HFF 2015 Interview: Madam Black Director/Producer Ivan Barge


When a glamour photographer runs over a child’s pet, he’s forced to fabricate a story about its disappearance. Madam Black is a 2015 Heartland Film Festival Official Selection, Narrative Short.

We spoke with Director/Producer Ivan Barge about his film:

HF: What is your film about, and how did the project come to be?

IB: Madam Black tells the tale of a photographer who runs over a child’s pet and fabricates an elaborate serious of lies to explain it’s whereabouts. I had worked with the writer, Matthew Harris, on a previous short film Snooze Time. When I read his script for Madam Black I fell in love with it and I knew immediately that I wanted to make it. The story of Madam Black is partly inspired by an accident Matthew had with a kitten bought as a Christmas present by his mother-in-law for the grandchildren and by events recounted by Dora Diamant, the lover of author Franz Kafka. According to Diamant, she and Kafka met a little girl in a park who was crying because she had lost her doll. Kafka told her not to worry since the doll was away on a trip and would be sending correspondence.

HF: What was your role in the production?

IB: I was the director and the main producer.

HF: Why did you submit to the Heartland Film Festival? Have you been to the Festival before?

IB: When I was researching my Festival strategy for the film I found out that Heartland was an Oscar qualifier and also it kept coming up it up on the websites of films that I had enjoyed watching and that had gone on to have a successful festival run. Such as last years short film selection ‘The Phone Call’. It’s a well established festival with a great reputation for programming.

I’d love to be at every festival screening but unfortunately I can’t get to Heartland this year. I’ve never been to Indianapolis or the Festival, hopefully one day I will get to do both. Maybe if I get a feature off the ground.

HF: This year’s tagline is “Movies That Stay with You” – what lasting effect will your film have on moviegoers?

IB: At the screening I would hope that the film would entertain an audience. If you make them laugh or cry you are winning. But it’s always nice if people are still talking about the film or thinking about it afterwards. The actions of our lead character, ‘Marcus’, are often misguided and have questionable motivations. But I’d hope an audience would think that ultimately he’s a good guy that does the right thing. However our ending is not wrapped up in a bow, a question remains over wether or not his relationship continues with ‘Rachel’ the love interest in the film. Thats left up to the viewer to fill in the blanks.

HF: What has inspired you to become a filmmaker?

IB: When I was growing up while the other kids were outside playing soccer, I was inside captivated by a box that took me to place I’d never been like Sierra Madre and Alderaan. I suppose it was a form of escapism. It was always more interesting watching the stories of writers such as Dennis Potter or Alan Bleasdale play out than have to deal with your own reality. But it was never something I’d considered as a career. I fell into producing music videos late in life and from there I moved into Television Commercials. I clocked up my 10,000 hours of producing and it’s something I was very comfortable with. So I turned my hand to directing as it was outside my comfort zone. I wanted to see if I could do it and if I had a directorial voice.

HF: What is something that you know about filmmaking now, but you weren’t told when you started your career?

IB: I read an interview recently with Michelle Saville a New Zealand director who had a great short, ‘Ellen Is Leaving, on the festival circuit a few years ago. In the interview she’s asked what’s the hardest thing about making short films and she replies ‘Everything’. I didn’t realise how hard it was going to be. I enjoy making short films and hopefully one day I will get to direct a feature. But every step of the way is a challenge, from financing, pre-production, shooting, post production and finally getting your film out there. It’s certainly not the path of least resistance. Having said that would I do it any differently? Probably not.

HF: What are some of your favorite movies? What’s your favorite worst movie (you know it’s bad, but still love it)?

IB: So many and it probably changes every time I get asked. Maybe Carol Reed’s The Third Man, beautiful cinematography, a wonderfully captivating score, excellent performances and an intriguing story set in the fascinating world of postwar Vienna or Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart in the ultimate feel good movie.

I’m not sure I have a favourite worst movie. If I like a film it usually has something that I consider redeeming or that draws me to it. But I do like a lot of sci-fi, everything from John Carpenter’s Escape From New York to Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running. Perhaps that’s my guilty pleasure, although I enjoy them too much to feel the guilt.

HF: How many film festivals has your film been a part of? What do you like the most about the festival experience?

IB: Heartland will be the film’s sixth festival screening with another six confirmed and hopefully many more after that.

The best part of the festival experience is without doubt getting to see how an Audience reacts. We have been luck thus far as the film has been well received. But every audience reacts differently, they laugh in different places and react in ways you hadn’t imagined. I suppose that’s the beauty of film, it moves people in different ways. Every member of an audience has their own personal relationship with a film. I’ve already said the process of making a short films is hard but being in a room with an audience makes it all worthwhile.

HF: Heartland Film Festival moviegoers love filmmaker Q&As. Let’s say a Festival attendee wants to earn some brownie points—what is a question that you’d love to answer, but haven’t yet been asked?

IB: Sine this is a hypothetical question I’m going to assume that Harvey Weinstein is in the audience and that he’s the one asking the question, “I’ve got five million dollars burning a hole in my pocket, would you like to make a feature film?”

See Madam Black in Shorts Program 6: An Ashortment of Sorts

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