Nic Barker: Going the Distance

May 25, 2018
Following a series of short films, young Melbourne filmmaker Nic Barker takes it up a notch with the 60-minute feature Short Distance.  

Ask anyone in a long-distance relationship and they’ll tell you it’s tough. Even if your better half hasn’t gone overseas, a jump to a different state can lead to time differences and a need to work a little harder at keeping in contact. New film Short Distance, from filmmaker Nic Barker, explores the pitfalls and complications being far apart can bring by following three couples, all at different stages of their long-distance relationships.

“The film itself came naturally from stories of my friends and family around me being in long-distance relationships,” Nic says, when we talk to him about the project. “And I was always moved by the simultaneous power of connections forged over great distances, as well as the tragedy of obstacles keeping people who truly wanted to be together apart.”

Having received a MiniDV video camera for Christmas, the teenage Barker set about making self-described ‘small, silly little stories’. Outside of this first step into filmmaking, Nic is philosophical about what inspired him to pursue his current path.

“I’m not sure it’s any one specific thing that inspired me to make films,” he admits. “I think what’s amazing about the medium is that it’s so incredibly subjective and personal, and there’s always endless things to discover about it, be it an amazing film or a new tool, or delving deeper into the history of cinema. I think that endless wealth of discovery has definitely kept me freshly inspired throughout my short filmmaking career and I’m positive it will sustain me too!”

Based in Melbourne, Nic has made over 30 short films and Short Distance is his first feature. Having so many films under his belt, the first thought is whether Nic sees a thematic thread that runs through his films.

“I’d been making a lot of shorts about relationships the few years prior to the production of Short Distance,” Nic says. “So, I thought that I’d use the feature as a natural culmination of all the stories I’d been telling, and just to see what happened. Thematically and stylistically, I think the feature is both an extension of the shorts I’d been producing, but also an attempt to push it further.”

Having already admitted that there’s one particular reason why he leapt into the world of filmmaking, equally Nic is hard pushed to focus on one particular influence behind Short Distance. He talks of the mumblecore scene and lists the likes of Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies), Aaron Katz (Land Ho!), Alex Holdridge (In Search of a Midnight Kiss), Mark and Jay Duplass (Jeff, Who Lives at Home), and Lynn Shelton (Outside In).

“I feel so lucky that now in Melbourne I’m surrounded by filmmakers with that same spirit and enthusiasm for telling these kind of stories,” he continues. “There’s so many examples but Michael Jones and Caitlin Farrugia stand out for what they’ve achieved with films like LazyBones and So Long. I think working at the same time as artists like that really encourages a camaraderie and friendly competition to always push yourself to make the best stuff you can, and I love that.”

Clocking in at 60 minutes, Nic is the first to admit that Short Distance is caught in a bit of a cinematic no man’s land. To use his words: “it’s too short for traditional theatrical/VOD/DVD release, and too long to be a short.” So how is the filmmaker setting about getting film out there in view of the public? Via the trusted internet, of course. Not only will the film be released online, but it’ll set you back $0.00. That’s right, Nic is giving his film away for free. It’s a tactic used before by directors, either as part of a pay what you want deal, such as David Cross’ Hits, or to boost the film’s exposure in the short term, as with the aussie horror, The Tunnel. So, what’s encouraged Nic to take this step?

“I think the strongest reason for us launching the film for free is ideological – we raised the budget for the film on Pozible, and it was funded by friends, family and strangers who just stumbled across our campaign,” Nic explains. “They gave us the chance to make this film when we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and it was because of the community that we found that we got to tell this story. It felt right that this small film, made possible by so many generous people, be given to an audience online and shared with as many people as possible. I’m not at all anti commercial filmmaking, but just conscious that this was a community made project, and I feel it’s right to give it back now that we’ve completed our successful festival run.”

The film is released on June 1 and, Nic will no doubt be looking to the horizon for his next project. With a feature under his belt, does the filmmaker have any final thoughts on how to tackle his next project?

“I underestimated how difficult it would be telling stories over the longer running time and I think that took time to adjust to for sure,” he admits. “If I had my time again I would probably let myself relax a lot more too – on set I overthought stuff at times, and I think when I make another feature I’ll be calmer and prepared to get done what I need to. It’s been a huge learning experience making this film and I think it’’ left me in good stead to recharge the batteries and go again in the near future.”

For more information about Short Distance, visit Nic’s official site.

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