is my way of continuing my connectivity to those wonderful animals that helped shape some of the joy of my life. I’m also really thrilled to be involved with our own local water brand, Jovē. The brand promotes healthy and clean drinking water both here in the states, and internationally as well. It’s such a critical component for life that we all have access to clean water, and I’m always honored to support local Floridian initiatives. All of these causes and initiatives that I’m so thankful to be a part of feed into all of my stories across television and film. There’s so many that probably seem disconnected in life, but I can say that if I didn’t participate in these causes and endeavors, my storytelling just wouldn’t be as good because I fear I’d become too one-dimensional. It’s by achieving a balance in my own life that I’ve found my storytelling to be maximized, and much, much more rewarding, too!

MLM: We have heard that you are currently living in sunny South Florida. What led you to move to this area and what do you like most about living here?

CR: I’m loving every minute that I get to spend in the state of Florida! Funnily enough, the very first trip my wife and I took when we got engaged was here to this state. It’s always held a very special place for me, ever since. Because of how often I travel for my films, and my need to be in Los Angeles and New York, Florida offers a precious refuge that just feels like home. One of the things that I’ve been taken with is the kindness of South Florida and its residents. There’s always so much to do and so much to discover. You’ll find me here whenever I have a break from work, likely writing my next screenplay that you’ll eventually see on the screen. Florida is such a creative hub, and I’m thankful to be a part of it!

MLM: Looking ahead, what exciting future projects are on your radar that you care to share?

CR: I’m really excited to say that I’m going to have a reunion with one of my producers on Expectations, Dave Hansen. We’ll be collaborating on a film that infuses the notion of the importance of family (what else!) and our internal strife when it comes to our work ambitions. It’s called Boy in the Moon, and it’s about something else we Floridians prize: the space program and NASA! I’m excited to be a part of the journey as this film showcases the life of a young, successful rocket engineer as he struggles a tragedy that strikes with the family that anchors him here on earth, and the pull of his dreams beyond the stratosphere as he makes space travel cheaper, greener, and more available. How it turns out, well, you’ll have to see.


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By ML Staff. Images courtesy of Chris Knight


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