By Eric Norwood Jr.
PNT staff writer
Jonathan Barr, assistant professor of digital filmmaking at Eastern New Mexico University and president of the Portales Arts Council, is leading the way to create an avenue for locals of all ages to express themselves through the arts. Barr’s short film “The Paradigm Shift” was written and directed while Barr was in college. It has been shown at 19 festivals and won an award for Best Student Film at the 2008 Wild Rose Independent Film Festival.
Now, the self-proclaimed movie buff and East Coast native hopes to use his experience to help Portales residents embrace art.
What piqued your interest in filmmaking?
My parents were huge movie buffs and we would go to the movies at least once a week when I was a kid. My first job was as an usher at the local theater and I worked my way up to manager. I returned to college to get my degree in my 30s and decided to study filmmaking. After the first class, I asked the teacher if we were really going to make movies. I couldn’t believe it. Now I make movies and teach others myself.
Tell us about Philadelphia and Temple University. How was it living and studying there?
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, so studying there wasn’t strange. It’s funny how your sense of time can change: Every day I used to drive 45 minutes to school and then spend 10 minutes finding a parking spot. Another 10 walking to class. In Portales, I’m five minutes from my office. Now I have to psych myself up to take a 20-minute drive to Clovis.
I do miss having easy access to world class food and cinema and theatre, but I’m also excited by what our area has to offer.
Who is your favorite director?
That’s a tough question. I love the Coen brothers and Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson, but I have to say my favorite director is Tamara Jenkins who wrote and directed “The Savages.”
Who would you want to play you in an biopic of your life?
Zach Galifianakis, obviously.
When you were in High School, what was a popular movie?
“The Breakfast Club.”
What advice would you give to an aspiring filmmaker?
Get as much experience as you can in filmmaking and in life. Figure out what advantage you have over Hollywood, which is your particular point of view and experience. Don’t waste your time trying to make poor imitations of films that have already been done much better than you could do.
What’s your goal with the Portales Arts Council?
To facilitate the expansion arts and cultural events in Portales for adults and for families. I want diverse groups of people to gather together and share ideas and make new things happen. My goal is to encourage people of all ages to find ways to express themselves and to appreciate the many ways that others express themselves.
You need a guest director to lecture a class. Your options are Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino. Who speaks and what would you have them speak about?
I would ask Tarantino to speak about the brilliance of Spielberg without cursing. Or Spielberg on Tarantino WITH cursing. Well, you asked!