Alum takes inspiration from mom to create feature film The Queen of Hollywood Blvd

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By Erin Renzi, Assistant Arts Editor

Orson Oblowitz ‘09 finds inspiration for all his creative projects in his mother.

His first award-winning feature film, The Queen of Hollywood Blvd, features a lead centered around his mom’s personality and a role which Oblowitz knew she could embody.

The film focuses on Queen Mary’s journey, the owner of a Los Angeles strip club who finds herself in trouble with the mob after owing them a 25-year debt. The film, released in October 2018, won Best First Feature at the Boston Underground Film Festival in 2018. It earned screenings at multiple theaters, including The Brattle, Oblowitz’s favorite theater, in March 2018, and most recently on Feb. 9 at the Film Noir Cinema in Brooklyn, New York.

Oblowitz said the lead role, played by his mother Rosemary Hochschild, is directly inspired by and written for his mother.

“She’s always kind of been my muse,” Oblowitz said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “She’s a great actress. She’s got an amazing look.”

Oblowitz began writing the script in October 2014 and finished the first draft three months later.

“I lost someone very close to me in my life, they had died, so I didn’t really know what to do,” Oblowitz said. “So I just kind of devoted myself to this project, this idea.”

He gave his mother the script on Christmas in 2014 and said she loved it, accepting the role in the film. Part of the reason she enjoyed the script was because it falls under the “grindhouse” genre, which refers to exploitation films that can be horror, action, or thriller.

“To collaborate with [Oblowitz] was amazing,” Hochschild said in a phone interview from California. “He gave me the script and I was blown away by it because I love grindhouse. I was really excited to tackle this role.”

Oblowitz said he needed money in order to start filming, so he returned to the first commercial company he worked for—Concrete Images. He said they agreed to help with initial financing, even though they were at risk of losing money.

“I went back to Concrete Images, and they basically gave me a credit card and allowed me to put most of the film on their credit card and pay them back over time,” Oblowitz said.

To produce The Queen of Hollywood Blvd, Oblowitz worked with various Emerson alumni, including Luke Hanlein ‘09, who shot the film, and Daniel Domingo De Lara ‘09, who created the soundtrack.

“It’s nice to work with someone who you know, [Oblowitz] had these specific visions but was open to collaboration, and then brought a lot of references in and was very specific about the way he wanted to craft his story,” Hanlein said in a phone interview from Los Angeles, California.

By summer 2015, Oblowtiz and his crew began filming, which took a total of 13 days. Due to a lack of funds, he said the editing process took longer. Oblowitz said he set up a Kickstarter, which allowed creators to share their ideas with communities that would help fund his project.

Oblowitz said he received backlash about his decision to let his mom play the lead while making the film. He said he saw the reticence people have against older women leading films that are normally reserved for a man.

Despite the film’s award, Oblowitz said he’s put $125,000 into the film and hasn’t come close to breaking even.

“It hasn’t made that much money,” Oblowitz said. “It wasn’t necessarily a financial success, but the film has a really good pedigree. It’s gotten amazing reviews in the Hollywood Reporter.”

After filming The Queen of Hollywood Blvd, Oblowitz made a horror film called Trespassers, which premiered in London at Fright Fest. It also played in 40 theaters in America, as well as in Australia, England, Germany, and South America.

Currently, Oblowitz is finishing a movie called The Five Rules of Success, where he serves as the cinematographer while also helping to write, produce, direct, and edit. The film is a crime thriller about a man who gets out of prison with no financial support or anyone to rely on.

“It’s really a meditative film on what is the cost of success, and what is really success in a country that only deems you successful in its own way, you know?” Oblowitz said. “In America, you’re only successful when you’re in the one percent.”

Oblowitz said he is happy with how The Five Rules of Success turned out and is trying to find a film festival to release it at.

“I think it’s a really interesting, individual film like I don’t think there’s anything quite like it, and I’m really happy about that,” Oblowitz said. “It’s its own piece of art. I am very interested to see how the film industry reacts to it if they accept it into their fold.”

Despite new projects in the works, The Queen of Hollywood Blvd continues to have a life since release.

“We’re all still working on it for free, five years later, because we love it,” Oblowitz said.