‘The VGA cables are missing,’ Brian says as I stumble into the back of the Bohemia Bar in Finchley. ‘So we might not be able to see the film now,’ he continues.
The cosy outback of the trendy bar is a picture perfect intimate screening venue for film lovers. Fanatics mingle with one another, whilst the organisers frantically try to resolve the problem. ‘We might have to watch it on the laptop,’ a voice from behind jokes, to which I add, ‘What a great idea!’
It’s like a scene from Be Kind Rewind as we all rally together in hope that the screening will begin and the blank screen decorated by pretty fairy lights will be brought to life. ‘Yes we can gather around the laptop and watch it!’ exclaims one of the organisers. It’s a wonderful idea. Why should we use the ‘cablegate’ fiasco as an excuse to cancel the screening and go home in the rain? Just as we’ve found a resolution, another voice calls out, ‘Someone has a VGA!’ and half an hour later…and some delicious popcorn, the film is shown on the big screen.
Brian Barnes has a successful career making corporate films, but he’s also written and made 23 short films. The Urge (2012) had its first North London screening last week. It has won a medley of awards. Excellence Award at The RIFF, Best Screenplay at the Mountain Film Awards, Best Film at the Kinoteka Polish Film Festival in London and 2nd Place: Horror Short at the Indie Gathering Film Festival are an impressive start. But what is it about this film that has captivated audiences on an international level? Could it be its addictive narrative? The theme of addiction runs vividly in The Urge, as it echoes memories of an unforgiving climax.
‘The idea for the film is based on a joke my grandfather once told me because he used to smoke that brand of cigarettes. I also did a short scriptwriting course a couple of years back and they were encouraging us to try and think of telling a story without dialogue. I just thought that the joke would fit with that idea,’ Brian says.
‘It took me a year to write the script and another to put crew and cast together and then the camera we were due to get was withdrawn from availability. When we did get a camera, there was a fault with it and we lost a day’s worth of footage.’
With its beautiful tracking shots and clever juxtapositions, I go in for the kill and ask Brian what the budget was for The Urge.
‘It was small,’ Brian laughs, without revealing the cost of the film.
‘The Urge has made ten times more in prize money than it cost to make. I learnt from people like Jon Reiss and Sheri Candler that, these days when you make films, you have to cut your budget up in such a way that at least 25% of your budget is for marketing. Marketing is creating a profile for the film by getting it into festivals.’
Brian reveals that there may be more awards to come, with two live nominations for Best Horror and Best Short at the Phoenix Comicon. With its successes in the States, I ask if Brian has any plans to go to work in the USA.
‘I’ve always promised myself I didn’t want to go to America until I was successful in the UK. But one of the interesting things I found about The Urge is that it’s been more successful in America than in the UK.’
‘In the UK it’s been rejected by 100 festivals, nobody in the UK wants to see the film. I’ve won 4 awards in the USA and made a film that’s more American than British.’ But whilst Brian explains that he has 6 feature horror/thriller scripts in development I wonder whether his first feature will be commercially driven.
‘I remember that saying: ‘always make your next film as if it’s your last’. If I only make one feature film in my entire career, I want it to be one I’m proud of and say I really tried my hardest. I wouldn’t be able to say that if it was a completely generic run-of-the-mill product.’
I suggest that perhaps he should sell his scripts, to which he firmly replies, ‘My scripts are not written to be sold.’ Brian Barnes is a true lover of the craft of filmmaking. His work is delicate and his interests in the exploration of human nature are reflected through his films.
‘My father was an alcoholic and I saw what harm addiction did first hand. Alcohol and cigarettes are very, very bad drugs.’
More information on Brian Barnes