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Interview with Jordan Barker, director of Witches in the Woods
By James Whittington, Sunday 25th August 2019
It's been over a decade since we last chatted to director Jordan Barker when he was at FrightFest with his chiller, The Marsh. He's back with Witches in the Woods so we tracked him down for a chat.
HC: Its been a while since we last chatted which was at FrightFest 2006 with The Marsh, what have you been up to since then?
JB: Since the Marsh I did a noir thriller in LA called Duress starring Martin Dovonan and Ariel Winter (Modern Family) and then opened my own production shingle with my producing partner Borga Dorter, Gearshift Films. Since 2009, we've produced six films, two of which I have directed. Torment, which played at Frightfest Glasgow in 2014 starring Katharine Isabelle and Witches in the Woods.
How did you come about directing Witches in the Woods?
JB: I am lucky to be repped at a great LA management company that is home to some seriously talented writers and directors. I read Chris Borrelli's draft of the script, formerly titled Stranded and thought this was a very challenging project with some very timely themes. The script has been at New Line and was in turnaround and I gave Chris my pitch and we were off to the races. It was the perfect project to shoot up in Canada in the middle of the winter.
HC: The cast are solid throughout, how do you direct people when dealing with such strange material?
JB: I firmly believe that a lot of the work is done with great casting. It was a challenge to put together 7 characters, some of whom aren't going to have a tonne of time on screen, and still have each character resonate and seem like a three-dimensional person. Our goal from the beginning was to keep everything grounded in reality and let the underlying issues between the characters bubble up as things got more tense. I always felt that getting stranded in the woods itself was not a scab you keep picking, it's the resentment toward the person who got you there that can push you over the edge. I felt that was the most interesting thing to watch, to peel away the onion so to speak.
HC: Was it all shot on location?
JB: 75% of the film was shot outside on location in the frigid northern Ontario temperatures. Early on we knew that once the window fogged up in the car, we could get away with shooting most of that in studio and we did.
HC: How nervous are you that the movie is getting its world premiere at FrightFest?
JB: It's equal parts nerves and excitement. Obviously, there is no better audience to premiere a genre film and you want everyone to like your film and have an enjoyable experience.
HC: Do you believe in the paranormal?
JB: I believe that reality is not a fully objective experience that we all share. So, I fully believe that certain people are open to experiencing things that others are not. Without getting too metaphysical, let's just say that I haven't had a personal experience, but I would never say something is impossible.
HC: You've got quite a list of talents on your CV, is there one job you like doing the most?
JB: Ha. I enjoy bringing stories to life and have had the opportunity to work in a few capacities, mostly as a gateway to try and have more control over the films and stories I tell. I've wanted to be a filmmaker since I saw my first movie in a theatre (The Empire Strikes Back) and don't consider what I do for a living to be work at all.
HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?
JB: We just wrapped post on a film I'm producing, a crime drama called Tainted and I'm putting the finishing touches on my next project, a sci-fi horror called Harbinger, based on the HP Lovecraft inspired short story One Way Conversation about a group of engineers who have discovered a way to transmit information faster than the speed of light and are unprepared for the unexpected consequences. It feels a bit like Primer meets Ex Machina.
HC: Jordan Barker, thank you very much.
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