Filmmaker Kevin Barry has crafted a tense, complex and truly original yarn with his new film “Among Them” (now screening on Tubi and available on Amazon Prime). We speak to the pizza delivery driver turned independent filmmaker about his journey, the new film, and why he makes films.
Why movies? Was there a particular film as a kid that made you chase a career in entertainment?
When I was in high school I had every intention to become a painter but as I was studying that I also was becoming fascinated with the possibilities of filmmaking becoming accessible to everyone through the digital camera revolution. I remember going to the video store and just picking out films to rent based on the cover art. Eventually I made my way over the foreign film section and started watching films from directors like Jean-Luc Goddard, which had a completely different style and production value than what I was used to. It seemed accessible and made it clear that you don’t need a big studio production to create a film. The interest in new camera technology and my discovery of low-budget films coalesced to eventually take precedence over my interest in painting, although I’m glad that’s where I started because it gave me a solid foundation to work in film.
I imagine you’ve had to work other jobs along the way, too?
Yeah I starting taking summer jobs and working at a restaurant when I was 15, then as a warehouse worker, pizza delivery driver, hotel valet and office jobs. It’s given me exposure to a lot of different types of people and situations, which is important as a writer. You have to have a range of experiences and interact with people from different walks of life if you want to create characters and understand what motivates them. Everybody is the way they are for a reason so fictional characters have to have those reasons, even if they’re not laid out in the story.
How have your films, up until now, been financed?
They’ve been financed from family and personally so far. When I was still in film school I put together a presentation showing my parents what could be done with digital cameras and a small budget, while also leveraging the resources available at the school. They were intrigued and figured that even if the film didn’t make it’s money back it would still be a good investment to get me started on this career path.
And Among Them?
We put more of our own personal money into Among Them this time around. We had a lot of props and camera equipment still good to go after the first film so we decided to use them all again. We affectionately called Among Them our “leftovers movie” because we were reusing so much stuff and brought a lot of cast members back from the first film. The biggest expense was the location, which we got at a great discount because it was a beach town in the middle of winter so it was completely off-season.
I imagine you’d have to have a support partner or family – who equally believe in your vision?
I’ve been really fortunate to have the support of a lot of people over the years, not only the cast and crew on these films but the people that help promote and showcase indie films with press, reviews, interviews and film festivals. My friends, family and mentors have been a huge source of support because making an indie film is no easy task, and committing your life to a creative pursuit is committing yourself to a lot of challenges. But we do it because there’s really nothing that beats it and so it’s important to have people in your life that understand that. My parents especially could have pushed for me to go in different directions in life or said that trying to be an artist is frivolous and futile but they never did. They helped me clear the path while also imparting their wisdom on how to make it a viable lifestyle.
Speaking of vision, tell us about the original vision for this one?
We set out to make a film that touches on the effects that life’s decisions have on someone. What these characters go through would be horrifying in real life but ultimately it could have been avoided if they chose a different path, so now they’re paying for it. For me it’s about the lingering effects of regret and how the harm you inflict on others will haunt you. In Among Them it’s like taking that feeling and turning into a very real and immediate threat that the characters have to contend with.
Does the film hitting our screens this month very closely resemble that original vision?
The film came together very much the way I had envisioned. Anyone who practices an art form will progress over time and look back at work they had done before and see it in a new light, often more judgementally. So there will always be things I’ll think I could have done better but overall I’m really proud of what we were able to do.
I can only imagine the issues you might’ve run into filming a movie in a motel. Real motel was it?
Aside from a couple tripped circuit breakers we were really lucky to have had a pretty smooth experience with the motel. The weather on the other hand was the real challenge; the cold kept freezing up our camera equipment (to the point where we went to a sex shop to buy a vibrator and sawed it open to repurpose the motor for our camera.) Sun and Surf Motel is indeed a real motel and the management was very accommodating to us filming. The phone number on the sign in the opening of the film may still be the office line. Fortunately with the internet I don’t think kids are bored enough to make prank phone calls anymore, right?
What do you hope for this movie?
I’m hoping Among Them will be discovered by the people that like this kind of film, a thriller with a little bit of experimental storytelling style. I make films for two main reasons, because I love the process of it and because I want to connect with other people through creativity and art. And if people don’t watch the film, then a perfectly good vibrator will have been destroyed for nothing.
Thank you for the interview! Check out Among Them on social media
Among Them Instagram: @amongthemfilm
Among Them Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amongthemfilm/
Kevin James Barry Instagram: @kevindangerously
Check out a new clip ‘Liftoff’ from AMONG THEM