Ross Katz knew he was taking a risk when he left Temple after his sophomore year to pursue his film career.
Eager to make movies, the former radio and film student moved to Los Angeles to immerse himself in filmmaking. The risk paid off—Katz’s first studio film, “The Choice,” was released Feb. 5.
Katz said he owes his success to his former Temple professors, David Parry and Allan Barber.
“They were the first people to introduce me to study all sides of moviemaking,” Katz said.
Barber, a film and media arts assistant professor, recalls Katz as “bright and ambitious” during his time at Temple. The university was Katz’s first experience with the diversity of a city after being in the suburbs.
“It offered me an incredible slice of life, I met so many people of different races, cultures and religions,” Katz said. “It’s an important part of storytelling in filmmaking.”
After moving to Los Angeles, Katz was taken under the wing of producer Ted Hope, but ultimately became more interested in directing. In 2003, he worked with producer Sofia Coppola to produce “Lost In Translation,” a low-budget project that quickly became a commercial success.
The film follows an aging American movie star (played by Bill Murray) who finds himself in Tokyo shooting a whiskey commercial for a big paycheck. With the help of Katz, the movie won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and three Golden Globes.
“The projects he was attached to as a producer are stellar,” Barber said.
Directing soon became a full-time career for Katz. He describes his role as “the captain creatively guiding the cast and crew of the film.”
Katz began his directorial debut in 2009 with the HBO special “Taking Chance,” a Golden-Globe winning TV movie starring Kevin Bacon as Lt. Col. Mike Strobl, who escorts the body of a fallen U.S. Marine to the man’s hometown.
“We were very impressed with the quality of what he did with the script and direction of ‘Taking Chance,’” Barber said.
In 2014, Katz received the script for the Nicholas Sparks book, “The Choice,” and after feeling an emotional connection to the story, he decided to take on the project. It was “beautiful, sexy, dramatic” all at once, he said, and reminded him of the movies he loved.
“The Choice” was Katz’s first love story and first studio film he directed.
“There was no exact formula on how to make the movie, I was able to turn it into what I want, thanks to the generous hybrid from Sparks,” he said.
Katz said he stayed true to the heart of the book, keeping the feeling of land and water in the novel’s North Carolina setting.
The day the film premiered, The Choice premiered, Katz spent the day visiting theaters to see the audience’s reaction.
“I don’t pay attention to the critics, I like sneaking into the theater to watch the audience laugh or cry,” he said.
He continues to write, produce and direct with plans to shoot this summer. Katz’s advice to film students is, “Go make a movie, short film, get noticed, make something extraordinary.”
Madison Hall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.