Published on April 13th, 2017 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: John Barnard
With over 30 directorial credits to his name, John Barnard has established himself as a durable director in television projects, short films, and documentary features. Menorca – top-lined by Tammy Gillis – represents his first foray into dramatic feature films. It will be celebrated in different cities as part of National Canadian Film Day.
Director John Barnard spoke to us about Menorca.
Can you start by telling us more about you and the film?
Menorca is my first dramatic feature film. I’ve made a feature doc before and plenty of shorts, but this is my first crack at feature drama.
The film is about a suburban mom named Claire who is a more than a little discontent with her life and partying hard to make up with it. Some might label her a ‘bad mommy’, but she’s way past worrying about appearances. On one of her extended party adventures away from home, her 7 year old son calls to fire her as his mother. Like “You’re not my mom anymore and don’t come home”. For whatever reason she decides to obey him. And she realizes they only chance she might have at redemption is a long-shot plan that involves carrying a rock half way around the world and dropping it in the Mediterranean.
“The fun comes from bringing an unusual narrative to life.”
What was the most rewarding part of this filmmaking experience for you?
For me, the fun comes from bringing an unusual narrative to life. This is a world where people act irrationally, make poor choices, and then make even stranger choices to remedy the situation. You know, like in the real world? For some reason these things are sort of forbidden in films and I’ve worked hard to eliminate a rational narrative in Menorca.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced in making the film and how did you overcome it?
Certainly the big challenge at the outset was shooting part of the film overseas. We shot 12 days in Manitoba but the 4 days in Spain were going to be a challenge, in part because I’d never been to that part of Spain and the didn’t know if the location would match with my vision of it. Luckily it was even better than I imagined, the people were even nicer than I hoped, and I totally hit the jackpot. It’s unusual at this relatively low budget level to pull off international travel as part of production but we did it.
“Choose a story that will leave you with discoveries to make all the way through.”
What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
My advice to aspiring filmmakers it to chose stories that leave unanswered questions and narratives without clear resolutions. Nothing is more off-putting for me than a logical series of events. You might be stuck working with this story for a year, or two years, or maybe five years. Chose a story that will leave you with discoveries to make all the way through.
From your standpoint, how would you describe the current state of the Canadian film industry?
From my own experience it’s very difficult to get films financed, shot, and to an audience but I don’t think that’s specific to Canada. Also, there seems to new fewer independent cinemas who are gutsy enough to play indie movies. For some reason, people aren’t taking chances on unique and unusual stories, or at least not as often as they should. If there’s not much money going around, wouldn’t the best option be to take some chances?
What film-related books and authors have been influential in your creative journey?
Walter Murch’s film editing book, In The Blink Of An Eye, was a revelation for me in the late ’90s when I was starting out and I think it’s a must for any filmmaker. Try and get yourself a copy if you can, or if you’re in Winnipeg, you can borrow mine.
What other projects are you involved with right now?
I’m making a feature doc for CBC doc channel on the life of Randy Bachman, which should take me up to the end of this year.
Where can people find out more about you and the film?
Thanks to John Barnard for speaking with us!
You can see Menorca in Vancouver on April 15th and April 20th at the Vancity Theatre, in Winnipeg from April 20th to 30th at Cinematheque, and from April 21st to April 27th in Toronto at the Imagine Carlton Cinemas.