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Waterbury brothers debut film 'Hiding Places' at SHU Community Theatre

The film Hiding Places, premiering on Wednesday, March 13 at The SHU Community Theatre in Fairfield, stars Kristen Ariza, Christopher Marquette, and Benjamin Levy Aguilar.
Courtesy of Hiding Places/Barnes
The film Hiding Places, premiering on Wednesday, March 13 at The SHU Community Theatre in Fairfield, stars Kristen Ariza, Christopher Marquette, and Benjamin Levy Aguilar.

A film premiering in Connecticut next week highlights the hardships faced by an interracial couple. The family in this dramatic comedy is forced to settle issues of trust and mend old wounds that resurface.

The SHU Community Theater will host the world premiere of the film Hiding Places on Wednesday, March 13.

WSHU’s Maya Duclay spoke with its creators — two brothers from Waterbury — producer Todd Barnes and his older brother Brad Barnes, the film’s director.

WSHU: Could you tell me a little bit about the film Hiding Places? And what is it about?

BB: Hiding Places is about an interracial couple who wake up to discover that they have a fugitive in their garden shed. The bulk of the drama/comedy revolves around them deciding whether to help or hinder this guest.

WSHU: How do you hope the film contributes to the larger conversations about race and interpersonal issues?

BB: I think that it came from discussions that my wife and I were having about those issues and how we were responding to it goes all the way back to the summer of 2020. And so the idea came out of discussions surrounding these issues and how there could be multiple points of view, even within a tight-knit family unit. So we're hoping that it adds to the conversation. And on some level, one of the challenges was engaging with some of these issues but also trying to chart a trajectory that was entertaining because it's obviously a big issue. And we want it to center it on the family and how the family might process these issues.

WSHU: Could you expand on what sort of issues you might be facing?

BB: Yeah, I think for my wife and I, it started with talking about policing in this country, and how we had recently moved to a part of California, that's very diverse, but has different positions on policing and, you know, being introduced to new neighbors. We happened to move in next door, next to a decorated police officer from LA County. And just knowing that your immediate neighbors would all have divergent points of view on the state of policing in the local community. And so that seemed like something worth exploring on the level of both within a family and also within a neighborhood. How one family's position might be very different from the position taken right over the fence or through the backyard. So that was part of that conversation.

WSHU: How did both of you know you wanted to enter the film industry?

BB: We've been making kind of simple video film since I don't know Todd, what would you say? 78? Or 1980?

TB: Yeah, maybe we were very early Betamax to start with, and then VHS later, our dad got us into it. So we were making videos very early on, but I don't think we thought we could make real movies until Brad got into NYU film school.

BB: Oh, yeah, we had many projects that weren't quite stories, but that we had created without even access to editing equipment. So, really, just shooting linear pieces and hoping that it would make sense and then forcing our family to watch them. But we also grew up in a family that spent a lot of time putting on theater productions. So we also did that. I think that that experience of putting on plays made it seem more within our grasp to make a film, but as Todd said, it took a while before we were actually able and capable of putting together a story that had to be beginning, middle and end.

WSHU: That's awesome. You mentioned your family, who got you into this. How was it? Did your father have a background in the film industry?

TB: No, he was a small-town lawyer, but he had a good singing voice, which he started using in the bars. But then when he had kids, he channeled that into community theater. And then we were just this community theater family that would hang out in the wings while we were putting on local shows. And then he was a gadget guy. So he got the first Walkman when that came out. And we ran in, you know, did rocky runs with that. And then when he got Betamax, and VHS and home video, he filmed all of our games and stuff, but also we could take hold of that stuff and make whatever we wanted with it.

BB: Yeah, I think he was very involved, and so is our mother and several theater companies. One was devoted to a children's theater called the Apple Wigs Theatre Company. The other was the Civic Theatre of Waterbury, Connecticut. And then they also had a Gilbert and Sullivan troupe. So we felt like we are often watching plays from behind this, the scenery, watching the audience, as opposed to being in the audience watching the play. So we were really exposed to the guts of theatrical expression from a really early age.

WSHU: Could you tell me how your industry experience translates into the classroom?

BB: Yeah, I can go first. I think one of the things I love most is making something and teaching are two sides of the same coin. I've never only made films or taught classes; it's always been a mutually supportive endeavor for me because I feel like, every day I'm in the classroom, I learn something that I can apply to the next thing I make and everything I make. teaches me something that I can bring back into the classroom. I love that conversation and, and bringing those discoveries with me. So, for me, it's just mutually inspiring. Both things.

TB: I think teaching films is the greatest job in the world. I teach in the graduate film program at Sacred Heart, the state's only graduate film program. But a lot of my students are filmmakers themselves. So I love that I'm still making movies, so I can talk about the industry's current state with them. And I love being able to help them make movies and watch those get made, you know, from within the classroom.

WSHU: What's it like working with your brother making a movie?

BB: I feel lucky. It's a complicated endeavor to make any film at any length really. And so to have a collaborator with whom you have the ability to communicate even silently, a collaborator who knows your taste and knows what you want something to look like before you even sketch it out or fully write it, I think that is invaluable. I think so much of making a film project is about collaboration.

If you can rely on someone who shares your taste and also history, you know, we can draw on the experience not only of making things but also of being consumers of film and TV. So, being able to reference something and know that your collaborator is going to get it instantly and then that that actually might lead to another shared experience or reference see that that's invaluable. And, and I think we're, we're just lucky to have that.

TB: And Brad's just a super nice, cool guy. Like he was one of those older brothers that always brought me along. I got to be friends with his friends, you never excluded me from anything. And so when he started making movies, I was like, I want to come make movies. And then we just had fun doing it all the way through. And it's complicated. It's a miracle any movie ever gets made? And so, you know, speaking as a brother who makes movies with his brother, I don't know how you do it without one. But, it’s a great time doing it together.

BB: Yeah, maybe there should be a way you can just rent a sibling every time you make a movie.

WSHU: What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?

BB: For me, the thing I try to tell young filmmakers is to take every opportunity to make things. Make as much as you possibly can, because I think it feels daunting. Every time you want to make something, you need a crew, you need material, you need a location, you need equipment. But over the years, these things have been made more accessible. And so now, most young filmmakers have what they need in their pocket to make a film. So, to me, it's really about capitalizing on the ideas that you have and getting them out of your head and into the world. And the only way to do that is to make things, and, every time you do make something, you can apply those discoveries to the next one.

I think sometimes we get a little too precious about this one script that I want to polish and polish and polish, that's going to be my calling card movie, or this is going to change my life. And in fact, you could have made six or eight things in the time that you spent thinking about the one project so to me, it's always get out there and make make make because you don't know which one's going to meet an audience, you don't know which one's really going to go to create a creative not create an interest in the public. So I think you can't know that until you put it out there in the world.

TB: Yeah, and I'm full of clichés about it. For me, it's always the journey and not the destination thing. Sometimes we get caught up in making a movie over the course of a year in the basement with no windows and then hoping that people like it at the end and basing whether or not it was successful on that. It's successful. If you make it successful, if you get a bunch of people together to make a movie. Anyone who makes a movie is in a very elite company. There are very few Steven Spielberg's. So it's inspiring to make these things to do a collaborative art to get a bunch of people pulling together in the same way. And the only way to know about that is to do it. And so I think it's, you know, inspiring enough to want to be part of the group of people who make films.

BB: Yeah, I agree with that. I think that I think there is, and maybe it's because of our community theater experience, but there is a part of this process that's like, I have a barn let's put on a play. It's like, let's get your get your friends and family together and, and focus on something and see what it can become. I think that finding joy in that process is important because you can easily get fixated on the nuts and bolts and lose the reasoning. You're in the beginning.

WSHU: What would you say is the main message that you hope the audience takes away from the new movie?

BB: I find it hard to encapsulate a message. I'm always amazed at what an audience can bring to a movie and what they can tell me about it. So to me, I wish it to be in a conversation with the audience to find out what they felt. I think I was able to put down some scenes that I hope people feel are slightly familiar, that they know people like this, that they've been in conversations like this, and I'm hoping that those conversations can lead to other ones. But I don't think I'm equipped or have any way to send a message I think I think I hope people find it engaging and entertaining. And I do hope it leads to conversations, but I think if there is a message in it, it's what people take away independently and what conversations it might lead to.

Hiding Places is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13 at the SHU Community Theater in Fairfield. After the showing of the film, there will be a Q&A that will include the Barnes brothers, and actress Kristen Ariza.

Sacred Heart University is the operator of the SHU Community Theater and WSHU Public Radio.

Maya Duclay is a news intern at WSHU for the spring of 2024.