This is a transcript of SYS Podcast Episode 335: With Director/Producer Kevin James Barry.
Ashley: Welcome to Episode #335 of the Selling Your Screenplay podcast. I’m Ashley Scott Meyers, screenwriter and blogger over at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com. Today I’m interviewing director Kevin James Barry who just did a feature thriller called Among Them. We talk about his career and how this film came together for him. Like a lot of filmmakers on the podcast, Kevin began by doing some shorts and is now doing features, so we talk through that whole journey. So stay tuned for that interview. The SYS Six-Figure screenplay contest is open for submissions, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. The regular deadline ends June 30th, so tomorrow, and the contest closes on July 31st. That’s the final deadline.
So just one more month to get your screenplays entered. The idea for the contest was simple, find the best low budget scripts and present them to the industry. I’m defining low budget as less than $1,000,000, in other words, six figures or less. Every submission will get read by at least three professional readers, and I’ve lined up about 40 industry judges to read the scripts that move out of the first round. We’re giving away thousands in cash and prizes to the winners. Once again, if this sounds like something you’d like to learn more about or perhaps enter, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest. And if you’re listening to this podcast, after the contest closes, we are planning on running this contest every year.
So just check back, check out the landing page and you can see whatever upcoming dates might be approaching. I would anticipate always running this contest sort of in the front half of the year, and then coming out towards the end of the year with the winners and our budget list as well. So again, if you are listening to this later after the date has expired, just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/contest, and there you can check out whatever dates might be approaching. If you find this episode valuable, please help me out by giving me a review in iTunes or leaving me a comment on YouTube or retweeting the podcast on Twitter or liking or sharing it on Facebook.
These social media shares really do help spread word about the podcast, so they’re very much appreciated. Any websites or links that I mention in the podcast can be found on my blog in the show notes. I also publish a transcript with every episode in case you’d rather read the show or look at something later on. You can find all the podcast show notes at www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/podcast, and then just look for Episode Number #335. If you want my free guide-How To Sell a Screenplay in Five Weeks, you can pick that up by going to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. It’s completely free, you just put in your email address and I’ll send you a new lesson once per week along with a bunch of bonus lessons.
I teach the whole process of how to sell your screenplay in that guide. I’ll teach you how to write a professional logline and query letter and how to find agents, managers and producers who are looking for material. Really, it’s everything you need to know to sell your screenplay. Just go to www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/guide. So now a couple quick words about what I am working on. Obviously the big thing I’ve been working on is this screenplay contest. I’ve been talking about that now for a few months, that’s still taking up quite a bit of time. I definitely think over the next couple of years I’ll be able to just kind of… I’ll be able to be a little more organized and save a little bit of time and be more efficient with the entries and getting stuff out. But definitely taking up a lot of time.
The other thing obviously that I’m working on is the feature film that we shot in December, The Rideshare Killer, the mystery thriller. Our editor has been working away, really since about COVID started in March. He has a full cut of the film now which I’ve been watching. It’s still pretty rough, but I’ve just basically been spending a lot of time just going through it, making notes and then sending those notes back to him. He makes revisions and sends notes on my notes back. So we’re just working like that back and forth. I’m hoping COVID really dies down in the next few weeks or the next at least month or so, and we can all kinda get in the same room together.
It seems like there’s gonna be some scenes where we just kinda need to noodle on the scenes and try things and kinda see what happens. So we’ll see if COVID… being in Los Angeles, obviously we have some of the more strict stay at home orders, just being a big city. So I don’t think anybody’s really recommending that kinda close contact at this point. So we just gotta kinda wait and see, but I’m thinking things are… me and my family actually went out to a restaurant this past week. So things are definitely kinda getting back to normal. But it doesn’t really seem like COVID has slowed us down that much. At least for these early passes of the script, just passing the notes back and forth is definitely getting us there, but hopefully at some point we’ll get in the room.
Anyways, that’s kinda what I’ve been working on. And this is really the most fun part of the project. If you’ve never been through production, pre-production, production, and post-production, I feel like this is actually the most fun part of the process, because it really feels like you’re making a movie. You start out with a bunch of footage and then it gets edited together and you have a scene and you tweak that scene and kinda turn it in. You go back to the script, kinda look at how you originally wrote it, see how close you are to that, can you get close to that or does that even work or is that even the best situation? But the bottom line is, it feels very tangible.
Sometimes I know when I’m writing a script, I don’t always feel that it is all that tangible or all that productive. Even if you write what you think is a good script, there’s always a little bit of… it’s not a finished document, so there’s still that sort of feeling that you still have to get the thing produced. And this is it, this is the final, you know, piece of this. We’re gonna edit this thing together. And I suppose someone could do a remake or I could do a remake or whatever, but this is sort of the cemented thing. It’s formalizing and finalizing into its final form. And the other stuff with post production is very technical. There’s gonna be a lot of sound stuff, color correction, all that stuff, and that’s gonna be done once we lock picture, once we have a cut of the film we’re happy with.
The music part, I do find fun, because that feels a little bit creative. And so that’s kinda the next section. We’re starting to put in some temp music as well into scenes and just see how that plays and then we’ll bring on our composer and get him to actually write some original music. But the other parts of the post production process, you know, color correction and dialogue, editing, and sound design, those things, those are fairly technical, and I’m not necessarily good at any of them. So in the past, my experience with those is just working with someone, but really it’s just kind of about making it as good as possible. I don’t necessarily have a lot to add on dialogue editing. There’s a lot of tools in this kinda stuff that these guys use.
And it needs to be done and all that stuff, but it’s not the most fun part of the process. As I said, this part that I’m at now is the most fun part of the process at least for me. Anyway, that’s the main things that I am working on this week and probably the next few weeks. So now let’s get into the main segment. Today I am interviewing director Kevin James Barry. Here is the interview.
Ashley: Welcome Kevin to the Selling Your Screenplay Podcast. I really appreciate you coming on the show with me today.
Kevin: Thanks for having me.
Ashley: So to start out, maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in the entertainment business?
Kevin: I grew up in Connecticut in a small farm town, and I think my interest in filmmaking just kinda came from watching a lot of movies. There was a really cool little videos store that I’d visit a lot, there wasn’t a movie theater in my town, it was that small. That and I was just always interested in art and painting. That’s kinda how I got my start in individual arts was with painting.
Ashley: And so talk about maybe a little bit about that. How did you turn that into an actual career? I noticed on IMDb your first feature film was Serena and The Ratts. Maybe we can even talk about that a little bit. How did you ultimately get that film produced?
Kevin: That film got started when I was in college still actually. It was part of my senior thesis. We were lucky to have access to a lot of camera equipment through the school, and I basically had this script that I had written a couple of years ago, and I decided instead of like making a short film for my thesis, I might as well just jump into a feature and see what happens. So I leveraged the equipment that we had there and called a bunch of friends and peers, other students and asked for some help.
Ashley: And so what do you think about that decision, just skipping the shorts and going straight to a feature? Would you recommend that? Do you think that was a good path to kinda just jumpstart you into the feature world? If you were to do it again, would you go back and do maybe a few shorts before doing a feature?
Kevin: I think I’m really glad that I did it because I feel like making a feature is a whole different monster to deal with than making a short film, when you make a feature you have a very long story to tell and you have to keep people’s attention. So if your goal is to make features, then I’d say do it as soon as you can and just get that practice. But I didn’t completely skip making short films. I did make a few before I got into that.
Ashley: I got you. Let’s dig into your latest film Among Them. Maybe to start out, you can give us a quick pitch or a logline. What is this film all about?
Kevin: This film is about two bank robbers who get held up in a seaside motel in the middle of winter, and they’ve got a hostage that they didn’t expect to have from their last job. And as they’re trying to get their papers to get out of there, they encounter a force of evil that they can’t quite comprehend and their sanity is put into question.
Ashley: Got you. So where did this story come from? What was sort of the genesis of it?
Kevin: Evalina, one of the lead actresses was… me and her were kinda kicking some ideas around about a film that we felt like we could produce for a really reasonable budget. We came up with this concept about the two bank robbers and the seaside motel and thought it was like a really nice atmosphere, kinda creepy vibe to it. And we basically just got really excited about that and Evalina sat down and she just pumped through the script in just a couple of days, the first draft. Then she showed it to me and I worked with her on it a little bit and we both really loved it, we were excited. So we’d called some actor friends that we knew and asked them if they were interested in jumping on board.
Ashley: Okay. So let’s talk about that process a little bit with Evalina. Number one, I always like to get a little bit of context. How did you and Evalina eventually, or ultimately meet? I noticed that she was in your first movie. Was she someone you met in college and just got along with so continue to work with, but maybe you can talk about that relationship. How did you guys ultimately meet and why did that relationship persist over the many films?
Kevin: Yeah, we met when I was still in college. We actually met because we were doing backgrounds extra work on Shutter Island in Boston. We were both cast as concentration camp prisoners in that movie. I don’t know if you remember that, because we were both very thin. So they were looking for a lot of skinny people in Boston and we were chosen for that. We actually started dating after that, and when it came time to do my senior thesis, I needed help and I was just thinking like she would just be really, really perfect for the lead role in Serena. She didn’t have that much acting experience, but she was just really excited to give it a try. So we kind of auditioned her and I just felt like she had everything that that character needed. And we had so much fun making that film we just wanted to keep doing it.
Ashley: So let’s talk about, okay, so this process, you guys cooked up this idea and then she went off and wrote the script. On IMDb you have a story by credit. How did that actually get parsed and like what is your contribution? Did you help on the development? She wrote the first draft you helped on the development, and so you said, “Well, I’ll just get a story credit.” How did you divvy the credits up and ultimately, how did that relationship actually work to produce the script?
Kevin: Yeah, I think you said it pretty well. The concept was developed by both of us and she did the work of writing out the first draft and that came back to me and I had some ideas and we added a character and a little bit of a different storyline, the third bank robber, Keith, the man who gets shot and injured in the film. And then throughout the post production process too, we kept tweaking the story and kinda changing things around and how we wanted to present it to the audience.
Ashley: Okay. So let’s talk about the process of developing this script, once she had that first draft. I’m always interested, especially, it sounds like you guys are involved romantically, so I’m always just curious how you… like there must’ve been some times with this script where you guys didn’t see eye to eye. Maybe there were some creative differences, especially ultimately since you’re gonna be the director, she’s the actress and the writer. How did you navigate those situations if you guys maybe didn’t see eye to eye on every creative decision?
Kevin: Yeah, that was definitely challenging. It took a lot of time for us, especially in the post production process with the editing to kinda sit down and make decisions about how we wanted the film to be structured. We definitely did have some disagreements, but we eventually like came to an understanding and a compromise of how we both saw it. And I think we’re both happy with the structure.
Ashley: I got you. So talk about that process of bringing in some of the other actors. Did you guys then do some full reads, continue to develop it further with their advice, with getting notes from these actors. How do you navigate that when you’re getting notes from now a big, broad swath of people that maybe have counter notes, maybe some of their notes don’t always line up? How do you navigate that process?
Kevin: I feel like many of the actors are really on board with the script and we didn’t get too much pushback. None that I can remember about any of the characters, the lines, the dialogue or anything like that. So it was a pretty fluid process getting the actors on board. They were all people that we had worked with before in different ways. Jonathan Thomson was also a lead in Serena and The Ratts, Scott Hand was in there too, Dan Liebman, we knew from working on other people’s films. So they’re all just people that we really enjoyed working with and wanted to call back and bring on board for the next film.
Ashley: I got you. Okay. So then you had a script that you guys were both happy with. What were the next steps to actually raising the money and getting this thing into pre-production and ultimately production?
Kevin: We basically financed this primarily just with savings that we had built up from working, and everybody like volunteered their time. We were just basically calling a bunch of friends and saying, “Hey, do you guys wanna get together to make a film? Like, since it’s gonna be winter break it’s between Christmas and New Year’s.” And we didn’t really have anything better to do and the blizzard hit, and like everybody was kinda like holed up in their house anyway. So we were like we might as well just go make a movie.
Ashley: Perfect. Perfect. So then once you guys were done with the film, what was your next step in terms of just getting it out there and finding distribution? Did you guys do the festival route, did you approach distributors directly?
Kevin: It was… yeah, it was approaching distributors directly. We had a sales agent, we have a sales agent that we got from the first film, Marc Clebanoff with Odyssey Motion Pictures. So we sent it to him because he had already been working with us and I felt like was doing a great job with Serene and The Ratts. He really liked the film and he wanted to take it on and bring it around to the different markets. And he sent it to Gregory at Cinema Epoch who liked the film also and gave us an offer.
Ashley: Now, did you talk to him at all as this process was going through, like early in the process when you guys are just kicking around the ideas or did you wait until you had a complete film before you approached him? And I’m asking just to see, did you get any advice, as you’re going through this process, did you get any advice from the distributor about how to make this thing maybe a little more marketable or sellable?
Kevin: Funny enough, we actually shot this film before we had met him and we finished Serena after, I mean, before we met him also, but… and we had him on board on Serena and then we were still working on Among Them in post-production. So we didn’t get a chance to consult with him, but I definitely would on the next film because it’s I think a really great idea to speak with people who have to sell the films and get their opinion on what’s going to be sellable, what’s gonna be marketable.
Ashley: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So that’s a good segue into my next question. What’s next for you? Do you have some things that you’re cooking up, some projects that you’re trying to get going now?
Kevin: Yes. Michael Reed who plays the clerk in Among Them, he and I are producing a couple of new projects right now that are in development that we’re both really excited about. So we’ve got a lot of things going on. Yeah.
Ashley: Perfect. Perfect. So how can people see Among Us? Do you know what the release schedule is gonna be like?
Kevin: It’s out right now actually. It’s on Amazon Prime for streaming. If you have an Amazon Prime account you can watch it for free or you can rent it on Amazon as well for just a couple of bucks. Also it’s on Tubi TV, which is like a free service, but it’s got commercial breaks, if you don’t mind commercial breaks, you can watch it on there too.
Ashley: Got you. And what’s the best way for people to keep up with what you’re doing, Twitter, Facebook, a blog, anything you’re comfortable sharing I’ll round up and I’ll put in the show notes?
Kevin: Oh, that’d be great. Yeah. We’ve got a Facebook page and Instagram page for Among Them. On Instagram it’s Among Them Film. On Facebook I believe it’s the same. I think if you just search for Among Them on Facebook you can find it there. I’ll follow up with you with some links. My personal Instagram is @kevindangerously.
Ashley: Okay. Perfect. Perfect. So great. Yeah. I’ll round all that stuff up for the show notes and put those on there so people can click over to them. Well, Kevin, I really appreciate you coming on and talking with me. Good luck with this film and good luck with your future films as well. Hopefully we’ll hear back from you.
Kevin: All right. Thank you so much.
Ashley: Thank you. Talk to you later.
Kevin: Right on.
Ashley: A quick plug for the SYS Screenwriting Analysis Service. It’s a really economical way to get a high-quality professional evaluation on your screenplay. When you buy our three pack, you get evaluations at just $67 per script for feature films and just $55 for teleplays. All the readers have professional experience reading for studios, production companies, contests and agencies. You can read a short bio on each reader on our website and you can pick the reader who you think is the best fit for your script. Turnaround time is usually just a few days but rarely more than a week. The readers will evaluate your script on six key factors- concept, character, structure and marketability, tone and overall craft, which includes formatting, spelling and grammar.
Every script will get a grade of pass, consider or recommend, which should help you roughly understand where your script might rank if you were to submit it to a production company or agency. We can provide an analysis on features or television scripts. We also do proofreading without any analysis. We will also look at a treatment or outline and give you the same analysis on it. So if you’re looking to vet some of your project ideas, this is a great way to do it. We will also write your logline and synopsis for you. You can add this logline and synopsis writing service to an analysis or you can simply purchase this service as a standalone product. As a bonus, if your screenplay gets a recommend or a consider from one of our readers, you get to list the screenplay in the SYS Select database, which is a database for producers to find screenplays and a big part of our SYS Select program.
Producers are in the database searching for material on a daily basis, so it’s another great way to get your material in front of them. As a further bonus, if your script gets a recommend from one of our readers, your screenplay will get included in our monthly Best Of newsletter. Each month we send out a newsletter that highlights the best screenplays that have come through our script analysis service. This is monthly newsletter that goes out to our list of over 400 producers who are actively looking for material, so again, this is another great way to get your material out there. So if you want a professional evaluation of your screenplay at a very reasonable price, check out www.sellingyourscreenplay.com/consultants.
On the next episode of the podcast, I’m gonna be interviewing Agnieszka Holland, who just did a film called Mr. Jones which is a Cold War thriller. She’s a very accomplished Polish director and a real artist, and she has some really interesting things to say about just this film, filmmaking in general and her career and kinda how she got started. So keep an eye out for that episode next week. Anyway, that’s the show. Thank you for listening.