Stephen Groo: Passion of an Indie

Stephen Groo directing Jack Black on the set of “Unexpected Race”.

A legend in the DIY independent film world, Stephen Groo is becoming an undeniable presence and unstoppable force in the industry today. His out of the box, unconventional movies are rapidly growing a cult following. His films are loved and hated by critics around the world, yet his fearless, nonchalant style doesn’t regard anyone’s opinion of his films, favorable or not. This truly stoic and eccentric artist is here to stay.

In Groo’s prolific career he has produced and directed 221 films to date including his most recent feature, “The Unexpected Race”, starring Jack Black and Jon Heder. His unrelenting passion to fulfill his cinematic visions is addictive. Just ask Jack Black. Jack is such a huge fan of Groo that he volunteered to act in “The Unexpected Race”. Jack Black was introduced to Groo’s films by Jared Hess, director of Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, while taking a break on the set of Nacho. Jack quickly fell in love with his filmmaking style, with his quirky, out of the box humor, and his storytelling. Although Groo has been adored and celebrated by fans for his unconventional, unpredictable, and off the wall style, his mastery of action sequences and dramatic prowess are undeniable. Scorpius recently had the privilege to sit down with Groo and get one of the most unforgettable interviews we have yet done.

What are some of your earliest memories and inspirations?

 “I was born in Artesia, California. We moved to Washington and my parents divorced when I was three years old. My mother moved to Utah and raised me as a single parent. I was an only child but I was able to find and develop some friendships in school. By junior high, I was bullied a lot because I was kind of small for my age. I learned to loathe jocks and that whole scene. My mother got me into some karate classes and that helped a lot. I grew some thick skin dealing with all the bullying. I fell into writing in my teens. I was always making up stories, my imagination set me free. Growing up I always wanted to become an inventor, creating things that could help the world. My grandfather was a senior engineer at NASA and he really inspired me.”

Jack Black and Jared Hess on the set of "Unexpected Race".

When was your transition into filmmaking?

“I always loved movies. Tron, Top Gun, the Burbs, the Princess Bride, and Star Trek were some of my favorites. The ’80s were the best decade for entertainment because there was so much experimentation in music and film and people were different. You didn’t have the internet and cell phones, relationships were more real. At age 19 I became very sick for about two years. It allowed me to take some time to rethink what I truly wanted in my life. Film is something I knew I could be passionate about. I attended BYU focusing on a major in film. At the time the industry was in a transition from film to digital and there was a lot of controversy over which was better. Many didn’t think there was a future with digital but I thought there was because it was cheaper it was faster and you could do so much more. I bought some film equipment and just dove in head first! The first film I made as a student was called, “The Stalker”. After I learned editing and cinematography at the university I knew I could only learn how to become a good director by diving in and immersing myself in raw filmmaking. Even after twenty years, I’m still not satisfied with myself as a director. I’m always pushing myself to become better. It’s like I’m always trying to prove something. As a kid, I was always trying to prove myself. As a film director, I’m still always trying to make my mark on the world.”

What are some of your earliest memories and inspirations?

Stephen Groo as Lythorin in "Unexpected Race".

 “I was born in Artesia, California. We moved to Washington and my parents divorced when I was three years old. My mother moved to Utah and raised me as a single parent. I was an only child but I was able to find and develop some friendships in school. By junior high, I was bullied a lot because I was kind of small for my age. I learned to loathe jocks and that whole scene. My mother got me into some karate classes and that helped a lot. I grew some thick skin dealing with all the bullying. I fell into writing in my teens. I was always making up stories, my imagination set me free. Growing up I always wanted to become an inventor, creating things that could help the world. My grandfather was a senior engineer at NASA and he really inspired me.”

When was your transition into filmmaking?

“I always loved movies. Tron, Top Gun, the Burbs, the Princess Bride, and Star Trek were some of my favorites. The ’80s were the best decade for entertainment because there was so much experimentation in music and film and people were different. You didn’t have the internet and cell phones, relationships were more real. At age 19 I became very sick for about two years. It allowed me to take some time to rethink what I truly wanted in my life. Film is something I knew I could be passionate about. I attended BYU focusing on a major in film. At the time the industry was in a transition from film to digital and there was a lot of controversy over which was better. Many didn’t think there was a future with digital but I thought there was because it was cheaper it was faster and you could do so much more. I bought some film equipment and just dove in head first! The first film I made as a student was called, “The Stalker”. After I learned editing and cinematography at the university I knew I could only learn how to become a good director by diving in and immersing myself in raw filmmaking. Even after twenty years, I’m still not satisfied with myself as a director. I’m always pushing myself to become better. It’s like I’m always trying to prove something. As a kid, I was always trying to prove myself. As a film director, I’m still always trying to make my mark on the world.”

You can watch his movies at www.utahwolf.com. The original “Unexpected Race” from 2003 can be found on Amazon and Vimeo.