Locking in on Cannes Film Festival:
Waltham native Robert Locke's Debut Film

The Family Web
to be at famous venue.

 

By DeAnna Putnam TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER WALTHAM - The banks of the Charles are a long way from the French Riviera, but an independent filmmaker who grew up here will make the leap when he heads for the 53rd Cannes international Film Festival in two to weeks to market his first film, "The Family Web." Robert Locke, 33, has already seen his film achieve status as a Zoie Film finalist for "Best Feature Film" in the people's choice category. Locke and others finished the final edit of "The Family Web" at the end of February. The movie will be ready for theaters in June, he said. Cannes is "basically a schmooze-fest," he said, "If you don't go to Cannes, you're not in the movies. The video will be screened, and I'll go ; there with the trailer and a million business cards. But, I may already have a deal with a distributor back here before I go. " Marketing an independent film can be tough because some companies aren't going to get it. I'll show it to 19-, 20 -year-olds and they love it. Other people don't get it."

When Locke needed to find a band to appear in his film, he picked Big Fat Cadillac, whose style he describes as "heavy, Southern-type rock -n- roll. " Big Fat Cadillac's songwriter Chris Pavao's mother grew up with Locke's mother in Waltham. Locke first got into drama in sixth grade with Waltham Children's Theater. His parents, Martha and Bob Locke, still live in the city, and his mother teaches at Waltham High. After he graduated from high school, Locke went to Central Connecticut State University. "I majored in theater the first two years," he said, "then just switched my major to computer science to have something to fall back on." Locke also minored in math, which allowed Locke, to teach junior high math for a year when he first moved to New York.

The fall after he graduated from college, 21-year-old Locke wanted to give acting a shot. He packed his bags and moved to New York. where he's lived for 12 years. The following Summer, he landed his first job with a minor roll in a film called "Spike of Bensonhurst." The role landed him three days work, one spoken line, and his Screen Actor's Guild Card. Paul Morrissey, one of Andy Warhol's directors back in the 1960s, directed the film. After the film, Locke decided he wanted to concentrate on learning his craft. He started doing theater and said he has acted in more than 30 plays over the years. In 1992, Locke started a theater company when he met director Philip Jackson, who had a theatre space in Queens. "The deal was he had the space, I would do the work." Locke said. "Well, actually, he handled the technical side. I handled getting the actors and setting up auditions." The new production company, August Sun Productions, performed "The Family Web" as a play in the fall of 1994. Locke said he always thought the play would work well as a film, but at first didn't tell anyone. "The play had eight characters and the whole thing took place in their living room," he said. "You have a deadbeat dad, the crazy stalker boyfriend, the younger daughter is confused about her sexuality, and the son is a beer-guzzling member of a band."

Locke calls it a comedy about your average dysfunctional family, but then adds the family, all things considered, is actually doing pretty well. The oldest daughter is a lawyer, the son actually stuck around to help the mother out with the bills, and the youngest daughter just graduated from college. "But it's a wacky family," he said. "They're fighting all the time." . Cast members include Debbie Loeb, the sister of singer Lisa Loeb; model Jason Olive; Anthrax bandmember Frank Bello; actress Allison McDannel ("Another World"), and Trish McGettrick ("Celebrity," and guest appearances in "Law and Order" and "Guiding Ught"). Locke also plays a supporting role. After doing the play, Locke started taking classes on "guerrilla filmmaking" for new, independent film-makers. With what he learned, Locke started thinking about how the play could be reworked for film. He signed a contract in 1997 "with the playwright. Tim Burrows, who then set to work writing the screenplay. "Opening night I'll be crazy when we do it in New York," he said. "We've got bikers - bikers were part of the crowd and some of them have lines. They were regulars at the bar we used - the Caves on Staten Island. It was an old brewery, and they turned all the little rooms into caves." Locke said the film was filmed over eight days and produced for under $200,000. "If you can produce a movie for that, it's like squeezing blood from a stone," he said. But it cost enough that Locke was down to spare change after paying everyone. Once, he even had to sublet his apartment in the city for 12 months to pay to get the film transfers out of the Lab. I've always worked in restaurants," he said. "'When we were doing plays. I was producing theater on my tip money."

-Reporter DeAnna Putnam