As a young man with a physics degree, Carl Rogers was headed down what people thought was the right path in his life. But it felt all wrong.
“I wasn’t at school, and I don’t know why I stayed in Statesboro. It was a ghost town,” Rogers said.
But after 12 years of preparing for college and four years of intense science curriculum, Rogers said he finally had a chance to slow down, think and pray about where he should go with his life. When God answered him, he told him, “Go West, young man.”
Rogers is the assistant to Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove, co-founders and co-presidents of Alcon Entertainment, which just released “P.S. I Love You.” But he took a long and winding road to get there.
“I decided I didn’t want to go into the sciences, at least initially, after I graduated,” he said. An internship at Savannah River Site failed to spark his natural curiosity.
So Rogers, a movie buff and amateur historian who taught himself to edit film on his computer, felt like God was pointing him toward Hollywood. But it was a hobby that he had not intended to jump-cut into a career. And he didn’t get much encouragement.
“I talked to a few older guys that I respect and told them about my desires,” he said. “And six out of the seven people I talked to all told me to ignore that desire. Only one guy was like, you know, you need to try to find a job and maybe go back to school and get a master of fine arts in film.”
But graduate school was a financial reach, so the former walk-on to the Georgia Southern football team backed up and punted. He got a job with Nutrasweet, and with Mustard Seed Video, a small Augusta production company that had nonetheless done work for BET, ESPN and “The Montel Williams Show.”
“I ended up spending two years with these guys. I really flourished. I learned that this is what I’m supposed to be doing. But I still felt like this wasn’t it. I really want to get into movies,” Rogers said.
On the side, he and his brother, Lucy Craft Laney Museum Historian Corey Rogers, filmed interviews with World War II veterans. At a reunion in Virginia of the 761st Tank Battalion, Rogers learned that a movie was planned about the unit, based on a book co-written by former pro-basketballer Kareem Abdul Jabar. Rogers got the producers’ number and began calling, asking for any role in the production of the film. He just wanted to be involved. After weeks of calling without a response, the producer’s assistant picked up the phone.
“Don’t call here again!” he snapped, and hung up.
“My football coach used to say, ‘Work your hardest on the field and don’t worry about the score,’” Rogers said. So he went back to work for Nutrasweet. The score might have been Hollywood 1, Rogers 0, but the season wasn’t over.
He would teach himself what he couldn’t learn on the job at Mustard Seed. He read books and attended seminars. And at a seminar in Atlanta, he learned about a workshop for executive wannabes in Los Angeles.
He called and applied until they let him in, a dark-horse candidate with a mere undergraduate degree among graduates of prestigious business management and law schools. They stuck him in an internship at a Catholic production company.
But Rogers has worked hard all his life — first as a standout in the science curriculum at A.R. Johnson Magnet School, then as a physics undergrad at Georgia Southern University during two national championship years. He decided to get there early, stay late and put in every ounce of energy he could in between.
When the workshop ended 10 weeks later, the organization announced that there were four interview spots for an assistant job.
“Here in Hollywood, an assistant’s job to a high-level executive is really valuable. It’s 1,000 times more valuable than film school because you get to see how the town really works,” Rogers said.
The presidents were unimpressed with him. But they did see that he did interviews with black World War II veterans.
“They were like, ‘We have a movie that we’re working on with the 761st Tank Battalion,” Rogers said, thoroughly amused. “I was like, you got to be kidding me. I explained to them all the interviews I did and they were going nuts. They were like, ‘Did you know about this project?’”
Rogers had never even heard of Alcon Entertainment.
“I tell people all the time: If you don’t believe in God, listen to the story about how I got my job.”
Two months later, he was in a room with Denzel Washington talking about World War II and tank battalions. Alcon works exclusively with Warner Brothers, and since Rogers started, has released “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” “16 Blocks,” “The Wicker Man” and now “P.S. I Love You.”
Two years after getting the job, he calls from his California home while getting ready for work.
“I do a lot of what you would think assistant work is: answering phones, scheduling, travel… but I also get to read a lot of scripts, give my feedback and interact with the directors, agents and filmmakers,” he said. The company has “The Whole Pemberton Thing” in the can, is prepping for the World War II project “Brothers in Arms,” for which Washington will direct and in which he will play a lead role, and is developing “Hong Kong Phooey” and “Strange Magic.”
There’s competition for projects, a lot of stress and the money is high-stakes. “And there’s so many people who want to do it. A lot of competition. You gotta be on top of your game,” Rogers said.
“I’ve learned that even though there’s a lot of people who say they want to do something, there’s only a few people who are willing to work hard at it. I realized that in college, when I was working in Augusta and now here,” he said. “If I work hard enough, I feel like I’ll always have that edge.”