Robert Krantz, Greek-American Filmmaker, Shares the Joy of Creating
By Giuliana Harris
In his 30 years in the entertainment industry, Robert Krantz (Karountzos), an alum of USC’s Film School, has led a career both in front of the camera and behind the camera. March 2019 will see the release of his film Faith, Hope & Love in which he stars with Peta Murgatoyd of Dancing with the Stars. Krantz not only stars in the film as Jimmy Elpidas, but he directed with J.J. Englert, and wrote, edited, and produced it as well. Along with holding these roles, two of Krantz’ most important life roles include Husband and Father. With the upcoming release of Faith, Hope & Love, Krantz took a moment to share with me reflections on his life and career.
While Krantz describes growing up as a “typical Greek kid” in Wisconsin, he further described the possibility of the entertainment world as a youth: “My dad was involved in restaurants and businesses and so forth, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom, and the thought of being in the movies was like saying ‘I wanna go to the moon,’ it was just unheard of,” he stated. Krantz proceeded, “My senior year in High School, I went to our Annunciation Church Camp and I had this feeling I was supposed to somehow be involved with the movies. So, on my way to lunch one day, I talked to a camp counselor and she prayed with me about it.” Krantz credits his Greek Orthodox faith as a guiding force through his life, both personally and professionally. “I believe that God heard that prayer. Looking back all these years… that’s kind of what my niche is: faith-based movies.”
Krantz’ entertainment career includes both television and feature films, including roles in Movies of the Week, Billionaire Boys Club, Who’s the Boss, The Woman in Red, and Back to the Future. Krantz cheerfully recalls the memorability his character has from Back to the Future. Standing outside of the “Enchantment Under the Sea” Dance, Krantz is directly behind Michael J. Fox with a line beloved, and memorable, commending George McFly’s heroism against Biff. Break out your BTTF and you will recognize him instantly! As a precursor to the theme of dance in Krantz’ later projects in life, Krantz auditioned for the original Footloose in the ‘80s. Leading up to this audition, he had never danced – and so the love of dancing began after viewing a class taught by Billy Goodson.
Upon producing and creating his films, Krantz has written both the Greek culture and Greek Orthodox faith into the storylines. He described, “I’ve always just been kind of an average guy that’s found his way in the culture and in our faith. I’ve put those questions and observations into my movies.” He continues, “And I love the culture; growing up in Milwaukee, every so often we would get a treat and would go to Greek Town in Chicago. When my wife and I visit our boys at college in Chicago now, even if we arrive late at night, we head straight to Greek Town for dinner.”
By incorporating the Greek Orthodox Faith in his projects, Krantz regarded it as he did with the Greek culture: “It was very similar from a young age… I had a connection to God…I can’t describe it. It’s just been there from the beginning and it’s gotten stronger and stronger. I’ve gone through some incredibly difficult and trying and devastating moments in my life, that I wasn’t sure I was going to get through and some great moments of my life. But every step of the way I’ve just had this closeness with God and you take those two things: the Greek part of it, the Faith part of it, and then you add in the entertainment part of it, and I just kind of mixed all of those things that were so in my core.”
Including elements of his background, Krantz has also created the films Do You Wanna Dance? and Christmas with the Karountzoses. Along with film production, further inspiration for other projects came to Krantz from the faith and culture. Upon the birth of his three sons (who are a set of triplets), Krantz was motivated to design his career so that he could be an involved parent. From there, he created Ellinas Multimedia. These projects such as The Saints video series, the books he wrote (Guide to the Divine Liturgy, Guide to Holy Week, My First 100 Words in Greek), and products were inspired by what Krantz wanted his kids to know about their faith and culture, and created from that initial idea. In true dedication to his family, “As much as I love what I do, I would give up everything for my children. My wife and my kids are the priority in my life.”
Once Krantz’ sons were in college, he resumed his film career and pre-production for Faith, Hope & Love began. Originally, Krantz planned to produce his novel, Falling in Love with Sophia into a film, however, things evolved. Drawing inspiration from a dance class Krantz saw while exercising one day, he thought of creating a film called Siko Xorepse (Get Up and Dance). He described, “I had the screenplay and the book, and everything done on the other one [Falling in Love with Sophia] but I just thought, ‘No, I think God wants me to make Faith, Hope & Love,’ and that’s what I did.” Careful to note that nothing comes together perfectly, Krantz detailed how obstacles turned to positive resolutions.
In the thirty years of his career, Krantz thought to the beginning, he stated, “When I first started out, I didn’t know at that time, it would take thirty plus years of work [laughter]… …God is smart: that He doesn’t whisper those things in our ear, [he chuckles]. That may have given me some pause to go, ‘Wait…How many years will it take exactly before this all comes together?’”
When describing the culture, faith, and love of dance, he detailed further when he auditioned for Footloose around 20 years old: “…There was a collision of three things that I was tremendously passionate about and they stuck, and I think each one of them has a similarity. The three things were religion, ethnicity being Greek, and dance. What all of those had, that I think I go to in life, is joy. There’s a certain joy that I see… in being Greek… You don’t see Greeks down all the time. You see them UP all the time! You see them loud and living life…and I love that joy of life. The same thing I find in religion, I don’t see religion as down, I see it as UP…The third part of that was dance…it was so joyous and full of life…” He details further, “For me, fun is when I come off the street and I walk into a Greek Festival… the food, the music, the dancing…that is the joy of life, I’m talking about.”
With a career full of well-rounded experiences, Krantz’ definition of “star-status” will come as no surprise when he says, “Somebody who was very famous once asked me, ‘Do you want to be a star?’” He proceeded to give them his definition of fame: “I told them, I have no ambition to walk down the street and someone know me or be on the cover of a magazine…I said ‘But if I could ever walk into a Greek Restaurant, and someone would know who I was, now that would be pretty cool! [he laughs joyfully].” So, the next time you’re in a Greek Restaurant, or, maybe even in Greek Town…keep your eyes open for Krantz.
For screening locations of Faith, Hope & Love, visit www.FHLMovie.com
To view the trailer for the film, visit bit.ly/FHL_Trailer_G
To follow on Social Media, Instagram @faithhopelovemovie and Facebook: facebook.com/FaithHopeLoveMovie
For more information on Ellinas Multimedia, visit www.ellinasmultimedia.com
Featured image at the top, Robert Krantz with Peta Murgatoyd (R) on the set of Faith, Hope & Love, Photo Courtesy of Ellinas Multimedia
Email the author: Giuliana