An Interview with Pasha Roberts, Director of ‘Silver Circle’

Snapper S. Ploen


Imagine a future where the dollar has lost its value. A future where the government has taken over housing and Americans riot in the streets over exorbitant gas prices. Considering the events of the past five years, this isn’t such a hard thing to conjure in the mind. Highbrow Magazine recently had the opportunity to review the new animated thriller, Silver Circle, by director Pasha Roberts. It’s a project that explores these economic pitfalls and how those of a certain controversial mindset might seek a resolution for those issues.


Roberts was kind enough to grant us an interview and explain some of the plot points and overall philosophy of his film.


Highbrow Magazine: Can you tell us a bit about Silver Circle’s creation and timeline of development?

Pasha Roberts: We have been working on Silver Circle for four years - we saw the story-telling potential of the 2008 crash, and were inspired to create a feature film set inside a full-scale dollar crash.  We spent a year working out the script with Steven Schwartz - an L.A. screenwriter who actually lived in Argentina during the collapse of the peso and its hyperinflation.  We shot with live actors in our Cambridge, Mass. studio in 2010, and since then, lots of animation and post.


What was the most difficult aspect of the production and why?

Pasha Roberts: There are always tradeoffs in production, and especially when you're an upstart animation studio.  We're here to make high-quality animation for about 1 percent of the $200 million Pixar blockbusters. A dedicated small crew and a lot of software advances are now making this possible, which is exciting - but we couldn't throw money at $50,000 motion capture suits or crowd simulation software or other niceties.  We had to work around many of these things with long hours and innovation.


Your film is quite political in its plot and dialogue. It seems to subscribe to a Libertarian point of view, especially in reference to the Federal Reserve. Why did you choose this particular medium (animated film) to present your ideas in the socio-economic arena?

Pasha Roberts: A live action film with this script would have cost much more, maybe $30 million, and been very impractical given the secrecy surrounding the Federal Reserve.  They are very, very touchy - their guards will kick you out of public sidewalks for taking pictures with your phone. Though we see less "serious" animation in the U.S., it's a powerful medium - you can do anything.  The other amazing thing about animation is that it brings us squarely into the comics/animation world, a huge, diverse, and thriving marketplace who have accepted us, our movie, and our graphic novel with open arms. Our goal is to fit in with films like "Waltz with Bashir" - good stories that are animated and that have a political backbone.



In watching the film, I felt that the rudimentary style of animation often detracted from the emotional impact simply because the characters and their facial expressions did not seem to transmit readable emotions. Do you feel this may be an obstacle in translating an impact to audiences?

Pasha Roberts: Because we pushed a gritty, realistic visual style, we did push a bit into a cognitive oddity that is known as the "uncanny valley."  Our animation is more detailed than, say Family Guy or The Simpsons, and comparable to The Clone Wars and many video game cut-scenes.  But, sometimes it doesn't look that way because of the visual style.  The solution is to push forward with another couple hundred million dollars, or to dial the visual style back to be less real.  We weren't ready to abandon the cool cell-shaded world these characters live in, so there is a little bit of that effect in play.  Another option would be a Miyazaki style, with detailed backgrounds and simpler characters. Part of it too, is audience expectation - animation is still coming of age in the U.S.  All told, I think we did extremely well for our budget and path.  Remember we're this upstart studio, not Pixar.



Why type of audience are you hoping to attract with this film? What do you hope they take away from this experience?

Pasha Roberts: We want to tell a great, emotional, interesting story.  We want our audience to laugh, cry and feel the suspense.  It's an interesting bonus that this story has a spine of ideas that goes back centuries.  It based on real institutions and on real economic phenomenon that have repeated in history since at least the Romans. A lot of our core audience are people who are aware of this history and enjoy seeing what could easily play out here in the USA.  Thanks to recent politics, more and more young people are aware of this potential.


In the film, your protagonists often use violent means to achieve their objectives (arson, blowing up government buildings, etc.), however they conveniently kill no one. Your heroine even has a Guy Fawkes [who famously attempted to blow up England’s Parliament] poster in her secret hide-out. Is this a means to convey your anti-Federal Reserve message without actually advocating murder and do you think that decision is a responsible one?

Pasha Roberts: While Silver Circle does challenge some powerful institutions, we are not foolish enough to challenge our own film genre.  Audiences expect car chases, fights, romance and explosions in a thriller-romance, and we deliver.  This formula was developed well before the Rebels blew up the Death Star in Star Wars.  The Guy Fawkes reference, for example, was vastly popularized by the movie V for Vendetta. It's healthy to understand the difference between fantasy and reality.  Most in the libertarian community adhere to a concept known as the Non-Aggression Principle, a strong moral principle against violent aggression.  You see references to this in the movie as well.


Two things in the movie came across as political realities in the near future: Nearly all the characters were different races or of mixed heritage – something becoming more and more common place in America - and marijuana is legal (assumingly nationwide). Do you feel these issues (racial diversification and drug legalization) will be the norm in the near future of the U.S. and if so why?

Pasha Roberts: I think we're already there, though the culture and laws may not have caught up with it.  It depends on where you live.  We don't have any racial message in Silver Circle, but put together our rebel crew to feel like our own neighborhood.  Not everybody is straight, white and male.  I'm with Martin Luther King to judge by the content of their character, and leave it at that.  As for drugs, I myself tend to focus on coffee or scotch, but do feel that the war on drugs is a national tragedy. It just fills up our jails, creates violent crime and wastes lives.  It is a good thing that some states are starting to open this up.



Your studio, Lineplot, seems to favor creative endeavors which reinforce “free market philosophy.” Is it safe to say there are more projects in the pipeline to spread the ideas of this economic theory? If so, could you possibly tell us about what we might expect?

Pasha Roberts: We do have a treatment for the sequel already; set in a pre-secessionist 2028 America, the rebels escape westward, and...well, I won't give away too much.  It's exciting also because technology had advanced and will let us fill in some of the more expensive or weaker parts of our production pipeline.  Our goal is to tell this kind of smart, liberty-themed, politically aware action story for as long as the market will let us.  It depends on the market, but we see a lot of unmet demand out here.


Author Bio:

Snapper Ploen is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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