Back in October of 2016 our Editor-in-chief, Hamish, sat down with Jakob Lewis Barnes, founder of Jumpcut Online, director, screenwriter and now actor to find out more about his short films. You can read our initial interview here. Since then Jakob has been hard at work with Jumpcut Productions, a UK based indie film production company who released new short film, ‘Conscientia’ late last year. We’ve been lucky enough to grab a chat with Jakob and fellow co-star Hannah Thomas about their involvement with the project. First things first though, if you haven’t seen the film yet stop what you are doing and check it out right now. You can find it at this link.
Director: Nick Deal
Writers: Jakob Lewis Barnes, Nick Deal & Naim David (Story)
Starring: Jakob Lewis Barnes, Hannah Thomas & Martin Gratton
Hamish: Hey guys, thanks so much for giving up some of your time to talk to me about this exciting new project of yours! Jakob, it’s great to speak to you again after our last chat. What have you been up to since our original interview?
Jakob: My 2018 has been devoted entirely to scripts and the art of screenwriting. I’m currently juggling three feature scripts which are at different stages of the writing process – myself and Nick are on our seventh draft of a joint effort, we’ve also been collaborating with Cory Varney on a new project, and I’m reworking a comedy script of my own too. Alongside this, I’ve been pushing myself to read one script every week, to learn from other writers and hone my skills.
Hamish: So not exactly resting on your laurels then! Great to hear you’re hard at work. Have you had much chance to get to the cinema this year amongst that busy schedule, any highlights?
Jakob: Truth be told, I’ve been slacking when it comes to cinema visits this year. That said, ‘Black Panther’ was a lot of fun, and ‘A Quiet Place’ was a uniquely brilliant experience too.
Hamish: Well you’ve picked wisely Jakob, I have to agree that those have both been highlights for me too and ‘Conscientia’ was certainly a highlight of last year for me as well. It warrants a massive congratulations! Maybe you could start of by telling us a little about the project and how you guys know each other and came to work together?
Jakob: The project is essentially the final chapter of our little dark and disturbing trilogy of short films. We wanted to ramp up the horror factor from previous films and make this a really impacting conclusion to this period of our work. Obviously myself and Nick have known each other and worked together for a long time now, but Hannah is someone we didn’t even meet until the first day of shooting. We needed a young lady who knew what she was doing, and who wasn’t afraid to step into a challenging and perhaps uncomfortable situation. Luckily, my brother knew of just the person, and we’re very glad he introduced us.
Hannah: Yeah, it was really random to be honest, I met Jakob and Nick through Jakob’s brother who told me they were very passionate about writing and making short films. They both intrigued me as acting and performance is a particular passion of my own, so getting the chance to be a part of a film with people who are just as passionate as you are about film, acting and writing excited me.
Hamish: Sticking with you Hannah, with ‘Conscientia’ being an outright horror film, what would some of your favourite films from that genre be and did you take influence from any of them?
Hannah: Believe it or not, I’m actually not the biggest fan of horror films. I tend to like very unusual films with a good plot twist, say ‘Requiem for a Dream’, ‘Gone Girl’, or the Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’. Also I go for stories with any sort of character that is going to be emotionally challenging. The only horror film I could say I enjoyed is ‘Get Out’, which I recently watched and was very taken aback by.
Hamish: Yes, ‘Get Out’ is great right!? So Jakob, Hannah’s said she’s not the biggest fan of the genre so is it you who’s the horror junkie?
Jakob: Funnily enough, I don’t actually watch that much horror as I’m a bit of a wimp, so ghosts and monsters are a no-go for me. But when it comes to a more human horror – which is how I’d describe ‘Conscientia’ – I’m far more willing to be brave and check them out. I wouldn’t say the actual story is influenced by any particular film, but there’s definitely themes and concepts that you’d find in films like ‘American Psycho’, ‘The Shining’, ‘Donnie Darko’ and Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’. Basically we looked to some of the craziest leading men in film and thought “we need to hit these kinda levels of psychosis”.
Hamish: So with that in mind we know that the main character, Samuel, played by yourself is an insomniac, do you have any personal experience of insomnia that you were able to draw from?
Jakob: I’m personally not much of a sleeper to be honest, and it’s rare that I get more than five or six hours sleep a night, so it wasn’t much of a leap for me to get to into that restless, agitated state of mind. I don’t have anywhere near as many problems as Samuel does, but I definitely know what it feels like when all you want to do is shut down and sleep, but your mind just won’t let you.
Hamish: It must be all those script ideas keeping you awake! The director here, Nick Deal, has been involved in both of Jumpcut Productions previous two short films in different roles so how do you think he coped with the transition from producing and editing to directing, and what was he like as a director?
Jakob: It may have been Nick’s first time directing, but he had a very clear vision and mapped everything out meticulously, so we were all on the same page. I don’t think I could have jumped into acting like that for many people, but working with Nick gave me the confidence I needed to go for it. Just as importantly though, he wasn’t afraid to offer constructive criticism when necessary, and that worked both ways; he was more than willing to take the actors’ ideas on board and that allowed for a really fun, comfortable and creative atmosphere on set.
Hamish: As you’ve already mentioned, yourself and Nick are keen screenwriters, and Jakob you’ve written the first two short films by Jumpcut Productions. ‘Conscientia’ is based on a story by Naim David so I was just wondering how much of Naim’s original story was changed or adapted for the screen and how was it working with an already established story?
Jakob: it was great to develop someone else’s idea and create something that was a combination of their idea and our own vision. Naim came to me with a couple of intriguing ideas and we worked closely with him to build a story and script that we all felt was entertaining, thought provoking and impacting. The story definitely grew and mutated from the original idea, but the core concept is very much the same as it was when Naim first discussed his idea with us.
(For Jakob) Jakob, so whilst you’re well versed in writing, ‘Conscientia’ provided you with your first opportunity to flex your acting muscles. How did you approach the role of Samuel and what was it like being on the other side of the camera?
Jakob: The whole thing was rather bizarre to be honest, and still is. I never dreamed of stepping in front of the camera, but I wanted to push myself and try new things, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was difficult at first to kind of let go of my inhibitions and forget the camera was there, but I knew I had to throw myself into it one hundred percent if I wanted to help create something worthwhile. My flat was turned into a film set for about a month, so I was essentially living as Samuel would for that time, which was helpful in terms of getting into character, but also meant I had to keep the place absolutely inch-perfect at all times. I had so much fun acting though, it’s a strange kind of buzz and one I can’t wait to experience again.
Hamish: So we needn’t worry that Daniel Day Lewis is retiring, sounds like we’ve got a brand new method actor to fill his shoes! Hannah, you play Samuel’s date, was this your first experience of acting and what was it like working on set with these guys who had already worked together before?
I’ve been doing acting since I was about eight years old. I’ve mainly done a lot of professional and amateur dramatic theatre, more recently, say about a year ago, I starting acting within short films and acting for camera classes within my drama degree at Salford University. I am hoping to become a professional actor within film and TV so I am currently building up my portfolio for show reels and experience. Working with Jakob and Nick on set was a lot of fun! We defiantly became good friends and hope to work together again.
Hamish: That’s good to hear they didn’t scare you off! ‘Conscientia’ obviously deals with some pretty dark material though so did this affect the mood on set, how much fun were you guys able to have whilst working on it?
Jakob: We actually had such a laugh filming this, especially when Hannah came in for her scenes. Before that, when we shot the scenes where I’m alone, it was quite a slow and steady, relaxed set. When Hannah arrived, she brought lots of energy and I then had someone to bounce off and bring out new depths to the character. The atmosphere was very different (in a good way) and it was great to work with new people who are just as passionate as we are about film-making. I think we were filming for a good twelve hours at least while Hannah was there, but not once did we even consider stopping, because we were enjoying what we were doing. I even managed to drink a bottle of wine that day, which I will forever argue was purely to help me get into character.
Hamish: I might have to get into this short film business if it comes with those kind of perks! How did this shoot compare to the previous shoots for your short films?
Jakob: I think the fact that we had complete control over the set allowed us a lot more freedom in terms of time. In the past we’ve been racing against daylight, or worked in a setting where we have a couple of days then we have to hand over the keys. This time, we could literally film whenever we wanted, which gave us more chance to plan and adapt, to re-shoot and re-shoot again if we weren’t happy. That’s not to say it wasn’t a challenging shoot, but we also had a slightly bigger team this time around, and again we had learned from previous experience and I think that shows in the production (hopefully).
Hamish: I understand that the editing process for ‘Conscientia’ was quite challenging, what was it that was so troublesome about this aspect of the production and are you happy with the finished product?
Jakob: Editing has always been our biggest challenge and the part of film-making we look forward to the least. It’s interesting to put the story together piece by piece, and post-production is certainly where your vision truly comes to life, but it’s a very technical and tricky process. It’s especially difficult when you are perfectionists like myself and Nick, you want everything to be spot on, so it’s frustrating when things don’t quite go how you want them to. We had a lot of issues with sound recording and editing, particularly the voice of the demon. It’s not perfect. But we’ve definitely learned from our mistakes, so we’ll move on and make sure we don’t come up against the same issues in our future projects.
Hamish: So what can we expect next for yourself and Jumpcut Productions?
Jakob: The delays on ‘Conscientia’ meant we couldn’t be as productive as we would have liked in 2017, but that just means we are even more determined to increase our output in 2018. We want to move away from this darker material and try to approach more human, realist themes in our next short films, and I’m very excited about the ideas we’ll be working on next year. Not only will myself and Nick be looking to direct again, but my brother will be taking the directors chair too, and we’ll be introducing Cory Varney and Tom Sheffield into our creative team, which can only lead to great things.
Hamish: Well all this certainly whets our cinematic appetite nicely, we’re always excited to see what you’ll produce next! Just got to say a huge thank you to both of you, Jakob & Hannah. It’s been great talking to you and we wish you both all the best in all your future endeavors and hope to hear all about them. Any time you fancy a yarn and a brew (bottle of wine) you’re always welcome at HC headquarters.
You can read our REVIEW for ‘Conscientia’ here.
Thanks for reading our interview and please let us know what you thought about the short film! Leave a comment below or drop us a tweet over at @HCMovieReviews.