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"What we were looking for was the French New Wave or Italian neorealism," Robinette says. "We were totally enamored with that style of film. This was really a '60s pop-culture film. What little I knew about reading a script at that time, I identified with people or combinations of people who would fit those various characters."
Children was more sexually frank than most of what played in the United States at the time. Robinette says, "We were trying to push the envelope. This was not any more explicit than European films that were our influence at the time. We probably didn't even think that far ahead. We just went for it."
Distribution stalled, though. "We signed with a distributor, and part of the arrangement was that he was going to pay the lab bill," Robinette says. "We thought he understood the film. Yes, he understood the film, but he forgot to do this little thing called paying." The finished movie got shelved, and its makers lost track of it.
After years of false leads and a point when Robinette accepted that the negative had likely been destroyed, he resumed the hunt with his cousin Edie Robinette-Petrachi (who's also coming to the Alamo). At a family reunion, the two decided to renew the search; when they came across Children again, Robinette says, "We were two weeks from it being destroyed." He was able to buy back the film, allowing the cousins to present it finally as something other than a fond memory.
The film is worth another look for Hungarian-born Zsigmond's lovely work. Over the next 15 years, he would shoot Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Images, and win an Oscar for his work on Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Robinette says the film has had a lasting effect on him, but he adds that one of its actresses remembers the original shoot less fondly. "Sandy Gabriel remembers we had a lot of bologna sandwiches and white bread. She says, 'There's now two things I hate in life, and that's bologna and white bread.' "
Jason Wiles grew up in Lenexa and Kansas City but left the area at age 19 to try his luck at acting. He beat the odds, with a role in Beverly Hills 90210 and then as a lead in Third Watch, which lasted six seasons. There have been movie parts (he's in David Fincher's Zodiac), and he has directed a couple of projects (including the 2006 movie Lenexa, 1 Mile, aka Full Count, which he shot around here).
Wiles is at the Alamo for a 9:15 p.m. screening Friday, April 12, to present The Jogger, a film in which he plays the manipulative best friend of the beleaguered title character, Paul (Derek Phillips, Friday Night Lights). Paul's marital and work problems begin to seem small when a psycho chases after him in the woods.
"He's a guy who's always in control," Wiles says of his character, a sleazy salesman. "He's going to dictate how he's perceived almost. I was lucky enough not to have to work in those situations, but I had a lot of friends who went down that road and talk a big game. You never know what's underneath and where some of these insecurities lie. It was such a fun role to play because there weren't too many rules with that character."