Indie film "Nobody" begins pre-production on St. Patrick's Day

It was odd enough that a writers’ group called Eat, Drink & Be Published would be eating, drinking and dishing at Ensemble, a Linden Hills boutique, instead of at our usual wine bar. Odder still was the distinct segmentation of a crowd that usually blends.

Sitting in folding chairs were 25 or 30 women, mostly veteran writers. More writers’ group members, including half a dozen men, stood in back, by the beverages. At the front of the room, surrounded by a beginner entourage—his producer and a few college buddies—perched diminutive screenwriter Rob Perez, clutching a St. Paddy’s Day Guiness and looking not a day over drinking age.

“Uh…what are we talking about?” asked Rob after he’d been introduced by PR maven Rebecca, forgetting his manners—he really should have thanked her for gushing.

“How did you get into the movie business?” prompted Rebecca.

From there, we heard a rather disjointed account of 35-year-old Rob’s journey from Middlebury College in Vermont to L.A. to be a “yogurt boy”—er, production assistant—on The Larry Sanders Show. Four years later, his comedic scripts caught the attention of the folks putting together a pilot for what would become South Park. He turned that down. Rob didn’t want to write for TV. He wanted to write movies. And so he has.

He wrote the feature 40 Days and 40 Nights, starring Josh Hartnett. The movie is about a young man who gives up sex for Lent. Rob told the assembly that it’s semi-autobiographical. He had intended to write it as a book but it came to a whopping 12 pages, so he turned it into a film treatment. That worked.

Originally Ashton Kutcher was to be the leading man, but Miramax fired him, and in came Josh. That’s how Rob got religion about Minnesota and decided to move here to shoot his film Nobody, of which he is both writer and director. “The Snowbate helped, too,” Rob said.

The Hartnett connection may also explain the choice of Josh’s best pal Sam Rosen (left), reportedly a cousin of sportscaster Mark Rosen, as the lead in Nobody, the story of an artist trying to find inspiration while attending art school. Although Rob wouldn’t confirm, rumor has it they’ll be shooting scenes at MCAD, which would make sense. The film is being produced by Christine Walker.

Today was Day One of pre-production. That’s why I’m giving Rob a break for being such a spacey speaker. I did enjoy his answers to audience questions, which went on for at least 45 minutes. (The questions, I mean, not his answers.) He was generous to share his time and his story after what had to be a very long day.

Rob’s top tips for would-be screenwriters:

  1. “Write like you talk. Simplify.”
  2. “Use your connections. I had a few, and I stalked them.”
  3. “Keep working. In this industry, the cream always rises.”

Now my advice to Mr. Perez: In a room filled with professional writers, several of whom have been published many times over, never, ever say, “Ninety-seven percent of the people in this room can’t write.” Too many cracks like that and you’ll find yourself at the wrong end of a sharp pencil.

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