Writer/Producer Jordan Roth Reminisces On A Career Highlight
Originally from the small town of Dundas, Ontario, Jordan Roth’s work has now been seen all over the world. As a renowned writer and producer in Canada and abroad, he has worked on projects that have entertained and enthralled audiences everywhere.
A natural comic, Roth enjoys making people laugh through his work and having an outlet where he can express his creativity every single day. He is currently working with the monthly live show The Violet Hour with host Caroline Kingsley, as well as creating and producing a new series for Vice, and at the heart of it all, Roth just enjoys telling a good story.
“TV is really collaborative, which I like. I enjoy coming to an office where everyone’s working on something fun. Like, it’s funny to catch yourself in a serious meeting and everyone’s trying to figure out how to do something but then that something can be so silly,” he says. “And this is obvious, but it’s just wonderful being creative. Having a creative outlet is critical and feels necessary for my well being, so having a job where I’m creative and making something is the best.”
Roth has undoubtedly had an impressive career, with many successful projects decorating his resume. When asked about what the highlight of it all would be, one project comes to mind for the writer/producer. It is his 2013 film C-Rock, which he says transformed his life.
“C-Rock was one of the first projects I took a risk on and I learned a lot from it. It was a while ago now — and so much has happened since then and as a result of that project — but I was just really drawn to the subject. I’d first heard about C-Rock from an article in the New York Times. I connected with the idea of the rite of passage and that it was a kind of built-in metaphor. I also connected to the idea of the tradition of C-Rock representing youth and being a kid — and then losing that sense of freedom and youthfulness. I was really drawn to those ideas as a writer — and I think I still often am,” says Roth.
The documentary follows a group of boys as they face doing a jump from up to 110 feet into the Harlem River. It's a summertime rite of passage going back generations in the Bronx, but growing up means they have to leave this thrilling tradition behind. The film has a slight, emotional arc about discovering C-Rock and what it means to those that frequent it. It also explores what it means to grow up and get older in a general way.
“People take different meanings from the film and connect to it in slightly different ways. However, the idea of growing up and leaving a part of yourself behind, and maybe trying to access that youthful, better part of yourself — that’s something that I think is pretty universal,” says Roth.
When Roth first decided he wanted to make a documentary about C-Rock, he contacted the Times reporter and began putting together the story. It was a foundational working experience for the producer. He managed a crew, directed, and worked through the story in his head when they were shooting. After shooting, he structured the story in post-production, which was a good exercise in building an arc in post-production, a common practice for documentaries.
“Making this film is a very fond memory for me. It’s something that I took a chance on and it worked out. I liked working with everyone and felt like the people I found to work with me on this all really loved the project too. I think everyone felt a special connection to it, which is really nice and rare,” says Roth.
C-Rock first premiered at the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival in 2013. It then went on to a handful of festivals and premiered in New York at Rooftop Films in Summer of 2014.
It was distributed by The Orchard, now known as 1091 Media, and they still distribute the movie on digital platforms. The film also became part of an anthology of New York documentaries called True New York,which is distributed by First Run Features and reached the top of the iTunes charts.
“I hope people continue to watch and feel some connection to it. We definitely had a timeless vibe in mind when we were making it and doing post on it, because I think there’s that feel to the place and the tradition itself,” he concludes.
Photo by Niv Shimshon