Waitress Producer Mike Roiff talks to Michelle about his bittersweet Sundance Triumph.

Keri Russell's Waitress Producer, Mike Roiff Talks to EclipseMagazine.comMike Roiff is experiencing something few new producers have to. He had to face the tragedy of the death of his film’s creative visionary – Adrienne Shelly (who was murdered several months before the film was complete, while at the same time be thrilled with the fact that his first feature film project ended up sparking a bidding war at Sundance and making it the highest priced distribution deal in the history of the festival. It’s been a wild ride, while clearly still feeling the impact of the lost, he’s also excited that the culmination of Adrienne’s dream is about to become realized. 

Mike Roiff

It took two years to get things going and I’m incredibly thankful that Adrienne was willing to give me a shot at producing her film. I was kind of wondering what she was thinking, but everything worked out alright.

EM

Where you a big film buff?

MR

I love all types of films from popcorn movies to little indie films.

EM

Where you aware of Adrienne’s films before doing this project?

MR

I became aware once I was told she had a script. I was aware of her work with the Hal Hartley films. As an actress she’s great.

EM

How did you become involved in this project, since you didn’t have any previous experience?

MR

I had just finished producing a play here, which is a horrible endeavor since people in LA don’t support plays like they do in New York. So I asked myself why am I here in LA? I’m hear to produce television and films. So I went back east to raise money for a film concept. Once that was done, I started soliciting scripts and I read hundreds of horrible ones and then I was handed Waitress and I loved it.

EM

How did you solicit the scripts?

MR

Through partnerships and at that point in my life I knew a lot of friends who had scripts and started pounding the pavement.

EM

How did things change for you after Sundance?

MR

It’s only changed in the sense that now we have a chance to get this film out there with a fantastic company. I’m also working on two films right now.

EM

Are these studio or independent films?

MR

They are Independent films.

EM

You might as well plug them now.

MR

We are shooting a film called American Son about a young marine who is on leave for a few days right before he gets deployed to Iraq. The Marine is played by Nick Cannon. It’s a really powerful and moving film. The other one is called Ball Don’t Lie, it’s based on a book by Random House. The backdrop is about street basketball, but it’s about a kid who is getting bounced around in foster care.

EM

What was your experience like at Sundance, beyond just selling a film?

MR

It was pretty amazing, I was there once without a film and it was as much fun. Obviously it was a very hard time for all of us because Adrienne wasn’t there. But it was also exciting because we know she would have been very happy. It was a whirlwind for us.

EM

Not to be morbid, but do you think what happened with Adrienne had an impact on how high the film sold for?

MR

I don’t think it impacted the sale of it. I hope the film stands on its own. It’s a light funny film, with some depth to it. And Adrienne created this wonderful southern world that doesn’t really exist. But I do think it’s now part of the story. Adrienne was so specific and knew exactly what she wanted every frame of the film was what she wanted.

EM

Was the edit of the film exactly what she wanted before she died? And was there anyone from her family who worked on her behalf during the sale process? Did you have any discussions about what companies she wanted to work with and others she wanted to avoid?

MR

The cut of the film being released is her cut of the film. The only thing cut was one word for ratings purposes, but it was very important to me that we maintain the integrity of her vision. This is the film she wanted to make and we kept it that way. This was the film she wanted, she knew what she wanted and no one could touch it. So when we went to Sundance we wanted to work with a company that knew that this film was going to stay as is. Her husband Andy has been intimately involved in everything to make sure everything she wanted comes to fruition.

Keri Russel in The Waitress, Producer Mike Roiff Talks To EclipseMagazine.com

EM

Can you talk a little about Keri Russell? She’s getting a lot of great buzz in this…

MR

When we first met her in a Dinner, we nodded our heads and said, “Oh, yeah, that’s her.” Keri is a perfect person. She’s beautiful, she’s nice, she’s funny, and she’s charismatic. She got Mission Impossible three days after this part, so we put it on hold for six months until she was done. There was never a question that she wouldn’t be great in this. Of course we had to push and wait for her.

EM

Can you talk about the pies in the film?

MR

The props department was in charge of the pies. But again, Adrienne knew exactly what she wanted and how the pies should look and created all the recipes for them and guided the pie process all the way. For instance we were making this Spaghetti Pie and I had to run out to the store to get the ingredients and she yelled “don’t forget the Parmesan Cheese!”

EM

Will there be a recipe book?

MR

I keep getting asked that. I certainly hope so.

EM

So were all the pies in the film edible?

MR

Everything is edible. It’s not all good, but it’s all made from real food. For example, Jeremy [Sisto] hated it and wouldn’t eat it. Adrienne told him that she was not going to cut the scene until we ran out of film or he swallowed the pie.

The Waitress opens in limited release May 2, 2007

EM Feature Interview
By Michelle Alexandria
Originally Posted May 1, 2007

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