Accessing Bobbie Lautenschlager

As medical missionaries for the Lutheran Church, the Lautenschlagers took their two children and headed to a country trying to dig out from under a recently ended civil war.

 

Known as the Godmother of St. Louis Independent Film, Roberta “Bobbie” Lautenschlager has championed the works of local filmmakers throughout the last decade. A fixture in both the production and presentation communities, Bobbie has taken a long road to find her niche in the film world. Part of Lautenschlager’s title as godmother is due to her age. Probably in her late 50s, she stands out among the independent film crowd, an arena dominated by young men. Her age may distinguish her, but it is her work that defines her. A tireless woman, she flits about the office of her day job at a Lutheran church in Soulard, tying up loose ends before leaving for the Sundance Film Festival early the next morning. Although she is constantly sorting papers, making notes, and filing weekly church programs, she continues the interview with little prompting, speaking at length about film, production, and her life. Her energy is infinite, and after spending a few hours with the former missionary, one is either drained completely or fully energized by the experience.

Bobbie started her journey into the film world as a nurse. With her husband, Dr. John Lautenschlager, she left her home for Nigeria in 1971. As medical missionaries for the Lutheran Church, the Lautenschlagers took their two children and headed to a country trying to dig out from under a recently ended civil war. After lending their medical skills to the rebuilding nation for the next 18 years, the Lautenschlagers returned to the United States and settled in St. Louis to finish raising their family.

In a roundabout way, this African adventure lead to Bobbie’s interest in film. While in Niger, Bobbie discovered the story of Mungo Park, the Scottish explorer who first mapped the Niger River. Mungo’s trek so touched Bobbie, she “felt I had to tell the story.” Not feeling the call to be a novelist, she wrote a screenplay originally titled Joliba (it now goes by River of Sorrow). But writing the screenplay wasn’t enough; she wanted to make the movie. “I knew I had to understand the business,” Bobbie recalls. “I had to learn the language. Africa was about learning a new culture; production was about learning a subculture.” To learn that language, Lautenschlager subscribed to industry magazines Variety and Hollywood Reporter and took an opportunity to see Oscar-nominated director John Singleton speak at Washington University. What struck her most, Bobbie relates, was something Singleton said: “He’d gotten where he was by volunteering.”

Which is exactly what she did. She started by helping young film students on various projects, both as an actress and behind the camera. One of her first experiences in production was on Mike Steinberg’s feature Amateur Hour in 1996. Steinberg describes Lautenschlager as “the glue that held the movie together. Bobbie never thinks of the limitations and, as a result, accomplishes quite a bit.” Lautenschlager says what she learned from those early experiences is this: “Access is what the whole world of production is about. Access to talent and money.”

Bobbie has worked ever since to gain that access. One avenue of access is her work at the St. Louis International Film Festival. Bobbie started helping in 1994 and has worked her way up to curator of the New Filmmakers Forum. “All the filmmakers remember Bobbie,” notes Chris Clark, managing and artistic director for SLIFF. “She continues to correspond with participants and helps many of the filmmakers that come through.” She has now been running the NFF, a sidebar focusing on first-time filmmakers, for six years. The sidebar allows Bobbie not only to view a great deal of work by young filmmakers, but also to throw her networking skills behind her favorites—and her networking skills are formidable. Doug Whyte, development director for dhTV, describes Lautenschlager as “refreshing, motivated, passionate, and unrelenting.” Bobbie assisted Whyte in finding a distributor for his documentary about the mortuary business, Pushing Up Daisies.

This is the second key to Lautenschlager’s reputation as the godmother of local film: in addition to developing her own projects, she is constantly helping other filmmakers. Acting as a producer or script supervisor or just consulting, she is always ready to lend her experiences, wisdom, and a helping hand.

Another way Bobbie has expanded her networking is by attending other festivals, further exposing her to talent as well as avenues for that talent. Sundance, Memphis, and Cannes Film Festivals are just a few of the festivals the “Godmother” has graced. Often Bobbie is representing a film she has worked with, but usually it is just for the experience. “It is an investment, and you must be willing to make that investment,” she states about her regular sojourns to festivals, along with the expenses she incurs. “But the cost is worth the opportunity.”
Lautenschlager’s résumé reads like a who’s who in St. Louis independent film, though she has never limited herself to local projects. Although she’s “never going to Hollywood,” she feels that local talent must move out of the region in terms of having their work seen. Having the work seen provides the all-important access. To that end, Bobbie has partnered with filmmakers locally and around the globe. She is producing Fundamental Fairness: One Man’s Journey to Judgement, a documentary about a 23-year-old murder case with director Pat Scallet. She is assisting another partner, Nick Muccini, in developing four scripts, including her own River of Sorrow. Her recently completed Niger River Trek, a travelogue of her husband’s journey through the African jungle, is currently making the festival rounds.

As the godmother of local independent film moves through life, she continues to make friends and connections, looking for “original yet accessible scripts” to develop, produce, and sell. Throughout her travels, she remembers one simple thing: “I want to make films.”

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Accessing Bobbie Lautenschlager

Known as the Godmother of St. Louis Independent Film, Roberta “Bobbie” Lautenschlager has championed the works of local filmmakers throughout the last decade. A fixture in both the production and presentation communities, Bobbie has taken a long road to find her niche in the film world. Part of Lautenschlager’s title as godmother is due to her age. Probably in her late 50s, she stands out among the independent film crowd, an arena dominated by young men. Her age may distinguish her, but it is her work that defines her. A tireless woman, she flits about the office of her day job at a Lutheran church in Soulard, tying up loose ends before leaving for the Sundance Film Festival early the next morning. Although she is constantly sorting papers, making notes, and filing weekly church programs, she continues the interview with little prompting, speaking at length about film, production, and her life. Her energy is infinite, and after spending a few hours with the former missionary, one is either drained completely or fully energized by the experience.

Bobbie started her journey into the film world as a nurse. With her husband, Dr. John Lautenschlager, she left her home for Nigeria in 1971. As medical missionaries for the Lutheran Church, the Lautenschlagers took their two children and headed to a country trying to dig out from under a recently ended civil war. After lending their medical skills to the rebuilding nation for the next 18 years, the Lautenschlagers returned to the United States and settled in St. Louis to finish raising their family.

In a roundabout way, this African adventure lead to Bobbie’s interest in film. While in Niger, Bobbie discovered the story of Mungo Park, the Scottish explorer who first mapped the Niger River. Mungo’s trek so touched Bobbie, she “felt I had to tell the story.” Not feeling the call to be a novelist, she wrote a screenplay originally titled Joliba (it now goes by River of Sorrow). But writing the screenplay wasn’t enough; she wanted to make the movie. “I knew I had to understand the business,” Bobbie recalls. “I had to learn the language. Africa was about learning a new culture; production was about learning a subculture.” To learn that language, Lautenschlager subscribed to industry magazines Variety and Hollywood Reporter and took an opportunity to see Oscar-nominated director John Singleton speak at Washington University. What struck her most, Bobbie relates, was something Singleton said: “He’d gotten where he was by volunteering.”

Which is exactly what she did. She started by helping young film students on various projects, both as an actress and behind the camera. One of her first experiences in production was on Mike Steinberg’s feature Amateur Hour in 1996. Steinberg describes Lautenschlager as “the glue that held the movie together. Bobbie never thinks of the limitations and, as a result, accomplishes quite a bit.” Lautenschlager says what she learned from those early experiences is this: “Access is what the whole world of production is about. Access to talent and money.”

Bobbie has worked ever since to gain that access. One avenue of access is her work at the St. Louis International Film Festival. Bobbie started helping in 1994 and has worked her way up to curator of the New Filmmakers Forum. “All the filmmakers remember Bobbie,” notes Chris Clark, managing and artistic director for SLIFF. “She continues to correspond with participants and helps many of the filmmakers that come through.” She has now been running the NFF, a sidebar focusing on first-time filmmakers, for six years. The sidebar allows Bobbie not only to view a great deal of work by young filmmakers, but also to throw her networking skills behind her favorites—and her networking skills are formidable. Doug Whyte, development director for dhTV, describes Lautenschlager as “refreshing, motivated, passionate, and unrelenting.” Bobbie assisted Whyte in finding a distributor for his documentary about the mortuary business, Pushing Up Daisies.

This is the second key to Lautenschlager’s reputation as the godmother of local film: in addition to developing her own projects, she is constantly helping other filmmakers. Acting as a producer or script supervisor or just consulting, she is always ready to lend her experiences, wisdom, and a helping hand.

Another way Bobbie has expanded her networking is by attending other festivals, further exposing her to talent as well as avenues for that talent. Sundance, Memphis, and Cannes Film Festivals are just a few of the festivals the “Godmother” has graced. Often Bobbie is representing a film she has worked with, but usually it is just for the experience. “It is an investment, and you must be willing to make that investment,” she states about her regular sojourns to festivals, along with the expenses she incurs. “But the cost is worth the opportunity.”
Lautenschlager’s résumé reads like a who’s who in St. Louis independent film, though she has never limited herself to local projects. Although she’s “never going to Hollywood,” she feels that local talent must move out of the region in terms of having their work seen. Having the work seen provides the all-important access. To that end, Bobbie has partnered with filmmakers locally and around the globe. She is producing Fundamental Fairness: One Man’s Journey to Judgement, a documentary about a 23-year-old murder case with director Pat Scallet. She is assisting another partner, Nick Muccini, in developing four scripts, including her own River of Sorrow. Her recently completed Niger River Trek, a travelogue of her husband’s journey through the African jungle, is currently making the festival rounds.

As the godmother of local independent film moves through life, she continues to make friends and connections, looking for “original yet accessible scripts” to develop, produce, and sell. Throughout her travels, she remembers one simple thing: “I want to make films.”

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Leave a Reply

Accessing Bobbie Lautenschlager

Known as the Godmother of St. Louis Independent Film, Roberta “Bobbie” Lautenschlager has championed the works of local filmmakers throughout the last decade. A fixture in both the production and presentation communities, Bobbie has taken a long road to find her niche in the film world. Part of Lautenschlager’s title as godmother is due to her age. Probably in her late 50s, she stands out among the independent film crowd, an arena dominated by young men. Her age may distinguish her, but it is her work that defines her. A tireless woman, she flits about the office of her day job at a Lutheran church in Soulard, tying up loose ends before leaving for the Sundance Film Festival early the next morning. Although she is constantly sorting papers, making notes, and filing weekly church programs, she continues the interview with little prompting, speaking at length about film, production, and her life. Her energy is infinite, and after spending a few hours with the former missionary, one is either drained completely or fully energized by the experience.

Bobbie started her journey into the film world as a nurse. With her husband, Dr. John Lautenschlager, she left her home for Nigeria in 1971. As medical missionaries for the Lutheran Church, the Lautenschlagers took their two children and headed to a country trying to dig out from under a recently ended civil war. After lending their medical skills to the rebuilding nation for the next 18 years, the Lautenschlagers returned to the United States and settled in St. Louis to finish raising their family.

In a roundabout way, this African adventure lead to Bobbie’s interest in film. While in Niger, Bobbie discovered the story of Mungo Park, the Scottish explorer who first mapped the Niger River. Mungo’s trek so touched Bobbie, she “felt I had to tell the story.” Not feeling the call to be a novelist, she wrote a screenplay originally titled Joliba (it now goes by River of Sorrow). But writing the screenplay wasn’t enough; she wanted to make the movie. “I knew I had to understand the business,” Bobbie recalls. “I had to learn the language. Africa was about learning a new culture; production was about learning a subculture.” To learn that language, Lautenschlager subscribed to industry magazines Variety and Hollywood Reporter and took an opportunity to see Oscar-nominated director John Singleton speak at Washington University. What struck her most, Bobbie relates, was something Singleton said: “He’d gotten where he was by volunteering.”

Which is exactly what she did. She started by helping young film students on various projects, both as an actress and behind the camera. One of her first experiences in production was on Mike Steinberg’s feature Amateur Hour in 1996. Steinberg describes Lautenschlager as “the glue that held the movie together. Bobbie never thinks of the limitations and, as a result, accomplishes quite a bit.” Lautenschlager says what she learned from those early experiences is this: “Access is what the whole world of production is about. Access to talent and money.”

Bobbie has worked ever since to gain that access. One avenue of access is her work at the St. Louis International Film Festival. Bobbie started helping in 1994 and has worked her way up to curator of the New Filmmakers Forum. “All the filmmakers remember Bobbie,” notes Chris Clark, managing and artistic director for SLIFF. “She continues to correspond with participants and helps many of the filmmakers that come through.” She has now been running the NFF, a sidebar focusing on first-time filmmakers, for six years. The sidebar allows Bobbie not only to view a great deal of work by young filmmakers, but also to throw her networking skills behind her favorites—and her networking skills are formidable. Doug Whyte, development director for dhTV, describes Lautenschlager as “refreshing, motivated, passionate, and unrelenting.” Bobbie assisted Whyte in finding a distributor for his documentary about the mortuary business, Pushing Up Daisies.

This is the second key to Lautenschlager’s reputation as the godmother of local film: in addition to developing her own projects, she is constantly helping other filmmakers. Acting as a producer or script supervisor or just consulting, she is always ready to lend her experiences, wisdom, and a helping hand.

Another way Bobbie has expanded her networking is by attending other festivals, further exposing her to talent as well as avenues for that talent. Sundance, Memphis, and Cannes Film Festivals are just a few of the festivals the “Godmother” has graced. Often Bobbie is representing a film she has worked with, but usually it is just for the experience. “It is an investment, and you must be willing to make that investment,” she states about her regular sojourns to festivals, along with the expenses she incurs. “But the cost is worth the opportunity.”
Lautenschlager’s résumé reads like a who’s who in St. Louis independent film, though she has never limited herself to local projects. Although she’s “never going to Hollywood,” she feels that local talent must move out of the region in terms of having their work seen. Having the work seen provides the all-important access. To that end, Bobbie has partnered with filmmakers locally and around the globe. She is producing Fundamental Fairness: One Man’s Journey to Judgement, a documentary about a 23-year-old murder case with director Pat Scallet. She is assisting another partner, Nick Muccini, in developing four scripts, including her own River of Sorrow. Her recently completed Niger River Trek, a travelogue of her husband’s journey through the African jungle, is currently making the festival rounds.

As the godmother of local independent film moves through life, she continues to make friends and connections, looking for “original yet accessible scripts” to develop, produce, and sell. Throughout her travels, she remembers one simple thing: “I want to make films.”

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