ROB Speranza is a big bloke from one of New York City’s toughest neighbourhoods.
But put him in a decommissioned mining complex in the middle of nowhere (or, at least, the middle of North Yorkshire) at 3am with just a flickering torch for company and he’s as much of a big girl’s blouse as the rest of us.
A bizarre situation perhaps but then Rob is fast getting used to the surreal.
See, the 37-year-old is the founder of the South Yorkshire Filmmakers Network – an advisory organisation which this month celebrated its 1,100th member joining and which has helped on hits including Four Lions and ITV’s Wuthering Heights.
And being in such a business – whether it be in his native Brooklyn or his adopted Sheffield – is nothing if not occasionally bizarre.
“I don’t scare easily but that was... uncomfortable,” he says, recalling being in that mine complex as he produced 2012 flick Entity.
Night time scenes were being shot for the horror – which stars Dervla Kirwan and Charlotte Riley – when Rob separated from the crew.
“That just had to be the moment my torch started flickering,” laughs the married father-of-one.
“I was fine, crashing about, looking for possible sets but the moment the light started to dim and I’m in this abandoned place alone, I was getting freaked by any noise or creak – so, yeah, I was dashing about, trying to find someone, hoping the torch would last.”
Kind of like a scene from a horror film?
“Kind of,” he laughs. “Maybe we should have recorded my reaction.”
Perhaps even scarier, though, was while working on another project when he was sent into the trailer of a famous actress – “I can’t say her name, man” – to calm her as she had a diva fit.
“I didn’t know what to say,” he shrugs. “I just let her rant at me and it all came good in the end.”
Indeed, all coming good is exactly what has happened with the South Yorkshire Filmmakers Network, based at the Workstation in Paternoster Row, Sheffield.
The group was founded by Rob – who originally came to Sheffield in 1996 to study for an MA in poetry and film – to give coherence to a group of filmmakers who regularly met in pubs and cafes to discuss common problems.
Six years on, it has 1,100 members, has helped make more than 150 films, and has generated an estimated £350,000 for the local economy.
“Back then there wasn’t really anything like it anywhere,” says Rob.
“And I thought it would help establish the industry in Yorkshire, which I think it has.
“What we do is anything from putting movie makers in touch with people who provide props to running networking events.
“Essentially, if you’re making a film in South Yorkshire we can make it easier.”
Rob, meanwhile, has two films out this summer, Inbred and Nowhere Fast, and is now working on a promotional short for Sheffield University.