An interview with Jared Barel about his movie ‘The Incoherents’
The Incoherents follows Bruce Flansburgh (Jeff Auer). Bruce is a forty-something paralegal in New York who hasn’t let go of his dream to become a rockstar. His day-to-day existence becomes increasingly unbearable for him until it dawns on Bruce to reunite his band from the 90s. Each member of the former group is dealing with their own midlife malaise and agree to reunite the band for one last chance at making their rockstar dreams come true.
The movie is directed and produced by Jared Barel and boasts an impressive cast: Jeff Auer, Alex Emanuel, Walter Hoffman and Casey Clark, Amy Carlson (Blue Bloods), Annette O’Toole (The Punisher), Kate Arrington (Ray Donovan), Robert McKay (Asunder the Series), Margaret Anne Florence (Sun Records) and Christine Chang (New Amsterdam).
The Incoherents, which is available on iTunes, was written by Jeff Auer, and produced by him alongside Alex Emanuel and Jordan Barel. The original songs and the soundtrack are love letters to the 80’s/early 90’s Rock ‘N’ Roll scene in America.
About The Incoherents
How was working on The Incoherents? What did you learn from the experience?
The Incoherents was a labor of love to say the least. Working on any project of this magnitude can be taxing, but it takes an extra bit of stress management when you don’t have the money to throw at every problem that arises. We all refer to The Incoherents as the “little film that could”, and that lends itself to an extra level of pride in watching it climb the charts on iTunes over the last few weeks since we started taking pre-orders.
I could write a book – and maybe I should – on all of the things, great and small, that I learned making this film, from the creative to the business side of things. But, perhaps, the greatest takeaway from the experience is you never know what you’re capable of until you do it.
Where did the concept come from for The Incoherents? Talk us through your creative process.
I cannot take credit for conceiving of The Incoherents, that credit goes to our writer and the star of the film, Jeff Auer. That was a unique experience in itself for me as this was the first project I’ve directed that wasn’t something I wrote. My long time friend, Alex Emanuel, who stars as Jimmy, asked me to help him and his friends make a short film for a movie they wanted to make about a bunch of middle aged guys who want to get their 90s rock band back together.
The short was hilarious and the charisma of the actors on screen was undeniable. I asked Jeff if I could read the feature script and I instantly fell in love with it. The story was very relatable to me as someone who had played in bands for years and years, and there were certainly some scenes that hit home pretty hard. I told Jeff I wanted to make the movie and the rest is history.
The Incoherents touches on failed music careers, have you had any failures in your own career that you’ve learned from?
I think everyone’s failed to some degree or other, be it in their careers or elsewhere. What’s important is looking at those experiences as the building blocks for your next success and not as just a failure. I pursued music with my band pretty hard back in the day myself, and we certainly had some ups and downs, and ultimately fizzled out.
I’ve released comic books that I was hoping were going to be a big hit that didn’t hit as hard as I had hoped. I’ve certainly had more than my fair share of movies come *this close* to getting the green light. You live and you learn. The truth is, playing in those bands, making those comics, fighting for those movies to get made, those are all some of the most joyous and defining experiences of my life . . . and, yeah, that joy came with a fair amount of heartache as well.
What’s your filmmaking mission?
I just want to tell good stories. I think the best stories, the best films, go beyond mindless escapism and do something to reflect on or enhance our real lives. I love visually arresting cinema and I always appreciate when people compliment my visual work, but it’s important to make sure those visuals are supporting a narrative that’s well structured and moving. If not, as Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player, Flea, says, what you end up getting is, “all flash and no smash”.
What part of filmmaking do you geek out about the most?
Being on set. Many of the happiest days of my life are being on set shooting. There’s a high that comes from looking into the camera or director’s monitor and seeing this play that you’ve composed living and breathing in front of the lens becoming immortalized on screen . . . I guess that’s the artsy answer.
The less artsy answer is it’s just a ton [of] fun. Nothing compares to the energy on set and the buzzing of a group of people, all with a specific job to do, coming together to tell a story.
You’re very hands-on with your projects. How hard is it wearing all the hats?
Truthfully, I wish I knew what it was like to not wear all the hats! Part of me longs for the day where my productions are large enough to not require all the hat wearing, and I can focus on directing – and another part of me dreads being on a set where I don’t have to do fifty different jobs . . . that sounds kind of boring!
Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching your movies.
At the end of Wayne’s World, after the “mega happy ending,” Wayne breaks the fourth wall and reflects on the film and the lessons learned before Garth adds the truest sentiment of any auteur, “I just hope you didn’t think it sucked”.
What tips do you have for new filmmakers?
Practice. Practice. Practice. Make a lot of bad films . . . I mean, try and make them good, but know that they probably won’t be. But eventually, and it might take a while or it might be relatively quick, they won’t be bad anymore. The only way to gain confidence on set is to have experience on set and to learn what makes a good shot or understand how a scene is going to cut together or how to direct an actor to get the right performance. When I graduated and got a job the first thing I did was buy a used video camera – a Panasonic DVX100A – and I brought it everywhere and shot all the time.
About Jared Barel’s career
Tell us about your career before you found film?
When I was a kid I wanted to be an artist, a painter. My parents weren’t thrilled with the idea of me being a “starving artist”, so we compromised and when I went to college I studied Graphic Design. Thankfully, I loved it. After I graduated, while trying to get my film career going, my brother and I decided to make a comic book, Brielle and the Horror, to use as a pitch piece for a feature film which launched our company, Loaded Barrel Studios.
I’ve been making comics and graphic novels ever since. I also do motion graphics for all different types of projects which may or may not have been a result of mastering after effects during years of editing wedding videos . . . but that’s a less glamorous story for another time.
Tell us about your history as a filmmaker. How did you start your journey?
Back in college, I was really interested in learning 3D animation and set about making an animated music video for one of my songs. As it turned out, I was less enamored with the 3D part and more interested in learning Final Cut Pro to edit the video together. That led me to doing another music video and a short film and, truth be told, my film itch was scratched for the moment.
A couple years later, when I was in grad school at the School of Visual Arts in NY (for Design), my brother, Jordan Barel, and his friends got it into their heads that they wanted to be actors and the best way to do that, they thought, was to write a movie and they wanted me to direct it since I was the only one who had ever directed anything. The movie never happened, but the idea of being a director seeped its way into my core and I ended up making a short film for my graduate school thesis in design.
After grad school, I had a little bit of buzz on my short and it propelled Jordan and I to pursue making a feature, a goal that’s meandered its way through creating comic books and graphic novels, directing music videos and shorts, and ultimately to releasing our first feature, The Incoherents.
Can we expect to see any episodic television from you anytime soon?
I’m down . . . you know anyone who’s hiring? Television’s certainly a different beast from film on so many levels, but storytelling is storytelling and I’d love to get my hands on an episodic . . . is there still time to get on an episode of Better Call Saul?
What’s your next project?
I’m currently writing and developing a couple books – a new graphic novel and maybe my first children’s book – and, of course, I’m writing what will hopefully become my next movie. One thing’s for certain, there will be a next movie and I can’t wait to share it with the world!
Who are your current influences?
I grew up on Cameron and Spielberg, came of age with Scorsese and Tarantino, and entered adulthood with Nolan and Aronofsky. Currently, I’m really enjoying Taika Waititi’s work. He’s got a really interesting quirky voice that’s irresistibly entertaining.
I’m finding a recent love of Wes Anderson’s work as well. I think the uniqueness of his voice is something more profound to me after having made a feature film. Too often, whether it be with film or music or any type of art, we as artists, be it consciously or not, try and conform to what we think art is supposed to be as opposed to making art the way our instincts want us to.
I’m more and more appreciative of Wes Anderson never trying to tell a story the way anyone else has done it before . . . and his animated movies are magical.
The Incoherents has a fantastic soundtrack. Who would compose the soundtrack of your own life?
I’m glad you dig The Incoherents’ soundtrack! I’d love to say the soundtrack to my life would be composed by someone cool and edgy like Trent Reznor or Tim Armstrong from Rancid, but as much as I love those artists and my punk rock roots, in thinking of answering this question honestly, for some reason I can only hear the horns to Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Literally, all other music has left my head. I’m not sure what that says about me.
If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Aliens! Without a doubt my favorite film of all time. I know, I know, I made a rock and roll comedy and my favorite film is Aliens, go figure. I find something new every time I watch that film . . . and I’ve seen it A LOT.
On The Incoherents’ release day, we did a zoom premiere watch party and I turned to my wife and asked her if it was possible that I might have seen The Incoherents more than Aliens. She looked me dead in the eyes, straight faced, and simply said, “no.”
What was the one movie you saw that made you want to go into film?
I mentioned Aliens before, though, I wouldn’t say that was the movie that made me want to go into film. I think the real answer is Clerks from Kevin Smith. There was something special about the indie film scene in the early 90s. These films were coming out that didn’t look like the movies you went to see in the theaters. They were somehow more accessible. They looked attainable in the sense that anyone could put $27K on a credit card and go shoot a movie with their friends.
Those films had a similar effect on me as punk had on my music aspirations; they made me believe I could make those things too. Plus, there was something about this little black and white movie that was made in New Jersey, which is where I’m from and where we shot much of The Incoherents, featuring grungy characters talking about vulgarity and Star Wars that peaked the interest of my adolescent mind.