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Friday, 17 April 2009

Exclusive Interview: Andrew Barker - Director of Straw Man

Andrew Barker is the director and co-writer, with Garry Charles of the end of the World film, Straw Man. It stars Leslie Simpson (Dog Soldiers, The Descent), Axelle Carolyn and Daniel Tee.
Andrew was kind enough to agree to a Live for Films interview. He also passed me the exclusive photo of Leslie Simpson in the classroom above which was awfully nice of him. Make sure you check out the trailer.

Without further ado here is the interview along with some behind the scenes photos (it does look cold).
First things first, tell us a little about Straw Man?

Straw Man tells the story of a lone man cast adrift in an empty, decaying world. To try and retain a grip on his splintering sanity, he creates a world of his own making; an almost mundane existence of rules and routine. He stitches a village full of straw people, and goes about his day to day business, recreating a life from a world long gone. But this pantomime soon starts to disintegrate as his fractured mind begins to bleed out into his world. It’s really the story of a man’s life on trial.

What was the most difficult thing about making it?

Well I won’t deny it wasn’t a tough shoot. We were working at break neck speed in some of the harshest whether conditions England had seen for nearly 20 years. The location was an abandoned RAF Base and although it was absolutely perfect for our film, the practicalities of shooting there were tricky to say the least. There was no electricity, no running water, no heating, nothing… it was like the end of the world out there. And add to that severe snowstorms and a shooting schedule that left no room for error, and you’ve pretty much got the Straw Man shoot.

What I did have though is a wonderful, wonderful crew. My Assistant Director Tiernan Hanby really kept us motoring along, and me and my DOP Adam Krajczynski have a short hand that enabled us to shoot at lightning speed. Amazingly, we even managed to stay ahead of schedule, to point where we even shot some extra scenes which we came up with on set. It was tough, but it was a great shoot.
What is your favourite end of the World type film?

Probably Mad Max 2, I was a child of the early 80s video boom. We used to have this guy come round to our house when I was a kid; he had a suitcase full of pirate video tapes. The Mad Max movies were some of the first films my Dad ‘acquired’ and I just watched them endlessly, the first two anyway. I re-watched Mad Max 2 again recently, and it still holds up. Great movie.

How did you get into the film business?

As this is my first film, and we’re still deep in post-production, I can’t really claim to be in the film business yet. But this project came about because making movies is all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. I found the RAF Base about a year before the seeds of the story came to me. I knew it would make an amazing setting for a film, but then went off and wrote a couple of big budget scripts with my regular writing partner Matthew Waldram. We went to Cannes, trucked them around, got some interest and got into a cycle of rewrites for some of these companies. But I just wanted to make something myself, so I sat down one day and started to write this strange Robinson Crusoe-type tale of a man losing his mind at the end of the world, basing it entirely around the RAF Base I knew of.

The idea was to work to my limitations, write nothing into the treatment that I didn’t think would be possible to pull off on a low, low budget. I sent the treatment to a writer friend of mine, Garry Charles, and he just blew me away with his response. He said he and his wife, Paula, would be interested in financing the project. So Garry and I wrote the script in a matter of days, and then we were off, making a movie.

It happened very fast. We wrote the script in the August of 2008, and we were shooting the following January.
Did having such a small cast make the whole film making process easier?

It did in the sense that I had the chance to concentrate on a single character. Plus, I had a great actor to collaborate with. I’m telling you, when people see Leslie Simpson in this film he’s going to blow their heads off. He’s another reason we could shoot so fast because he was just on fire on take one, every time. We even nicked-named him One Take Les. He’s told me since that he’s known for his speed on every film he’s made. If the crew had it tough on this shoot, it was nothing compared to what Leslie went through… but he loves it.

What will you do differently when making your next feature?

Shoot in summer!

If you were going to be killed by any movie villain or monster who or what would it be?

It would have to be the Bride of Frankenstein because, well, as monsters go, she was pretty hot.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to a novice film maker what would it be?

Have ambition bordering on fury.

What book are you currently reading?

I’m dividing my time between The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Herzog on Herzog; anyone interested in making a film should read that book, Werner Herzog is a true filmmaker.

If money was no object and you could have any actor alive or dead to star in it, what film would you make?

A huge gangster epic about the life of Al Capone starring Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, an early 1970s Jack Nicholson, Mae West, and Edward G. Robinson as Capone. Is it wrong to want John Candy in it as well? Look, its my fantasy!

What film do you first remember watching?

The first film I actually remember watching, and having an impact on me, was Jaws, which I’ve loved from that day to this. It’s a masterpiece. But my mum has told me that the first film I saw at the cinema was The Jungle Book.

What advice would you give to any potential victim in a horror film?

Don’t think its all over just because it was only the cat that leaped out on you.

What is your favourite piece of science fiction technology in film or TV?

Tricky one. For some reason I’m just thinking of Robots. Can I go for Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still? The original of course. Although I’m torn, because who doesn’t love Robby the Robot!?

What film are you looking forward to seeing this year?

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, as I think Terry Gilliam is wonderful. Public Enemies, Tree of Life, Cameron’s Avatar, plus I’m interested to see what they do with Terminator: Salvation. I’m also like a giddy kid when it comes to Sly Stallone’s The Expendables, but I guess that won’t be out till next year.

When and where will be able to see Straw Man?

It’s early days, but first off we plan to get it out on the festival circuit and see what kind of reaction it receives.

What are you working on next?

I’ve just co-written a horror film with author David Flint, which he plans to direct. It’s called Despair and is what can only be described as a seriously twisted love story between a kidnapper and his captive. It will be the first film under the banner of Psychomania Films, a production company we are setting up that will specialise in low budget genre films. Plus there is a dark fantasy/western called Ravens Bower which my main writing partner Matthew Waldram and I have scripted, and a supernatural comedy which we are both writing at present which I hope to be the next film I direct.

But of course, I’d sell out immediately if someone was to offer me big money to make Crocodile Dundee 4: Mick Takes On Blackpool.

Andrew thanks very much for your time.

Great interview and great photos. Looks like this will be quite an interesting film to see. Keep checking back as I shall hopefully have an interview with Leslie Simpson soon.

Both Andrew Barker and Leslie Simpson are on Twitter - ADBarker and lesliesimpson

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