An Interview with Patrick Barry – By Kirsten Walsh

When a filmmaker is asked, “what do you want to do in life?” most just say they want to do film forever. Director Patrick Barry (“A swiftly fading spirit”, “VEER!”) always wanted to make films, but found himself encouraging the future of film- by teaching. A professor at a Florida college, Barry not only teaches the study of film, but also shooting on film, and its importance in the scene today. His most recent feature, “VEER!” is currently on the festival circuit, recently winning “Best Florida Feature” at the Sunscreen Film Festival this past spring.

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KW: What film "did it" for you and made you want to pursue filmmaking?

PB: I don’t think that there was a certain film that compelled me to be a filmmaker. I grew up loving Star Wars and Spielberg, just like most other guys my age. For me, though, the desire stemmed more from a sense of artistic satisfaction. A feeling of completion that artists get when they create work they are proud of. Like a runner’s high, but for filmmakers.

KW: At what point did you decide to make it your career?

PB: I remember a certain moment in high school when I decided I wanted to spend my life making films. Up until that point, I wanted to be a cartoonist and was actually working at the local newspaper illustrating stories. As much as I enjoyed that experience, something was missing for me. I had made a few short "movies" (I use the term loosely because most of them involved ninjas) on my parents’ VHS camera at that point and there was just something magical about the process to me. And I knew that’s what I wanted to do.  It’s funny because years later I realized all that work I put into learning sequential art came back to me in storyboarding and shot selection.

KW: Tell me about your first film set experience. 

PB: Not including the little VHS movies I made in high school, my first proper set experience came at F.S.U. I volunteered as a PA on film school films during my freshmen year and I learned quite a bit. Just the number of people involved blew my mind, even at that level. I came from the D-I-Y approach where the crew is you and 2 friends who are both acting in the film, so I guess I was easily impressed.

KW: What was it like directing your first film?

PB: The first film I ever shot on 16mm was during my sophomore year in college, in 2000. It was a 10 minute short titled "Masters of Cool" about these really fast-talking hip kids who get lost in the middle of nowhere on a road trip to the beach.  My college roommate had gotten ahold of a 16mm camera (that was older than us) but it broke down halfway into the shoot. So he drove from Jacksonville back to Orlando to get it fixed. We had minimal crew, basically myself operating camera and a sound guy. It was my first time operating a 16mm camera, first time using a light meter, etc. So it was a steep learning curve. Plus I was counting every foot of film because I had only bought 3 or 4 rolls of film. That was all I could afford to process. So, mostly, I remember the stress.

KW: What has the film experience in Jacksonville, Florida been like for you- since it once was the "Hollywood of the south", but in recent years has not had large studio films visit (with the exception of the HBO film "Recount" and the independent Jimmy Fallon and Tom Arnold film, "The year of getting to know us")?

PB: I don’t define my experience working as a filmmaker by the larger productions that come to town. I mean, it’s great that they come, and many of my friends work on those films and are happy to have a paycheck. But for me, it’s a separate beast. I was an art major in college and on our first day of class, the dean sat us all down and told us that less than 10% of us would ever make a living doing art.  And that mentality is sort of ingrained in my psyche. "I’ll probably be bagging at Publix when I’m 80" kind of thing. As such, I tend to run with a group of filmmakers, artists & musicians who would do their craft even if they couldn’t make their living doing it. That said – I’ve never worked with a group of people that are more giving of themselves creatively than the art/music/film community in Jacksonville. VEER! is a testament to that. That entire film is "talent funded."

KW: Do you think that the film scene in Florida, will ever return to its golden age glory?

PB: If Florida really wants to make a mark on modern cinema, it won’t be through the Hollywood pictures that come looking for a tropical locale. It’ll be the local guy who hits a home run with his indie film and decides to stay put and shoot his bigger budget stuff in Florida. If Florida just had 2 of those guys, can you imagine the effect it would have ? Look at what Robert Rodriguez and Linklater did for Austin. 

KW: What encouraged you to try teaching?

PB: I’ve always considered teaching to be giving back. And I’ve had so many people share wisdoms and lessons with me that I feel it is my duty to return that. Teaching was something I had been considering for some time but I didn’t know how to get my foot in the door, until a friend of mine, who teaches screenwriting at a local liberal arts college, put my name in the hat to teach a film production course there. My first day in front of the students I was just trying to get the words out in order and not make too much of a doofus of myself. But I really came to enjoy it once I got over my initial jitters. Teaching forces you to vocalize your internal thought process, which is something I’ve always had to work at.

KW: What has your favorite moment, scene, or onset experience been? 

PB: I’d say the entirety of the production of VEER!, my most recent film, was something that I’ll never forget. It was a tough, in-the-trenches experience, and there were some very difficult moments where I wasn’t sure if the film was going to get finished, but the cast and crew really kept the train moving. I drew strength from them towards the end of the production.  As far as specific moments, it’s hard to pinpoint one instance. But I get really excited when someone I’m working with, be it and actor or crew member or musician, takes an idea I have and pushes it to the next level. I really thrive off of a healthy collaboration.

KW: With "VEER!" and some of your other films, you have shot with mixed media- some with digital cameras, some with film. What has your preference been?

PB: My preference has always been, and remains, motion picture film. I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to work with film, on projects where we can afford it. I know not everyone has that luxury. But for me, that’s been a huge part of the process. In the same way an oil painter doesn’t want to use watercolors. Medium IS important. For certain films, digital works fine. But for the films I aspire to, I see them on celluloid.

KW: "VEER!" (your most recent feature film) was recently awarded the "Skate or Die Award" at the Pollygrind Underground Film Fest, and the "Best Florida Film" at the Sunscreen Film Festival. What does the future hold for "VEER!"?

PB: VEER!  is wrapping up its film festival run now, which has been a blast. We did a weeklong theatrical run in Jacksonville, Fl – our hometown – which went well. Now we’re mulling our options about doing some sort of small self-release at art house theaters in other cities. We definitely want to set up a few west coast screenings before we put the film out on DVD. 

KW: Where can people learn more about your films and you? 

PB: They can check out my production company at bluellamastudios.com, and check out the VEER! website at skateveer.com. We always love likes on the Facebook page too.