Rob Allyn Used to Run Local Politics. Now He's Making Movies in Indonesia.

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Rob Allyn
Longtime observers of the local political landscape probably hear the name Rob Allyn and think of the Trinity River Corridor Project (Schutze insists it was Allyn who came up with those solar-powered water taxis), myriad mayoral campaigns, those Dubya ads attacking John McCain's environmental record and the Dallas Cowboys adding Arlington to their never-ending tour of North Texas cities. Then came Vicente Fox (who Allyn helped secure the Mexican presidency) and political campaigns far, far away. And before long, the political adviser and friend to Dallas's most connected moved overseas.

By his guesstimate, Allyn now spends nine months of each year in Southeast Asia, and his rare trips to the States involve trips to see his youngest son play collegiate football back east or stays at his home in Santa Barbara, California. He keeps his home here but seldom sees it -- except, say, during weeks like this one, when the Dallas International Film Festival is in full swing. Allyn is in Dallas at this very moment for a Tuesday night screening of Blood of Eagles, the second in a trilogy of films about the Indonesian National Revolution that took place shortly after the end of World War II.

The film -- which has the overwrought look and feel of the kinds of war epics Hollywood made in the '50s and '60s, which Allyn says is very much the point -- was directed by Allyn's son Conor, a Jesuit graduate. Allyn says Blood of Eagles, like its predecessor, has been enormously successful -- among the most profitable films ever made and shown in Indonesia, with distribution secured from the U.K. to Germany to Iran. The final installment, the latest from Allyn's Margate House production company, will be screened abroad later this year.

But after that, Allyn says, he will begin making English-language films in Asia -- with, he insists, recognizable Hollywood stars above the title. And he will do so using local money from the likes of Blockbuster CEO (for now, anyway) Jim Keyes, mayoral candidate Mike Rawlings (whose campaign is being run by Allyn's namesake company, which he sold to Omnicom in 2002), state Sen. John Carona and oil and gas man Albert Huddleston.

"We're in the movie business," Allyn tells Unfair Park this afternoon. "The fact is, there's more and more demand for films delivered at a lower price, whether it's downloaded to your iPad or sent from Netflix or shown on a big screen. Hollywood is making fewer and fewer films. The studios only made 93 films last year. And the average price of the films is over $50 million. They're going one way, and in our opinion the market's going the other way. Audiences want more films made at a more reasonable cost."

I asked Allyn exactly how he got into the movie business. At which point he proceeded to tell a very long story about selling the company, turning it over to Mari Woodlief, working with Fox, then plying his trade in Japan and Indonesia and Vietnam and the Middle East and Haiti. A very long story short -- "I need an editor," he acknowledges -- Allyn discovered you could shoot 35mm films in Southeast Asia for "10 cents on the dollar." That, combined with his ex-novelist's need to keep telling stories, spurred his interest to move into film.

Didn't hurt that his son Conor was a history major wrapping up his film studies at Georgetown. And so he made a doc about global hunger called Hungry is the Tiger, which played some fests. And then they made Red & White in 2009, the first of their three films about the Indonesian National Revolution -- a subject to which Rob was introduced by an Indonesian businessman with whom he'd had a meeting. Allyn would spend the next year screening the film to distributors at festivals, among then Cannes and Berlin and Mumbai. Which is how he wound up telling me a story about meeting a drunken Lindsay Lohan on a yacht -- though Allyn didn't know who she was because, look, he's been out of the U.S. a long while at this point.

"And now we are about to make English-language films in Southeast Asia with Hollywood stars in the lead roles and then surround them with Asian actors and Asian crews," he says. I tell him that sounds very Sergio Leone.

"That's exactly right," he says. "It's nothing new. Hollywood's been outsourcing the cost of production since forever. After the spaghetti Westerns there were were the macaroni combat films, and that's what we were after. For our first film we've got an urban crime thriller set in Indonesia that involves an American dealing with Muslims and culture clashes and terrorism and jewel thieves. And we've got another that's a big swashbuckling biographical epic. They're all elevated genre films, all smart action-adventure films. We teamed up with William Morris Endeavor and put together a film fund and have raised a little over $6 million that will finance $20 to $25 million worth of films in the next two years."

The titles are the best part: The former film is called Java Heat, which Conor will direct; the latter, White Rajah. Allyn, of course, won't say who will star -- only that they're talking to "big, global names" who'd otherwise be unavailable were there high-paying gigs in Hollywood.

"These are tough times in the industry, and the good news for producers is that there are some attractive people we would not normally be able to afford we can get. So it's a good time to be making these movies."
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14 comments
sate1990
sate1990

Now he is the consultant for Prabowo Subianto's black campaign attacks against Joko Widodo. Unsurprisingly he used the same methods as the ones used against Obama. F**k Republicans, go away from my country's politics.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

I guess when you're Texas' version of a more polite Lee Atwater, (white glove racism and making despicable people with thin resume legit) you're proud that you son's career path is to be the Leni Riefenstahl of Asia.

(Yeah flag me for a Godwin violation. See prior post about Indonesia's human rights record.)

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Pity he's so busy, he Texas oil buddies that put W in the White House could have used his help defending their working with Quadif and Lydia.

Looks like Allyn has proven you can make more money repenting a country with contempt for human rights (Indonesia) than just repenting a former alcoholic failed businessman with contempt for human rights. Nothing like a big check to clear one's conscience.

Here's Human Rights watch 2010 Annual Report for Indonesia:

"There were violent clashes throughout the year in Papua and its population continued to face severe restrictions of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Members of the police reportedly used torture and other ill-treatment, and unnecessary or excessive force sometimes leading to unlawful killings throughout the archipelago. The criminal justice system remained unable to address ongoing impunity for current and past human rights violations. No one was executed during the year; however, a new by-law in Aceh provided for stoning to death. Attacks on human rights defenders continued and there were at least 114 prisoners of conscience. A new Health Law contained provisions hampering equal access to maternal health."

"Minority religious groups remained vulnerable to violent attacks by non-state actors, and were subjected to discrimination."

"Torture remained widespread during arrest, interrogation and detention. Criminal suspects from poor and marginalized communities and peaceful political activists were particularly vulnerable to violations by police, including unnecessary or excessive use of force, sometimes resulting in death; torture and other ill-treatment; and failure to protect demonstrators and religious minorities."

http://www.amnestyusa.org/annu...

Yep, Allyn and Indonesia a match made in W's heaven.

Judge a man by the company that keeps them.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Is this the picture they will use when he is Kidnapped and held for Ransom by a local rebel chief ?

Jack E. Jett
Jack E. Jett

I am not sure that I agree that Americans are looking for less money to be spent on movies as we pay the same ticket price no matter how much money is spent.

Lower the price of going to the theatre if you are going to cheapen your production cost. Pass the savings down to us. Otherwise you are just putting more money in your pocket.

Mike
Mike

At least the mystery is solved of where all the creativity from Allyn Co went.

LaceyB
LaceyB

Robert, are you recommending "Blood of Eagles"? Or just talking about its being part of the "chow mein actioners" made by a former Dallasite?

HappyRepub
HappyRepub

I think Grump Demo is about 40 years old, obese, single and lives with his mother. Envy is a bitch.

Happy Dallas
Happy Dallas

Mike, you sound bitter. Maybe Allyn Media defeated you in a recent campaign?

Here are just a few of the awards Allyn Media has won since Rob turned over control of the firm:

- 2010 Pollie Award - Best Direct Mail Campaign - Local/Statewide- 2010 Pollie Award - Contrast Web Site- 2009 PRSA Bronze Anvil - Best Direct Mail- 2008 Pollie Award - Best Direct Mail Campaign - National- 2008 Pollie Award - Best Direct Mail Campaign - State Legislature- 2008 Pollie Award - Best Direct Mail Campaign - Local Organization- 2008 PRSA Silver Anvil - Issues Management

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

I'll recommend it. But I'd recommend a couple of Bintangs beforehand.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Typical baseless personal attack. FYI: Nope, nope, nope, nope.

Only a Republican would think someone would envy being a shill of a dictator.

Granny
Granny

Or a couple of Ankers!

LaceyB
LaceyB

Oy vey! Don't know if I have the calories for that day...or the patience, considering DIFF's picks this yr.

HappyRepub
HappyRepub

Typical whining from Grump Demo. Attacked Mr. Allyn but became upset when someone responded in kind.

Time to take off the little girl panties and start wearing your big boy pants.

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