Baker brothers cook up something special
TURNING their acclaimed short film into a full-length feature has been a rewarding process for brothers Jonathan and Josh Baker.
The Aussie twins spent more than a decade directing advertising, moving to New York in 2007 to further their careers before deciding to put their creative talents to use in a short film - Bag Man.
"We felt like we needed to do something new and fresh and longer than 60 seconds," Jonathan said. "We thought 'let's do something a little more quiet and dramatic and introspective and thematic', and it came out the other end as Bag Man."
The film earned the brothers a Grand Jury Award nomination at the 2015 SXSW Film Festival and the Best Drama gong in the Short of the Week Awards.
"With a lot of eyes seeing it we realised people are going to start asking us what a movie version of this is, so we thought let's come up with ideas of what that longer story could be and eventually we had an outline for what Kin could become," Jonathan said.
They struck upon the idea of tweaking their main character, an African American teenager, into Eli, a teen who was adopted into a Polish family in Detroit.
Kin reunites Eli (Myles Truitt) with his older brother Jimmy (Jack Reynor) who has just been released from prison.
"It became about family very quickly," Josh said. "We wanted to team the lead character up with someone who can challenge him and we figured out really quickly we wanted an older brother character.
"As soon as we cracked the idea that they would be incredibly different from each other, we knew at the beginning of the movie we wanted them as far apart as possible and by the end of the movie we wanted to bring them together."
The brothers are forced on the run by a series of unfortunate events, pursued by a vengeful criminal (James Franco), the feds and a gang of otherworldly soldiers. A plasma ray gun, discovered by Eli in an abandoned warehouse, is their only protection.
The gun, designed by Supervixen Studios in Sydney, plays a key role in the plot. While the weapon was part of a big twist in their short film, the brothers knew they couldn't repeat the same surprise twice.
"It's not a movie about a gun but it is something that gets in there and in a very complicated way finds its place," Jonathan said.
The brothers teamed up with producers Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen, of Stranger Things fame, to bring their story to the big screen.
"We wanted a production company with the same sensibility that we had. It came down to these guys who were at 21 Labs, and they were working on Stranger Thing at the time," Jonathan said.
"There's this '80s nostalgia of a single protagonist boy who finds something and it completely changes their world. We grew up on these kinds of movies and it's embedded in the stuff we love and stories we like to tell."
Kin's ending, another clever twist by the Bakers, leaves the door open for a sequel.
"It's going to be about how people support an original sci-fi film that feels grounded and gritty and real, and is not attached to any other comic book or redo of a movie," Jonathan said.
"We have a general idea of where we want to go with it. This was about making a film that left you with a certain amount of questions in an inspiring kind of way. It goes somewhere that we've cut you off from seeing, and that's a good thing."
STARS: Jack Reynor, James Franco, Myles Truitt, Dennis Quaid, Zoe Kravitz.
DIRECTORS: Jonathan and Josh Baker
REVIEWER'S LAST WORD: The Baker brothers ground the sci-fi elements of this family crime drama in a gritty reality, taking the ideas from their acclaimed short film to an exciting new place.
Kin is in cinemas now.