Daniel Glenn-Barbour is the writer and director of a new UK independent crime film Yes Man available to download from 13th June on all major digital platforms.
Please introduce yourself and your film
Hi there. My name is Daniel Glenn-Barbour and my new feature film is called Yes Man.
How did the story come about?
It took a long time. I’m not a writer to be fair. I’ve done cinematography and video editing much longer than I’ve written anything. It being my first feature film, I told myself to write what I knew and don’t try to write what I think the world wants to see. So, I took influences from the first 30 years of my life and put it in a film.
The film is focused on a young man’s struggle to find his identity amongst his friends mixed up in the local gang culture. How is it different from other UK crime films?
If you’ve ever felt you want to be part of a group, it can be considered a gang and I mean that to be any group. You can be a football fan, you can be a police officer, you can be in your group hanging out on the street. The word gang was a word before the urban streets took it on, it existed long before it. I regretted for a long time spending so much time trying to impress other people. I never saw the greatness in myself unless someone else saw it and a lot of us live like that and that’s why we’re on social media the way we are and we care about followers. It’s kind of the fabric of our society. Everyone belongs to a social group, but it can be seen as a gang and everyone is part of this social group that is oppressed. Everyone is now.
In the film, the lead, he’s not even from the hood, he lives in Braintree with his mum in the countryside. Going into the film, if you notice you never really see a knife. When you actually watch the film, you don’t actually see a knife at any time at all in this film. I knew if you did someone would call it a gang film and I had to get away from that.
Tell us about the title of the film Yes Man.
Why Yes Man? We’re all yes men. You got a wife, you got a husband, you’re going to do what they say sometimes just to make life a little easier for what you want in life. The term yes man is seen as a very extreme thing, just do whatever someone says, but I think there are levels to it. Someone said it to me after they watched the preview that the main guy is not the only yes man in the film. I know, I did that on purpose. When it’s easy to judge someone you actually realise that you identify with them in the film. We’re all yes people and I was a yes man for a very long time, a very long time. If the group’s not doing it, then I’m not doing it.
How did you do the casting for the film?
In my experience trying to get an actor to play a role that seems very different to theirs, method acting, completely transforming, it takes time to be able to do that. I’ve learnt that if I based the characters on their natural personality they won’t have to go too far in their performance. Not that Ryan sells drugs or anything, but I knew he couldn’t play Darrell. I spoke to everyone and I knew who could play certain roles. I knew when I created it who I had in mind. Ben, Kirk Smith and Keon Martial Phillip they were all cast to do it before I wrote it, so I already knew who their characters were going to be, so it was easy.
The script is full of authentic urban youth language. Were you worried people might not understand what was going on?
There is always a stigma when telling these types of stories, these street stories and what ends up happening is that they get watered down, so words get used that we would never naturally say and you can always tell when somebody outside of the community is telling this story. My thought process was not to water down the language and to keep it real and if it is a good film, and you don’t know the words, you are going to want to know the words.
Funny enough, in the premiere I had a list of words and translations for the audience and everyone laughed at the beginning of the film. I knew I had to be authentic but you can watch a good film and not necessarily understand everything. I could speak much deeper in my slang if I wanted to but I made sure not every character did that. So when you are watching the scenes with the parents, they don’t speak that way. When you are with the ladies, they don’t speak that way, when you are in the office they don’t speak that way. It’s only when you are amongst the fellas and even then I think you can understand, I think it can be translated.
There’s some interesting cinematography throughout. Where did you get the inspiration from?
Do you know what, going into this I didn’t think anyone would care, I didn’t think anybody would enjoy it. I thought everyone would stereotype it and dislike it. I kept thinking that. However, I never stopped thinking that I need to find every moment for this to standout. Every moment. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got my team Adrian Grant who is my 1st AD, Angelica who is the producer, I always seek advice from them if I’m not sure about something. But I went with how I felt, I think I’m lucky because some people are directors and writers but they are not cinematographers.
How important was the soundtrack to the film
I’m not going to lie, everything was a strategy. I thought if I put all these people in a bucket. 20 actors, 20 artists, all these different people the network would be massive, the promotion, even if half these people promote it to 10 people, it will be massive. We might not make any money but at least we will be a step further in people recognising us for what we are trying to do. I did have to enjoy the music to some extent but not every song is on my playlist on my phone. I knew a lot of people and I wanted to help a lot of people if they wanted a platform to produce their music.
What would you recommend to any filmmakers wanting to make a film?
I’d say, we all have stories that are very special. Every filmmaker has their own story. The easiest story to write is our own story. I had very little support trying to make this film but I had a lot of time and a lot of drive. I had a lot of dark days and a lot of tears making this film. It’s a little bit easier for me because I’m from this world, I do cinematography and I do video editing, direct and write, but I write because who was going to give me a script? You have to believe your story is worth being told, don’t be afraid and write it because no one else is going to do it for you.
Film: Yes Man
Director: Daniel Glenn-Barbour
Stars: Kieton Saunders-Browne, Keon Martial Phillip, Kirk Smith
Genre: Crime, Thriller
Run time: 1hr 18min