Somervillian Adam Roffman has worked on films from “The Departed” to last year’s “Ted,” starring fellow Massachusetts-bred Mark Wahlberg. Ten years ago, he helped to establish the Independent Film Festival Boston as New England’s premiere outlet for indie films. For his latest work, he produced “Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself,” a documentary about the legendary sports journalist. The indie doc premiered at Brookline’s Coolidge Corner Theatre on June 21 following screenings in L.A. and New York. We talked to Roffman to learn more about his inspiration behind the film and its underdog success.
In addition to producing films, your previous work has included organizing props and set decoration. What challenges did you face as a producer?
Both … are extremely involved aspects of filmmaking, but a different kind of challenge that comes for me as a producer is just trying to get the word out about an independent documentary like this and making sure people hear about it. We aren’t going to … have the marketing budgets [of big studio films], so making sure the film is actually seen is a big, complex hurdle.
How difficult was it to gather all of the archival footage and photos used in the film?
We got a great deal of the footage from George’s own personal archive. A lot of TV and radio appearances ended with him being handed a tape of the show, which he put in a box and promptly forgot about. It took us maybe 6 to 8 months to go through [all of the footage we had], but it was a huge help once we knew what we had. We then spent time at the Morgan Library in New York, which owns the Paris Review archives … digging for footage that, when we finally uncovered it, surprised even George’s family, so we knew we were onto something.
You’ve worked on big budget Hollywood films, but also helped to found Boston’s Independent Film Festival. Which do you prefer?
Truthfully, I prefer both seeing and working on independent films, but in order to make a living I need to work on two to three big studio films each year. There are of course exceptions … such as GONE BABY GONE, THE TOWN, AMERICAN HUSTLE, and getting to work directors such as Robert Altman and Paul Greengrass are experiences I just couldn’t pass up.
Plimpton’s “participatory journalism” saw him trying out things from baseball to boxing to the trapeze. Which clip from the film is your favorite?
My personal favorite clip from the film in terms of George’s participatory journalism is when he played goalie for the Boston Bruins. Watching this awkward, gangly, unathletic man with a small notebook in his hand try to both ice skate and stop a speeding puck never gets old.
Your documentary, “Plimpton! Starring George Plimpton as Himself” has been scoring great reviews with critics like NPR and the New York Times. How did you react to the instant praise?
It’s been very rewarding to make this movie and then see people respond in the way that far exceeded any expectations we had. The most rewarding reviews have been the ones that have singled out the work of our collaborators and called attention to the hard work they put into the project.
Why should we watch the documentary?
The strongest case I can make is that as Program Director for the Independent Film Festival Boston, I have watched easily over 1200 documentaries. When I saw some of the edited footage that Luke Poling and Tom Bean had put together I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved in this project, and that it would be one of the standout documentaries of the year – and I was right. PLIMPTON! is equally entertaining, moving, and fascinating. No one has or will be able to duplicate what George Plimpton did. He was one of a kind and so is this film.
PLIMPTON! is currently playing at the Coolidge Corner Theatre and the West Newton Cinema. The team is looking to add a screen in Somerville soon.