CATEGORIES Drama, Independent, Interviews, Cinematical Indie, Cinematical Indie Chat, Celebrity Interviews, CinematicalYou might not think that you know Steve Barron -- but I bet that you do. Before becoming an indie filmmaker, he directed both the 1990 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Coneheads, but that's not what I'm referring to. Before that, he brought us some of the most memorable, ground-breaking music videos out there. Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. Dire Straights' Money For Nothing (you know, the "I want my MTV" song). A-ha's Take on Me. The '80s wouldn't have been the same without him.
These days, he's making indie films, and his latest, Choking Man, was just released. Starring newcomers Octavio Gómez and Eugenia Yuan (and boasting supporting talent Mandy Patinkin), the film follows a shy Ecuadorian dishwasher who works in a Queens diner. In the shadow of a poster featuring the Heimlich Maneuver, he tries to bond with waitress Amy, and deal with life in the most culturally diverse neighborhood in the world.
Barron was able to spare a few moments to answer some questions about his new film, as well as his opinions on indie film for Cinematical Indie Chats. Be sure to also check out the first two installments -- a chat with Deliver From Evil filmmaker Amy Berg, and another with Billy the Kid filmmaker Jennifer Venditti.
Most of your work is light, funny fare. What inspired you to switch to drama, and what inspired you to write this story?
My tastes have changed. I've grown up. (I think!) I used to be first in line to Indiana Jones, now I'll search out the New York indies or obscure foreign films. I'm more captivated by innovation.
The film revolves around that Heimlich poster. Why did this become a central image? Was it used to incorporate the visual effects of your earlier work?
The idea started with the poster. My son Oliver and I talked over a diner meal about how unappetizing the image of someone choking is even if it's a line drawing. New Yorkers didn't seem to care -- talking to some it seemed the years of compulsory display in the state had made the graphic almost invisible. The animation pieces I put into the movie felt naturally motivated as they were Jorge's 'window' to the world.
How did you go about casting the leads?
I wanted to be very pure in casting actors that we hadn't necessarily seen before. I felt it might lend a certain reality. The casting directors Maria Nelson and Ellyn Marshall read the screenplay and were sure that Octavio Gomez Berrios was our man. I rehearsed and tested with him over several weeks until there could be no-one else for the role in my mind.
The film taps into a lot of life's aspects, from interpersonal relationships to the dynamic experience of life in Jamaica, Queens. If there was one thing a moviegoer pulls from this film, what do you hope it would be?
Perhaps a little more sensitivity to others from all walks of life. Feeling invisible and unnoticed must amount to feeling uncared for and useless. That's not healthy. If we are a compassionate race, I hope we could be less selective.
Which filmmakers most influenced you in your own work?
Ken Loach -- Kes
Bryan Forbes -- Whistle Down the Wind
A lot of stuff is coming back to me from my youth.
What indie films out in theaters, or on DVD, have you been watching lately?
Control, I liked.
This is England, I loved.
What's the one indie film from the last year that you'd recommend to friends?
Probably The Lives of Others. It is the most perfect cinema experience for me in the last three years. It felt beautifully reserved and didn't fall into the typical heightened thriller mode when the subject might easily have had it do so.
What mainstream films have you seen lately that didn't suck?
Happy Feet -- An hour and a half with a fixed grin.
What's up next for you?
Looks like Prakash -- set in Bangalore with an all-Indian cast headed by the brilliant Irrfan Khan. The story revolves around an eight-year-old boy in the Upper-Middle class IT community. I am also getting close with Quiver an examination of love in today's world. It follows a drunken, cynical Cupid around a London filled with misfiring relationships. Both are in the casting process.