Film

Lunch and a movie

Vegas’ Tom Barndt heads to Sundance with a contribution to Lunchfilm

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A typically strange scene from Tom Barndt’s Offshore Bank.

Local filmmaker Tom Barndt’s surreal short films have shown up at CineVegas and the Dam Short Film Festival, among other places, and last year he and partner Samara St. Croix took their short film The Mark to the Sundance Film Festival. They’re up in Utah again this week with Offshore Bank, a new short film commissioned by CineVegas Associate Director of Programming Mike Plante (who also programs for Sundance) as part of his Lunchfilm series, which is playing as a Sundance sidebar. Plante takes various filmmakers out to lunch, and then tasks them with creating a short film for the price of the meal. Barndt admits he fudged a bit on the budget, but even so, his work always reflects the spirit of doing more with less.

How did you get involved with Lunchfilm?

Right around CineVegas time, we had a meeting with [Plante], and he explained the whole idea about Lunchfilm and that he had been doing it for a while. I had seen it on his blog, and I thought it was a good idea. So we met up for lunch, I think early in the fall, and then you’re pretty much on your own. Every once in a while you get an e-mail asking, “How’s it going?” When it was done, we just sent it over to him, and sometime in December he e-mailed and said that they were going to show everything up at Sundance, so that was pretty cool.

Were there certain parameters Mike set for your film when you had lunch?

It’s really informal, so basically you sit down, and he just takes out a napkin and just jots a few things down, but it’s really loose as far as how you put it in there. It’s not like a checklist—okay, I’ve got this element, I’ve got that element. To me, that’s the way it was. I haven’t seen the other ones; I’ve just seen the descriptions, and I know about a lot of the other filmmakers, but I haven’t seen the other Lunchfilms. So I don’t know how many people really followed the guidelines strictly.

So you didn’t have a list of elements to include?

No, it was just really general. There was something about one of the characters had to be—he called it “Gallo-like,” referring to Vincent Gallo. I kind of went about it a different way. Some of the music and the actual film stock we used were kind of similar to the film stock they used in some of [Gallo’s] movies. It was really kind of a general thing.

Do you have any goals for your festival experience this year?

The one thing I’ve learned in the last couple of years is that as you go along you learn what to expect. If you go with a short that can be expanded into a feature, or if it kind of appeals to the right demographic, then you’re ready to go—at the festival, you can make certain connections, and it really helps with fundraising and all that. But my approach is kind of different. None of the things we’ve done really have any commercial value, so for me it’s more about having fun and going to the festival and getting to meet different people, and kind of using it as a workshop to test out techniques.

Do you remember what you ate for lunch with Mike?

I know it was a hamburger. I forget what Samara had.

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Josh Bell

Josh Bell is the film editor for Las Vegas Weekly, where he's been writing movie and TV reviews since 2002. ...

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