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Newport Native Nominated For Oscar : Awards Are Key Reward For Short-movie Maker

March 24, 1986|RANDY LEWIS | Times Staff Writer

For feature-film makers, an Academy Award nomination usually translates into added revenues at the box office, increased videocassette sales and bigger budgets for future projects. A win simply multiplies the take.

But for the vanishing breed who produce short films, the end result of a victory on Oscar night is "mostly honor and prestige," said producer-director Bob Rogers, whose "Rainbow War" is one of three nominees in this year's Live Action Short category.

It is the second Academy Award bid for Rogers, a Newport Beach native whose production facilities have been based in Burbank since 1981. In 1983, his company's "Ballet Robotique" was nominated in the same category but didn't win.

"Having already been nominated once and not come away with the award, I've already got that part figured out," Rogers, 35, said by phone Friday from his office. "But I'm not blase--I'm much more excited this time. To be nominated once, you can be dismissed as a flash in the pan. But the second one is proof of consistency."

Bob Rogers & Co. Inc. has turned out more than a dozen short films in the last five years that have picked up more than 100 awards at American and foreign film festivals. Such recognition, he said, is vital because there are so few outlets for short films.

"With a TV show," he said, "you can quantify success with a rating. On a feature film you quantify success with a box office gross. But when (you) do a short film, you don't get ratings and you don't make money in theaters--the only way to quantify your success is through awards."

A former writer for Walt Disney Productions who also once worked as a magician at Disneyland, Rogers said: "In 1950, the short film market just died. Studios stopped making shorts for theaters. Today, the theater owner doesn't want to show shorts. (Pay TV services) don't pay any money. There are very few places left to do quality short subjects."

There are, however, some new avenues developing. With special-interest movie theaters like IMAX, Disney World's Epcot and increased media sophistication on the part of museums around the world, he said, "more people are seeing an opportunity for a short film that doesn't fit any of the previous molds--films made for a very specific purpose."

An example is "Rainbow War," an allegory about different peoples learning to overcome prejudices and accepting one another through direct personal contact. The film was created as a corporate project for Canadian Pacific Ltd., Canada's largest private transportation firm, and will be part of the company's presentation at Expo '86 in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"Most of what we do is for major corporations," Rogers said. "Pacific wanted something for the world's fair this summer. We presented them with several ideas, including the safe corporate history scenario. It happened that they picked the most daring idea on the list. I think it says something for Pacific because it's totally non-commercial. There isn't one product mentioned--it's pure entertainment."

If "Rainbow War" wins the Oscar tonight, Rogers doesn't expect a dramatic change in his life. But he did mention one financial goal: "I'd eventually like to make enough money to be able to afford to live in Newport Beach again."

Rogers' roots run deep in the beach community--his grandfather, George Rogers, helped create a navigable harbor in Newport in 1921, and his father, Howard Rogers, was a city councilman and mayor. In addition, Rogers still frequently works with one of his former Newport Harbor High School classmates, film editor Marshall Harvey, who edited "Rainbow War."

Although he joked about "forgetting my name" if called to the stage to collect an Oscar, Rogers indicated that he is ready in any case.

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