What piece of advice for aspiring writers would you think most crucial? In my opinion, all advice to writers tends to be reductionist in nature, attempts to decomplexify a complex and mysterious combination of factors that bear on the process, and I try to avoid giving it. Instead I usually invoke quotes from artists that represent a spectral range of fundamental truths. One huge concept is coming into acceptance that we’re not always going to be happy with what we produce; as Hemingway was reputed to have said, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit.” On a more positive note, though, there’s really only one set of immutable principles: “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about” (Kurt Vonnegut); “write the book you want to read” (Austin Kleon); but, mainly, just write (Nike).
Revising/editing: labor of love or torture tour? That really depends on whether one enjoys the process of writing on any level; these are inseparable concepts. Hemingway, again, is said to have rewritten the last page of A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times. I rewrote this response numerous times. And I don’t know about you, but I’m having a blast.
Criticism: major motivator or background noise? This is tougher to answer. In an age of star-chamber social (and anti-social) media, it’s hard to remain impervious to the churning of the criticism mill. Even if you have a stout ego. So I might opt for a third-rail response here: neither motivator nor irritant, but very possibly murderous. I think we all have to do a serious check-in with our capacity for criticism, and deal with it as necessary. Leaving Facebook alone for a week or so may be a good start.
Art for art’s sake, or show me the money? When you can tell me what exactly ‘art’ is, I’ll be able to respond more fully. For now, I’ve yet to see how one can sustain a creative life without some compensation. So it’s really a trick question.
We’re putting together your theme music. What do we play when you enter the room? Some mashup of Bowie, Sinatra, and U2 dancing a Tango. Can we do that?
What are six things you could never do without? My son, Daniel; Bugs Bunny cartoons; pencils; coffee; friends; Sudafed.
What are you most likely to be found doing at a party? This depends on whether and to what extent I’m drinking. If you’d asked me 30 years ago I might have said ‘flirting.’ Come to think of it . . .
How will you remember 2011? When?
The most embarrassing thing that happened to you at school? Easy. High school in Lakewood, New Jersey, a small community not far from where Snooki resides. One day we were all treated to a special assembly in the gym, where a hypnotist entertained us with what, in retrospect, now seems to be a questionable act for a school-wide assembly. As a thespian of some repute (ok, I was the lead in the school production of Bells are Ringing), I felt obliged to volunteer to be ‘put under.’ It turns out I am a very good subject for hypnotism. In addition to believing that I was I a terrified passenger on a plane hurtling to the ground, I also was absolutely certain that everyone in the bleachers was in their skivvies. I still remember being asked to describe the assistant principal, a portly religious man with an uncorroborated reputation for ‘disappearing’ badly behaved boys. I was aware of what I was doing on some level, yet unable to stop myself from twisting, contorting, and reddening as I attempted to describe a scary fat guy I believed was standing there in his underwear. Excruciating, still.
Wine or beer? Definitely wine. Red. On the dry side. I believe I acquired a strong unconscious aversion to beer when I was 12 and had to pretend at parties that I was drinking it quickly. I can now reveal that my lips were tightly closed as I tilted the can or bottle up.
A great hero or a great villain? I think I’m more attracted to those iffy, could-go-either-way characters. Ahab vs. Moby Dick? Dracula? Even The Joker has some heroic quality deeply submerged in his damaged psyche. But please keep him locked up.
Three filmmakers you admire? This is kind of like narrowing down water molecules. I’ll go with historical figures, that way I’m less likely to offend living legends: Eisenstein, Chaplin, Griffith, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Kramer. (Note to living legends: Scorsese, Herzog, Lucas, Spielberg, Kasdan, Errol Morris, Godard, Woody, Clint, Resnais, Levinson, and others – don’t worry, you’re on the list.)
If you could only have one book, what would it be? Again, I’ll have to violate the numerical limitation: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius; Essays on the Gita; Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis; Anything by Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss; a T.S. Eliot collection; Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth; and possibly Ulysses, because it would take a lifetime just to figure it out.
One unfulfilled dream? I want to be Brad Pitt. But I’d be quite happy as Tom Cruise.
What piece of advice for aspiring writers would you think most crucial? Write every day. Never stop. Never slack off.
Revising/editing: labor of love or torture tour? Both. Revising/re-writing feels evil until you look back upon an earlier draft and breath a sigh of relief that no one over saw that version.
Criticism: major motivator or background noise? Criticism is now a major motivator. It wasn’t always like that. I used to shrink from it. I now thank all the naysayers (and still hate them). I get pissed that no one believed in me enough to give me a break, but I’m stronger now than I ever would have been. It’s good to be angry. Pain is a good thing. Besides, the naysayers will always be there. Get used to it.
Art for art’s sake, or show me the money? Art is the process of discovering what you really are and exposing that truth to the world. If you can get paid to do that… bliss.
We’re putting together your theme music. What do we play when you enter the room? Godspeed You Black Emperor!’s “The Dead Flag Blues”
What are six things you could never do without? My family, coffee, consciousness, the dream of making movies, large bathtubs and candles.
What are you most likely to be found doing at a party? Dancing or talking. It used to be dying a little in the corner all by myself. Glad to leave those days behind and join humanity.
How will you remember 2011? As the beginning of the great adventure.
The most embarrassing thing that happened to you at school? I got caught cheating on a Final. I played it off like I didn’t care but it was pretty bad.
Wine or beer? Tough one. Beer.
A great hero or a great villain? Trick question. Better to have both.
Three film-makers you admire? Bergman, Altman, P. T. Anderson
If you could only have one book, what would it be? Something by Borges
We’re incredibly happy to report that Pig won BEST FEATURE FILM at the Sci-Fi-London film festival we recently returned from. It was an incredible honor and bodes well for us going forward. It was exciting screening the film for such an enthusiastic audience and despite the local distraction–it seems a certain couple was getting married at around that same time–we had a full house and a great Q&A following the screening. And we received some terrific feedback from folks afterwards. Here’s a few comments that we’re very proud of:
“By the way there was a real buzz about ‘Pig’ in the audience. ‘Best film they’ve shown’ was being said a lot, and I can see why. Such an intelligent, playful and well defended concept, but for me it’s this wounded, reformed animal in the heart of the story that sets it apart from the rest of the Sci-Fi pack.“
“Congrats again for ‘Pig,’ which is a fantastic movie. I was totally immersed throughout. Nice work on creating a plot that keeps the audience guessing, yet satisfies their questions at the denouement. Really refreshing to watch a clever yet accessible film; one that feels finished and resolved, yet leaves room for discussion and contemplation.“
“One of the highlights of Sci-Fi London for me – there was no sense of ‘low budget’ at all; in fact the movie felt like an intelligent adaptation of a Philip K Dick story. Kudos.“
“Saw the film at Sci-Fi-London last night and loved it. I hope it gets the wider exposure it deserves.“
And here was a comment we received from a fan who saw it at Nashville and then became a Backer, (thanks, Chris!):
“It was a treat to see an intelligent sci-fact film so well produced. I can’t understand why you don’t have a distribution deal. I’m looking forward to screening the DVD for my friends. The last good film I’ve seen that comes close to ‘Pig’ was ‘Moon’…but compared head-to-head ‘Pig’ is the easy winner.“
Yes! We’ll take that! It is so incredibly fulfilling to see the film play so well for audiences. We’re hoping that all of you get a chance to see it on the big screen where it really shines.
Mark Stolaroff, Producer
My involvement with “Pig” started in the spring of 2008. The project was classified as a “SAG Ulta Low Budget” production, which means that there is almost no pay involved. in cases like this the script has to be exciting enough for me to want to participate and potentially forgo better paying work. When I read the script I was quickly drawn to Henry Barrial’s writing. nothing was obvious or predictable and I never had any idea where the story was headed next. I also felt I would bring something to the character of “the man” that wasn’t in the pages. After meeting Henry in person it seemed to me that we had similar sensibilities and I was excited when he offered me the role.
Over the next few months I met regularly with Henry and the two lead actresses (Heather Ankeny and Ines Dali) to go through the script. this turned out to be an unusually collaborative process. Since Henry was searching for more texture and looking to make changes based on who his actors were, he asked us for a lot of input.
The first day of shooting is often difficult for me because it takes time to fully settle into a character but because of our many meetings throughout that year I felt relaxed and confident right away. After all, I had already lived with this character for many months!
We began by shooting the first third of the film in the desert by Joshua Tree, California which is located about halfway between L.A and the Arizona border. Heather and I were able to live in the house that was the film’s main location for over a week (an unforeseen perk of low-budget filmmaking because this turned out to be the most comfortable setup I’ve ever had on a shoot!) Living in the house kept me in character and at the end of each day we watched spectacular meteor showers in the desert night sky.
Shooting days were increasingly spread out after the first part had been completed. Our challenges were now mostly about logistics and sometimes about logic. Some of the locations we shot in would have cost another production a lot of money but our incredibly resourceful producer Mark Stolaroff knows low budget guerilla filmmaking inside and out. On some of the public locations I felt more part of a heist than a film shoot! Filming in a public park we had to hide all the equipment and bring out frisbees and footballs every 20 minutes at the sound of our lookout man’s warning whistle.
Regarding the logic, the structure and content of “Pig” is quite challenging for an audience and required intense focus from all of us who worked on the film. Many details were especially crucial because they also serve as clues to a kind of memory puzzle within the film. We actually reshot a scene because we thought I had the wrong colored notebook in my back pocket. It later turned out that we had it right the first time.
We finished in the summer of 2010, completing an 18 month shoot. My most difficult day of work was shooting the last scene of the film. Throughout the day I felt emotionally exhausted and extremely unhappy with my work. It was the only time during the project where I felt disconnected from the character. In retrospect, I think I sabotaged myself that day because I didn’t feel ready for the film to end and to shed this character that I had carried with me for over 2 years and grown attached to. Ultimately, that last scene never made it into the film.
Altogether “Pig” was a great experience for me. I loved working with Henry, Mark and the hard working team they brought on board. I feel lucky to have worked with this group of actors and by the end it felt like working with family. I finally saw the completed film’s premiere at the Nashville Film Festival and I’m very proud to be a part of it. I really hope you all get to see it soon!
Rudolf Martin, Actor
Quick update from Nashville–we premiered the film to two enthusiastic audiences, one on Saturday night and one last night, and it was a thrill to see the film in its final form on the big screen and get the reactions from the audience. Several people came up to us afterwards with stories of their own that related in some way to what was happening in our film. We love that the film was received so warmly and that it provoked so many post-screening conversations. And some of you even became backers after seeing it, and we can’t thank you guys enough.
Now it’s on to London to premiere it to a pure sci-fi audience. Very curious to get that reaction!
Only 56 hours left on our Kickstarter campaign and while we’re very close to our goal, we’re not there yet. We really appreciate the support you all have given to the film. Please pass our campaign on to any friends who might be interested in joining the film. With a last minute push, I know we can get there!
Mark Stolaroff, Producer
The final mystery is oneself… Henry and Mark are back from their trek to San Francisco’s WonderCon, where The Man made his SF debut and where Henry participated on a very popular panel called, “What’s New In Indie Sci-Fi,” moderated by fellow sci-fi filmmaker DJ Bad Vegan. They debuted a new trailer of ”Pig” and Henry discussed the ways that working outside of the Hollywood system allowed them the opportunity to explore new ideas and play with narrative conventions. The Man, replete with his customary (and dare I say, smart-looking) orange Hawaiian shirt, black slacks, plastic ties, and black hood, “assumed the position” throughout the convention hall and out front, as attendees gawked, took pictures, shot video, and posed with our Hero. There’s just something irresistible about a Man in a hood! They designed a four-page mini-Comic Book and placed it in front of The Man, with folks grabbing copies and reading them. At a place as busy and as distracting as WonderCon, with studios and other deep-pocketed companies spending tons of money to get fans’ attention, their little guerilla marketing stunt more than held its own.
In a very simple way, Pig began as an idea to explore some of the confusion in life that I generally tend to experience. Life is a challenge in varying degrees for everyone and my main issue has always been identity. When I was a child I often daydreamed that I had been a switched baby and my real parents were somewhere out there. I didn’t dream about this because my parents were so bad or anything, but because I felt very different from them. It didn’t help that my mom told me a story that when I was born she just wanted one thing, that her child be born with blue eyes. I won’t go into the detailed reasons for this (that’s a whole other entry) but, suffice it to say, the day my mom gave birth, they brought her newborn child back to her, after circumcision I’m sure, and it had blue eyes. That was before the nurse realized they had brought her the wrong baby. To my mother’s horror they took that blue-eyed newborn away and brought me to her. And, to her relief, I also had blue eyes. Still, you can imagine the possibilities here. Was I the 2nd child? Did the nursing staff correct their error or create one? How big was the mix-up? So for a long time I really hung on to this switched baby idea. Now, I dropped that theory a long time ago because as I grew to adulthood the physical comparisons with my father were hard to dismiss. It was sexy theory that was tough to let go, but I had to. But writing this first blog entry for Pig I realize that the switched baby idea is still with me. I just call it Pig now.
Henry Barrial, writer & director