Hamish Downie’s Five Questions With Matt Barry – Low Budget Visions

Editor Note: Hamish has another in his series of Five Questions With…

Hamish came up with this idea because he was accumulating too much material for his Famous News Sushi column and asked if he could do these mini-interviews. Why would we say no?

Thank you Hamish for being such a trooper for us. We really appreciate all for your hard work.

Let us know what you think of these interviews in the comments below.

TGG: As a quasi-journalist, I’ve become very interested in covering the Folk Filmmaking/Truly Independent Filmmaking movement that’s come out of the US in recent years. I’ve interviewed Cody Clarke, Joel Haver, Dan Lotz and now, Matt Barry. I think what they are doing is very inspiring. Could you tell our readers about yourself and your work, and how you got into the Folk Filmmaking/Truly Independent Film movement?

MB: I first learned about the Folk Filmmaking movement in the summer of 2020, when I first saw Dan Lotz’s video talking about the idea of making indie feature films and releasing them for free on YouTube. I’d already made a no-budget DIY comedy feature back in 2003 when I was in college, but in the years since then had been exclusively making short films (about 40 of them in total), which seemed to me to be all that I could do on the extremely limited budget and resources I was working with.

Watching Dan’s film “Chlorine” and other feature films being released on YouTube (including the Truly Independent films of Cody Clarke) inspired me to start thinking about making a feature again. I’d already been releasing my short films for free on YouTube, and I realized there was no reason I couldn’t make a feature if I wanted to do so. Although I’d made many shorts, I made the mistake of thinking I needed more resources to make a feature. Once I got myself out of that mindset, I saw that anything is possible – it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make it happen.

Finally, in the spring of 2021, I decided to launch my new YouTube channel, “Low Budget Visions”, both as a dedicated place to showcase my own feature films, and also as a way of offering my voice in support of the movement and the filmmakers involved in it.

TGG: I didn’t realise that it had been such a short time on youtube, you’ve certainly made an impression on me. Could you tell us about your latest film “The Payoff”?

MB: It’s a no-budget, independently-made crime drama about a man deep in gambling debt, the decisions that led him to this point, and the decisions he’ll have to make to save himself. The entire movie was shot in nine days between November and December 2021, all on locations around the Baltimore, Maryland area, and filmed on the Google Pixel 5 smartphone camera.

I decided to try an improv approach in making the film (working from an outline of scenes, but drawing on inspiration from the locations and ideas that presented themselves in the process of filming). I had used improvised dialogue in my earlier feature film back in 2003, so I’d had some experience with this approach before, and was inspired to try it again after seeing some of the improv feature films on Youtube. The improvisation carried over into the editing process as well, where I rearranged a number of scenes to see what worked best. The only part of “The Payoff” that was not improvised was the voice-over narration (something I’ve used before on many of my short films), which I wrote after shooting and editing the rough cut. Someone compared the voice-over narration to the old time radio dramas, which is a good comparison since those were a big influence on me.

TGG: What inspired you to make a crime drama as a follow-up to your great romance/travelogue film “Endless August”?

MB: “The Payoff” was actually the first idea I had when I decided to return to making feature films last spring. The crime genre is one that I’ve been drawn to for a long time, and enjoyed working in for a number of short films I’d made over the last decade, so it seemed like a natural choice for this initial return to feature filmmaking for me.

However, as I was trying to work out some creative challenges in how to approach making the film, I ended up putting the production on hold for a few months, during which time I made two other improv features in a more experimental nature (“WFH” and “Endless August”). I found that my experience making those two films changed my thinking in how I approached making “The Payoff”. I became less interested in the details of the plot than I was in focusing on the character and his environment.

TGG: What did you learn from making this film?

MB: Aside from what I mentioned above, I learned a lot about applying the improv approach to a more conventional narrative. For example, in editing, I found that I wanted shots that I hadn’t filmed while out on location, so I ended up adding a couple extra days of additional photography that would not have been necessary if working from a more detailed outline. Above all, I learned a lot about how I can continue making features at this level, and finding creative solutions to challenges that come up.

TGG: Like I asked Darryl Wharton-Rigby, as a Baltimore native, I have to ask if you’ve had any John Waters sightings or interactions?

MB: Just a few times over the years, mostly at book signings or film festival screenings. His films hold a special place for me, because as a teenage aspiring filmmaker in Maryland during the 1990s, they showed me I didn’t have to live in Hollywood to be a director.

TGG: How can we best support you? (Where can we follow you on social media, watch your films etc)?

MB: The best place to follow my new films is on my YouTube channel, Low Budget Visions (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqdKAFcbiG1j8BT3yLFZKbA), where I also post weekly videos discussing different aspects of filmmaking. You can also connect with me on Twitter at @lowbudgetvision (https://twitter.com/lowbudgetvision)

Watch “The Payoff” here:

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