Like Dick Whittington, and many others, Brian Barnes ran away to find his fortune in London. ‘I found Guildford a bit too sleepy and my job in Argos less than stimulating,’ he tells Weekender. ‘One day, I met someone who invited me to dinner at their place in Greenland Dock and I discovered a whole area that I had never heard of before. I decided to move here as soon as I could and I love it! The vibe and amenities of this part of London are really special. I have a view over Canary Wharf from my flat and at night it makes me feel like I am living in Blade Runner! Southwark Park is my new favourite green space in London, the Mayflower pub has a magical atmosphere and I actually prefer the Canada Water library to the British Library.’ Since Brian arrived in Rotherhithe his life has changed dramatically and he now has a West End screening of his first feature film, writes Michael Holland.
The film-maker grew up in Hong Kong with a father who shot a lot of Super 8 film: ‘I always wanted to have a play with his camera, but he would never let me touch it. I think my desire to make films stems in part from that frustration as a 5-year-old!’ Years later Brian took that desire and joined the University College London film-making society. He recalls Christopher Nolan being a member of that club: ‘We used to help each other out with our films and learn from each other.’ After UCL he went to the Royal College of Art Film School: ‘I loved it there as they didn’t teach us, they just provided an environment for us to design our own learning programmes. It made us very self-sufficient and we all moved into the industry pretty swiftly from the RCA.’ Brian moved into making corporate videos and short films, and has won many awards for his shorts.
After the training and student life was over real life arrived with the hardships that often tag along. Talking of his early days Brian says, ‘Filmmaking is the most expensive art form there is, yet most filmmakers are among the poorest people you’ll meet, living hand-to-mouth much of the time. Filmmaking is kind of like a “habit” – whenever I have any spare cash, I make another short. As a result, it’s taken me 30 years to make a feature film.’
But the director got there eventually. His film, The Redeeming, is a psychological thriller about a disturbed single mother having to confront a mysterious stranger to protect her home, but her struggle to hold onto her sanity could be the end of them both. I asked Brian about this specific genre: ‘I’ve always found gore horror dull, but I’ve always been mesmerised by the power of psychological horror and psycho-thriller stories. Films like ‘Cat People’, ‘Shock Corridor’ and ‘Scream of Fear’ haunted me for years after watching them. I loved that feeling and I wanted to make something that had that power myself.’
Filmed partly by candlelight during the worst storms the UK had experienced in two decades, cast and crew were trapped in a remote Somerset farmhouse with rising floodwaters cutting them off physically and mentally. They channelled this isolation and disturbed atmosphere to create the intense claustrophobia of the film.
The West End premiere is open to all and Brian tells Weekender readers: ‘We’ll all be dressing up in our posh frocks and best bibs and tuckers and parading in front of the flashbulbs. Come and rub shoulders with the stars and see a new film at our special screening.’
I might just do that.
The Redeeming can be seen at Piccadilly Vue on February 6th at 7pm. Admission: £15.29. For tickets and details go to the website.