KIN: Director duo Jonathan and Josh Baker’s Sci-fi drama

If brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker, directors of the sci-fi feature film KIN, hadn’t delved into filmmaking nearly 15 years ago, you’d probably find them attempting perilous physical feats for Likes on social media.
“There’s a part of me that’s a little sad that parkour wasn’t a popular thing when we were growing up because if it was, we would have been on Instagram jumping across buildings,” says Jonathan, one half of the directing duo known as TWIN.

Photography: Gray Hamner

Instead, They set their sights on directing, moving from Sydney to New York in 2007, working on music videos and commercials. Through a decade of professional stagnation, The Brothers developed the short film “Bag Man”, a 15-minute film with a nameless cast of characters whose protagonist, a Harlem-bred African-American preteen, ventures upstate with his mysterious duffel bag to carry out an undecidedly valiant mission.

“Bag Man”, which premiered at 2015’s South by Southwest to great acclaim, quickly evolved into KIN under the joint tutelage of 21 Laps Entertainment, the production company associated with 2016 Academy Award-nominated film Arrival and the Netflix breakaway hit Stranger Things. Both KIN’s cast (James Franco, Zoe Kravitz, Dennis Quaid, Jack Reynor and emerging talent Myles Truitt as the film’s lead) and the filmmakers’ gritty, independent sensibilities, coupled with a predisposition for classic 80s sci-fi and coming-of-age cinema, are sure to attract discerning moviegoers.

How did you decide which elements of “Bag Man” to incorporate into KIN and which to leave out?

Josh: That was one of the toughest things about it. We didn’t just assume that there was a feature-length story to be told there. The short film already had a couple of things going for it: it was mostly a tone piece; it was about trying to make something feel restrained and quiet. Our lead character doesn’t say a word throughout the whole film, which is very much on purpose. And then it was about clashing that quietness with a surprise ending so the audience maybe think that they’re getting one thing, but then you give them another.
When we were putting the concept for feature together, I guess we decided we wanted some more meat on the bone with regards to the characters and where the story was going. We decided that we wanted to tell a story about family. And specifically about unconventional families. So this story is about brothers, and that was our jumping off point. Quite quickly, we realised that the unconventional structure of having an African-American lead character who has a white older brother after being adopted into a Polish family in Detroit was really interesting.

Jonathan: There’s a lot of things in the movie, in KIN, that are about acceptance, and a lot of themes about what makes a family, or what makes brothers. Is it blood, or is it something beyond that? Is it more experience and love? A lot of those things weren’t in the original short film but as soon as we started to talk about what KIN would become, it became apparent that those fraternal themes would be in there.

What are some of the challenges of working as a collaborative team?

Josh: There’s plenty of challenges. As brothers, we’ve gotta be really careful that we have a unified front when it comes to the idea of being a directing duo.
Ego is a huge part of being a director – it really is. It always has been, and I don’t think it’s going anywhere. You’ve just gotta be careful of that and realize that you’ve got someone else who’s on the same level as you and who has to be a collaborative part of making decisions.

Jonathan: The good thing about having a directing partner is that you have this inbuilt level of collaboration and patience and respect – mutual respect – so I think it’s very easy for that to then affect everyone else. Everyone begins to realise that this is how these guys work, this is the kind of set I’m on. They see us as the kind of directors who listen a lot, who accept other people’s’ ideas.

Photography: Gray Hamner

Photography: Gray Hamner

What advice would you give yourself ten years ago?

Josh: I think the main thing would be trust your instincts. Having a twin brother as a director helps a lot when it comes to making decisions. I think it helps to have someone next to you so you can talk stuff out, come up with the right solutions and make the right decisions on what to do with certain things. A lot of where we are right now just comes from instinct. All a director really has is their personal sense of taste and that ability to follow their gut. We were offered films years ago, and I’m really glad, at this point, that we didn’t take them. Just because of this film that we made, KIN, is very much based on who we are and the things we love.

Jonathan: KIN is a movie that we made for us, and we genuinely believe that if you do that – if you make a film for yourselves and a movie you would want to see – then there is going to be a very strong fan base of people who agree with you. It may not be for everybody, which is not something that everybody involved in the film wants to hear or wants to say, but the truth of the matter is that you never want to make something from a false place, trying to please everybody. You want to really have it come from an authentic place and a human place.

Josh: This movie is undeniably ‘us’.

What is your FAULT?

Jonathan: I think one of our faults is caring a little bit more about art and about sophistication and about credibility than commerce. And I think that’s a very challenging dynamic to balance in what we do. Pleasing people, while pleasing yourself, is a very challenging kind of way to live, and to do.

Josh: I guess if we didn’t operate that way then we would be much richer gentlemen, and at different times of the week, I look back and say, ‘did we make the right decision based off money?’ But I think I’ll always choose something that feels honest to us over financial gain. And sometimes that feels like a fault, but hopefully, it’s not.

Jonathan: …and we hope – that KIN is an example of hope. But at the end of the day, if for some reason it doesn’t connect, we’ll feel good within ourselves as directors and as filmmakers that we made the honest choice in something that speaks to us as humans. That’s the most important thing.

KIN is out now in Cinemas everywhere. See local listings for details.

11.22.63’s Daniel Webber in conversation with FAULT Magazine

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Being a stranger in a strange land is tough.  Tough, challenging, but, as I was told, not frightening. Daniel Webber was a labourer in Australia before moving to America to follow his dream of acting. As he speaks about his journey I am filled with anxiety and fear. To leave your home, travel across the world, be surrounded by Americans, and work in an industry known for crushing dreams and destroying spirits, is terrifying! But not to Daniel, who is very zen about the whole thing. He told me he doesn’t let it get to him.

Daniel now appears alongside James Franco as Lee Harvey Oswald, in the Hulu TV series 11.22.63, an adaptation of the thriller by Stephen King. It follows an English teacher Jake, as he travels back in time to 1960s Texas to stop the assassination of President JFK by Oswald (and possibly others).

Daniel has been receiving rave reviews for his performance, something made all the more impressive given his relatively young age, 27, and the fact that this is his first break, aside from Home and Away.

We spoke about the American dream.

 

Daniel: There’s been a lot of sticking with it. Coming from Australia and living in America, you really don’t have an option to fail. When we come here, if Australian or British or anybody, you have to go all in and give it your all.

FAULT: That sounds like a lot of pressure.

You work with it. My focus, because it’s such a competitive market here, it gives you a little bit more fire in your belly. You’ve got to make it work. I think anybody who’s in this profession has to do that. It’s an added challenge coming from Australia.

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FAULT: How was playing Lee Harvey Oswald?

This role was everything that I could have possibly wanted. I like the opportunity to be challenged. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I fear not doing a good job. When you get a role, the onus is on you to find it in yourself to be that character, to go to every length that you can to reach into the deepest parts of yourself to figure that out and there is something… that’s scary in a sense, but there’s also there is something very powerful and exciting about it.

 

FAULT: There have been incredibly powerful moments for your character in the show. Is it hard to turn that off when the cameras stop rolling?

Once you finish a shoot and you’ve been working on a role and a character for so long, there is a process of having to detach yourself from it, because the characters carry such a different emotional weight and baggage. There was a little bit of Lee in every audition room I went into for the next month after we wrapped the show. I still hadn’t quite gotten back to Daniel and my own energy. There was more of an aggressive, shut down, defensive thing going on still.

 

FAULT: Do you think Oswald did it?

He was a man very capable of having done it. Whether or not he was aided or there were other people involved, I honestly don’t know. My research was more specifically on him, so I didn’t really go into the conspiracy theories. He has the skill set and the emotional patterns throughout his life which indicate that he is somebody who would easily find motive and reason for it.

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FAULT: What is it like being written about and reviewed, and to have so much attention on you now?

It’s great to get attention from the show because I’m really proud of what I did. It’s nice for me personally to have played a man like him, and know that I can, and so can have a bit more trust and faith in my own skill set. I always fear not doing a good enough job. With Lee where there was just a mountain of research to get through and a mountain of different things to understand so I could do it.

 

FAULT: Was Hollywood always the dream?

No, not at all (laughs). I didn’t realise acting was a job until I was sixteen. I wanted to be what my Dad was – a tree lopper. I spent time working as a tree lopper. I think I realised early on that as a labourer, you have to work so, so hard and it’s so physically demanding. I’ve done a lot of it in my life – landscaping, tree lopping – so I know what it is to work very hard and to work with my hands for a living. It was something that I didn’t want to have as my career. Acting has been with me the whole time.

 

Words: Chris Purnell 

Press shots: Jessica Castro

 

WELCOME TO TERRYWOOD!

Moments captured at the LA opening of celebrated photographer Terry Richardson‘s Hollywood-inspired exhibition, TERRYWOOD. Friends & fans including Tom FordPamela Anderson, James FrancoJared Leto,  Sky FerreiraLindsay LohanJames FrancoJeremy Scott, Benedikt TaschenChina ChowParis HiltonNicky Hilton, Johnny Knoxville, Lydia Hearst & countless others (who spilled out of the gallery’s doors onto La Cienega Boulevard) turned out in droves to see the highly anticipated exhibition of new work & congratulate Richardson on yet another resounding success. Open to the public from Feb 24th – Mar 31st at the OhWow Gallery 937 N. La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90069.