Los Angeles based first-time filmmaker Russell Bailey created the smart, charming indie dramedy "Barmy" on modest means. The film tells the story of a stubborn cartoonist forced to give up his independence and open himself up to the possibility of romance. The film is available to view now on SnagFilms (and below).
What it's really about: It's all too common to get caught up in the ideal of being self-reliant. By trying to live at this standard as productive "individuals," most people live very isolated lives, unaware of the beauty of community around them. That's what this story is about – Charlie Atwood (Napoleon Ryan), who lives a self-reliant lifestyle to the extreme until he is in a car-bicycle collision. Charlie is forced to face his worst fear: the complete loss of independence. Through his struggle of being confined to a full-leg cast and virtually immobile, Charlie must reevaluate his thought process, while struggling against a growing fondness for his temporary home health care nurse, Amy Murray (Sherill Turner).
Why did you want to make movies: Growing up on Star Wars is why I wanted to make movies. Other kids wanted to be Skywalker. I wanted to be Lucas.
I remember being two-years old - one of my earliest memories - and my Dad bought a brand new camera. This thing was a monster. It recorded to VHS. I was fascinated by it, so much so that I built my own video camera out of Legos. My camera didn't work as well as my Dad's, but I was still happy with it.
Fast forward to elementary school, I took on shooting my first actual "film" as an extra-credit assignment. Pretty much consisted of lighting army men on fire, and demolitions in the back yard. I think there was footage of a groundhog in there too. I figured out that if I had two VCRs side by side, I could cut a film together by hitting "pause" and quickly scrubbing through the footage to find my cuts. I set it all to Edwin Starr's "War". This was my first attempt at editing. Got an A on the project.
I didn't go to film school, but I did take advantage of my friends who did, helping them shoot their 16mm films so that I could get my hands on a camera, figure out lighting, and get real experience making movies. I got the best part out of film-school, the hands on experience, without having to pay a dime or sit through lectures.
What inspired you to make this movie? I wanted to make a movie that mattered to me. Something that I've struggled with. I knew that I didn't play well with others. Not that I was a mean guy - I wouldn't have stolen your bike or anything. But forget about the bicycle built for two. I wanted to cruise alone.
I didn't realize how much this effected me though until I met my great-aunt for the first time. Ninety-two years old. She'd lived alone for sixteen years - hadn't left the house. A complete recluse. Neither of us knew the other existed. I had just moved to L.A., and it turned out that she lived right down the street in Orange County.
I quickly found out that her house had been condemned, and social services had been knocking on the door for years. She's blind, and handicapped, yet had figured out how to be completely self-reliant for what she deemed necessary. I saw that there was an overwhelming need for help, and wanted to do everything I could for her. The only problem was, she didn't want my help. She didn't want anyone's help. She wanted to do it all on her own.
After a years-long process of trying to make positive changes in her life, I came to the realization that she and I were the same. Both of us were self-reliant, but to the extreme where it was a detriment to ourselves. We both needed to change. That's where the story of Barmy came from.
Biggest challenges? How do you make a movie on pocket lint?
From the beginning, we planned on self-financing the film. I wrote a story with minimal locations, and very few explosions and car chases, so that we could make it on a low budget. My wife and I worked for a year, setting 100% of one of those incomes aside.
After a year we still didn't have our budget, but didn't want to put off filming. We tried crowd-sourcing the film, but our all-or-nothing fundraiser didn't make it's goal, so there was no bank. However, the fundraiser raised awareness about the film, and afterward a close friend contacted me wanting to contribute to the film. Today, he's the executive producer on Barmy. His funding and our savings green-lit us to go into production.
What will audiences respond to? It's my hope that they'll respond to the realness of the characters. Their humanity. I had the opportunity to work with an amazing and extremely talented cast, and their work really shines in this film. Napoleon Ryan and Sherill Turner both carry the film start to finish in an emotional and captivating way. I believe the SnagFilms audiences will see this and fall in love with their characters.
What films inspired you? We thought a lot about the work of Woody Allen while we were piecing together our visual style. You'll notice that many of our scenes are master-shots, and the camera stays still. In doing this, we found that the actors and their performances pop out, as apposed to trying to give a film energy through camera movement.
After writing Barmy, we looked back at who Charlie Atwood (Napoleon Ryan), may be most like in cinema. The closest character that we could find was Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson), in James Brooks's "As Good as it Gets." Another character who just wants to do it on his own, doesn't need a friend, until he meets his opposite in Carol Connelly (Helen Hunt).
The cinephile looking through a microscope at the film will discover the beauty of the handiwork of every single crew member on the project. They'll see the gorgeous cinematography by Alan Vidali, and they'll feel the heart-felt score composed by Sergio Pena. From start to finish I was given the gift of an amazing team.
[Full Disclosure: SnagFilms is the parent company of Indiewire.]