I recently had the opportunity to speak with actor and producer Richard Blake about the upcoming release of his new movie The Rocket. One of the things I have always enjoyed about Richard is that he’s not afraid to step out and seek after something with all of his energy. I had a chance to watch the film in a pre-screening – and you can certainly tell his energy and passion was infectious with everyone he partnered with to bring this project to fruition. Naturally, that passion flows into how he speaks about the movie, but especially his love of entertainment as an art form.
My opinions on Christian movies are not always the most popular, as I often see them gravitate toward only one specific demographic. They are overtly Christian in every sense of the word – and often to the detriment of making something truly artistic and beautiful. In some cases still, they don the mantel of “Christian” yet appear to directly contradict much within the Scriptures. Throughout the span of history though, some of the most beautiful art has been done in the name of God. I firmly believe this can still happen today, even in the entertainment industry.
The thing about great stories is not that they are necessarily directly relatable – but that they still speak to the human condition in a way that resonates with people. As I talked with Richard, it was very clear that this is his goal, and I find that not only commendable, but also admirable – especially as the niche market for Christians in the entertainment industry can often take a recycled form. Stories are an incredibly powerful medium for truth – the question we have to wrestle with in this is how we can tell these stories with excellence.
With that being said, here’s the full interview with Richard Blake:
Grayson: First, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the background of the project? What’s it about? What motivated you to tell this story and why now? Why should people see it?
Richard: The Rocket is a coming of age story, filled with tragedy, loss, redemption, and magic. It’s a true story (my true story) of suffering a tragic accident at a young age and losing a lot of my physical abilities and aspirations. The lead character became an unlikely runner, and though out high school, their team won state championships with him running as the 7th man on a cross-country team. That’s the backdrop for this story. I was motivated to tell it because, truthfully, I myself in my own life have been dealing with “Things” not going exactly how I’d thought, planned, or envisioned in my own career, and was faced with the decision to still do my best or fold and give up. That’s the essence of this movie, NEVER GIVE UP, even if life takes a turn, you can still do great things. You can still be great. People should see it because one, it will speak to your heart about your own life or past situations. Two, and most importantly, it will entertain you.
G: What was one of the more challenging aspects of bringing this story to life?
R: The most challenging aspect was probably committing to seeing it all the way through, from page to final product. It’s a 3-year process, and “life” still happens all around you. It takes a lot of mental fortitude and determination to make the final product happen.
G: As a follow-up to the last question – what was the most rewarding thing about making The Rocket?
R: The most rewarding was working with my wife, family, and life-long friend BJ Rayniak. Also, providing opportunity for others to be part of a creative collaboration to tell a story has been the greatest thrill of my life.
G: I can imagine that is an amazing feeling to bring everyone together. Now, there is obviously a lot of hard work behind the scenes that nobody thinks about as they’re watching the movie – can you give us a glimpse into how you inspired the actors and crew to keep the momentum going?
R: I inspired the crew and cast by making sure they knew they each counted, they each mattered, and that they each were chosen and belonged doing their job. I also sought to inject a sense of urgency absent of fear into the whole team. Encouragement over correction, and often, correction will happen on it’s own as a by-product.
G: That’s really good stuff. Ok – without giving anything major away, what is your favorite scene in the movie?
R: I actually have two favorite scenes – there’s a quiet, intimate scene in the basement between father and son in this film, and the actors just nail it; it’s so real and effective. And then, there’s a practice scene where our lead character, Joshua, decides to apply his speed to a workout, the music lifts up, the cinematography is excellent; it’s so exciting.
G: Somewhat of an odd question here, but which actor in the movie is most like their character in The Rocket?
R: I honestly have no idea. Probably Dawn Holt Lauber, who plays the mother and is fantastic in the film.
G: Fair enough. Let’s switch gears for a second here. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Why did you choose to go into the film industry? What are your hopes and aspirations in producing quality content for people to enjoy?
R: I love movies, always have. More importantly I love stories and storytelling. It comes very natural to me. I love people, and making films is such a collaborative work and all types of people come together, connect, and help each other to achieve the same goal. It’s really very exciting to me; I get a high off it. My ultimate hope is to be running a successful production company with my wife and producing GOOD, thoughtful, exciting movies for all audiences. I’m a great admirer of classic, American cinema, Hitchcock, Wilder, Speilberg, DePalma – these guys are master storytellers and they make big, impactful, iconic films.
G: Absolutely. I will always remember the first time I sat down and watched The Birds with my mom. Hitchcock had a way of terrifying you without ever having to show you what you were terrified of. Now, we’ve talked about this a little bit in the past, but for our readers: are you a “Christian film-maker” or a Christian that makes films? What do you think the key difference is between those two things?R: I am a Christian who makes films. I’m listening to Third Day right now as I answer these questions – their first album, the one with the bus. Look, the real difference here is, if you’re limiting yourself to making “Christian Films” then you’re really just making one type of movie over and over again. In addition, you are GREATLY limited to inserting “reality” into these films so as to keep them audience appropriate. Yikes! The result, unfortunately, is often boring or ironically, lacking truth. Now, there is an audience for those films, and they should exist. But my take is, if Jesus were here on earth now, how he would be as a filmmaker. He’s a storyteller. He mainly spoke and communicated and connected through parables. Our version of parables now is on the screen, when you press play. Unfortunately, Jesus is not authoring most of the content out there these days, so if we’re gonna make a dent in a secular world, if we’re going to love and connect us as a people, we’ve got to be able to communicate to the world – to ALL people not just Christians who agree with us. As a Christian, I believe you can detect the Christian themes in major secularly popular films. Braveheart, Titanic, Lord of The Rings, The Matrix, Rocky, The Jungle Book, Lion King, E.T. – the list goes on…
G: That’s definitely true. The literary world has a character profile built uniquely around the person of Christ – and while they don’t necessarily see Him for who He is, they recognize the power of His story and inject it into their own. Switching gears a little again, but what about the future – do you have any plans in the works you can tell us about?
R: We have three, count them, three films in pre-production at the moment. Scripts are written and one of them is optioned. We’re basically in the fund raising stages of setting a budget and finding the finances to produce the next project. One is a thriller called “Blame”, the other is about a female MMA fighter called “Concrete Girl”, and there are many more. We’re also developing a series about Lucifer’s fall from heaven entitled “Earth Born Angels”. It’s pretty big, so it will take some development.
G: Excellent. We’ll definitely keep an eye out for what comes next. Alright, last question: where can people find The Rocket so they can watch it?
G: Perfect. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me on this – I hope The Rocket does well for you guys and you’re able to keep making movies.
You can also follow news about The Rocket and any of their future projects below:
Click Here to see a review on The Rocket from The Dove Foundation.
Richard Blake started out his acting career in the city of Chicago, IL. In addition to acting on stage, as well as commercially, he modeled for such names as Abercrombie & Fitch, The Gap, Nike, and Calvin Klein. After joining the Screen Actors Guild, Richard headed west to seek further opportunity as an artist. He’s appeared on several television programs including Everwood, Drop Dead Diva, Cold Case, CSI, NCIS: Los Angeles, as well as several recurring appearances on soap opera’s, Days of Our Lives and Harmony’s Passions.
After a few bit roles in the films, “Accepted” and “The House Bunny”, Richard landed a larger, supporting role in 20th Century Fox’s “Dragonball: Evolution” in 2009. Since then he’s continued to work on TV as well writing and producing several of his own projects. In 2012 he was cast as one of the leads in the 60’s set indie film “Snake and Mongoose” playing real life drag racing legend Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. The film boasts a well-rounded cast including Jesse Williams, Noah Wyle, and Tim Blake Nelson to name a few.
In addition to acting, Richard has always been a writer and has retained options for two original screenplays. In 2015 Blake founded the company Amberock Productions with his wife. They immediately went into production on their first feature film “The Rocket” based on a true story.
Blake resides in Los Angeles with his wife.