Barron and the birth of MANNY LEWIS
‘Talk about what you know’ – Carl Barron
Carl Barron was born in Longreach, a small town in Central Queensland, the son of a sheep shearer. He has grown to now be, Australia’s most successful comedian. His gentle, honest and observational comedic style has touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands. His last tour ‘A One Ended Stick’, was experienced live by more than 300,000 Australians.
Given this huge fan base, film projects featuring his talents had been considered before.
But Carl has always emphasised the importance of timing. “I needed to approach the medium when the time felt instinctively right.” He says: “I had an idea for a film, and like everything else I’ve done there comes a time where I’m just going to do it”.
“I needed to take a break – I was tired of being on the road by myself, I wanted to work with other people, which is something I’ve really not done much of before. This was an opportunity to collaborate and not have it all on my shoulders, even though it’s my big fat head out there on the screen.”
Carl always had an idea for a love story “about a bloke who meets a girl who works on the phone, on an adult chat line.” It sat quietly in a corner of his brain for years, moving in and out of his consciousness, developing a little each time it did.
One day, sitting with his friend, the director Anthony Mir, Carl simply said “I want to do a film.” Anthony recalls seizing the moment: “I said, ‘Great, let’s go to my place and write it.’ Carl said ‘No, let’s go to Italy and write it.'”
Carl knew that this particular tale was “not a story you can tell in front of a stand-up crowd. You can tell a story like this in film or in a novel – on stage it might be interesting, but it won’t be funny, it’ll just be long.” He knew that in order to tell a truthful, heartfelt tale, the ‘bloke’ would have to be based on himself.
Talking about his own unique experiences and view of life is the constant and trademark source of Carl Barron’s comedy material. “The main idea, in the beginning, was to show people the other side of my job- people see the laughter and the humour, but they have this idea that comics are all manic depressives, which isn’t true. I wanted to show the loneliness and isolation on the road. It’s a hard lifestyle. You’re by yourself a lot. I wanted to show people that.”
Carl and Anthony decamped to Lucca, in Tuscany, in the middle of a European summer, writing during the day, and eating good food and drinking fine wines in the evenings. Carl remembers: “One of the waiters looked like Ian Botham. That’s what I remember – thinking ‘That’s Ian Botham speaking Italian.'”
For Carl, the process was a new one – both in terms of writing with a partner, and working within the parameters of a screenplay rather than crafting a sequence of observational jokes: “I didn’t know how to structure a film. I knew the details of my life. Anthony taught me about structure.”
“It’s always felt comfortable talking about my life on stage. As I started to write the film, it started to feel a little weird. I started to think, ‘What am I doing with my life? What have I done with my life? What will I do with the rest of my life?’ I was struck with the same issues Manny has in the film.”
Carl’s philosophy, and one of the reasons for his phenomenal success, had always been to leave life open to possibility rather than forcing fate.
“I’ve never had a plan. They say you must have had a plan to do stand-up. I said ‘no’.”
“I went to a pub one night and performed, and wanted to go next week because I liked making people laugh. Someone said ‘Do you want to go on ‘Hey, Hey it’s Saturday?’ I said, ‘Yeah, righto. I’m not doing anything on Saturday night anyway. For $90? Sure.'”
“I never thought about what I’d hope to come out of this film – I wanted to make it and make it really well, and then see what happens.”
With a strong first draft completed in Italy, over the following year Carl and Anthony refined the screenplay, at the same time engaging with Australian producer Martin Fabinyi at Beyond Screen Production, who says putting the film together was a remarkably smooth process. “Carl has such a great following. He and Anthony came to us with the script, and we were totally sold on making the film happen.”
Mikael Borglund, CEO of Beyond International presented the script to Brad Lyons and Therese Hegarty at the Seven Network, who quickly signed on as a partner in the film with A-List and Beyond.
“When I sent the script to Brad and Therese they responded positively to the material very quickly. They recognised that this was a very personal work that would connect with Carl’s existing fan base – and also appeal to an audience who were not familiar with Carl’s stand up work. Brad and Therese have made significant contributions as Executive Producers of the film, and have galvanised the Seven Network team to support the project”, said Borglund.
Brad Lyons, Director of Network Production, Seven Network, said “We’re pleased to be a part of this project. We’re building on our leadership in content development and production, and expanding our presence. We’re pleased to be working with A-List and Carl. We’re also delighted to be a partner with Mikael and his team at Beyond.”
It was a remarkably fast process, “The period of time between the three of us sitting down and saying, ‘Okay, we have the financing essentially in place, but we have no crew and we have no cast, other than our lead, we’d better go out and find them,’ and the beginning of shoot was six months to the day.” Said Martin Fabinyi.