It’s my absolute pleasure to bring you the first ever interview for HCMovieReviews. In this piece I will be interviewing my good buddy & film maker Jakob Lewis Barnes. For those that don’t know, Jakob is the big boss man over at JumpCut UK, but when he’s not ruling Film Twitter with reviews, competitions and all round movie goodness he’s also a dab hand at making movies! In what has been an impressive first year for Jakob he has written and directed two short films. Back in February Jakob, through JumpCut UK Productions, brought us ‘Layla’, a fantastic debut film which I implore you all to view right now! If that wasn’t enough for his first year as a film maker his second short, ‘Harlequin’ has also been completed. With a release date looming we thought it would be a good idea to get to know the man behind these moving pictures.
So Jakob, I thought we’d start with some fun film questions so that our readers can get to know your taste in all things cinematic, so an easy one to start, what’s your all time favourite film?
It’s no secret that my favourite film ever is Donnie Darko. I love that I’ve seen it maybe 100 times, if not more, yet I still don’t fully understand all the intricacies of the plot. It’s a beautiful film, and anyone who says otherwise is a fool. I even have a tattoo of Frank the giant bunny rabbit on my arm.
Getting a character inked on your body certainly shows your love for the film! How about a more recent debate now, Batman or Superman?
Funnily enough, this question can be answered with reference to a tattoo as well; I have a Batman tattoo on my leg. For me, Batman will always be the best superhero.
Next, a question which has caused much controversy over the years! Who shot first, Han or Gredo?
Let’s not kid ourselves, Han shot first, right? He’s a sly dog, but that just adds to the character that we all love. He’s probably my second favourite Star Wars character – after Darth Vader (I’m a dark side kinda guy, sorry).
Nothing to be sorry about Jakob, Darth Vader is one of the all time greatest film characters! Speaking of iconic characters, who do you want the next James Bond to be?
See, I only truly got into Bond when Daniel Craig took over the role; I think he’s the best there’s ever been, and I would be happy to see him keep going. But, that’s looking increasingly unlikely, and there’s plenty of replacements ready to step up. I’d love to see Fassbender become 007, as I’m a big fan of everything he does and he’s got just the right mix of grit and charm. But my wild card pick for the next Bond is Emily Blunt – why not?
I can think of a few reasons but we’ll leave that discussion for another day! Now possibly the most important question of this interview, JumpCut UK or HCMovieReviews?
Haha you can’t expect me to say anything other than my baby, JumpCut UK! That said, your site and the content you deliver is absolutely brilliant, and I always look forward to reading your latest pieces. You’re a close second, shall we say.
You’re lucky I’m such a fan of your site Jakob, second is fine by me. Now let’s find out some more about your short films. Initially what was it that made you pick up that pen and start writing screenplays?
I know it’s a little bit cliché, but I’ve always loved telling stories. As you know, I love reading and watching other people’s stories, but I’ve always had ideas of my own flooding my brain, to the point where I just had to get them down on paper for the sake of my own sanity if nothing else. Luckily for me, it just happens that other people are somewhat interested in the stories I have to tell. Writing with the intention of making films only started a couple of years ago though, whilst I was at university – it’s just a shame my degree wasn’t dependent on my passion for script writing.
You’ve now written and directed two short films both with an array of actors and actresses; do you think that you will ever direct yourself in one of your films?
I am actually stepping in front of the camera in the coming months for a short horror film, of which I was involved in the writing process, but at the moment I don’t have any plans to direct myself in a film. Perhaps one day in the future, when I’ve gained more experience, I will, but whilst I’m honing my skills in each area of film-making, I like to separate the Jakob who stands behind the camera and the Jakob who pretends to be someone else. It was actually rather tricky writing a script which I knew in the back of my mind was going to be acted out by myself; it’s hard not to get too self-conscious about these things.
I’m sure you will get the balance just right. Moving forward from your experiences on ‘Layla’ what did you bring to ‘Harlequin’ that you learnt from your first short?
Oh boy, we learnt a hell of a lot from the experience in making ‘Layla’. We were crazy ambitious (and a little foolish) in the way we did all the filming for ‘Layla’ in one day, so the first thing we did was make sure we allowed a lot more time for ‘Harlequin’. Don’t get me wrong, the buzz of scrambling around on that day was quite an experience, but the freedom we had shooting ‘Harlequin’ just made everything run a lot smoother and kept stress levels at a minimum. That said, there’s still plenty we’ve learnt this time around, and we still met problems which needed solving. Maybe one day we’ll shoot a film and have no hiccups whatsoever (but where’s the fun in that?)
Has there been much change from the original screenplays for your shorts and the finished products?
Absolutely! More than I’d like to admit! I mean, what works on paper doesn’t always work in the flesh. Most of the dialogue for ‘Harlequin’ was actually altered or added on the day, simply because some of the lines didn’t feel quite right, or because Kenton Hall is quite brilliant at improvising dialogue. I think dialogue should be quite flexible and open to change though, whereas the narrative is something you have to adhere to, and you have to be confident in the direction your story is heading.
On the subject of confidence and as a relatively new filmmaker how important would you say it is to have a team of people working with you on your Projects?
Ever since I started seriously writing stories and scripts, I’ve had Samuel James and Nick Deal by my side, offering feedback (and brutal criticism) along the way. The fact that all three of us are quite creative and ambitious is probably a big factor as to why we’re friends in the first place, but it also works because we’re not afraid to be honest with each other. We always stress the importance of that no-holds-barred, honest feedback, because we are all striving towards the same thing – making a project successful and bringing a story to life – so it’s crucial that we have each other to bounce ideas off. Most importantly though, they are incredibly patient with me and my pedantic, obsessive ways. I’m a real perfectionist, and I could easily spend hours upon hours editing one small frame of a film, which they begrudgingly let me do (most of the time).
Another individual you’ve worked closely with this year is actor Kenton Hall, who stars as Charles in your latest short ‘Harlequin’, how was it directing him and did he bring your character to life in the way you had imagined?
To have someone like Kenton Hall agree to star in your second short film is quite amazing really; I mean, the guy’s got a film on DVD and everything! So when we were getting ready to shoot, I got a sudden wave of: “Shit! I really need to be professional here”. Thankfully, Kenton is one of the easiest people to work with you could ever imagine. He managed to balance being fun, relaxed and friendly, with the utmost professionalism. As soon as the cameras were rolling, he literally became Charles, and then some. I literally could not have envisaged some of the stuff he pulled out of the bag during the shoot. Like I said before, Kenton was superb at improvising dialogue, but he also offered advice when we needed it, and at times he left us stunned into silence at what he produced for the camera. And I’ll tell you what, if Kenton ever falls out with the film industry, he definitely has the potential for a career in the clown business.
It has been noted in several early reviews for ‘Harlequin’ how you may have been influenced by other filmmakers, in particular Nicolas Winding Refn. Is this an accurate observation and if so what is it about his work that you admire so much?
You know better than anyone how much I adore the work of Nicolas Winding Refn, so you can imagine how delighted I was when one of my favourite critics (Greg Warne) compared my work to the master of neon and synth. I’ll be honest, I definitely draw on other filmmakers’ styles and techniques with my own work. I think it would be impossible not to be influenced by others, and I think it’s a good thing as long as you strike the right balance – there’s straight up copying and then there’s appreciating what they do and making it work in your own way. You’d have to be crazy not to want to learn from people like Winding Refn, Tarantino, Kubrick etc. With Winding Refn in particular, I don’t know what it is about his films but I just love the intensity he brings to the screen – through his shot composition, use of sound and light and the way he teases the audience with minimal dialogue. Can you tell that I think the guy’s a bloody genius?
You and me both mate! Although ‘Harlequin’ hasn’t even been released yet have you started work on your next project? If so can you give us any insight into the ideas you have?
We’ve got more projects in the pipeline right now than you can shake a stick at. The next project from us guys at JumpCut UK Productions will be the short horror film I’m starring in, and that will also be Nick’s directorial debut. We are very excited about that one. We’ve got a couple more short films in development, and myself and Nick are both working on feature scripts that you’ll see collecting Oscars in a few years (you heard it here first). I’ve got a list of ideas and stories the length of my arm to be honest, and I’m just trying my hand at as many projects as possible to taste all genres and get lots of experience behind me. I’m very determined and passionate when it comes to becoming a great filmmaker, so I spend every free moment I have working on scripts and dreaming up new stories. I believe the best way of learning anything is to just throw yourself in and try things, I’m just hoping that’s the key to success too and then I’m sorted.
Well after seeing your first two short films this year I’d say your well on your way to that success. Thanks so much Jakob for giving up your time to talk to me and I wish you all the best with the upcoming release of ‘Harlequin’ and all your future projects. HCMovieReviews will be supporting you all the way.
If you want to anymore about ‘Harlequin’ you can find all the information about it HERE
Also make sure that you give Jakob’s first film, ‘Layla’ a watch, it can be viewed HERE
Thanks for reading this interview and please let me know what you thought about it! Leave a comment below or drop me a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.