by Jason Whyte
STONE BARN CASTLE - At SxSW 2015
"What started out as a documentary about Adrien Brody's renovation of an old stone castle in Upstate New York unexpectedly became a much deeper story about the universal search for finding home, and the complexity of dreams. The film provided a very personal look into Adrien's own growth and understanding that he found along the 7 year journey to complete the project." Director Kevin Ford on his film STONE BARN CASTLE which screens at the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival.
Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?
This is my first time attending SxSW with a film in the festival, but I have been there many times over the past decade as a resident of Austin, and I have had the chance to see many films play there. I look forward to attending some of our screenings because it is so interesting to see a film play projected with an audience, especially after spending so much time with it in a small editing room!
Your favorite barbecue/food in the city?
My favorite food in Austin without a doubt is the wide variety of Tex-Mex. I'm obsessed with it. Polvo's and Julio's both come to mind, and yet I also couldn't have survived there for a decade without the amazing breakfast tacos of Taco Deli!
What do you love the most about showing movies in Austin and Austin in general?
I love seeing movies in Austin, whether if it's a festival, or just some cool screening you can catch year-round at the Alamo Drafthouse or Violet Crown, or one of the other indie-theaters in town. It's a town for movie lovers. Audiences in Austin generally seem more engaged in the films they watch. There's an intangible passion to the experience of attending movies there that feels like part of the culture. It's nearly sacred in many cases. Of course there are exceptions. When I first moved there in 2004 I came across a 24-hour marathon of Twin Peaks at the Drafthouse, and I thought "Is this even legal?" It was amazing. With the Drafthouse spreading out across the U.S. I think this is becoming more common elsewhere too. In general, Austin is a town that loves movies because they're cool and fun, and it's less critical than NY and LA, which I have also spent many years living and working in.
Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker. Also what have you worked on in the past?
I picked up my Aunt and Uncle's VHS videocamera in the 1980s and started making spoofs of Hollywood movies. "Nightmare on Maple Street," "Star Wreck," and "The Kamikaze Kid" were some of the earliest. It was all very mature, I assure you. In High School I got more interested in film and video and I was lucky enough to find my first mentor, Paul Moeller, a retired filmmaker from Germany, who ran the local Public Access station in my community. He taught me discipline and helped me learn so much technically. My great friend Lucky McKee and I were commissioned to document our entire senior year of High School and we made this two hour epic video of it all. It was truly crazy. After High School I wandered around to various schools and took as many film classes as I could at American River College, El Camino College and LA City College.
In 1994 I moved to New York City and took some extensions classes at NYU, and then I enrolled at SVA. I never stopped seeking experience and worked any and all PA-type jobs I could, as well. By 1997 I got a break. I had been filming rock bands in New York and then my friend Carter Smith and I got the chance to make a feature film with Jane's Addiction, documenting their whole "Relapse Tour". I went on to spend most of my twenties filming bands and making experimental art films. In 2002 I left New York, and after a brief stint in LA, I relocated to Austin, Texas, where I had the great fortune of getting hired to work on Richard Linklater's FAST FOOD NATION as the behind-the-scenes guy. I learned so much. That was my real film school. Rick was, and still is, the ultimate mentor. I thank the universe all the time for the advice and knowledge he's shared with me. In Austin I continued making experimental films with collaborators like Eddie Steeples and Angela Bettis, and one of our films had a small run at the Alamo Drafthouse. Other films of mine played at festivals around the country. In 2007 I worked on my friend Rian Johnson's movie THE BROTHERS BLOOM also doing behind-the-scenes work, and it's where I formed a friendship with Adrien Brody, which directly led to he and I collaborating on this documentary for many years.
How did STONE BARN CASTLE come together?
This movie came together when Adrien saw a documentary that I made about the making of THE BROTHERS BLOOM and asked if I'd be interested in collaborating with him on an experimental film project about the renovation of an old historic property, utilizing a similar style that he saw in the other film.
What was your process in getting the documentary together with Adrien Brody?
The process of getting this film together was very straight forward. Adrien had a clear vision of what he wanted to accomplish at the property and he invited me to come to Upstate New York for extended periods of time to stay there and to help him document the journey. From the earliest invitation he indicated that he wasn't sure what we'd film, but that he just wanted to capture the process as it unfolded. We began filming right away in the early stages when he and his partner, at the time, were preparing for the restoration of the old castle structure.
What was your #1 challenge with this movie, and how did you over-come it?
The biggest challenge with making this movie was time; not knowing how long the renovation of the property and structure would take, especially because there were so many hidden surprises in a building that was over 100 years old. The weather was also a challenge. and it's like the challenges of the renovation itself became our film's challenges vicariously because we were piggy-backing off of the momentum of the actual renovation. Delays in the renovation meant delays in the film. We started filming in 2008, and I thought it was just going to be a "slice of life", maybe spanning a year tops. and yet we kept filming for years because the project kept expanding and changing. The last shoot, filming the completed building, was in 2014.
If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?
It sounds ridiculous, but there's a moment where Adrien discovers that he's been sold two boy goats instead of a boy and a girl goat and he had been excited to get some animals for the property. We were shooting a dinner scene and it just came up as a topic of conversation, and the next thing I knew I was filming this hilarious moment where he was laughing about the goat's anatomy. If you see the film you'll understand, but it hit me at that point that we were filming something much more than just a documentary about the renovation of an old building.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? Any tricks?
Over the years the things that keep me going while making a movie have changed. These days it's espresso and Tea-Tree toothpicks. The combo is killer.
For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.
At the time when we began filming, the HDV format was happening and it was an affordable way to get 1080 HD quality on a shoestring budget. I co-directed our documentary and also was the DP, so the biggest question became if would we change the look of the film as time went on or stick to the original format? We opted to stay with the original format over time, to keep the look of the film consistent. The camera was a SONY FX-1. The camera was a trooper and endured some very harsh conditions.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW and in Austin?
For me, it's a joy to be a part of South By Southwest. I have submitted many films to their festival before but this is the first time that I will be able to show something there, so I am very grateful for the opportunity. I feel like because I did the bulk of the editing work for this documentary in Austin, it's a perfect place, energetically, to debut the film.
After the film screens at South By Southwest, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to screen?
I'm not sure what the future of our documentary will be after South By Southwest. Luckily I have a partner to figure that out with, my producer and co-director, Adrien. And I'm confident that it will have its own life. Adrien and I have experienced so much growth during this process and I am looking forward to the next part of the adventure.
Alamo Drafthouse and Paramount theaters in Austin aside, if you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?
I would like to see this film play in New York City at the Angelika, because that is a place where I watched many great independent films and documentaries over the years when I lived there. I think it would feel like a pretty amazing full-circle experience to see a film that I co-directed playing there.
What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being generally disruptive during a screening of your film?
For someone talking or texting during a screening of our film, I'd say, "Come on! Don't you know that every single frame in a film is painstakingly crafted to give you information, and to tell the story?" It kills me sometimes to realize that when people miss things in the story of a film it's because they weren't paying attention at that moment!
There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?
No one may ever encourage you to make films. Most will actively discourage you. People can be really mean. Listen to your own inner voice, and make anything that you are truly inspired to make. Inspirations are a gift, and no one will ever fully understand what your inspirations mean to you. Make something for people to see, and then even the people who told you that your idea wouldn't work might be surprised and say, "That's actually pretty interesting." Lastly, find quality mentors! That is the most important thing. Find quality mentors, listen to them, and take their advice.
And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have ever seen?
I can't really name a single greatest movie I've ever seen, however, I am deeply impacted by the collective works of John Cassavetes and the Maysles Brothers. Their movies have an honesty that is truly inspiring to me.
We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our 35+ filmmaker interview series for SxSW. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to follow us for more coverage!
This is one of the many films screening at the 2015 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 13-21. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3786
originally posted: 03/13/15 06:11:42
last updated: 03/13/15 06:29:29