Early Light (USA, 1:14:41)
Directed by: Geoffray Barbier
Written by: Geoffray Barbier, Yann Sobezynski
Cast: Ian Bouillion, Trager Galinsky, Shannon Hamm, Rob Morgan, Jay Potter.
After spending 10 years at a Juvenile Facility, two young men, one white and one black, both with dark deeds in their past, struggle to reclaim their freedom and re-enter society as their will is put to the test by horrific memories and a society that never forgot.
Interview:CSB: Thank you Geoffray for joining us today. Your film, Early Light, will be shown at the 2015 NYC Independent Film Festival, and we are very excited about that. Tell us a little about where you are from, what brought you to New York and how you got into film.
GB: Sure, I studied film in Paris in the mid-nineties, and I arrived in New York in 1997. I was the Director Of Operations at the New York Film Academy for ten years, and ten years ago, I started my own film production company, called Coldcuts Productions, where I direct and produce mostly music-related video content for different brands such as Absolute Vodka to Dom Perignon.
CSB: The French are world-renowned for their films. What has it been like working in this industry in the US?
GB: Well, you know, New York has always been a big inspiration to me musically and in films. I grew up watching Spike Lee movies, Scorsese movies, Jim Jarmusch. I was drawn to New York by The Ramones, Talking Heads, Television. For me it was essential to be surrounded by this creative background. New York is such a cinematic city, and I always wanted to shoot in New York. Until now, I have always been writing for New York.
CSB: As you mentioned, you’ve worked a lot with music videos, what was it like to direct a full-length narrative film?
GB: It’s always been the go-to point to actually direct a long-form movie. When you have an hour and a half to explain a character, you have much more time than in three minutes. To me, directing films has always been the landing platform, and I feel comfortable in doing so. Just like when you see Martin Scorsese’s life, shooting documentaries for The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan. I am trying to follow the same path.
CSB: What are some of your favorite films and/or tv shows?
GB: Probably The Deer Hunter from Michael Cimino, I’ve always been an immense fan of Cimino’s filmmaking—Heaven’s Gate, Year of the Dragon. But as I said, Martin Scorsese has been a massive inspiration to me, in his ferocity of filmmaking, in discovering new ways of telling the story, but also with the characters he’s talking about. When you see Taxi Driver’s characters, or Good Fellas, which I was watching last night—the authenticity of the characters, and again the audacity of the filmmaking. I would say that Martin Scorsese is one of my biggest inspirations in filmmaking, not that you would see that in Early Light, cause there is no voiceover, and Early Light really follows two characters at the same time, they never meet each other.
CSB: What motivated you to take a closer look at juvenile delinquency and re-entry into society after a prison sentence?
GB: In a movie, I always like watching a character dive into a new world. It was about twenty years ago, I read an article in the newspaper about two kids, who committed a really, really terrible crime, and I was just curious to see what would happen to them. How can you get a new life that you’ve never had? These people, they went to jail when they were ten years old, and they get a new chance. And I believe in the second chance, I believe in the third chance and the forth chance. I hope this film shows that; I was just curious to develop the actors, surrounded by a world that they were total strangers to.
CSB: Did you do any research prior to directing the film?
GB: We really looked at the true story of these two characters, that was one of the things I was really interested in developing. This story took place in Northern England, and as you know now, my love for New York. So I wanted to take the base of the story and to develop it with Yann Sobezynski, my longtime writing partner. It was interesting to develop characters to live a life that they never had.
CSB: How did you choose the actors who played Alex and Jon?
GB: We did a casting, and we started shooting with one character that didn’t work. And suddenly, the son of a good friend of mine, Robert Galinsky, a comic—a really iconic person in the theater and comic world in New York— presented me his son and said, “maybe that’s your guy”, and he was. Trager never played a single film before this film; I feel that his naturale and his performance just made it for me. It was incredible, but we did about 2-3 months of intensive casting with my producer Julie Amalric and then we came up with this solution. You’ve seen the cast, we have a few iconic rock people: David Yow, singer of The Jesus Lizard—one of my favorite bands—Andy Shernoff, the bass player and the songwriter of The Dictators. So I was kind of using my connections in New York and putting them where they could fit in.
CSB: Both Alex and Jon must face extremely challenging hurdles as they attempt to re-integrate into society, but their situations are very different. Did your film intend to comment on racial or socio-economic inequality? If so, in what way?
GB: Not really, and when we started shooting we had two Caucasian actors, and it wasn’t really in my mind. Living in New York, there are so many different nationalities, so many different backgrounds; I was not trying to make any profile or anything like that. I’m not really interested in getting into that at all.
CSB: Will you be attending the festival yourself?
GB: Yes, and I am hoping Julie Amalric will be here, she’s in France now, but I’m hoping she will be there.
CSB: What can we expect from you in the future? Do you have any new projects that you’re working on?
GB: I’m actually writing a new film, a modern-day Taxi Driver, called Nowhere Man. Right now I’m just polishing the script to send it out, to raise money and just to do it right away. Independent filmmaking—you can’t really talk about it, you have to do it. I’m just diving into another blank year on the dark side; I’m just trying to move forward. I’ve spent the whole summer polishing this script, and I’m really excited to take it out, raise money and just do it.
CSB: Is there anything else you would like the festivalgoers to know about Early Light?
GB: You make films for them to be seen, and I’m very excited that you guys selected the film. I’m hoping the film will find a bigger audience; it’s very, very hard these days to sell an independent film, with few stars, although we did have the great Paul Sparks, who did Boardwalk Empire, Mud. He gave us a few days to be in the movie and I’m so grateful, so thankful to him for it. But ideally, I’d love this film to have a wider audience than what it is now and that is what we are aiming at. That’s why I can’t thank you guys enough, just for selecting the film and believing in the film.
CSB: Well thank you very much Geoffray.
GB: You are very welcome.
***Interview with Carolina Solms-Baruth, press representative for the 2015 NYC Independent Film Festival, and Geoffray Barbier, writer and director of Early Light and founder of Coldcuts Productions.