Mike Robe

1966, BS Journalism; 1967, MS, Radio-Television-Film  

Writer/Director/Producer of television films, including: Reversible Errors with William H. Macy and Tom Selleck;  Innocent with Bill Pullman, Marsha Gay Harden and Alfred Molina; Return to Lonesome Dove with Jon Voight, Reese Witherspoon and Chris Cooper. 

Currently working with novelist Scott Turow on a drama pilot for TNT

What is your fondest memory from your time at KU?
Those of us who seriously studied film at KU in the late sixties numbered only a couple of dozen, but we were a "community."  We ran our 16mm celluloid reel to reel through a Moviescope and cut the film on cold-splicer blocks in the equally cold basement of Hoch auditorium.  Technically we were primitive, but great educators like Bruce Linton and Richard Dyer MacCann helped us realize, it's not about how you physically make a cut, it's what the edit means aesthetically.   It's a great lesson for students today.  Don't worry about the equipment you (do or don't) have; concern yourself with the art it all.

How did KU help prepare you for your career?
As a wannabe filmmaker, KU exposed me to a much wider artistic canvas than I, as a youngster who grew up in small town Kansas, imagined at the time.  The French New Wave (Godard, Truffaut) became the fodder of daily discussion in my world on the Hill; classic documentary film (Nanook of the North; the Maysles brothers) became an appreciation theretofore unknown.  Too, I think I discovered at KU that I might just have a filmic voice worth hearing, even if one migrated to the working world of Hollywood.  

What advice can you give to current Jayhawks?
We have a great film program.  Dive in.  You'll only get out of it what you put in.  At the same time, I suggest this:  College may end up being the one time in your life in which you can immerse yourself in a broad liberal arts background.  Don't waste that!  Explore literature, the sciences, language, classic theatre, philosophy, the whole palette.  It's this body of knowledge you'll want and need to inform your art for the rest of your life.

What kind of training do you think FMS should include in its curriculum to help prepare students post-graduation?
It's just my bias, but it's based on 4 decades of connection to KU's film program through the Professional Advisory Board:  I'd love for us to develop a stronger emphasis on screenwriting.  We do teach a class or two in film writing and they're good; but the longer I've worked in the biz, the more I believe real worth, genuine emotional resonance, the best films -- spring from exceptional screenplays.  There's an old saying:  "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage."  You may or may not make a great film from a great script; but you will never make a fine film from pedestrian pages.  There is more we can, and should, do to teach writing for the screen.

Anything else you’d like to add?
In two years or so, we'll be moving Film & Media Studies to a new home.  With that move comes the opportunity to reinvent once more, our approach to the study of America's one great native art form.  Film, the theatre of the 21st century!  May the digital force be with us!  Can't wait.


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