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Resident co-writes, directs first feature film

Published 5:58pm Wednesday, June 5, 2013

While in L.A., Barry worked numerous acting gigs as an extra, or background performer, on the sets of TV shows including “The West Wing” and “The Ex Files.”

He also served as an office assistant, personal assistant and other positions he thought would give him experience and allow him to observe and network with people in the film industry.

“When I started out, I was an aspiring actor, but I was always the actor that had designs on ultimately directing,” Barry said. “I was a terrible extra, but it made for a great classroom in terms of just studying how a set works. I would always be the guy that sort of always hung around camera, just watching the process.”

Barry and Hood met when Hood, a then-theater major at the University of Montevallo, auditioned for and landed a role in a stage play Barry wrote that was later produced in Florida on a small budget.

From there, Barry and Hood decided they wanted to pursue the big screen from a script-writing standpoint.

In 2007, they co-wrote a short film called “Mr. Extion.” The 11-minute film was produced for less than $300 and screened at 40 film festivals across the country. It earned 14 awards from the 40 festivals.

“It was a resume film—that’s all it was,” Barry said. “It never was intended to be like a festival film.”

One of the festivals that screened “Mr. Extion” was the Delray Beach Film Festival in south Florida.

Barry said the festival director liked him and Hood and their film enough to invite them to come back in 2008 for a “script-to-screen challenge” in which movie script writers were tasked with writing and producing a short film in one week using the same basic script as each other.

“We completely just went rogue,” Barry said. “We did our own thing. We didn’t adhere to the script. We just knew we were going to lose because of that.”

They were wrong. The film won the screening as well as the crowd’s approval.

“It connected,” Barry said. “It got them. The lesson being if your instincts are dialed in, follow your instincts.”

On their drive home from Florida, Barry and Hood decided it was time to pour all their remaining assets—time, money and talents—into producing a 90-minute feature that they hoped would be their ticket to Hollywood.

“We’ve got to jump out of the plane and just hope that the chute works, because we’ve been just sort of staring at the view for a long time,” Barry said.

As soon as they got back to Alabama, the two locked themselves in Barry’s house—much to Charity’s chagrin, he said—for three weeks and wrote the first draft of the script for “The Baytown Disco,” which would later become “The Baytown Outlaws.”

They intended to produce “The Baytown Disco” on a micro-budget and were willing to sell their cars and max out their credit cards if necessary to produce the film.

“We felt that it was a bit of a calculated risk, and we knew that one of our biggest strengths was that we could stretch a dollar,” Battles said. “We could do a lot with very little.”

Battles and Hood molded two characters in their script around two actors they wanted specifically for the roles: Billy Bob Thornton and Gadsden native Clayne Crawford, whose supporting role in “A Walk to Remember” caught their attention.

“We sent the script to Clayne, just hoping that he would just read it and like it just enough to throw us a bone, and he loved it,” Battles said. “I’ve always said that 80 percent of good directing is done in casting because if you bring in the right guy for the job, you can give him the ball and you can tell him your game plan, and he’ll make you look like a genius.

“That’s why I fought so hard to have Clayne be the lead in the film,” he said. “I knew he would crush it. I think he did. I think the same way for all my guys. These are the ones that I fought for, and we got them. They did not let me down.”

With Crawford on board, Battles and Hood felt they were headed in the right direction.

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