Twitter is a wonderful medium.
Through it you can see the thoughts and dreams of others, their aspirations and hopes…
Or you can meet very interesting people!
Meet Kenneth Barker, a film maker and writer from the UK who writes and directs, you guessed it, Science Fiction! I was able to ask him a few questions (some serious. Others…well silly. Or awesome. Use whichever adjective you prefer) and here are the results.
Spoilers: he’s not really a sports fan and he has the most interesting pick for a starship captain. There are links to his work throughout the interview and at the end, please go check it out!You can also find him on twitter: @KennethBarker1, and at his film studio website Water on the Rock http://www.wotr.co.uk
Here’s a video detailing the making of his latest film, then the interview.
Will: Tell us a little bit about yourself
Kenneth: I had the best possible childhood in my opinion – firm boundaries set by my parents for behaviour but total freedom to play, read and discover the world around me. When I was primary school (around 5 years old) they were dumping old books (around 1972ish) I got a small green box with that lovely waxy-feel paper; it had fairy stories in and I particularly remember one being about Jack Frost. The illustrations were fantastically detailed. Of course from that moment I was hooked to a life of creativity. In 1990 I saw Robocop II and came away unimpressed and thought ‘maybe I could do better.’ Shortly after I produced my very first short film which was loosely inspired by Beowulf. That film was good enough to get me into film school in Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK and I’ve never looked back since.
WF: I’ve watched your trailers and I’m reading your novel right now, and I have to say that I’m very impressed with your work. What do you put into your Sci Fi writing on a weekly or even daily basis?
KB: Thanks for taking the time to look at my work. I was out of paid work for a while in the late 90’s after leaving film school (heard that before!) and the big production companies were all saying “great screenplay Kenneth….but it’s not for us…ever considered using it for paper mache!!” That made me realise I should be making films for myself because Digital Video (DV) cameras were exploding onto the scene. Costs had plummeted so now the only deciding factor was ‘do I have the drive to do this or just remain an also-ran.’ I have story ideas constantly – I call it “mental diarreah.” The really good ideas recur and are jotted down on a near daily basis. Once I get the initial spark for a screenplay I will spend weeks intensively researching it and planning the narrative. The actually screen writing process from there usually only takes a few weeks because of the detailed plotting and preparation beforehand. The novel for Kingdom has the advantage of me already producing the film and having a feel for what I want the backstory to be. Duration-wise, the writing was mostly completed in a six month block with a typical writing day being from 7:30am – 2pm Monday to Friday.
WF: What sort of Science Fiction and Fantasy has shaped your love of the genre?
KB: The old trusty BBC infrequently (in the days just before VHS and DVD) would have “and now a season of science fiction films…” All the classics such as Forbidden Planet, War of The Worlds, This Island Earth, The Day the Earth Stood Still, When Worlds Collide, Them – heck, I’m giddying just typing this list. Those films were hugely formative to me. I also read some cracking science fiction texts and fell totally in love with the work of illustrator Chris Foss. He produced conceptual work on the originally planned 70s version of Dune, Superman and Alien amongst others. I have been to the end of the universe and back with Foss’ work.
WF: What is your favorite part of being a film maker?
KB: Warm smile stretches across Kenneth’s face.
The initial spark – it becomes “this is a story I have to tell. But I have no budget! Well think of a way around it and just tell a great story.” Once I have the kernel of an idea it usually starts my brain firing off in all sorts of directions. Ideas/concepts, bits of dialogues, story beats become attracted to the central premise like iron filings to a big magnet. Some stories start writing “themselves!” I also get very excited in post-production when all the hubbub of production has cleared – I can focus on finding the story through editing and adding the necessary visuals. It is a mesmerizing evolution. I implore anyone reading this, who has idea the inkling of a notion to make their movie, just do it.
WF: How long did it take you to make your film?
KB: 2 years and 10 months for On The Shoulders Of Giants (youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/OTSOG2012) I don’t want to go through that duration again any time soon. I live as a “struggling artist” but the toll of sacrificing so much to get the film made must be a considered decision. In my mind it was worth it though; I’m immensely proud of what my production team achieved on our “femto” budget.
WF: What is your favorite film of all time?
KB: The Blues Brothers still kills me. Close Encounters. Hilary and Jackie tears me up. I salute Armageddon. What Dreams May Come – oh! Moby Dick – poetic adventure. Coen’s True Grit – bravura work across the board. Barry Lyndon – totally captivating. This could become a very long list….
WF: What are some of your favorite television series?
KB: Do you know anybody that didn’t like original Star Trek as a kid! Space 1999 then a raft of UK non genre stuff. X-Files had an appeal along with Project Blue Book. I stopped watching TV around 2008 and only use my widescreen for DVDs and Blu-Rays.
WF: If you were stuck inside of a spaceship for two years on a scientific mission, who would be your preferred captain?
KB: Ahab for his determination.
WF: Favorite food?
KB: If I’m working on stuff on a Friday – Barker’s (nearly) World famous Burger night with a beer. Saturday is a curry. I love cooking. A good roast methinks. I know my way around a kitchen. Diets – sorry, what are they??
WF: Words uttered at the sight of a dying star? (from a safe distance of course)
KB: Wow! Thank you. Joni Mitchell said “we are stardust” and I tend to believe her.
WF: Favorite fictional weapon?
KB: The photon torpedo cures most evils. My third film Catalina: A New Kind of Superhero featured a weapon that could boil off a planets atmosphere. Pretty despotic I would say.
WF: Could enough Dragons take down a star ship?
KB: Cool concept Will 🙂 Yes – and I have a pretty cool story in which something like that occurs.
WF: If you could build a robot to do one thing perfectly, what would it do?
KB: Tidy and decorate my house. Two concepts that are not nearly as interesting as creating something with 3D software or a word processor.
WF: Favorite football club?
KB: Over my head sir. I don’t play it or watch it. I will root for Brazil at the next World Cup mainly because they are so colourful and passionate – the football might get a look in too.
WF: If you had unlimited money to make a film, what would the story be and who would you cast as the lead role?
KB: Assuming the ‘limited money’ is nothing: Cast a professional actor looking for a great showreel piece. Some actors may baulk at not getting paid and I wish them well while they “rest” between paying gigs. With a little savvy – digital effects can be used at very low cost to enhance the story. I’d like to riff on something by Jules Verne perhaps or a Woody Allen style sci-fi piece?? Damn; so many ideas and not enough time. Thank you Will.
Some links to Kenneth’s work and press:
Yorkshire Evening Post – http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/divine-inspiration-for-leeds-man-s-homage-to-1950s-sci-fi-classics-1-4928997
Kingdom – http://www.wotr.co.uk/page15.html
On the Shoulders of Giants: http://www.wotr.co.uk/page18.html
OTSOG Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/On-The-Shoulders-of-Giants/383469958384829
OTSOG youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/OTSOG2012