Named Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You at last fall's Gotham Awards, Steve Barron's "Choking Man" kicked off indieWIRE's Undiscovered Gems series in February. The monthly film screening series from Emerging Pictures (sponsored by Sundance Channel and The New York Times), is culled from indieWIRE's annual best undistributed film list. Barron's "Choking Man," which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, is the story of a loner Ecuadorian diner dishwasher in Queens who falls for a new Chinese waitress.
Barron, an acclaimed music video director, also directed such films as "Electric Dreams" (1984) and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (1986), among other movies, moving into indie films with his first original script, "Choking Man."
In the indieWIRE interview, Barron talks a bit about making the film, which is currently screening at the Miami International Film Festival.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Age 50, born Dublin, Ireland. Tea Boy/Clapper Loader on "Superman" (1978) and "A Bridge Too Far" (1976), "The Duellists" (1977). Was hanging around socially with the London music scene so get pulled into the early 'promo films'. Directed early The Jam, Human League, Adam and The Ants music videos. Then M. Jackson "Billie Jean," A-Ha, "Take On Me" etc.
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?
Chance/timing/bad at academic stuff. Picked up a Super 8 camera and never put it down.
Did you go to film school?
Didn't go to film school, left school at 15.
How and/or where did the initial idea for your film come from, or how did the concept for your film evolve?
Inspiration was NY indie films "The Station Agent"/"Raising Victor Vargas." Was fascinated by the choking victim graphics that seem have become invisible to the people of New York. I discussed with my son in a diner the similar anonymity experienced by the immigrant communities that work in the kitchens.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making and securing distribution for the movie?
Making it is only the begining of the struggle. Not until Steven Soderbergh saw it and offered to help, and then we won a Gotham Award did we start getting approached for distribution.
How did you finance the film?
Part proceeds from 'day job' in mini-series, part equity funding from private investor.
What is your definition of "independent film"?
Interpretation is interference free, leaving me alone to sink or swim - one vision.
What are some of your all-time favorite films, and why?
Felinni's "Nights of Cabiria," loved the way the creativity enhanced and complimented the humanity -- truly great, focused filmmaking.
What are some of your recent favorite films?
Loved the Czech film "Kolya," heart-wrenching child's journey, brilliantly oserved.
What are your interests outside of film?
Love football (soccer to you).
How do you define success as a filmmaker?
Scoring from 25 yards at Wembley Stadium just before they demolished it (achieved on UK indy 'Mike Bassett-England Manager') -- was the same spot that I saw Bobby Cahrlton score for England against Mexico in the 1966 World Cup.
What are your personal goals as a filmmaker?
Apart from the one I scored at Wembley, my goal is to make films that carry a social or ecological message to as wide an audience as possible. Make the audience think and remain thoughtful.