After working 18 years as an on-set dresser for locally shot Hollywood features and 10 years as program director for the Independent Film Festival of Boston (which he cofounded in 2003), multi-hyphenate Adam Roffman decided he was ready for the next step — directing.
Along with filmmaker Luke Poling, he made “Spearhunter,” a short documentary about the Alabama outdoorsman of the title who established a museum dedicated to himself as “the greatest spear hunter in the world.” A deadpan, black-comic sampling of Gothic Americana reminiscent of Errol Morris’s “Vernon, Florida” (1981), it premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March and has appeared in over a dozen festivals since, including Hot Docs in Toronto and the IFFBoston last month.
Roffman discussed the film on the phone as he drove from New Jersey, where the film screened at the Montclair Film Festival, back to Boston, where he will be working on a big Hollywood movie. (“Central Intelligence?” “Ghostbusters III?” He is sworn to secrecy by a confidentiality agreement).
Q. How did you find this place?
A. My father had retired to Alabama and about four or five months later he called and said, “There’s no one down here like me and I’m very lonely. Please come visit.” I flew down, figuring, when else am I going to Alabama? Driving to his house we passed the museum. It has murals of animal heads and a guy with a spear painted outside it. I asked, “What was that?” Dad just shrugged and said, it’s just some spear-hunting museum. I was like, oh, one of those. So I decided I’m not going to see that in Boston and I thought it was worth investigating.
Q. How did your festival experience help in making the film?
A. I asked Luke to co-direct because, as programmer at the festival, I’ve watched thousands of films that were so close to being good and then they would make a mistake that screwed it all up. I didn’t want to make the same kind of stupid mistakes if I could have someone who has been through this before to catch it.
Also, I had met Luke because I had programmed his films at the festival. The same with the cinematographer and the composer of the score. The majority of the people who made this film I met through the festival.
Q. Did your experience on Hollywood sets also prove valuable?
A. I’ve done set decoration work alongside great directors like Robert Altman and David O. Russell. Also with less talented and less successful directors from whom I learned by seeing them make their mistakes. So I’ve used the work as a learning tool as well as a way to make a living.
Q. What’s up next?
A. It’s a short doc about a guy named Dion McGregor. He was a serial sleeptalker. Every night he would narrate his dreams. His roommate recorded them and they took the recordings to a record label and they were put them on albums in the late ’60s, early ’70s. The film is about the man, his dreams, the records, and includes sleep scientists who discuss whether the dreams were real or a hoax.
For updates of where “Spearhunter” can be seen go to www.spearhuntermovie.com.Interview was condensed and edited. Peter Keough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.