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Interview: George Baron for THE BLUE ROSE

The youngblood and a pastel shade of noir

Although there wasn’t a wealth of acting talent in attendance at last year’s FrightFest, due to the SGA/WGA strike, the festival had more than enough highlights and available talent on interim agreements. One such talent was 18-year-old filmmaker George Baron who premiered his debut feature The Blue Rose (a film he shot when he was 16, I might add), which fully embraces the Hollyweird, painted in, what he labels, a “pastel noir”. We met in the Hampshire Hotel, George wearing matching white shorts and tracksuit top adorned with baby blue bows, downplayed somewhat by pull up socks and trainers…. and that wasn't even his premiere attire.

You seem more than happy with The Blue Rose sitting within a niche?

Of course. I love cult movies and I think that young people are going to really appreciate the nicheness of it. I think that there’s that subgenre of kids who go out to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show every Saturday night and love these weird movies. The same ones who watch David Lynch movies and all those other crazy, cult films like, like Repo: the Genetic Opera.

How would you sell your film to those less aware, especially coming in fresh.

It's like this super weird, aesthetically-pleasing-fucked-up-1950s fairy tale. It’s also kinda gay and it's just going to make you really confused in the best way possible... and you're going to feel like you are on drugs… dead sober.

Blonde P.I. Olivia Scott Welch as Detective Lilly.

Sold. I mean, of course it sits within a queer genre but it doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily built around what those messages are. It’s all there if you want to take that away from it, but it’s more of a texture if anything.

You're right. I think a lot of people, especially Gen Z queer kids are very much over the sort of performative, forced representation. It feels that big studios and production companies think that’s what people want to see, when really it's not at all, because we know that you're just doing it to bring in a profit. I think what is very refreshing about The Blue Rose is yes this absolutely is a film with queer elements to it, and I would consider it a queer film, but in a different way. Not in the way that I think that people are coming to know films that are very obviously supposed to be marketed towards the LGBT community. It's more, based on what I’ve already alluded to, in a Rocky Horror way.

It crosses over.

Yeah. Anyone can watch it and that’s what The Blue Rose has: everybody can find something in it.

Sometimes you just want to see a character who happens to be a minority in a narrative.

Yeah, I think a lot of people feel that way, and I think that there's like a certain way to go about that and that’s what we specifically wanted to do with the queer characters and those of colour. My approach is about retaining a niche; I don’t really want this huge following so most understand the nuances in my narratives. Specifically with my directing work. I mean, I would really like to make a name for myself in the acting world, but with my films, I think I would much rather have a cult fan base.

Strange flower. Writer/Director George Baron stars as Detective Dalton.

So with your acting, you're quite happy to take on commercial work to help fund your independent films?

I think so, but I still don't think I would ever really want to work on a project as an actor if it didn't like 100% align with my overall creative vision for my career. I have a specific outline of films that I would do and the things I wouldn’t. I mean, you’re never going to see me in  a rom-com (unless there’s a tropical location to visit) [laughs] But I’ll snap up a weird fucking period piece.

You’re obviously an old soul and that’s the beauty of your creative drive is that you're channeling a lot of things that certain people your age wouldn't be watching, such as old black-and-white movies.

My major gripe with that is like the lighting alone in black-and-white films is incredible. They had to pay attention to so much more. You have to study how they lit the scenes; the revolutionary cinematography that they had to rely on because they couldn't use color.

Now, who pointed that out to you - did you learn that yourself?

Yes, I learned that myself. And not even from reading. Just watching.

Where were you raised in the U.S.?

I was born on a farm in Tennessee and then, when I was around eight years old, I moved to Los Angeles.

Red vs. Blue. Viola Harlow as Catherine Christianson.

That part of your life, where you were on the farm, did you have influential parents who loved old movies?

Not so much the movies. I had influential parents who definitely cultivated a very creative environment around me. They would play Beethoven around the house and The Phantom of the Opera soundtrack all the time, so I think there were like little seeds planted that definitely kind of made me venture out into other things. But I think the obsession with films — specifically from like the late 1930s through the late 1950s — was sort of something I came upon myself.

Any specific film you feel may have triggered it?

Well, my favorite movie when I was a kid was The Wizard of Oz. It was my favorite film. So, that makes sense. But when I was younger I didn't really grasp that it was an old film. And then when I grew a bit older I realized that it was originally released in 1939 and I think I had an appreciation for the look and the style of it all the more. So I went out searching for more films around that time.

It’s a liminal movie, for sure.

I also had a really wonderful film teacher in high school named Mark Mayes who showed me a lot of really great films from that era and he definitely saw that thirst in me.

Do you think there is an art to inspiration? Not everybody knows when they're inspired by something or understand where ideas come from.

I don't think that I even know where my ideas come. I know that certain story beats, visuals, and particular plotlines come almost like downloads from like the ether, but I know that I’m unapologetically inspired by filmmakers and their films of the past, because just watching films kind of taught me everything that I know about filmmaking.

Bathtime. A less tuneful Viola Harlow.

Which is the most important thing, really.

Yeah, for sure.

Because, the art — the one thing that you want to be in life — you need to absorb every single thing about it. As simple as that… and, arguably, you can't teach that. You have to have that thirst for it. You can't teach motivation… only show them the nurturing aspects of inspiration in as many different ways as possible. I think you had that vital thing: curiosity. “They made films like that?”

And better.

Coming to some specifics of The Blue Rose: your ‘clipping’ that you use to bookend, (which feels like a perfect ending for me), I’m assuming you had that clear idea so you knew where you were starting and where the film would end?

Yes. I knew that the opening shot was going to serve the end scene.

Did you absorb much on screenwriting to understand important parts of structure?

Again, all mainly from watching films, but also, when I was younger, I had a mentor who is also a film director named Aaron Harvey, and he taught me how to write scripts like on Final Draft. When I was eight I wrote a slasher film that was a sequel to a film he directed, kind of like semi-fan fiction inspired directly by my mentor. Sometimes I go back to that script because it was fucking ridiculous.

You also directed a musical when you were very young?

That’s right. David Arquette produced it. That was crazy.

Was is it ever recorded?

Yes. But I wouldn’t release it for at least a decade or two. I can’t do it yet [laughs].

How did David Arquette become involved in that?

Long story. But what I wanted to say is that sometimes I go back to that script and often think about removing the songs and then pitching it to Lifetime and being like, “Hey, I've got this script for a really, really awful high school movie.” Basically, selling them this script that I wrote when I was eight, because it plays out like a dramatic Lifetime high school movie.

So help myself and others who may have similar anxieties: you’ve mentioned to me you have social anxiety. I’m trying to work out how someone of your talent, especially achieving what you had at eight years old, you still manage to show such confidence, because that’s a phenomenal achievement. That's child prodigy-level shit.

Every day is kind of a struggle. It’s hard for me to walk down the street sometimes.

So it’s mentally draining because you, underneath, have to try so much harder?

If it’s a space where I don’t know somebody in the room I’m like a deer in headlights the majority of the time. It’s different with this interview as we’ve bumped into each other numerous times already, “Oh my god, someone knows who I am!”

Well, I think you’re doing incredibly well with it all, creatively, mentally...

Thank you, I really appreciate that. I try. I’m getting a lot better and the FrightFest experience has worked wonders.

The Blue Rose is released by Dark Sky Films and is theatres across the US and on streaming from July 12th. You can follow George via his Instagram @sp00kyge0rge.


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