By Mitch Koehler
Today we chat with the beautiful and creative Robbie Barnes. No one knows more about the hustle than this actress, writer and director best known for her film, He Chose Her, and her latest movie, Whatever It Takes, among other thriller-esque projects. Move over Jodie Foster, there’s a new chick taking on the thriller industry!
1. Hi Robbie. Thanks for your time. What projects are you working on, and what will 2018 see from you?
Hi Mitch! No problem, thanks for asking me. I have 2 projects I’m working on this year. The first one is a short, fantasy-romance that we’ve already started filming. It’s a story about Jack and Sarah and how everyday for them in the picture of perfection for two lovers literally living the dream. But one of them wants to break free from their perfect dreamscape and live a life in a real world, filled with beauty, pain, and everything in between. But doing so might cost this couple everything and turn their dream into a nightmare.
The second project is vampire/serial killer story based loosely on a New Orleans vampire legend. There’s a completed rough draft and crew backing it up, but it’ll be a while until we get to it. My primary focus is “Dream Come True.”
2. How long have you been in the game?
I’ve been acting since 1998, so it’s been a while! As far as being a part of films…I’ve taken film classes in college and made a few between 2004-2009. I found the group FNA Productions to work with in 2010 and though I stayed mostly in front of the camera, I did help with some writing and editing as well as marketing. With them, I learned so much more about being behind the camera. In 2016, I created my own films with a new crew. We’ve done “He Chose Her,” “Whatever It Takes, “Beyond Repair,” and I also was the assistant director and editor of “Where Are You” and writer and actress in “Inspired.”
3. You’ve recently made a movie called Whatever It Takes. Has it been received well at film festivals? When can we all see it?
So far with festivals it’s been hit or miss, which is what I expected because of the storyline. When it gets into one, it wins. It’s won Best Feature at the Sweet As Film Festival, won a Silver Award and was nominated for Best Thriller at the North American Film Awards (NAFA), and was an official selection at the Miami International Film Festival. It’s taboo and unique because it’s a story about an escort and it presents a sex-worker in a dimensional and sympathetic light, and the movie doesn’t come down on her completely for what she’s doing. It doesn’t glorify what she’s doing but it doesn’t knock it either. It’s just a way of life and doesn’t have a spotlight on it. As far as being able to see it, I’m going to be submitting for distribution soon if you don’t get to catch it at one of the festivals it may be selected to play this year. My end goal is to have it available in 2019 on Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, etc.
4. What was the inspiration for WIT?
The underground sex world of Los Angeles. I met several people, women and men, who work some type of job in the sex industry. Naturally there’s judgment towards that lifestyle, but these were some of the nicest and most genuine people I met in that city and thought they have interesting stories behind them for why they do what they do.
5. What horror or thriller movies have inspired you?
The movie “Seven” was in my mind a lot for “Whatever It Takes.” And for when it comes to “Beyond Repair” I would think of scenes from “Sixth Sense” because I like how they portrayed spirits in that movie. It made you more empathetic towards them. Being an empath myself, I think I’m always pushing empathy a little bit in what I do.
6. I think it’s cool you’re into scary flicks (Beyond Repair, Krampus: TDR) Do you know or work with other women in the industry?
Yes, I try to collaborate with other women when possible, even if it’s having them just read over a script and give me their thoughts. I love working with Kinsley Funari-Coleman, Tiffani Hilton, Ember Burns, and Katelynn Elizabeth Newberry. They’ve been my ride or dies for a years now and I always pull them into my films if I can. I’d love to work with someone like Danielle Harris, Fiona Dourif, Dee Wallace, or Eliza Dushku someday.
7. Speaking of Dee Wallace, our second interview features director Harrison Smith, and he just worked with Dee Wallace and Felissa Rose – you should contact him. Out of the movies you’ve written, directed or acted in, which project has been the most fun to be a part of?
Wow, this is a really difficult question! There’s so many I had a really good time working on. I have 2 different answers; one as an actor and one as a director. Back in 2012, my old group made a short film for the Cleveland 48 Hour Film Project called “PheMIMEnon.” I got to play a mime alongside of my good friends, Patrick Antone. We ran around this artsy neighborhood dressed up as mimes, running and gunning cause we only had 48 hours to get the entire film complete. The genre was ‘silent film’ so we didn’t think we had a shot in hell of winning a best film award, so we just had fun with it. The night of the award ceremony, it was between our film and another group – who always produce amazing films – and we still didn’t think we had a shot. When they called our name as the Best Film winner it was like hitting a grand slam. It was Cleveland Cavs beating the Golden State Warriors in 2016. That feeling was incredible and it went off to play at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It was the first time getting a taste of that. So for that reason, I’m going to go with that film as being my favorite to be a part of as an actor. As a director, “Beyond Repair.” I love the horror genre and I liked sticking strictly behind the camera and not have to juggle being an actor and director. My cast and crew for that film were so talented, meshed together so well, and it all blew my mind. It’s being doing so well in the festival circuit as well. I couldn’t be more proud and humbled by it. I’m very excited to tell more stories with that group and add new faces to the mix.
8. You grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. What’s that like? Where do you live now?
I love my city and defend it so hard. I used to want to get out and think the grass was greener on the other side, but then I’ve lived in LA and got that out of my system. As much as I love it there too and think of it as a second home, it’ll never be the Midwest. Right now I live in Lakewood, OH and it just feels so right. It’s a trendy, artist neighborhood with a bunch of mom and pop restaurants and bars. The friends I’ve been collaborating with all live within an hour away as does my family. I also work as a product specialist with the auto show and tour the country with it during the season, so it feeds my need to travel and see new cities. By the time a show is over, I’m ready to go back to quiet Cleveland and recharge! Maybe I would be more bored if I didn’t travel so much, but I like visiting bigger cities but having my little town to come home to afterward.
9. Is writing and acting in movies a full-time thing for you?
It pretty much consumes my life, yes. If I’m not shooting or making a schedule, I’m writing scripts or editing. Even during auto show, there’s a script or pre-production being done. I can’t live without filmmaking – it’s my sanity.
10. Who do you hope to collaborate with in the future?
Two actors I’d love to work with are Michael Biehn and Michael Rooker. They’ve both been very inspiring to me for different reasons. I’d like to collaborate with more people on the producer and marketing sides of filmmaking and add them to my crew. It would be nice to have someone who handles PR than me and of course, investors are more than welcomed as well.
11. Anything else the public should know about Robbie Barnes?
Hmm…I love the Fitness Marshall and dancing with him to his videos on Youtube. I’m getting married in June to a handsome and wonderful Greek man I met while working the auto show circuit who I’m going to drag with me to backpack Europe this summer. I’m currently obsessed with Bruno Mars, Big Little Lies, and Game of Thrones. I love animals and have two dogs and two cats. I want to spend my life making movies people enjoy, traveling the world, and maybe having ONE child someday. That’s all!