I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
STONE BARN CASTLE is one of the more intriguing and obscure films to come out of this year’s SXSW. The documentary depicts the seven-year reconstruction of a century old castle in upstate New York that Brody purchased with his (then) partner and the internal struggle that comes with conquering this near impossible task.
After the world premiere of Adrien Brody’s co-directorial debut with Kevin Ford, Fresh Fiction received the chance to sit down with the directors to talk about the process of keeping mentally and physically focused during the lengthy reconstruction.
I was at the premiere last night and it felt like the audience responded quite well to the film.
Adrien Brody: “The reaction was wonderful and from what I was told by the audience they really understood the deeper, personal meaning we were trying to convey with the film. It was wonderful and very rewarding. Although, it was kind of an exhausting process since it was so personal to me because I am analyzing and scrutinizing the ideas I had with the film.”
What little I know about documentary filmmaking I know finding a narrative can be difficult. Can you explain a little bit about how you found the story in what I assume was countless hours of footage?
A. Brody: “It was something excess of 1,000 hours and our initial rough cut was about four hours, and to get it down to 98 minutes was exhausting. We shot for seven years and ultimately the beauty in this is you never know where this is going to end, which ultimately is exciting about the undertaking in the first place. Kevin, in the editing process, had to be very shrewd and we had to strip away many things that I felt were touching while still keeping the path.”
Kevin Ford: “Yeah, it was like panning for gold; it took me almost a year to go through all of that raw footage and start to find moments that had any visual interest or beauty. I had to put those aside and keep sifting and sifting this is way before we were even thinking of story.”
There are so many little nuggets of wisdom in there that you could apply to anybody’s “Stone Barn.”
A. Brody: “That’s what I was hoping for people to see how similar we all are.”
Without your successes in the film industry that would have never led to you finding a bigger meaning to your life. Is that how you felt?
A. Brody: “Clearly, it was a deeper meaning, or a mirror to that success is what I was trying to convey and that became apparent to me in the process. It wasn’t something that I knew was a dream of mine. It was further exacerbated by this new found fame and how it related to me as a person. It was the same thing I needed in my professional life; many things were being offered to me, but I needed to further this experiment. I was fortunate to garner the recognition that anybody would love to receive, but it still does not finish the quest.”
I keep thinking about a candid line from the movie when you said being an actor would not have properly prepared me for this experience, but if I were a director maybe I would have had a better grasp on how to manage the situation. Those were the nuggets of wisdom I was referring to and the direct cinema approach that reinforced the themes of the film without insisting upon itself.
A. Brody: “That’s the beautiful thing about having a friend like Kevin who has the right sensibilities and someone to confide in, which is a lot like acting. I have to limit who’s in my eye line, all the while knowing that vulnerability is going to be for all the world to see. It’s interesting to put them into words because I don’t sit around and analyze it, but I have Kevin there to play it back so I can see how I’ve changed while keeping a sense of humor about the whole thing.”
K. Ford: “I loved that you referenced the direct cinema approach to the filmmaking. That is what I was going for. If you’ve ever seen the Maysles work they were the filmmakers that spoke to me most before I started making this film with Adrien.”
I know that I don’t know the first thing about hard labor, is that something people should experience?
A. Brody: “I grew up in a working class neighborhood, but I didn’t know the first thing about architecture, or craftsmanship going into this thing. There were times when things would pop up here and there and I had to just take it as it comes. But, that’s with any project; take for example the role in THE PIANIST, after acting for 17 years I thought this was the end for me, but in a good way. I had no clue what was going to come and would have never thought I would have felt so unfulfilled in the Hollywood lifestyle, after getting things offered to me you hope that another once in a lifetime role comes your way. It’s incredibly hard to make a brilliant film and by taking a step back from the whole thing provided me some perspective. But, acting is hard-work and can be back breaking labor.”
The ending of the film where you describe “Bloom” from THE BROTHERS BLOOM and how leading a scripted life can leave you empty is an interesting concept and one I didn’t think about until you put the bow at the end of the film. Was that an important concept for you to realize?
A. Brody: “Yeah absolutely! It was working on that film and studying that character that brought a whole new light and meaning to what I was going through personally and professionally. It was something I didn’t realize within my self either.”
STONE BARN CASTLE screens at SXSW today, Mar. 17 at 1:30 p.m. at Topfer Theatre at ZACH; and on Saturday, Mar. 21 at 11 a.m. at the Alamo Lamar.