Friday, May 10, 2013

THE MAN BEHIND THE LENS: AN INTERVIEW WITH ADAM BARNICK

Most horror fans know Adam "I told you no fahkin' cats in the house" Barnick through his featurette work on Paul Solet's Grace and Adam Green's Frozen, but the work of Adam Barnick is far more extensive and captivating than some documentary extra features. Don't get me wrong, his documentary extras were fantastic, even helping Grace to nab the "Best Indie Disc" award at the 2010 Reaper Awards, but Adam Barnick deserves far more praise for his work, keen eye for storytelling, and exceptional craftsmanship.

Adam Barnick is a film director/editor and writer living in the New York City area. His most recent short film, Mainstream, has played severeal international festivals and was included in the distribution for the Fangoria Blood Drive II: America's Best Short Horror Films DVD. His company, Wicked Tree Films, has collaborated with Mind's Eye International, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Leomax Picture, Starz Home Entertainment, ArieScope Pictures, Crimson Films, Fortuneteller Films, and A Bigger Boat. Barnick recently directed his first 35mm music video, "Say You'll Stay" for the singer/songwriter John Presnell. The video won the Director's Showreel Award in Lornography's Dramatic Competition for videos shot with their unique cameras. Following the success of Say You'll Stay, Barnick cranked out two back to back music videos for the band Rivulets. The horror-themed period piece "How, Who" was featured on horror websites within days of its release. Outside of filmmaking, Barnick has contributed articles, reviews, and interviews for Entertainment Insiders, Icons of Fright, and Massive Hysteria. He is currently in postproduciton on his first feature-length documentary, What is Scary, and more information will be announced later this year. With the exposition out of the way, I was lucky enough to get in touch with Adam Barnick for an exclusive interview.

BJ-C: Thank you so much for agreeing to interview with me, I really do appreciate it. To start the ball rolling, I have to ask, how in the hell did you end up doing those amazing documentaries for Adam Green and Paul Solet? 

AB: While I did do a very basic featurette about an art studio in film school, I didn’t study documentary making formally; I always had an interest in doing one aside from my narrative work but I hadn’t pursued any. 

On the set of Frozen
The offer to do something in that area was out of left field- my short horror film, MAINSTREAM, was picked up a few years ago by Fangoria/Koch Vision to be part of their "Blood Drive II: America's Best Short Horror Films" DVD. Online shorts weren't that prolific yet, so this was a huge deal to get that kind of "DVD in every store" exposure! Paul Solet (co-director of MEANS TO AN END which is on the same disc), and I hit it off; he shared some scripts with me and we were both monsters in terms of the work we did to promote our own work. Anyway I read early drafts of his feature, GRACE, and when he revealed he was going to do a big-budget short film to gain attention for a feature, he asked if I'd work on it. I think at random he asked for me to do a behind the scenes documentary. I figured I could come up with something interesting and cinematic, and I'd had enough journalism training and time spent on film sets to be able to thoroughly interview cast and crew members. And as a film/DVD geek, I knew the type of Bonus Content I wanted to see, which rarely matched the content on any discs. 

 It was primitive at the time, but the two docs (a short EPK and a larger, 30 minute doc) I did for him helped open almost as many doors as the short did! And indirectly, through my random attendance of HATCHET's world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, they helped get the ball rolling where Adam Green eventually saw the short film, and its making-of, and that was one of several parts that ended up in a "right place right time" situation where Paul eventually got the feature made, under ArieScope's production/supervision. 

On the set of Grace with Paul Solet
It took a lot of arm-twisting(union issues and a limit on Americans who could work on it) to get me up to Canada to work on the feature-length film, but I was determined to do a 'film school in a box' of featurettes for GRACE. They needed to be as layered and thoughtful and emotionally engaging as the movie itself was. Out of six docs on the blu-ray, five are mine(Jake Hamilton did the fantastic Sundance-based documentary). And even though I was working on outdated equipment, anything we had handy, they still hold up. You really see what it took to make the film and it's never just complimentary talking heads. 

Adam Green saw the first cuts of the featurettes and asked if I could get him copies ASAP to bring to the FROZEN producers; and I ended up spending 1/3 of that shoot on a mountaintop, in blizzards, with wild animals, amazing stunts, you name it. So many awesome memories there. Loved every minute despite the snow, thin air above sea level, etc. I was even able to splice in flashbacks to the set of Grace! People get really absorbed into those documentaries; they get people thinking, they laugh, some people get teary-eyed at the end of the production documentary. People still write me about them, and FROZEN became Anchor Bay's best selling original DVD and Blu-Ray. 

BJ-C: Making these documentaries, you were able to work firsthand with Green and Solet, and the internet has been blessed with Boston dialect videos in the process.  Hopefully not a loaded question, but are Adam Green and Paul Solet as cool as they seem? 

AB: Wicked cool. Two of the most standup guys I have been fortunate to meet and work with in the film business. They were, and are, both great to work with and learn from. Very grateful for the opportunities I got through them. I’ll always be excited to see what they’ll do next; and I secretly hope for a shout-out in Holliston Season 2 like I got in the Jack Chop video, when “Nicolo” shows up.

Barnick shooting "Say You'll Stay"
BJ-C: Most recently, you've been putting out some really incredible music videos.  How you choose the bands you shoot. Simply, do bands find you or do you find them? 

AB: So far, in the ones I have directed, it's a mix; though I have known John Presnell for a long time, he had approached me about several music videos and we were brainstorming various treatments for songs at various budgets. "Say You'll Stay" was the most unique and yet affordable idea in its presentation, even though we shot 35mm film! As for Rivulets/Nathan Amundson, those two videos were entirely my idea(to make them, not just the concepts) from the start. I went directly to the musician, who I was a huge fan of, and pitched him. I felt we would have similar sensibilities, and I was right. Nathan's music has been a huge part of my life for many years and I wanted to return the favor, in a way.

BJ-C: You've done a wide variety of shooting styles, how is directing music different than movies?

Shooting on "Rivulets"
AB: I guess it depends on the approach; storytelling is storytelling, but ultimately you are in service of the musicians and how they come across, first and foremost. My video “I Don’t Want to be Found” for Rivulets isn’t story-driven, it only hints at one and comes across more like a moving painting/impressions through images- but is a low-key yet appropriate showcase for Nathan’s style. But “How, Who” is equally showcasing his performing and his role within the video’s story. Editing is where it gets really interesting in music videos, striking the balance between showcasing the performer and serving the story (assuming there is one) is a complicated dance I’m excited to keep working at. 

BJ-C: Do you have a specific genre of music do you like to "direct"? 

AB: I don't know if I have a set favorite- I'm itching to work with some metal bands, do a hip hop video… though I do tend to like the darker, quieter, ambient styled-music. "How, Who" is a blend of my favorite types of images. Winter; isolation; minimalism; barren sinister trees, deliberate, long takes.. I have no one set "style", I’ll adapt for any performer and cater to how they need to be presented, through my sensibilities. But anyone who knows me or my favorite work or my photography etc. can tell how "me" that video is. 

Barnick with Grace cast/crew
BJ-C: If not music genres, what kind of movies do you like to direct? 

AB: While I love horror, it’s probably only 50% of me. Drama, sci-fi, thrillers, comedy; I am after all of them. I do tend to favor ideas and stories that are atmospheric and layered and give you something to chew on mentally with your entertainment but I’ve got straightforward, simpler stories in me as well. 

BJ-C: You've been really busy lately, can you drop any info on current/future projects?

AB: There's a few things in the works I don't want to get into until they're full-on happening, but good things are brewing. But right now, I’m fleshing out two screenplays, one is the feature-length adaptation of my short film MAINSTREAM and the other is a thriller set in the UK. I’m also kicking postproduction on my experimental documentary WHAT IS SCARY? back into gear this Summer. That project had to be pushed off to the side for some time, but now I will be actively steering it towards its completion. 

BJ-C: I'll make this one simple, lifetime goal with directing? 

AB: Other than to be doing it continuously? I guess I would say I want to build worlds, environments and characters that stay with you and affect you in the best and worst of ways. 

BJ-C: Alright, last question. I'll try to make it fun. Gun to your head, if you were forced to remake any film, what would you remake and what would you do with it? 

AB: Oh wow. That might take me a long time to come up with an idea of something I think needs to be revisited. But I do have one I'd pick which could function as a remake but would actually be a sequel, to John Carpenter's THEY LIVE. The core ideas are even more relevant now, I think, then in the 80's. 

WE SLEEP would take place today. 

Still from "How, Who"
I always wondered about one plot element in the original film; the entire alien scheme/force field is generated by an unprotected, small radar dish, just one, on an LA rooftop where it can get damaged/destroyed by lightning or even wind! Really? There would have to be a backup plan the characters didn’t know about. 

In WE SLEEP, we'd see that the "unveiling" in the end of the original film only lasted 9 minutes before their other network of radio signals/other radar dishes around the world kicked in as a failsafe/backup. 

Nobody really remembers, understands or cares about the 'reveal' 25 years ago, and for anyone who did, it'd be dismissed as hallucination or mass hysteria. And we go right back to sleep for a few decades; until today, where everyone is even more greedy and insane, and we're worshipping fame and plastic, the poor are poorer and the corporations control it all, down to the rights to our genetic lines; and we spend all day staring into our phones when we should be talking to each other. And the environmental damage/conversion of our atmosphere is nearly complete. 

And then an angry young man buys some dusty old sunglasses in a pawn shop.

I have the rest mapped out because I sit and think too much. But how do you wake up people who love being asleep? What is the signal that used to be controlled by TV, keeping the human illusion in place, is now in the Wi-Fi? Can we give that up in order to be free? 

BJ-C: Shut up and take my money.

Still from "I Don't Want To Be Found"

For more information, check out Adam Barnick's website.
subscribe to him on YouTube.
and follow him on twitter @AdamBarnick

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