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A three-week internship on a movie production crew for film and TV production course credit at the University of Oklahoma turned into a career for Amanda Roberts.
Her subsequent success is documented by her name being listed in the credits on the hit show "Desperate Housewives."
She can attribute getting her toe into the doorway to film and television production to "it's all about who you know." In her case, it was a conversation with Jack and Louanna Bickham, who told her that their daughter Kim Percival was working in the production on a movie in Los Angeles.
"I e-mailed her and asked 'can I do an internship with you for credit at OU?'" Robert said.
She got an affirmative response, but it took a while to get the support of her parents, Paula and Barry Roberts, to spend three weeks on her own in Los Angeles. They saw it as a risky adventure. It was January 1997 when her dad drove her to L.A. in her two-seater Honda. "I had everything I owned packed in it ... for a three-week stay."
At the end of the three weeks, she was offered a job as a production assistant, and she told her parents she wouldn't be returning to Norman right away. Since then, she has had steady employment, working job to job for the first few years, as is the case for most working in the industry. Since 2004, she has worked in the production of "Desperate Housewives," her name listed in the credits.
"It goes by really fast," she said. "I think my parents record the show just so they can slow it down and read my name."
Roberts' move toward a career in film and TV production grew out of a love of movies. Her favorites were "anything with Goldie Hawn, 'Out of Africa,' musicals, I loved it all. So much of how I thought the world was going to be I got out of the movies."
She dreamed of living in L.A., though she didn't think about working in the film or TV industry. "I couldn't sing or dance so I wasn't in drama in high school. I didn't realize that I could have been painting scenery or building sets."
Graduating from Norman High, she entered OU as a journalism major, but soon transferred to Oklahoma State University, declaring a history major. Then browsing an OU catalogue, she saw the film and TV production listings. "Let's see what that is," she recalls thinking. Enrolling in the new OU program, she found it to be a film buff's dream. "I was watching film and dissecting it and writing about it."
That led to her journey to Los Angeles for the brief internship and for her continuing employment in the industry.
"That time was during the boom of independent films, when people were making movies financed on their credit cards," she said. She found one job after another, often with movies being shot in four to six weeks. "That's all it takes to make a really bad movie," she jokes.
Her work in production was always dealing with logistics, staying two steps ahead of the schedule and getting everything needed by the cast and crew. Sometimes that included arranging for a caterer to feed the crew, and sometimes it meant she drove to pick up the food herself.
One incident she recalls was on a particularly low budget movie called "Liar's Poker." The featured actor was someone she had seen in other films. "For lack of a better word, I had a crush on him," she said, someone she wanted to impress at the time. "We were shooting at the river. It was 100 degrees. I drove out and picked up trays of Thai food for 50 people. I set the trays on the top of my Honda hatchback. There was sauce everywhere, including on me. He came up to me and said "Hi. I'm John" and shook my hand and gave me a hug." It was a "worst day made good" in her memory bank.
While the work has been steady in show business terms, she once went four months without work. "I collected unemployment then. Those were days of thinking 'I don't want to call Mom and Dad just yet.'"
The recent writers' strike lasted three months, forcing her to go into savings. The owner of her apartment put off raising her rent because he understood the circumstances.
"The strike affected everyone because nearly everyone there is involved in the industry," she said, adding even restaurants felt the effect of workers losing three months of income.
Roberts' credits include working as production coordinator of such shows as "VIP" with Pamela Anderson ("she is really tiny, and very nice"), the ABC series "That Was Then," and "Threat Matrix," also for ABC.
It was on "Threat Matrix" that she first worked for George Perkins and Charles Skouras. "We did the first 12 and thought we were picked up for the back nine episodes. But just at holiday time, we found out we were out of work." The team of producers asked her if she could work on a pilot they were shooting called "Desperate Housewives." "It was just a little pilot, four housewives sitting in the living room talking. But halfway through it, we knew we had something. We believed in it, and it just exploded."
As production supervisor, she supervises a staff of five that hires the crews and manages the procurement and organization of everything they will need to keep the production on schedule. Her office is "the writers' first stop with the scripts and the schedules."
They work 12- to 14-hour days and it takes nine days to shoot each episode. She has daily contact with the actors and finds them all personable people who take their work very seriously, discounting the squabbles that sometimes make headlines.
"They are lovely to work with," she said. "There are no temper tantrums. They come to work as professionals. It is their job."
Roberts, now on a four-week hiatus before shooting begins on the fifth season of the series, says "I have found a nice home in TV. I like the idea of staying in production, but some day moving to the creative side of production."
As a line producer, she would work in development and casting, "and having input into the look of the show." In that way she would have more of an effect on someone watching the film or show, realizing "that is where their dreams come from," just as did her own childhood dreams.
She still has contact with Kim Percival and with her brother Michael Percival. Both work in the industry, she says. "Kim has a company that rents equipment to production crews, and Michael is a location manager."
Roberts herself has been able to provide the open door to several Oklahomans, remembering that her own start was through the "who you know" portal.
About her college education, she says "I think I would be classified as a junior. That's a sensitive subject."
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This Week's Circulars
Betty Jean Eastep, 89, of Norman, passed away on September 23, 2020. A service will be held 10:00 AM Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at Moore First United Methodist Church 201 W. Main St. Moore, Ok. 73160
Betty Jean Eastep, 89, of Norman, passed away on September 23, 2020. Service will be held, 10:00 AM Wednesday, September 30, 2020 at Moore First United Methodist Church201 W. Main St. Moore, Ok. 73160
LaVerne I. Coponiti, 81, Norman, passed away September 23, 2020. No services per her request. An intimate private gathering of immediate family held at a later date at Fairview Cemetery in Tuttle, OK. Online condolences may be shared at www.tribute.care
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