Writer/Director Andrew Barker Talks A Reckoning
DC: I am very curious as to why the film’s title changed. I thought Straw Man had a sinister Wicker Man feel to it plus I think it fits the overall plot of the film perfectly. Care to share what happened?
AB: The reason is very simple – the name Straw Man was destroyed for us. When relations broke down in post-production with a party that financed the shoot itself, that name just gave both me and Adam a very bad feeling.
We decided to change it simply so we wouldn’t go crazy. We’d spent a year editing, without money or a break, and by the end of that year, that party were saying that the film was shelved, even though we were still working on it. At that point, it felt like it didn’t matter if we changed the title because we figured it was over anyway.
The title was meant to give us a fresh start; clean the palette if you will.
For me, A Reckoning for a far stronger title and says more about the nature of the film. Plus, I believe it’s more mature and not as obvious. Films change their titles all the time.
DC: Also, there have been indications in reviews of A Reckoning as well as in interviews that there is some sort of continuing “trouble” behind the scenes which is delaying the film’s wide release. Can you elaborate on what is going on? And what fans can do to actually SEE the film?
AB: Well it’s a very complicated saga, and to be honest, I don’t even know myself anymore. Shortly after principal photography, and even during, the writing was on the wall. Once we got into post-production, relations broke down with those who had financed much of the actual shoot. Adam and I couldn’t, and still can’t quite believe what went on. In fact, pretty much the entire cast and crew can’t quite believe it.
If it wasn’t for so much in-kind support we had, we would never have finished this film.
Now I’ll admit, we made mistakes ourselves, errors in judgement; sometimes our ambition blinded us, but the level of threats and bullying we were subjected to was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before in my life.
It is a long, long story, and one that will be told one day, but I don’t think now is the time.
After all this happened, and the film was finished, I just sunk into a depression. I have pretty much stayed at home for a year, and only now I am beginning to feel normal again, and enthusiastic for new projects.
My wish is that all these positive reviews and wonderful things that are being said about the film make them reconsider their position. This film deserves to be seen. For the mistakes I’ve made, I am sorry. I am still grateful to them for getting this project rolling and I just hope in the future reason will be seen.
But in the end, nobody cares about what we went through, folk might be interested, but in who did what and who said what, none of it really matters, the film is the only thing that matters. I think we’ve created something beautiful, and you’re lucky to do that once in your life, if ever. Life is too short for these things.
How people can see the film on a wide scale… I just don’t know yet.
DC: There have also been quite a few comparisons of A Reckoning to Moon starring Sam Rockwell. How do you respond to those comparisons?
AB: I saw Moon while we were nearing the end of editing and saw there were similarities right away. But if anything, it just reconfirmed that we were on the right track.
DC: There are so many literary references in the film (Poe, Dickens, the Bible etc.), both verbal and visual (“Lovecraft” on the schoolroom chalkboard). How much of that was from your script or did you give Leslie free rein to ad-lib?
AB: Most of the literary references were in the original treatment. Using Dickens’ character names for straw people was something I added into the screenplay.
DC: Tell me about the straw people – how many of them were there? Who designed and made them? Did you get to keep any of them and what kinds of jokes were played on people over the course of the shoot that involved the straw people?
AB: I can’t remember how many of them there were, and I didn’t keep any of them, don’t know if anyone else did. Adam got a few emails after the shoot from people who had been round the base we used, saying they had the fright of their lives when they turned a corner and there was a straw figure stood there. So I guess we just left them there!
The set dresser made them and he did an amazing job, hats off to him. His sets were equally as brilliant.
DC: Several interviews have mentioned that you and your DP are admirers of the films of Terrence Malick and Werner Herzog. Did any of their influences work their way into A Reckoning?
AB: The beauty, poetry and graceful nature of any Malick film had a huge influence on me. He was someone Adam and I spoke about early on. I wrote a 44 page shot list running up to production, working out every single shot. It took me two months to write. I didn’t storyboard, I wrote the shots. At the start of that shot list I wrote a piece about how the film should move and I even referenced Malick.
After that, Adam and I went through the shot list and then on the shoot, we just used it as a guide. We were pretty loose, but without that shot list to always fall back on, we would have wasted a lot of time.
As for Herzog, another original genius, his influence was more about his philosophy on filmmaking. He’s under no illusion about filmmaking, he knows there is no secret art; it’s work and it’s hard, but he’s of the mind that if you want to make a film, then just grab a camera, steal one if you have to, which is what he says, and just shoot. He’s a very inspiring man. Anyone interested in filmmaking should read Herzog on Herzog; it’s a bible… but one you can believe in!
DC: You put your lead, Leslie Simpson, through hell, both physically and emotionally. How did you get him prepped to play The Man?
AB: I went up to his flat over several weekends in the run up to shooting and we would just talk the story and character through over and over. His dedication to the role was extraordinary, and he was amazing to watch. Without him, this film would be nothing.
It is an almost impossible task to command the screen alone for what, 90% of the film, and always hold the audiences’ attention. He is mesmerizing to watch. And he does this with very little dialogue. It’s an incredible performance.
DC: Just to satiate my own curiosity but why is the film not listed on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)? Is this part of “the troubles”?
AB: We were on IMDb, but when the other party said they were shelving the film, they must have taken the page down.
DC: In order to get the word out about this truly thought-provoking film, people need to check out the official A Reckoning website, where there are trailers, interviews and more to be found. How much traffic has the site received?
AB: That website didn’t start out as the official website. It was a fan site, but it so pissed the other party off that they shelved the film because of it. I was just happy someone was getting the word out there for us. Then, it just became the official site because there was nothing else out there.
As for how much traffic the site gets, I have no idea, I don’t deal with the site directly and I’ve never asked.
DC: And there is also a Facebook site which can be found under the film’s original title, Straw Man, that has plenty of info as well as a Twitter account. So, there is no excuse for people to NOT check out the images and read the interviews and reviews for the film. Are there any other resources on the Internet for A Reckoning?
AB: No, they are the only resources on the net at the moment.
DC: What are you working on now or what is on the horizon for you?
AB: It’s been a slow crawl back to being interested in making anything again, but I’m slowly healing now. Like I said before, I spent a year at home, and in that time I just wrote - short stories, outlines, I even completed a children’s book. But I have only just started to think about films again.
Just this week I’ve begun working on a screenplay with a writer named David Flint, which is a horror film set in the desert. We have an up and coming company in the states interested in this project. They are called Film Regions International, Inc and they’re just readying to release their documentary, My Amityville Horror, which I’m looking forward to seeing.
I also have a backlog of scripts that I’ve written with my usual writing partner Matthew Waldram, one of which I really would love to make.
It’s been difficult to move on until I knew the fate of A Reckoning, but I’m slowly starting to think about what to do next.
DC: As this is a horror site (and there IS horror in A Reckoning), are you a fan of horror films? If so, what are some of your favorites?
AB: I think The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is the greatest horror film ever made… Hooper’s of course. It is a relentless nightmare; it’s beautifully shot and just works on so many levels. It’s an extraordinary film.
I also love the old Universal Monster flicks; they’re just beautiful to look at.
Plus, I love the work of John Carpenter, early Romero, all the usual suspects really. As for modern horror, I guess Let the Right One In is the best horror film I’ve seen so far this century. It’s a masterpiece. I haven’t seen the remake.
DC: What is your opinion on the state of film horror these days?
AB: I’ve kind of developed a love/hate attitude towards horror films of late. I don’t love them like I used to when I was younger… even though I’m writing one at the moment!
I think films need to become scary again, not just disturbing. I think this is happening, but slowly.
DC: How about horror literature? Any particular authors you are a fan of (besides Poe)?
AB: Again all the usual suspects – King, Barker, Peter Straub, Richard Laymon… also Richard Matheson - I Am Legend is one of my favorite novels, and was another big influence on A Reckoning.
DC: What is one thing no one knows about Andrew Barker that you think they should know?
AB: I’m not going to let our film disappear and die.
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