Derek Jensen

Robert Dopf

Derek Jensen
Robert Dopf

Robert committed to writing and directing a short film. It won an award. Now, he's working on another.

Describe who you were as a kid.

I rarely was involved with extracurricular activities and/or sports. I craved my own free time to simply explore. I spent most afternoons off on my bike or in the creek with neighbor kids- and most evenings creating stop-motion animation movies in the basement.

What's keeping you busy?

My wife and I welcomed our second child, a daughter named Maeven in July. Juggling a new baby with her 3-year-old brother Nile is keeping us quite busy. In the small pockets of free time, I find; I am working on organizing an upcoming film project, which is a tremendous amount of work.

Walk us through the days leading up to starting your own thing?

I studied film at the University of Iowa, and upon moving back to Des Moines in 2008, had a brief internship at Iowa Public Television. I always thought I would work with film or TV for a full-time job. That, however, is a difficult thing to do, so I ended up taking a job with Wells Fargo and putting film dreams to the back burner.

A few years ago, I had an overwhelming urge to flex my creative muscles, and I started shooting live bands. I did a few small-scale music videos. I then committed myself to writing and directing a short film, which ended up winning the Best Iowa Short at the 2016 Snake Alley Festival of Film.

"Anytime I'm approaching a new project I tend to have the same dream."

Talk to us about the biggest fear you’ve had recently.

Anytime I'm approaching a new project I tend to have the same dream. I've been pulled on stage to fill in for the lead guitar player of Pearl Jam. I then realize I have no idea how to play any of the songs. I think it's just a manifestation of a healthy fear of failure, or your confidence falling away.

There are so many cliches about fear being good, and developing you as a person- but I can absolutely say that diving head first into something that terrifies you is the most gratifying thing in the world when you come out the other side.

Talk to us about one problem you’ve been focused on solving and why.

I wrote a short Western film script and planned to shoot it this summer. While making contacts I met a costume designer from Kansas City who had a friend of hers read the script. This person turned out to be established Hollywood actor Wes Studi (Last of the Mohicans, Heat, Avatar, Hostiles) and he was interested in being part of the project.

How to involve such a high caliber actor and push the quality of the project to the Nth degree; has been on my mind since. The hurdles of fundraising and logistics are the biggest obstacles to almost any filmmaking endeavor.

The involvement of such an actor and the crew that is being assembled has the opportunity to bring about an incredibly high-quality film project to the state. I'm very excited about it.

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what’s your advice?

Just do it. There is never going to be any magic advice that gets you to point B, without diving in at point A and putting in the legwork. Asking for too much advice is a good way to stall yourself. Just do.

If you're planning to start a crowdfunding campaign it's important to already have established a little bit of your "village" or people that you know may support your cause. Simply posting a link online and expecting money will not work.

"Asking for too much advice is a good way to stall yourself. Just do."

Why Des Moines?

I was born and raised here, so obviously I'm a bit biased. I think many Iowa natives go through a rebellious stage where they think they'll only be happy leaving. I watched many friends move to places like Denver or LA, and almost all of them came back.

Des Moines, to me, has the best of both worlds; big city opportunities, but is more laid back than any major city. I also can't imagine raising kids in a better place.

What’s one new thing in DSM that caught your eye?

I'm excited about how many new breweries there are popping up around town. I think it would be a very fun small business to be part of. I also love beer!

If you could grant the Des Moines one wish what would it be and why?

That the city and all its citizens would understand how cool they are. There are so much talent and potential here. I feel like sometimes the best and brightest feel they have to leave to a bigger city when if we all pooled together our talents we could establish something even more fantastic right here.

"That the city and all its citizens would understand how cool they are."

Someone just moved to DSM. What do they need to do first and why?

Wash down Tasty Tacos with an Exile beer while playing video games at Up-Down...see what I did there?

The most underrated thing in DSM is ______. Why?

We have 4 seasons! People hate the winter, and cool times of the year, but I think it's great to have all 4 seasons. I've often joked that it makes you a better person; having to simply deal with something completely outside of your control.

What is your favorite item or product you bought locally in DSM? Why should someone else buy it?

It's not necessarily a product, but an experience. Everyone should try an isolation tank experience at Fadeaway Flotation Center in West Des Moines. I've gone a few times, and once you get over the mental hurdle of doing nothing (doesn't that say it all about our busy lifestyles) then you can relax, zone out, and meditate in a way you never have before. I'm so happy Des Moines has a business like this, and they deserve support!

What are you most proud of and why?

Aside from my children, which is too much of a gimme answer, I would have to say that I have lived my life in a way where I've never fully strayed from who I am. I have very few regrets and am happy with the paths I've chosen.

In three months what do you hope to accomplish?

I hope that we are completing the post-production on the short film project I have been working on. We plan to use the short as a "proof of concept" which is essentially a demonstration of the writing, directing, cinematography that would go into a larger film. We will then take the next steps of trying to get it viewed by producers and content distributors. The first step, however, is to get the funding together to shoot this project properly. Please check out the crowdfunding link (how you can support Robert below), and reach out to me with any questions!