Movies & TV / Columns

411 talks w/Andrew David Barker About His New Film A Reckoning

October 23, 2017 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
A Reckoning

The 411 Interview: Andrew David Barker

AndrewDavidBarker

Andrew David Barker is a filmmaker, screenwriter, and author from Derby, England. He has written two novels, The Electric and Dead Leaves, both of which have been optioned by Arupt Entertainment, and directed one feature length film, the post-apocalyptic indie A Reckoning, which is in the middle of seeking distribution. Barker recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk with this writer about A Reckoning, filmmaking, and more.

**

AReckoningPoster

Bryan Kristopowitz: Where did the idea for A Reckoning come from?

Andrew David Barker: I found the location before I found the story. I’ve always liked post-apocalyptic films; it’s a rich visual genre and a great landscape to play in – the world in ruins. I found the location and wrapped the story around that, working to my limitations. I liked the idea of how we’d carry on our lives in an empty world; how the mundane trivialities of day to day existence could and perhaps would be something of a lifeline – a way to hold on to your sanity and give order and meaning to things.

AReckoningDesolation

BK: Where was A Reckoning filmed? How long did it take to make the movie, from the time you completed the script to post production?

ADB: The location was an abandoned RAF base just outside of Nottingham, England. It was an entire village of houses and streets and playgrounds, and even a pub. We got in touch with the relevant people and they gave us permission to shoot there. We had the run of the place for two weeks. I knew going in that we’d have no electricity, no running water, nothing. I knew we’d need a generator to power everything, so I knew sound would be an issue, which is why the film has narration – it was designed that way, so we could shoot fast and not have to worry about the sound. Most, if not all of the dialogue scenes are inside, I believe.

The film came together very fast. I wrote the treatment in the autumn of 2008, I think, and we were shooting by January of 2009. The two week shoot was full-on. We shot in order, pretty much, so when the snow came – and boy, did it come – and could adapt to it, in terms of story anyway. Man, it was cold, but great fun. On the whole it was a fantastic shoot. I had a great crew, and a great actor in Les, and we just knocked it out.

Then came post-production, and that didn’t run quite so smoothly. My editor was also my DOP, Adam Krajczynski, and it was just me and him in the backroom of his flat for about a year or more. So in all, it took about two years. The film was done in 2011, or late 2010. We had some showings in 2011, anyway, so I always mark that as when it was done.

BK: What was the hardest part of making A Reckoning? What was the easiest?

ADB: The hardest part was the fallout during post-production. The reason A Reckoning is something of a “lost” film is because there was a breakdown in the relationship between myself and the financiers of the film. The problem we had was we made the stupid, naive mistake right at the beginning of all thinking we were mates and just going out and making the film without any contracts in place, or any of the business side of things sorted. It was the kiss of death.

I was so wrapped up in just making a film that I just waved all that off and it was the stupidest thing I’ve probably ever done. I still hold immense regret about it, regret that all that work seemed to be for nothing – all the work of the crew, freezing their arses off for two weeks on no money, regret that no one saw Les’ incredible performance, but also regret at how things broke down between the two sides, how we couldn’t make it work and get the film out in the world properly. But there you go, you live and learn. I do think that I learned on that one film at least three films worth of experience, on every level of the filmmaking process.

As for the easiest part, I don’t know if there’s ever an easy part to any aspect of filmmaking, but there certainly is joy. Being out there on that vast location, deep in snow, watching Les perform was an absolute joy. The cast and crew made a very hard shoot incredibly fun.

AReckoningTheLoneMan

BK: How did Leslie Simpson get involved in the movie? And how did he prepare for the role of The Lone Man? Simpson seems to go through quite a bit physically throughout the movie.

ADB: I’d briefly met Les when I interviewed him around the time Neil Marshall’s Doomsday came out. When we were putting the film together we reached out to him, he read it and loved it. That guy went all the way. I don’t think he ate over the winter of 2008/09 and he lost a lot of weight for it. He has to carry that film on his own. He’s in every scene, with minimal dialogue, conveying everything through his expressions and his actions. It’s really a remarkable performance. I doubt there are many actors in the world that could have pulled that off. How he’s not a bigger name by now, I don’t know.

BK: How much, if any, of A Reckoning was improvised by star Leslie Simpson? The scenes in the classroom with the “straw children,” at times, have an improvisational feel to them.

ADB: Yes, there was a lot of improvisation. When you’ve got someone who’s as good as Les, I’m more than happy just to let him go. He came up with some great stuff, and a lot of great lines.

BK: How close is the finished movie to the original script? What changed during filming, if anything?

ADB: The film sticks very close to the structure I had in the original treatment. The voiceover was continually changing and Les and I were working on that right up to the moment of recording it, about a year after the film was shot. I knew going in that I would have to be flexible with the script. The location, the weather, the very nature of the story, meant I kind of had to roll with whatever was thrown at me. And I was fine with that. I get a charge of excitement when you’re coming up with something on the spot. We did that a few times. We got ahead of schedule and so we’d find another part of the base that looked cool and just make something up to shoot there. I found I really liked working this way.

AReckoningDesolationSunset

BK: Was it always your intention to leave the nature of the apocalypse the Lone Man lives through/experiences/endures ambiguous? Did anyone else involved in the production ever suggest a, for the lack of a better word, explanation for what’s happening to the Lone Man?

ADB: Yeah, I always wanted it ambiguous. It’s an odd film, maybe odder than I originally intended, but I think its strangeness really gives it something. Is it the end of world, or is this guy just crazy? My wife thought he could have been a homeless man, cut adrift, and all of his own making. I like that. For me, I think it is post- apocalyptic, but I think that people can come away with their own ideas. I mean, he could be dead and he’s in a kind of purgatory.

BK: How did you come up with the opening titles? They remind me of the opening titles to a silent film.

ADB: Yeah, I love silent films, so that is by design. I felt this film was kind of a silent film anyway, and I wanted it to move like one. I also wanted it to have that eerie, other-worldly quality that silent films have.

AReckoningStrawMen

BK: How did you come up with the idea of the “straw people” and did any of them give you a hard time on set?

ADB: They were all arseholes. Especially the children.

BK: Why has it taken so long for A Reckoning to get a release? How will A Reckoning be released? DVD? Video on Demand? Streaming?

ADB: I don’t know. I hope it will see a proper release one day, but there’s still some mess to sort out before that can happen. My advice to anyone wanting to make a film is to get all your contracts and paperwork sorted on day one. I mean, it’s obvious really, but we thought we were all friends together going out to make a film, completely ignoring the business side of things. And film is a business. I paid dearly. Next time will be very different.

BK: You’re also an author. Did you always want to be an author or is it something that just sort of happened?

ADB: I’d always wanted to write a novel and after the film was finished and I found I couldn’t release it – a film I’d spent two years making, getting into a lot of debt in the process, I simply walked away from everything on the filmmaking side of things. I left my hometown of Derby and moved to Warwickshire, got married and started a family. I also started working on a novel – a novel that was just for me. That book turned out to be The Electric, a supernatural, coming-of-age story about a group of 80’s kids who discover an old abandoned cinema that shows movies made by the ghosts of Hollywood. I’ve got a thing about abandoned places, it seems.

The novel came out through a small press and has been picked up by a company in the States and is currently doing the rounds in Hollywood. There’s a lot of good reaction, so we’ll see. My second novel – a short novel – came on in 2015: Dead Leaves is set in the early 80s, during the “video nasty” media furore we had here in the UK. Three horror film fans go in search of a copy of notorious “nasty” The Evil Dead. I’ve written a screenplay for that one that I’d love to make.

BK: How is novel writing different from screenwriting? Is it true that novel writing is all about adding detail while screenwriting is all about getting to the essence of the story as quickly as possible?

ADB: They are very different animals. Screenplays are all structure, and, yes, you’ve got to get across everything you want to in very few words. Because I wrote screenplays first, I feel they really helped when I came to write a novel. They kept my prose tight and my story moving forward. The discipline in scriptwriting stopped me from putting too much fat on my novels, I believe. With both my novels, I had no plan, no outline, I just started writing and went wherever the characters and situations took me. That’s a hell of a lot of fun and you just can’t do that with a film script. At least, I haven’t figured out a way yet.

BK: Who are your movie making heroes?

ADB: Well I was born in 1975, so I’m definitely of the Spielberg and Lucas generation. I love the 70’s directors. Jaws is a very important film to me. Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now, all that stuff. But I also love horror films. Carpenter, Romero, all those guys. But I try and watch far and wide.

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

ADB: After being away from filmmaking for about 8 years, I’ve decided to step back into the game. Next year I plan to make a very, very low budget feature. At the moment my guides are Joe Swanberg and the Duplass Brothers – low-fi, DIY, doable. That’s what I’m looking at. I’m going to shoot a couple of short films to ease me back in and then work back up to a feature. I’ve got a couple of screenplays I want to do, and ideas for a lot of things, so we’ll see. I’m going to have fun figuring it all out again. This time with contracts!

BK: How big of a pain in the ass is it filming in the snow?

ADB: It was actually pretty cool. I just pretended I was making Empire Strikes Back.

AReckoningTheLoneManSkull

**

I want to thank Andrew David Barker for agreeing to participate in this interview and david j. moore for helping to set it up.

You can check out Andrew David Barker’s website here, Facebook page here, and Twitter page here.

You can check out the Facebook page for A Reckoning here.

Andrew David Barker headshot and A Reckoning poster from http://www.andrewdavidbarker.com/. All other images courtesy of Andrew David Barker.