“Among Them” is a new movie by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Kevin Barry who kicked off his filmmaking career after film school, first working as a volunteer production assistant and eventually securing regular employment as a crew member. After directing his own short films for a while, Barry decided it was time to give features a try – his latest, “Among Them” just hit Tubi.
He recently discussed his career via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): Where’s home for you, sir?
Kevin Barry (KB): Hey Meagan! I currently live in Los Angeles.
MM: And is that where you started your filmmaking career?
KB: I got started as a writer/director in Boston when I started shooting my first feature film while still at film school.
MM: How did you get your start?
KB: I had started as many others do, in a combination of ways. I shot videos with friends on my dad’s camera when I was a kid. I learned as much as could about filmmaking on the internet and from books. I attended film school and helped the other students with their projects. I volunteered to work as an unpaid production assistant. Then, I worked my way up to more paid gigs as a crew member and started directing more short films of my own. Eventually I just decided I had to get over the mental hurdle of trying to make my first feature film and committed to it.
MM: And what was the first film you shot?
KB: The first feature is called “Serena and The RATTS” which is about a wayward young girl taken under the wing of a hitman and trained to be a killer. I had written it when I was 19 and started shooting it a couple years later after my first attempt to produce it fell through. We borrowed equipment from the school every weekend, held casting calls and gathered up some friends to come help us. It took about 9 months of shooting off and on, mostly on the weekends when our actors were available, to complete the production phase.
MM: How would you say you’ve improved as a director between then and now?
KB: Cinema has is its own language and so to make a movie you have to be willing to speak poorly at first. Some people are able to pick it up and create something brilliant and eloquent right away but I don’t consider myself one of those people, but I am dedicated to it. There’s an incredible amount of meticulousness that’s needed to make a great film and I’m hoping that each film I complete will show a better awareness of that and also a stronger vision and ability to impart emotion on the audience.
MM: Can you speak of the inspiration for “Among Them”?
KB: Evalena Marie and I were kicking around some ideas for a film that we could create without having to raise a lot of money to produce. We wanted to do something small scale, with a few friends and we were both excited about the idea of a story that follows two bank robbers after a messy last job that leads them into a creepy motel with a hostage. Evalena jumped into writing the script and stayed up day and night, doing nothing but write and managed to get through the first draft in just a couple days. She let me read it and it had such a distinct energy about it because it was inspired by some of her own scary experiences. I could see how it would play out in the dead of winter, in an empty beach town in New Hampshire and I loved the vibe. So, we called some friends and got a couple of our favorite crew and actors on board, packed the car and braved a blizzard to make our way up to New Hampshire to start location scouting.
MM: Because it is such an intelligent crime thriller, at any time did you consider simply selling the script to a studio and letting them do their thing?
KB: Thank you! It really didn’t cross our minds to sell it. We didn’t know anyone buying up scripts at the time since we hadn’t really been exposed to the Hollywood/studio world yet and we loved making films ourselves so that was the plan from the start.
MM: What are the benefits of getting to do the film independently?
KB: I’ve only gotten to work on studio sets in a smaller capacity so I feel like I’m comparing apples to oranges without ever having tasted an orange, but that being said, from what I’ve heard, there’s a lot of bureaucracy that you have to navigate through if you’re doing a studio film. A lot of the creative control is forfeited for the sake of protecting the investment that goes into making a film like that. But with independent films you have a lot of creative control. That’s what I like most about making movies like Among Them. We got to make all of our own decisions about everything. It has its setbacks, not working with a full budget and having to figure out how to market the film when you’re done, but you get the freedom to do the best you can and make it your own. And I believe you get much better stories out of it. For example, on a studio film you’re very unlikely to be in a situation where a small motor that operates your camera equipment dies in the cold so you desperately hit up sex shop in the middle of the night to buy a vibrator that you have to saw open with a dull kitchen knife to try to steal the motor inside and use on your camera. That was our New Years Eve on Among Them.
MM: Where did you discover the cast?
KB: We were able to completely skip the casting call process on Among Them because it was such a small amount of roles to fill. We called actors that we had worked with in the past and always had a great experience with. Jonathan Thomson and Evalena Marie were both leads in my first film. Scott Hand was cast in a WWII flashback scene in my first film. Michael Reed had a one-line role in my first film and I thought he was amazing so I had to put him into a much better role this time around. Dan Liebman had worked with me and Evalena on two other director’s short films. Nick Apostolides had worked with Evalena a sci-fi short film called Moriah. There was a bunch of really talented actors getting a lot of work around Boston at the time, so we all just kept running into each other on different sets. It was tight knit little community so we just made some calls and asked them if they were down to go shoot a movie in an empty beach town in the middle of a blizzard.
MM: How difficult was it to get distribution?
KB: I’m fortunate to work with a really good sales agent, Marc Clebanoff at Odyssey Motion Pictures who submitted the film to Gregory Hatanaka at Cinema Epoch. He told me they were an honest distribution company, which seems to be very difficult to find for an indie filmmaker trying to get a fair deal on their film. So far, they’ve been great and I’m looking forward to working with them to help the film find its audience.
* * * * *
Among Them Instagram: @amongthemfilm
Among Them Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amongthemfilm/
Kevin James Barry Instagram: @kevindangerously