Just ahead of the nationwide release of his newest film, FAITH, HOPE & LOVE, we caught up with Greek-American Filmmaker Robert Krantz. He dishes on the film, co-star Peta Murgatroyd, and more.
Greek-American Filmmaker Robert Krantz
FAITH, HOPE & LOVE, the newest movie by Greek-American Filmmaker Robert Krantz, opens nationwide March 15-17. We caught up with him ahead of the release. Keep reading to learn more about the writer, director, producer, and actor, born Haralambos Karountzos whose made a name for himself making movies with Christian and family-oriented themes. He also talks about the film, and what it was like to work with Peta Murgatroyd.
Q&A with Robert Krantz
Maria A. Karamitsos: Where were you born & raised?
Robert Krantz: I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
MAK: Where’s your family from in Greece?
RK: My family comes from the Peloponnese. My dad’s family came from Gargialiani, Messinia and my mother’s side is from Tropaia, Arkadia.
MAK: When did you know you wanted to be in “show biz?”
RK: When I was about to graduate high school, something inside of me told me that I was supposed be in the movie business, but that thought was so far out there that I didn’t know how to process it. I was at a Greek Orthodox camp the summer of my senior year and I was walking to get lunch with Fay Kolster, one of the adult counselors. I told her that it felt like God was telling me this was what I was supposed to do with my future. She stopped and said we should pray about it. We stopped and prayed a short prayer. Decades later, I saw Fay and I asked her if she remembered that moment and she told me she remembered it like it was yesterday.
MAK: You guest-starred in some TV shows. Tell us about some of your roles.
RK: A: I learned a lot from each of the shows I was on. The first role I ever got was on the show ‘Hotel’. Ironically within hours of learning that I got that role, I also learned that Peggy Feury, who was my acting coach, had died in a car accident. I just remember being on the set and in between scenes, crying profusely. I learned so much from her.
I also acted in ‘Who’s the Boss?’ That was the first time I ever did a comedic role in front of a live audience. I learned so much doing that. And I learned that I was able to do drama and comedy, after doing that show.
I did a small role on ‘Matlock’. I had one scene. It was a complicated scene that happened to be the last shot of the day, right before everyone broke for Thanksgiving vacation. I could feel the entire cast and crew staring at me and praying that I would get it right as quickly as possible, so that everyone could leave. I got it done. On that day, I learned how to handle the pressure of getting a very difficult scene done in one take. That ability has served me well throughout my career. Some of the most difficult scenes I’ve had to do, I’ve gotten done in one or two takes and everyone was grateful, because it allowed us to keep the pace of production moving quickly.
One last show I remember was ‘Silver Spoons’ with Rickey Schroeder. I remember going to lunch with him and there was a huge bat in the back of his car. He told me that a stalker had come onto the lot and that when he left the lot, he carried it with him for protection. That, and many other moments with celebrities made me see that there’s another side of fame.
MAK: The first film you made was ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’. Tell us briefly about the film’s inspiration, and what it meant to you.
RK: I had acted in several films before ‘DYWD?’ Also, I had sold several screenplays to the major studios. However, I realized the TV shows and movies I acted in were fun and I got paid well, but then what? Same thing with selling scripts; I got paid well, but invariably the movie would end up in what is known as “Development Hell”; a place a script never gets out of.
So, around that time I realized all that, I met Father Chris Kerhulas. It was during a downtime in my life. He told me to come out to Chicago to visit him and his family and I did. It was only for a weekend, but it was a game changer for me; I told him I was going to make a movie about the core of that experience (the difference one human being can make in another’s life) someday… and that became ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’
MAK: Have you written, produced, and directed any other films besides ‘Christmas with the Karountzoses’?
RK: I’ve acted in several other films (‘Back to the Future’, ‘Woman in Red’, ‘Christine’, ‘Winners Take All’, etc.) but ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’ and ‘Christmas with the Karountzoses’ were the only other movies that I produced, wrote and co-directed.
MAK: Tell us briefly about Ellinas Multimedia, and your mission to produce films, write books, and create products with uplifting messages.
RK: When I was about to release ‘Do You Wanna Dance?’, my wife gave birth to our triplet boys: Chris, Nick, and George. We almost lost the boys during the pregnancy, so when they were born, I put my acting and producing career on hold. I wasn’t going to be running around the country acting and producing when my kids were growing up. So, I began Ellinas Multimedia. It began with the idea of what would I want to teach my kids about. The first answer was I wanted them to know about the saint they were named after. So, I created a series called ‘The Saints’. After that, ‘Greek 4 Kids’. Then later, the book, Guide to the Divine Liturgy. Like the movies I created, our products were uplifting and positive. Over the course of the next 20 years, Ellinas Multimedia became the leading manufacturer and distributor of Greek products in the country.
MAK: Let’s talk about ‘FAITH, HOPE & LOVE’. What inspired it?
RK: The short answer to that is God! I had planned to make a movie from my novel, Falling in Love with Sophia. But, one day, I was at the gym and I saw this dance class and in a matter of seconds the idea came to me and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. God put in on my heart and so I decided that it would be my next movie.
MAK: How long did it take to make the film?
RK: From the time I first had the idea, until now, it has taken 7 years. So much goes into the making and distribution of a movie.
MAK: What was it like working with Peta Murgatroyd?
RK: We had hired another dancer to play the lead female role in ‘FAITH, HOPE & LOVE’ However, 39 days before we started filming, I couldn’t get this dancer to rehearse. I had warned her manager repeatedly that I would make a change and, sure enough, she cancelled rehearsal one last time and I had to let her go. Everyone was upset with me and said we would never find a replacement. I prayed about it. A few days later, we had our final audition and Peta came in. She had never acted before, but I thought she did great. No one involved with the production wanted me to hire her. They didn’t think a dancer could learn how to act in a matter of a few weeks. But, I thought I could pull it off, if Peta and I worked hard at it. We rehearsed a great deal. I found her to be very easy going with a natural acting instinct. I knew after the first couple of rehearsals we were on to something. Fortunately, she trusted me and when I would give her direction, she would listen to me and execute things. The net result is she is absolutely GREAT in this movie.
MAK: We know you love to dance… how did you bring all that together – dance, faith, family, etc.?
RK: I think if you look closely, you will see dance, family, and faith in all the movies that I produce. Each one of those brings me so much joy. I love being with my family. I love being around dance. And I love our Faith. So, when I write, I consciously or subconsciously always seem to pull together those three loves into my movies.
MAK: FHL is opening across the country on March 15. Why is it so important to get out to see it as soon as it opens?
RK: Theater owners love the big studio films. They tend to not like independent films like ours. Consequently, they will give us the first weekend to prove ourselves. If the movie doesn’t do well that first weekend, they will pull the film. Also, the theater owners have told me for months that my Greek friends will say they are coming, but they really won’t show up. So, that first weekend of March15-17 is critical because if there is a good turnout, not only will the theaters keep it in their theaters longer, but other theaters/cities will start calling and ask to have the movie come to their cities. I’ve called our movie the “Five loaves and two fishes” of distribution. In other words, we are not a mega-blockbuster, but rather a small offering. Like the dutiful parent who packed the five loaves and two fishes lunch for her child that day that Christ fed thousands, I’ve prepared this offering as best I can. I now had it to God with the hope that he feeds to as many people as he desires.
Don’t miss ‘FAITH, HOPE & LOVE’
‘FAITH, HOPE & LOVES hits the theaters March 15-17. Be sure to see it during opening weekend to help extend the run and add more theaters. Here’s what people are saying about the film:
“This engaging romantic comedy Krantz has created has more layers than a theatrical blockbuster. Krantz has wrapped up deeper meanings, real life situations, and faith-filled moments into a beautiful package waiting to be unwrapped.”
~ CHRISTIAN CINEMA FILM REVIEW
“Krantz’s piece is in the top echelon of Christian movies. The writing is honest and inspiring. Krantz and Murgatroyd are spectacular. They lead the audience through huge emotional turmoil with humor and grace. The cinematography is beautiful, and the dance scenes will make viewers want to groove along with the music themselves.”
~ MOVIE GUIDE
We call it the feel-good film of the year. Check for theaters and showtimes here. Buy tickets now, because they are selling fast.