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Joe Roos poses for a photo with some of the young cast members in his short film, "The Red Ball." (Photo by Mario Townsend)
Joe Roos poses for a photo with some of the young cast members in his short film, "The Red Ball." (Photo by Mario Townsend)

Film buff: Roos pursues career in movies

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lifestyles Worthington, 56187
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

Joe Roos loves stories. He loves coming up with stories. He loves hearing stories. He loves relating stories.

Now, he wants to share stories in a professional mode — as a filmmaker.

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“Even when I rapped, I fancied myself a storyteller,” explained Joe, the son of Bill Roos of Worthington, 2002 graduate of Worthington High School and former rap performer. “When I’m hanging out with people, I usually tell a story. Film, to me, is combining media to tell a story. It’s what you see and what you hear at the same time.”

Currently a student at The Los Angeles Film School, Joe just wrapped filming on his first major project, a short film called “The Red Ball.”

Hollywood or bust

Joe moved to California about two and a half years ago, following a stint in the National Guard and earning a degree in professional communications at Metropolitan State University in the Twin Cities. He got his first public relations experience as a member of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division of the Minnesota National Guard.

Previous to being sent to Iraq in 2009-2010 , he had written a rap song, “Troop” — a tribute to soldiers — and got the OK to film it as a PR tool during the Red Bulls’ deployment. The resulting video caught the attention of people at the Pentagon. More recently, another National Guard project resulted in more public recognition.

“When I was in the Minnesota National Guard, we were working with TPT (Twin Cities Public Television) to produce a documentary called ‘Battlefield for the Home Front,’” Joe explained. “It won an Emmy — a regional Emmy. … I was part of a team for that, part of a whole set of coordination that was laid out by my commander, Lt. Col. Kevin Olson. He’s now the director of public affairs for the National Guard. Kevin has, for the last seven or eight years of my life, been like a mentor to me. He is one of the most detail-oriented people you’ll ever meet. I’ve often said, if he was planning to rob a bank, I would be in on it because I believe in his planning ability so much.”

Those National Guard projects piqued Joe’s interest in filmmaking, so he looked into film school after moving to California, but also sought gainful employment. He was hired to do public relations for Casa Loma College and as an audio video technician for the Los Angeles Kabbalah Centre.

“I was not really loving my life or my job, and I was thinking I could do PR in Minnesota and at least be around all my friends,” he recalled about how he almost moved back to the Twin Cities. “But that was not why I came out here. The school I was doing PR for went through a downsizing, and I was laid off. I had expressed an interest in the LA Film School, because I had a little bit of the GI Bill left that I could use, and the very same hour that I was laid off — that very same hour! — the film school called me back and said, ‘Hey, are you still interested in going to film school?’ ‘By golly, I am.’ … It was kind of incredible how it happened. It was a low point and a roller coaster back to a high point, and it couldn’t have been more than 45 minutes.”

Joe started at The Los Angeles Film School in March 2013. Because he already had a bachelor’s degree, he was able to skip the generals and is on track to finish the 18-month program at the end of March and graduate with his fellow students in the summer.

“This is how well it worked out: Because of how much GI Bill I had used up to that time, I had 15 months I could use. With this program, I will have exactly one month and three days left of the GI Bill when the program is done,” he noted. “And life is good. I’m living in North Hollywood, have a two-bedroom apartment and usually rent out the other room. I have a job (still at the Kabbalah Centre), a girlfriend, and I just finished directing a short film.”

‘The Red Ball’

That short film is Joe’s first step toward a career in the cinema, and he’s integrally involved in every aspect of it.

“I wrote mine. I directed mine,” Joe said. “A lot of instructors said you should not take on all that extra stuff, but I also wanted to produce my own film. I wanted to know everything about the product.

“Writing and coming up with the story is the part that really gets my blood pumping. That’s when it’s new and exciting. Directing is fun, because it’s all about working with the actors, lining up the camera so you have everything in the frame that’s going to tell the story you want. And producing is one headache after another.”

For his first major film undertaking, Joe elected to keep the story and production quite simple. Some of his fellow students’ ideas were a bit too elaborate, in his opinion, with big casts, special effects and high production values.

“When I heard all of my cohorts talking about their lofty ideas for production, I was reminded of something my dad, Bill Roos, told me when I was a Trojan junior varsity tight end,” reflected Joe about his growing-up days in Worthington. “I wanted a top-brand type of football cleats, and my dad was raising six kids on his own, so money was an issue for luxury items like the newest cleats. He told me, ‘Joe, it doesn't matter what kind of shoes you have on. All you have to do is run harder than the other guy and hit harder than him.’ He was right. And I took that attitude into this production. So long as I wrote the best story I could and worked incredibly hard and knew my shots and my equipment, I didn't need a gigantic budget to pull off a great story, or to tell it in a compelling way.”

While listening to public radio, Joe heard about a scientist working with Capuchin monkeys and rewarding them for completing simple tasks. One monkey got a cucumber for his reward and was content with that treat until he saw a second monkey get a grape — a much more desirable food to a monkey.

“The first monkey knows the second monkey got a grape, so when he gets a cucumber a second time, he is not happy,” Joe explained. “Even Capuchin monkeys can understand the concept of fairness. It was fair until the second monkey got the grape. I decided to take that idea and meld it with the idea that we’re not ready for the super big equipment yet. I came up with the idea of the red ball.”

Joe’s film, “The Red Ball,” explores what happens to a young brother and sister playing in the park when they encounter other children playing with increasingly bigger — and hence more desirable to them — red balls. After months of preparation, “The Red Ball” was filmed over several days in mid-January in a Los Angeles park.

“Every single day was sunny,” Joe noted. “The weather was the big variable. We have every single shot that we need to tell the story. We got every shot on the shot list. Working with kids in LA, they can only be on set for eight hours, so I had to hire a studio teacher. The children do school for the first couple of hours, and then we only get them for four hours.”

Support system

Joe’s filmmaking venture may have been modest, but it still cost a good chunk of change to accomplish it — about $5,500, he estimated, for shooting permits, a stunt coordinator, the studio teacher, location food and other costs.

“I was able to get my production costs down because I’m a student,” he explained. “I finagled student discounts everywhere I could and used The Los Angeles Film School’s equipment. I did the math on what it would cost if this wasn’t a student film, and the film would have cost just over $45,000.”

Many of his fellow students served as crew members on the production, and he will reciprocate on their ensuing productions. But he also received a lot of support — financial and otherwise — from family and friends. Joe set up a website, www.theredballfilm.blogspot.com, and continues to accept donations toward the film’s still-unreached goal there.

“I have been blown away by the support from my family and friends,” he said. “It’s humbling, and every step of the way it’s a reminder that for every headache I went through, it was never even an option to fail. It was always just a speed bump, not a road block, because I had so many people believing in me.”

With the filming completed, Joe has put “The Red Ball” in the hands of an editor and is already moving forward on his next endeavor. When the editing process is completed, he plans to enter “The Red Ball” in film festivals across the country and around the globe.

“I’ve noticed that I’ll work on a goal for a long time, and I’ll spend every waking hour with it, spend all my time thinking about it, but once I achieve the goal, it’s like it died, and I’ll go through this period of depression. So I’ve gotten better in the last two years. When one project is about to be wrapped up, I get another one started.

“… While I’m working on these other students’ theses, I’m working on producing the next one I have written,” Joe continued. “The first one had no dialogue and was a super-serious story. The second one is very heavy in dialogue and not serious at all — very light-hearted, very funny. I wanted to show that I can do both.”

Joe has also written a feature-length film, inspired by his time spent in the Minnesota National Guard.

“The idea with these short films is to build a body of work, so it will be my calling card when I go to a production company,” Joe said. “The ultimate goal is writing and directing. Maybe when I’m in my 50s, then maybe producing. I have a lot more to learn.”

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers

can be reached at 376-7327.

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Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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