Brad and Todd Barnes are a pair of brothers that like to tell stories according to their website and their latest movie tells a strange and intriguing tale revolving around the Nashville music scene. “East Nashville Tonight” presents itself as a documentary intended to track the lives of Nashville songwriters, but fail due to booze and drugs taking over. It's a concept that grabs its audience and doesn't let go until its done. Directors Todd and Brad talk about the movie and working with real Nashville musicians.
How did the idea for the film come about?
Brad Barnes: I think it was Todd’s idea but I’m not sure which Todd had it first.
Todd Barnes: I didn’t know it was even a movie until we started editing.
So the movie is filmed like a documentary, but the narrative is a work of fiction. This would cause some to classify the film as a mockumentary in similar vein to “This is Spinal Tap.” Is that what you were aiming for? Would you agree with that thought?
BB: That’s a nice compliment. We’ll take it. I would say that in a way our performers are a lot braver…as they are all using their own names and personas.
TB: I can see why people would say that. The difference is that these people are playing/being themselves. They are being really honest with the audience. I wouldn’t want to mock anybody.
What do you hope audiences walk away with after watching the film?
BB: A buzz.
TB: A stagger.
Did you take any of the narrative from real life experiences at all?
TB: I think it’s mostly from real experiences. Todd Snider really hangs out with buddies playing cards and music. Elizabeth Cook really did that talk show pilot thingy with Anthony Bourdain for David Letterman. We’ve all had to wait around a really long time while buying drugs.
BB: Everything is from life. Isn’t there an expression related to painting…it’s plein air or something French meaning outdoor painting…we just pointed the camera at what was already out of doors.
Music and drugs go hand in hand, especially if we're talking about rock and roll. So what made you want to set this story with Nashville songwriters?
BB: Nashville makes the best stories in the country.
TB: Todd Snider is the songwriter we knew. He did the rest of the casting. We lucked out they’re all so good.
The movie stars actual musicians from the East Nashville scene. How did you get them to sign on to do the film?
BB: We asked nicely. And we knew Todd for 10 years so he was okay with us being in his living room.
TB: No one knew what we were making when we were making it. Everybody just jumped in to make something out of nothing. A creative maelstrom of camaraderie.
Do either one of you have an interest is music? Did that have something to do with making a music based film?
BB: I admire musicians. I know I could never become one but that doesn’t stop me from desiring.
TB: I took guitar, bass guitar and piano lessons for 6 years as a kid and I can’t play any notes on any of them anymore.
How is the film currently being distributed?
TB: We are using VHX.tv to distribute it digitally ourselves on eastnashvilletonight.com. Then we are doing special event screening around the country with some of the stars.
Also planning on making a DVD but I can’t find anyone who can design it for us. It must be a dying art, but if people still want to watch it that way, I want to give it that way.
BB: Internationally and throughout all markets on EASTNASHVILLETONIGHT.com
What was it like working with the musicians?
BB: The are fantastic actors because they already understand performance and have the balls to be vulnerable every day of their lives.
After this film, what is next for the Barnes Brothers?
BB: We have a comedy in New Orleans called “Sex Guaranteed” coming up.
TB: And we have a movie coming out in a few months starring Steve Rannazzisi and Ari Shaffir about comedians. It’s in the same improvisational shooting style as “East Nashville Tonight” and we ride the line between narrative and documentary. We’ve been calling this a Barnestorm.
“East Nashville Tonight” is out now. You can watch trailers, learn more about the film, rent the film, and purchase your digital copy at the official website. You can also learn more about the film from Facebook.