I caught up with Barry Markowitz, ASC, as he was walking his dog in the shadow of the George Washington Bridge one autumn morning in New York City. He has been busy with commercials for Denner Winery, Adidas, Dodge and National Geographic, among other companies, as well as several short films and two features.
“I did a feature called Wild Horses in Utah with Robert Duvall, who wrote, produced and directed,” says Barry. “Bobby and I have been good friends for 30 years. The show involved car chases and camera drones — good stuff. So that was fun.”
Wild Horses, which is currently in post, also stars James Franco. Duvall plays a father who drives away his gay son, and in the process, an accident happens. Fifteen years later, the son returns. Duvall’s wife, Luciana, plays a Texas Ranger who tries to get to the bottom of the accident.
Barry first met Duvall in the early 1980s on Angelo, My Love, a film Duvall wrote and directed about a 9-year-old boy. Barry was an assistant cameraman on the project. At the time, he was cleaning filters and collimating lenses at Ferco, a rental house in New York, and he would occasionally get the opportunity to get out in the field with a camera.
Barry recalls a particularly memorable shoot on a documentary titled Johnny Goes Home, in which Johnny Carson returned to his hometown of Norfolk, Neb. “That was an important gig for me — it was two weeks’ work, and I got to meet Johnny.”
Barry’s connection with Duvall proved to be strong. Duvall hired him to shoot The Apostle, and they also worked together in various capacities on Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade and Jayne Mansfield’s Car and Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart.
“On Wild Horses, Bobby needed someone who could move quickly,” says Barry. “The budget was about $2.5 million. We used two cameras and went crazy.”
The other feature Barry recently completed is Miss Meadows, in which Katie Holmes plays a very proper schoolteacher whose memories of abuse drive her to moonlight as a vigilante. The director was Karen Leigh Hopkins, and the film was an official selection at the Tribeca Film Festival and is due in theaters in November. (See a trailer here.)
Another long-term friendship, this one with Bob Giraldi, led to the short film A Poet Long Ago. Based on a short story by Pete Hamill, it tells of two middle-aged friends reminiscing about their childhood in 1970s Brooklyn. Barry could relate, having essentially grown up in that time and place. In a behind-the-scenes video about the shoot, Giraldi says he chose Barry because of their background doing commercials together, Barry’s subsequent experience shooting features, and a desire to get away from “overly hip” photography.
A Poet Long Ago premiered at the Hamptons International Film Festival, won best narrative short at the Garden State Film Festival, and is currently set to screen at the Toronto Short Film Festival. (You can see the film and a behind-the-scenes clip here.)
“I just do favors and try to keep busy,” Barry says of his short-film work. “They’re terrific, interesting projects. They don’t pay much, but that’s not the point. I just hope people see them and that they lead to something else. Something in television would be great!”
You can see more of Barry’s work on his website.