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netribution > features > interview with kenneth d barker > page two
JM Your locations suit the narrative very well, but some of them are ancient monuments. Any problems gaining access?

KDB Fortunately Kingdom’s Location Manager used to work for a regional council, so she knew who to approach in the various departments for the Yorkshire area. The location owners could not do enough to help us, which was brilliant. If I had any advice to give it would be, one, always get a location release form signed and two, do a pre-shoot technical reconnaissance before the shoot. Do a post-shoot walk round with the location owner to make sure they’re happy.

 JM How did your cast take to reacting to blank walls or acres of empty space where there was supposed to be a dragon?
KDB I was lucky to cast great actors who were very versatile. Equally important, the actors trusted me enough to direct them in scenes where the other actors—the CG characters- would not be added until almost a year later, in post-production. We have a tape of the edited film minus all the CG; it’s very illuminating watching the actors perform convincingly to thin air! In practical terms, every time we filmed a CG shot one of the effects boffins stood in for the dragon with a wooden pole carrying a cardboard dragon head to match eyelines. Months later, in post-production, the CG dragon would be added to the correct part of the frame to obscure the dragon pole. 

JM Every shoot has its horror story. What was Kingdom’s?
KDB We shot for 41 days, excluding weekends. Rain cancelled one day’s work and that was it! Lengthy pre-production and continual briefing of the crew kept everything moving fluidly. 

JM Film’s finished now, you’ve spent months working on it, but it’s finished. Time to be objective about your own work. Anything you would like to change?
KDB We used two locations with a lot of intrusive background ambient sound. In sound post-production it was a bloody nightmare trying to equalise the audio levels between shots in a conversation. Next time I’ll chose quieter locations.

JM You made a lot of use of library music rather than having a composer score and record. Was that a budget thing, or do you prefer to drive the music yourself?
KDB I started out with a composer but that relationship ended over ‘financial’ differences — which was a pity for that person as they would have had the opportunity to compose for the renowned Leeds Symphonia and score a feature film. A friend suggested production music, which later proved to be a real boon. Heidi Stiene (Kingdom’s editor) and I re-jigged a several scenes in the film, quite late in the post-production schedule. Had I used a live orchestra when I originally planned to, the film could not have been altered unless the music was re-recorded, incurring more expense. The massive choice in quality production music titles allowed me to tweak the film almost indefinitely. However I’m determined to use a live orchestra one day. 

JM What’s reaction to your film been like?
KDB Surprisingly its not had a bad review yet (though it’s still early days!). One journalist referred to Kingdom as "Bizarre". But by the tone of that particular review, that individual did not like the story premise in the first place. The general public has been more open in embracing the film than, say, the film press. I’ve had no interest at all from the mainstream media. I seriously wonder if it’s because the film is family based and doesn’t contain any sex or violence. Also without the financial means to roll-out a major marketing campaign, I must rely on coverage in quality specialist media to build awareness. The Netribution site is a prime example

JM It’s on digibeta rather than film. Has that been a disadvantage in gaining festival entry for example?
KDB I went to Cannes ’99 and showed the trailer to one distributor. He said ‘great project — I’d buy it if it was on film’ Was that a fob off? You tell me. The distributor did not have to spend time talking to me. He also said the audience expects to see films originated on celluloid as a general rule. More films are now being originated on digital formats but there is still a bias (wrongly or rightly) to celluloid for origination. 

JM You made a conscious decision to go for the home distribution market on video. What governed that decision?
KDB I knew three years ago (when Kingdom was still an idea on paper) that if I could produce a feature on video, then I should be able to distribute it on video without having to make a major capital investment in celluloid film technology. Nearly 80 percent of UK homes have a video recorder. That’s a huge potential market. Also, more people are becoming Internet savvy. Basically, it became a relatively straightforward matter of tying the two technologies together. If I had not striven to establish some form of distribution, Kingdom would be left collecting dust on a shelf like so many other British indie films. 

JM How are sales going? Is this a distribution route you can recommend?
KDB Sales are slow for two reasons A) the film needs more mainstream exposure. B) Most people are still reluctant to purchase goods online. Speak to any Business Angel or Investor and many of them are wary of putting money into ventures that have a big Internet marketing aspect. ‘Boo.Com anybody?’ However if you get the chance to self-distribute I would recommend it. The power and control stay in your hands. 

JM ou support the film with your Water On the Rock website What sort of interest does the site generate?
KDB Its currently averaging about 30 hits a day, which is pants. In July 2000 it suddenly shot up to 1033 hits, but I have no idea why! As something like 10,000 websites come on line every week, unless the site owner has some other means to publicise their website - it will go unnoticed. I’m negotiating to raise some additional funds to promote Kingdom (and thus the WOTR website) in the glossy film magazines. Hopefully this should improve the number of hits and turnover. Ironically most of the copies sold of Kingdom are being purchased online. We also have a facility for people purchase Kingdom by cheque.

JM You have a complete press pack on CD rom. Is that cost-effective?
KDB Very. Running off dozens of VHS copies, of a custom length, is expensive. The Kingdom CD Press Pack for example, contains a 3-minute trailer plus the script and a series of high quality images that can be reproduced online or in print media — all for 80 pence a copy.

JM Kenneth, I think you are to be congratulated for making Kingdom on such a tiny budget. But supposing a big production company called and said we like your film, but we would like to spend a little more money on it and make it our way. Would you let them?
KDB The killer question! Yes I would let them. I have just completed the Kingdom novel, which explores the human characters in greater depth, and sets up a whole back-story for the dragons. In the ideal world I would like any prospective buyers to tap into that wealth of story if a remake were being considered. But I can dream.Thank you.


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