Royce Adkins: Filmmaker & Storyteller
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
"All directors are storytellers, so the motivation was to tell the story I wanted to tell. That's what I love." - Spike Lee
Independent filmmaker Royce Adkins has told numerous stories through several mediums and shows no signs of slowing down. He had just released his latest project less than a week ago at the time of this interview. We caught up with Royce to chat about his diverse career and a few other things. And here's what he had to say...
What made you want to get into filmmaking?
Royce: I was influenced being on set with my dad when I was younger, it didn't initially make me want to become a filmmaker. But I did like the set life atmosphere, being in that environment. But what definitely made me want to tell stories, is when my parents took me to go see the first "Toy Story" when I was six. I would spend the next several years experimenting with filmmaking, animation, and learning how to draw. I wasn't sure which avenue I wanted to go down, but I knew I wanted to tell stories.
So what made you decide on traditional filmmaking?
Royce: With guidance from my dad, who told me I always had a knack for directing, said, "Put a camera in your hand, and just start shooting stuff." I was a tad resistant at first because I really wanted to do the animation thing. I thought that was my true calling, but that Path wasn't really for me. So after high school, I decided to make film making my main focus.
Royce: Well, I met Gui through mutual friends and told him about the concept of the project right away. I was a bit nervous because I didn't think it would be something he would be interested in, and sure enough he was trying to get away from the stunt stuff and more into acting focused projects. And for myself, I've never done action shorts before. So our mutual wants made for a great collaboration.
Gui told us he wants to be The action star.
Royce: The action parts we knew he was gonna kill it because that's what he does. But I was more impressed with what he brought from a more traditional acting standpoint. I was very happy with having a project turned out. We just released it about a week ago.
Let's go back a few years to one of your earlier projects for College Humor. It was very interesting for several reasons. One being, you got to direct your father (legendary standup comic and actor Sinbad), and the other being a very unique topic was addressed.
Royce: (Laughs) So everybody seemed to think my father starred in a movie called ‘Shazam’ sometime in the 90s, where he played a genie. We don't know where this came from or how it was even born. But this Mandela effect really started to pick up steam around five years ago. My father and I got this idea to do an April fool's joke based around it. Low and behold college humor was trying to do something based around it also, and they called up my dad and it became a collaboration. I was brought in to make sure my father's vision and what college humor was trying to do aligned with each other. The end product did its job because a lot of people were fooled into thinking it was real.
To confirm it for everybody, there is no 90s Sinbad genie movie named Shazam?
Royce: Absolutely not.
What style of a filmmaker are you? Are the technical aspects more important to you, or do you focus on the story first and put everything else into place after?
Royce: It definitely has to be a story first. You can shoot something and it can look and sound amazing, but if the story sucks nobody's going to care about it. But to be fair, early on I did obsess over those technical aspects, but I learned to take a step back and not be over-reliant on the technology.
You have a comic book series called 'BioPunks'. What made you switch mediums for this project?
Royce: It was originally written to be a live-action feature, but when you're working in the sci-fi genre, concepts can become very expensive to bring to life. I actually tried to do a kick starter to film the first 10 pages of my screenplay, but that didn't go over so well. So I decided to go into another medium that I always loved. These days every other movie is based on a comic book. So my mindset was if I can tell my story this way, build a following, maybe that would be my way back in. Because being a filmmaker was always the end goal. Going from that idea, a friend of mine had already done some storyboards sketches for the Kickstarter project that fell through. From the way he did it, I said, “This is already a comic book”. Another thing that happened as we were adapting the script to the comics, as we were able to expand the story, that definitely made the story stronger and made me appreciate it more. So we put together five issues and started shopping it around on the comic book convention circuit.
You spoke about using crowdfunding to support one of your projects. If you were able to choose the financial route for your career, would you go with the studio system and give up total creative control over your projects? Or Would you rather stay independent with respectable lower budgets and keep 100% control?
Royce: I would honestly prefer going the indie route to get my movies made. But I'm not foolish, I know with the big studio movies come the big studio checks. But I would never do a studio movie just for that reason or to just get my name out there. It would definitely have to be the right project. And of course, the collaboration would have to be respectable from both sides. Movie studios are known to come along and change the filmmakers' vision into what they think is right.
What directors are you a fan of, which ones have inspired you as far as filmmaking?
Royce: Robert Zemeckis was a big influence without me even realizing it at first. A lot of his movies were my favorites and later on, I found out it was him that made them. Other directors that I like are Spike Lee, Christopher Nolan, Antoine Fuqua, Ryan Coogler, Patty Jenkins. Another big influence on me is Gina Prince-Bythewood. I loved her movie "Love and Basketball", another favorite of mine by her is a tremendously underrated movie called, "Beyond The Lights".
What are your thoughts on the lack of diversity for movie awards prime example being the Oscars? And how important are those types of accolades to you?
Royce: Obviously you want to be recognized for your work, and the Academy Awards the iconic award of excellence and everybody in the industry wants it. But as far as diversity, it became very clear to me that year (2016) that only a particular group of people were being recognized for being the best. And all other groups of people were just outright ignored. For example, a great movie called "Creed" came out that year. And the only thing it was celebrated for was Sylvester Stallone. Not writer/director Ryan Coogler or Michael B Jordan. The "Rocky" series was clearly running out of steam, and here comes this hot, young filmmaker who got hardly any recognition from his peers for reviving a classic series. It would definitely be an honor to be recognized, but overall the award (the Oscar) has lost a bit of its luster.
What was it like growing up with a famous father?
Royce: As far as fame, I hated that part. Any time I was with him when he went somewhere there were people with cameras everywhere. it made me feel very uncomfortable. As far as him being a father, it was awesome. It was nothing like that stereotypical story where I never saw him because he was so busy. He would travel all the time, but he would always be there. I struggle with small things like keeping a zoom meeting. But with all of the things that he had to juggle when I was growing up, he was a real-life superhero.
How has it affected your career?
Royce: People assume it must be easy because I just use my dad’s name to get where I want to be. It's actually been the complete opposite. People have actually refused to see me or respect me as my own individual filmmaker, or some people would pretend to want to work with or teach me something just to try to pitch a project to my dad. I've actually gained more footing in this industry when people didn't know who my dad was.
Well, we definitely appreciate you taking the time for us. Be safe and good luck on your success and future projects.
Royce: It’s all good. I love what you all are doing with the site. Thank you for having me.
Big things are on the horizon for Royce. The combination of talent and drive in him is undeniable. Whether on the page of a comic book or film from a camera, you can rest assured that Royce Adkins stories will command your attention.