An Interview With Christopher M. Allport:A Filmmaker With Many Talents

Hello Christopher! Welcome! Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Give us a brief introduction!

Thrust into the spotlight at the tender age of four, Christopher M. Allport was quickly discovered fearlessly singing America the Beautiful — standing atop a grand piano at a local Japanese restaurant — by former Radio City Rockette, Madylin Clark. Thrown immediately into classes taught by Hollywood golden-era pioneers, and drilled in the disciplines, arts, and techniques of television, film, theater, music, and dance, Allport earned his stage debut at the Pantages for the Walt Disney Company by the age of ten.

After earning his BA, in Film Production, magna cum laude, with double minors in classical music and journalism, from Loyola Marymount University, Allport continued his studies in the private studios of Maria Newman, the Mary Pickford Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, the Hearst Foundation and in the editorial traditions of legendary Oscar winner, Walter Murch.

Following a successful career as a professional young performer, working with directors, musicians, and performers like Steven Spielberg, John Williams, Michael Kamen, Carol Burnett, and Debbie Reynolds, Mr. Allport realized that basking in the golden era’s afterglow wouldn’t satisfy his ambitions for contemporary content creation and storytelling.

Subsequent film and television directorial commissions include a suite of fifteen music videos for The Beach Boys; John Williams War Horse Orchestral Premiere at the Dorothy Chandler (PBS); and Band of Brothers behind-the-scenes features.

As an actor, Allport has embodied many recurring roles in many TV series, including Emmy Award-winning Peter Pan and the Pirates, Clueless, Boston Public, and Dawson’s Creek.

In music, Allport has performed as a backup singer for Barbara Streisand on her Timeless tour, with Los Angeles Opera, and can be heard on countless film soundtracks, including Hook (J. Williams), The Mighty Ducks (Queen), Mr. Holland’s Opus (M. Kamen), Godzilla (A. Desplat), and Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (H. Zimmer). Allport has also toured Europe, Africa, and North America as a noted Broadway and Classical singer, pioneering new musical roles in both Hollywood and New York.

In the music composition, Allport’s classical suite Arise Awake o Christmas Day was recorded by the Hollywood Chamber Orchestra and is currently highly regarded as a favorite Christmastime playlist on all major music outlets.

With such passion for both music and film — reaching back into cinema’s early beginnings — Allport broadly opines that film can’t exist without music and people don’t want to experience music without film. Therefore, the two are forever intertwined. If you think about it, there really couldn’t be a more graceful marriage!

As such, Allport wrote and directed Emily or Oscar — now imminent in its release — a musical, cinematic love letter to old Hollywood and its United Artists founders, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, D.W. Griffith, and of course, Charlie Chaplain. Some of the film’s stars include Susan Boyd Joyce (Happy Days) and Golden Globe winner Susan Blakely.

Nestled in between chapters on Quentin Tarantino and Collin Hanks, Mr. Allport is thrilled to have his life’s work chronicled in music journalist and rock-n-roll author Harvey Kubernik’s recent book Docs that Rock; Music that Matters.

Where are you located?

Los Angeles, CA

What is a quote that summarizes everything you’re about as a filmmaker?

“Cinema becomes a love language when you dare to dream and find the drive to finish.”

What inspired you to start creating films?

Cameras have had a major influence on my life for as long as I can remember. At the age of three, I can remember looking through the 50mm lens of my dad’s 35mm Minolta. The way the shallow depth of field of the single-lens-reflex viewfinder framed subjects, isolating them from backgrounds, ignited my imagination.

By the age of seven, I was discovered by a talent agent and thrust into the spotlight as an actor/singer/dancer. Paying my dues and making my way up through the ranks, I appeared in Disney productions and commercials for Kraft Cheese, Suzuki, and Coca-Cola. Jay Silverman was one of the commercial directors that I worked with often. He let me explore behind the scenes and taught me how to start thinking about film composition and storytelling. In those days, everything was still shot on film, and the discipline to properly expose the celluloid was strict.

By the time I was in film school at Loyola Marymount University, the industry was just barely on the cusp of digital, and I wanted to push the digital boundaries. Applying the film discipline to the new technology was cool. But ultimately, the inspiration to create my own films came from a musical passion. I became fascinated with conductors of choirs and orchestras. With not just their hands, but eyes and facial expressions. I wanted classical music audiences to see the conductor’s face from the same perspective as the musicians.

Soon, I was directing Digital Concert Hall-type material — pioneering the use of projection screens in live orchestral concerts, with detailed and interesting live-switched shots of musicians and conductors. Revealing the conductor’s face in close-ups at certain musical moments would evoke emotive expressions from audiences. Human expression in close up changes the emotional perspective of an audience.

Who most inspires/influences your style and specific execution currently and why?

Austere in nature, the cinematography and poignant storytelling in Wes Anderson films have greatly influenced my style. It becomes a question of how to take a multi-dimensional subject and translate it into a 2-D cinematic rendering. 24mm lensed master shots make an indelible mark on the imagination. Another aspect of my storytelling that I rely on is allegory archetypes. You also see these archetypes play out in Wes Anderson’s films. Think: “The Lobby Boy” or “The Scout Master.” The title of the character is more important to the central plot of the story than the name of the character. In cinema, you have to identify with thoughts, themes, sounds, images, and ideas that broad sets of the audience can relate to.

What is your favorite film of all time?

Citizen Kane (1941)

As a creator, what do you find to be the thing that most drives you to succeed? We like to use this portion for others to learn from you!

Vivid corners of my imagination, constantly play out various scenarios that are both visual and musical. But creativity isn’t enough. Dreams have to turn into actions if you are to succeed. And everyone has to get on the same page. Literally! That means the script. More than just dialogue, you have to use language that visually describes your shots well enough to bring everyone into your imagination. It isn’t fair to assume that just because you can see a concept, that everyone else will too. Your job as a creator is to bring everyone into a shared image — and get everyone on the same page!

What is your overall dream in life?

Creating movies and music is my dream, my passion, and my legacy. Even though I have a long way to go, I have always carried the notion that I want to leave a mark of beauty upon this world before I leave it. To dream is one thing, and if you want to accomplish your dreams, you have to take steps towards those dreams every day. You have to fight for it sometimes. You have to cheer on your own inner drive, and shut off the inner voice of self-doubt.

Movies and music are a match made in heaven — and as long as my work is able to live at the intersection where those two meet, I will continue happily living my dream!

What’s the title of this project?

Emily or Oscar.

What is your role(s) in the film?

Producer, Writer, Director, Co-Star

Who is the director & who is the writer?

Written & Directed by Christopher M. Allport

What is the film’s genre?

Rom-Com / Fantasy

What is the film’s logline?

“Sam Feldman wants it all. But first, he has to dream up a better ending.”

As a love letter to old Hollywood, Emily or Oscar is a ‘Hollywood golden era’ throwback romantic comedy. With silent film references and Hollywood studio life, everyone is sure to get a laugh as they take a ride through a screenwriter, Sam Feldman’s wild imagination. But what happens when a Hollywood director makes him choose between the Academy Award and the woman of his dreams?

What inspired the way that you went about executing this project?

Composer and violinist, Maria Newman inspired me to go for my dreams, and execute the vision that was in my head. The concept for Emily or Oscar came out of some work that we were doing together on Mary Pickford and William Randolph Hearts films that were more than a century old. While I was working on restoring pictures, Maria was composing stunningly intricate and beautiful scores for these beautiful silent films that were the seeds that quickly blossomed into the entire film industry.

Inspiration was hidden in plain sight in the young Mary Pickford. There was a moment that really caught my attention in the 1919 Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, starring Mary Pickford as Rebecca: Rebecca is caught between obedience and self-gratification over a pie that her aunt has forbidden her from eating. She ultimately gives into the sugared temptation, but her silent and extremely visual deliberation process seemed to be the very moment that small film acting was born. In contrast to the more Vaudevillian stylings of other actresses like Sarah Bernhardt, who transitioned from stages to the flickers, Pickford’s acting was refined, subtle and let the camera lens amplify facial expressions, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks. Without the wild Vaudeville gesticulations, leftover from sixteenth-century Commedia dell’arte, audiences’ minds became more engaged in the story, the cinema acting style became a less raucous and more pleasing experience.

It was that one little scene that inspired me to make a modern film that looks back to our cinematic beginnings. In that one scene, Pickford defined what modern cinema acting would become.

What was the most difficult part in the process of creating this film? How did you overcome it?

Covid was the biggest obstacle to finishing. We were about 95% finished with principal photography when everything came to a grinding halt in March 2020. There were still some scenes that were integral to the story that could not be composited together in post. We needed everyone in the same room to film. There was no choice but to wait for the vaccines. We kept the momentum going during the year-long wait as best as we could. We did everything that we could do in a physically distanced setting. But Emily’s big cabaret scene had to wait until we were all vaccinated.

What was the most fun part of this entire production?

Filming at the Amargosa Opera House in Death Valley was truly a magical experience. Once I saw the paintings on the wall, I knew there could be no substitute for the theatre that appears in protagonist Sam Feldman’s dream of winning the Oscar. Marta Becket was the brilliant artist who created the Amargosa Opera House, and her loving artistic legacy deeply inspired us.

What is the single greatest lesson you learned along the creation of this particular project?

Holding back a little, and discernment are a couple of big lessons to take in. When you are creative you want to do more, more, more. But the closer you get to the finish line, you start to realize that you don’t need more quantity. You actually need less, and you have to put the ball in the hoop. You learn to not jump at the first deal that comes your way and to look very deep into the character of the people you are working with. For me, a character is key.

Is there anything else you would like us to know? Or any final thoughts/things you’d like to share with our readers?

Your best artwork lies within the stillness of the truth of your own experiences. Each person has a well to draw from, and it is important to go deep. Find ways to tell stories that are uniquely your own!

Thank you so much for being a part of The Film Festival Network Community, Christopher! We can’t wait to see what you do next.

Keep up with Christopher and all his incredible work to come!