Dream of filmmaking, becomes local man's reality

Lowcountry Movie Night: By Justin Peterson

A Lowcountry man has shown that you don't have to move all the way out to Hollywood, to make a career in filmmaking a reality.

John Barnhardt is a local producer/director who runs the production company Barnfly Productions. But he did not become a filmmaker over night, in fact he started working at as TV news teleprompter operator 14 years ago, and worked his way up from there.

Before moving to Charleston, Barnhardt graduated from Colorado State University where he earned a degree in English. But his ambitions of being a filmmaker started long before that. Barnhardt says his father was a photographer that loved movies and took him to see many great films at a young age. During this time, Barnhardt recalls seeing everything from Jaws and Alien, to classic Vietnam movies like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter.

"I remember when I saw The Road Warrior, and My father and I were walking back to his car, and I told him that I wanted to make movies for a living," said John.

At that time, he was only 9-years-old.

Barnhardt says the turning point in his career was when he moved to Charleston, and he promised himself that once he understood all the little things about making a movie, he would go for it and attempt to make at least one independent movie a year.

To get to that point, Barnhardt went through the film program at Trident Tech.

"When I moved here, I heard about Russ Schaaf and his film program. So I went up and met him, and pretty much knew that he was the guy to learn from," John said.

From that point he listened to Schaaf and pushed himself as hard as he could. "I would say that my time studying under Russ was the most influential time of my life as a film/movie/producer," said Barnhardt.

Since that time Barnhardt has not only been a part of several film/TV productions here in the Lowcountry, he is also working to share his experiences as a full time instructor at Trident. Barnhardt says Trident is the place to go if you want to be involved in the film business, and want to get a solid understanding of the industry.

When asked if someone needs to go to film school in order to make movies Barnhardt says, some training or natural ability is needed.

"Some of these people who buy a camera automatically think they are a cinematographer or a film/movie maker," said Barnhardt. "I think film school or any type of education is important because it will crack a door for you in the professional world."

Barnhardt says filmmaking is about solving problems, and you have to learn from mistakes. " Always know that your next project will better. Keep moving up."

Out of all the films John has worked on, he says his 10th, entitled Dust was one of the most challenging for him to write. It was about his father.

When it comes to the creative process, any artist looks for inspiration. For Barnhardt, movies made between 1967-1984 served as his biggest influence. Among his favorites are early films from Francis Ford Coppola. He also enjoys Wes Anderson and Walter Hill films.

In closing, Barnhardt says if you really want to make filmmaking a career, "you have to eat, breath, drink and sleep it."

"It is a career of peaks and valleys and will knock you down more than lift you up. But, if you keep going, it will work out," Barnhardt said.

"If you think it, then do it. Don't die with the music left inside of you."

To watch a short reel of John Barnhardt's films just got to:

You can also look for John Barnhardt's work coming up this fall on network television.

The adventure show, Born to Explore will air on September 3rd at 10 a.m. on ABC.

In the weeks to come on Lowcountry movie night, look for more on the growing film program at Trident Tech.