Roberts directed his first feature film in 2000 at the age of 22. Self funded for £5,000 the film, Sanitarium, was released around the world. Over the next five years Roberts directed a series of low-budget horror films for DVD, including the cult release Forest of the Damned and the world’s first series made for cell phones When Evil Calls.
In 2010, he wrote and directed the thriller F – a story of a group of teachers under attack by a group of pupils in a college after hours. Roberts then directed Stephen Rea in the television film Roadkill for NBC before helming the science fiction thriller Storage 24 for Universal Pictures.
After 47 Meters Down Roberts directed the sequel to the horror film The Strangers (2008), entitled The Strangers: Prey at Night. The film entered the US box office at number three behind Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time, and finished with a total of over $32 million.
In 2019, Roberts helmed another sequel, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, which became his third consecutive US top ten hit in three years – grossing $46 million and taking the 47 franchise to over $100 million.
In December 2018, Roberts was hired to direct a reboot of the Resident Evil film franchise.
When did you know you wanted to be a director?
I discovered Stephen King and through his books discovered the movies that had been adapted from his novels. I think the first time I realised I wanted to be a director was when I watched Cujo and I just saw how the camera was manipulating the scares so cleverly. But basically I am a big nerd and I love telling stories. I grew up wanting to be JRR Tolkien, then Stephen King and now John Carpenter. I had no experience or any idea how to achieve the goal of becoming a filmmaker. It was really just a pipe dream.
Once you knew you wanted to pursue a career as a director, what were your first steps in achieving this goal?
I went to the only university that would accept me and did a pretty rubbish film course that was mainly theoretical. It was only after the course need that my fear of real life forced me into becoming a filmmaker. I put some money on a credit card with a friend and we made a feature film on 5K – shot on s16mm – had no idea what I was doing but the movie sold around the world and actually made money.
What obstacles or setbacks did you face in becoming a director?
I mean I had no idea what I was doing – and people hated the films I made but I just learnt how to make a product that could find an audience. I made my first six feature films on a combined budget of less than £200K. Ha – six films. But people really looked down on the kind of movies I was making in England (still do I suppose!). I wasn’t considered a proper filmmaker until my 6th film which changed my career.
How did you develop your voice and hone your craft?
I just kept shooting and making movies. Learning the business as I went. My first five movies are pretty terrible because I was making feature films with no idea of what I was doing, on less money than people spend on a 5-minute short. My sixth film F changed everything because I knew it was my last chance. Instead of making a movie to try and sell I made a movie that was the movie I wanted to make – and I wanted to see. That got me US agents and proper budgets.
How did you get your first break?
Honestly – I hope this doesn’t sound stupid but I just made my own breaks. I forced my way forward. My first film was not very good but it sold and gave me confidence to call myself a filmmaker. My sixth film is really my first proper movie and set the tone for my career now. I just kept going – hammering away. And then 47 Meters Down just became this juggernaut. I think if you had told people in the British film industry in 2017 that 47 Meters Down would outgross Trainspotting 2 they would have laughed in your face. Never look to agents to make your career. You have to be the one pushing. Always pushing. Always making stuff. Don’t wait by the phone.
TV Credits: When Evil Calls (2006), Roadkill (2011).
Film Credits: Sanitarium (2001), Alice (2002), Hellbreeder (2004), Darkhunters (2004), Forest of the Damned (2005), F (2010), Storage 24 (2012), Turn Your Bloody Phone Off (2012), The Other Side Of The Door (2016), 47 Metres Down (2017), The Strangers: Prey at Night (2018), 47 Metres Down: Uncaged (2019), Resident Evil Reboot (2021).