Alter Egos is a column that highlights talented geeks in the Chattanooga area, tracing the origins of their favorite pop culture obsessions to their present-day hobbies.
Film writer and director Robert S. Evans always knew he was a geek—and that was OK with him from the get-go.
“It was less a realization and more of just not letting outside pressures alter who I was,” Evans said. “Since I was little, I always did my own thing, liked my own stuff, regardless of how others looked at me.”
Evans consumed every sort of geek media he could get his hands on. As a kid, the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” film franchises were his favorites; and as he grew up, he got into comics before becoming more interested in gaming, books and films. This led to his passion: filmmaking.
“It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment, but I have always wanted to tell stories—fantastic tales with strong characters and layers of meaning,” 35-year-old Evans said. “[From there], it was learning how to break down what I was seeing [onscreen], going back and watching my childhood favorites that made me look at them and go, ‘I can do this.’”
Revisiting his old favorites led him to believe he could not only make films, but that he could also add his own spin and voice while paying tribute to his favorite creators. He counts George Lucas as one of his favorite storytellers, but directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Sam Mendes and Hayao Miyazaki serve as his main visual influences.
As he continues to grow as a filmmaker, he is always looking for ways to improve what has come before while still focusing on what’s ahead. At the moment, he is working on film scripts while a short film makes the rounds at a variety of film festivals and events.
“The artist who seeks to grow looks at all my past projects and sees what I could have done differently with what I learned on that set and the ones that followed it,” Evans said. “It is knowing that each of those projects eventually reaches an audience that makes me keep going, and thus I find what worked and latch on to that.”
His film “To Fight” garnered Evans a Best Director Award at the Firehouse Film Festival. “Cold,” his most recent effort, tackles the difficult subject of suicide. Evans will also be showcasing a new short film at the Catoosa County Film Festival in December.
From fan to con guest
Evans has always enjoyed the fandom convention scene. But he finds he’s most comfortable at smaller events, where it’s easier to mingle and enjoy the events.
“I stopped going to DragonCon because it just became too much,” he said. “You can hardly move, and you often wait hours in line … for two seconds in front of someone [famous] or get told there are no more seats. [In Chattanooga], there are tons of great cons full of vibrant people.”
He counts Con Nooga, ChattaCon, Anime Blast Chattanooga and LibertyCon—where he’s guested for the past two years—as his favorites. A lucky conversation with the board of directors landed him a guest gig at LibertyCon.
“I agreed, thinking it would be like most cons where a lot of the panels are hosted by attendees,” he said. “When I showed up, I had a guest [gift] bag and badge and got a full rundown of what being a guest is.”
Among other perks, such as the themed banquet and breakfast with science fiction author Todd McCaffrey, Evans was also featured in the Sunday Kaffeeklatsch, where attendees ask questions over coffee and pastries. Evans loved the whole experience and said LibertyCon treats everyone—guests and attendees alike—as family.
When geeks give back
As geek culture continues to become more mainstream, many geeks are able to use their status for good—and that includes giving to important charities and causes close to their hearts. Evans counts giving back as an important part of his life as a geek, and he has given his time and money to many causes over the years.
“I have been a part of Gaming for Kitties since it started, which is run by a fellow YouTuber, Lonnie, of the Untitled Nerd Network,” he said. “I have participated in a lot of animal-related charities, such as fighting game tournaments, gaming events and festivals.”
Last year, Evans took part in a 24-hour gaming marathon that raised money for Extra Life, a gamer-run charity benefiting Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.
“As a geek, doing something I love and being able to raise money and help others is a major deal,” he said. “It shows there is a truly compassionate side to us—and everyone should always want to help others.”
Rachel Stewart grew up in the ’80s on a healthy diet of pop culture. In 2005, she discovered “Doctor Who” and never looked back. Since then, she co-founded the Tennessee Who Authority—a “Doctor Who” fan group—and has served as a panelist at fan conventions across the Southeast, including Con Nooga, Wholanta, Hurricane Who and ConGT. She also reviews “Doctor Who” novels and “Big Finish” audios at “The Oncoming Storm” podcast. Want to show off your alter ego? Email Rachel at [email protected].