Four Questions With Aaron David Roberts
The director and producer schooled us on his pilot “Chartered” and the state of film production in San Diego.
Chartered director Aaron David Roberts (right)
The biggest film production in San Diego in a decade recently wrapped up shooting: a pilot based on 25-year-old director, producer—and San Diego native—Aaron David Roberts’ days at a local charter school.
Roberts schooled us on Chartered and the state of film production in San Diego.
San Diego Magazine: Give us the elevator pitch.
ADR: It’s set in a charter high school in a San Diego suburb, based on my experience at a charter school in Escondido in 2008. It’s a mockumentary-style comedy like The Office or Parks and Rec centering around two characters on the first day of a new school year. The lead character, a new freshman who doesn’t know anyone, is based off of me. Simultaneously it follows a female teacher character, Jessica Graham, on her first day teaching there. The pilot follows them through six periods.
I was like the main character, not looking forward to it, thinking it would be this weird small school. By the time I graduated I realized it was like nothing else—you got to really know your teachers and there was a strong focus on academics. It was really fun and wacky. I ripped a lot of things for the show right from my high school. One time we held a “Charter Olympics” where each grade competed to see who could fit the most students into a tent in a five-minute period. We got some great actors like Sloane Morgan Siegel.
SDM: Where was it shot?
ADR: We filmed the bulk of it last summer at Del Lago Academy in Escondido, as well as my kitchen in Scripps Ranch, and locations in La Jolla and Escondido.
SDM: What’s it like to film a production like this in San Diego?
ADR: It’s cheaper and easier in a lot of respects to film in San Diego than L.A. If you want to film a city street or hire the police department, it’s immensely easier—most places will let you film for free. My dad was a production manager and we shot an MTV show here. Producers were saying, “Wow, it’s great how different it is here than in New York or L.A.”
There’s a small film community here but there’s no film office. There used to be a film studio here, a big lot in Kearny Mesa that filmed 30 to 50 TV, movie, and commercial productions a day. They really felt the recession and stopped film production. When that happened the film office went with it.
I was just in Santa Fe for another production. The local film contacted me and made sure I was able to get permits and gave me lists of vendors to contact. San Diego doesn’t have anything like that. I’m really trying to show Hollywood or someone we can make really good TV here if someone invests in it.
Last year, there were 700 or 800 new scripted shows between all the streaming services and cable. Netflix alone is developing between $10 and $15 billion in scripted content this year.
SD Mag: What’s next for Chartered?
ADR: Best case scenario is we find a distributor like a streaming service or cable channel who would order 10 or so episodes. If we get lucky, they could air by the end of the year.