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Directors Josh and Jonathan Baker and Actor Myles Truitt Discuss 'KIN'

Directors Josh and Jonathan Baker and Actor Myles Truitt Discuss 'KIN'

Shakefire sat down with twin brother directors Josh and Jonathan Baker and Atlanta-based actor Myles Truitt to discuss their big feature film debut KIN. The film is based on the short Bag Man, also directed by the brothers, and follows Eli (Truitt) who is in posession of an alien weapon and is then forced to go on the run with his ex-con brother (Jack Reynor) when a gangster comes knocking on their door looking for the money he owes him. The directors and Myles talk with me about adapting their own short film, brotherly bonds, and we even had a surprise cameo appearance by Jack Reyor!

 

Congratulations on the film. This is your feature film debut for all three of you as directors and as a leading actor.

 

Josh Baker: The blind leading the blind!

 

Can you tell me about jumping into that ship all together?

 

Jonathan Baker: Me and Josh have been directing advertising for the last sorta 15 years, both individually and together at times, so we have a bit of experience running a set and being around crews and all of that kinda thing. What’s unique for us is just the stamina it takes to complete a movie which so far...

 

Josh Baker: Easily we’ve been on it about three years.

 

Jonathan Baker: It’s about three years of our life, and including the short film maybe even five years. It’s been a marathon more than a sprint; put it that way. So there were some things to learn that were new to us but a lot wasn’t. We’re lucky to have a very similar aesthetic.

 

Josh Baker: But as much as we’ve been making ads and short films and music videos, that’s all short stuff. And so you’re really kinda testing yourself of can I do this feature length thing? I don’t know, I think it went pretty smoothly.

 

 

What did you think, Myles?

 

Myles Truitt: Everything they said. I loved working with them. This is my first time ever doing a film that long, that cold.

 

Josh Baker: It was very cold. We shot in Toronto, and it was very cold.

 

Myles Truitt: But out of all the negative things there were a lot of positive things, just working with them and gaining that connection, especially with the cast as well, Jack and Zoë and Dennis.

 

I was going to bring that up. This is one hell of a first film for you with such an immense cast. Getting to work on set with them, especially Jack Reynor; the majority of your scenes are with him. What was the process like in developing that brotherly bond between you two?

 

Myles Truitt: I first met him at a chemistry reading. Josh and Jon brought me back after I did my first audition.

 

Josh Baker: He was still shooting in Detroit in Boston, and we went on set.

 

Jonathan Baker: Which doesn’t make much sense. They were shooting Detroit in Boston.

 

Josh Baker: But we went on with thee actors including Myles and they got to meet and do a chemistry read and figure each other out.

 

Myles Truitt: Jack was there and as soon as we started talking we caught a vibe with each other. Ever since then it showed on camera.

 

Josh Baker: Yeah, they looked like brothers on set. Not physically but certainly the way they were mucking around. It was really cool.

 

In developing the feature film from your short film Bag Man, how did you make sure to keep things grounded and not go too overboard with it being a Hollywood production?

 

Josh Baker: I think the main thing is just about policing the tone of the whole thing and just making sure at all moments the tone never slips into anything too silly, anything too glossy, anything that feels like a franchise film in a way.

 

Jonathan Baker: Because that, what you just said, was the fear here; that you get the opportunity to make a Hollywood movie of this small, indie, little short film and you kinda sell out and make it something it wasn’t.

 

Josh Baker: It can turn into a little bit of a machine because the movie runs itself in a lot of ways. Everyone’s done it before and they don’t necessarily know the tone. That’s really up to me and Jon to constantly be reminding people that’s not this movie. I think we did a lot of that to try to bring it down to a very grounded sci-fi tone that almost mixed these two genres of films. You’ve got big epic sci-fi stuff, but you’ve also got this kinda indie spirit family drama that sits in there as well. When we were pitching the movie to investors and producers we often said it’s a family drama hidden inside a sci-fi film because that’s what you think you’re getting but you’re actually getting this. So yeah, it’s both of those things, and it’s trying to make them work together.

 

 

As brother directors did you draw from your own family experiences growing up?

 

Jonathan Baker: Yeah, the beginning of the film has Eli riding his BMX around Detroit, exploring factories, and he’s actually making a buck on the side by selling scrap metal wire and things like that. Being in your own head, exploring and adventuring, that was our childhood in a nutshell. We’d constantly be out until dinner, riding our bikes around exploring, breaking into places, all that kinda stuff.

 

Josh Baker: Yeah, that classic ET/Stand By Me kinda exploring feel. We definitely, at least it feels like it from our side, is what we grew up doing. So the first 10 minutes of this film we injected a bit of that into it because that’s where we came from. When it comes to actually being brothers, I think it’s more just about the topic of the film. We wanted to tell a story about brothers and we wanted to dive in and explore what it means to be brothers between two people even though they may look completely different. Does blood bond you? Does experience bond you? What is that all about? That’s the theme of the film.

 

Myles, what about you? What part of yourself did you bring to Eli?

 

Myles Truitt: Me and Eli are very similar when it came to school and getting into fights and not really having that connection with other different kids. In school I had associates. I had people that I associate myself with, but I never really had a real friend so it was always me. I had myself as my own friend. I feel that’s how Eli was. Eli was to himself; I’m to myself. It was just an easier way to connect.

 

Josh Baker: That’s one of the reasons Myles stood out. We wanted a character that spoke volumes in the quiet moments and could observe what was going on around him and had a maturity that was kinda beyond his years because at the end of the day it’s Eli’s movie. It’s through his eyes and a lot of the scenes actually play out that way. You’re sitting at the dinner table seeing how his brother and his father relate to each other and he doesn’t say a word. But he’s a big part of that scene so getting a young actor that could hold that level of weight in the eyes and in the face was important to us.

 

Jonathan Baker: You got a question for Jack? Because I can get him on! You should ask him the same question about brothers because I would love to know his answer.

 

Yeah, would love to!

 

Jack Reynor: Sup dudes!

 

Jonathan Baker: Uh, Jack, I got a question for you. You got five seconds?

 

Jack Reynor: Yeah, I got more than five seconds.

 

 

I’m curious to know your process for forming that brotherly bond between you and Myles on set?

 

Jack Reynor: How did we develop it on set? That’s a pretty interesting questions. I suppose Myles and I didn’t have a huge amount of time to get to know each other before we started shooting, and I was just coming off another film called Detroit basically directly into shooting KIN. Yeah, we were kinda in a way a bit snookered because we didn’t have the time to just hang out with each other and figure one another out in a normal social setting. It was very much a thing where we were thrust into the middle of the movie, and we had to get to know each other in that context.

 

I definitely felt like we hit it off really quickly. We would have great chats about music and all the stuff that the 14-year-old Myles was into. And how we disagreed because I’m much older, and I was like, “Your 14-year-old culture is crap!, hahaha. But yeah, we just would have a really good laugh with each other whenever we had downtime or whenever we were just sitting in a car together. I think that in a way it was probably for the best because the opening scenes that we shot, the things that we began with, were a lot of these roadtrip scenes where I’m only just getting to know him on the road as we’re going. There was definitely an element of that that was real. We were just getting to know each other. It was a strange experience for us. I don’t know if Myles had been in many projects at the time so this was kinda a new world for him. There was fertile soil for us to explore some things with one another and we did that as much as we could.

 

Josh Baker: Stop hijacking our interview, bro!

 

Jack Reynor: Well fuck off then! I’m gonna finish drinking my glass of wine.

 

Jonathan Baker: Alright, I’m calling you back in 10.

 

Thanks so much for doing that! That was awesome!

 

Jonathan Baker: Of course! Exclusive!

 

How important was having producers like Shawn Levy and Dan Cohen who have grasped this grounded sci-fi element with Stranger Things and Arrival on set for the film’s production?

 

Josh Baker: I think it was more than being on set. The trains had already left the station at that point. It was more about in development when you’re actually figuring out what you have, what you want to make of this, and we were all writing a screenplay together. They were priceless in that. It was about figuring out what story we all wanted to represent.

 

Jonathan Baker: And they’re very supportive guys. We met Dan Cohen first who had seen Bag Man and we pitched him the entire movie at 9:00 in his office Friday morning. He was like, “I don’t have meetings like that. I don’t take meetings like that.” We walked out of that meeting all going like let’s make a movie together. It was actually in the hallways right after that that we saw Shawn Levy for the first time, and Dan introduced as another set of twins. We all sort of dove into this project together. From that point on it was just about them really supporting the vision we had.

 

Josh Baker: The good thing about 21 Laps is that they have so many tastes. They can make a movie like The Spectacular Now and then they can make a film like Why Him? or Fist Fight and then they can make something like Arrival and KIN. For us, that’s what it’s about, finding a production company to partner with that is more than one thing, kinda like this movie.

 

Myles, you’re an Atlanta-based actor and have worked on local projects like Black Lightning, Atlanta, etc. How has it been for you growing up here and seeing the industry develop around you?

 

Myles Truitt: Yeah, Atlanta is known for powerhouse actors and hopefully I’ll be one of those one day. It’s just known for its art and its culture. I started out in theatre and doing different local programs when it comes to acting, and it really did help me. Atlanta really is where it’s at when it comes to that.

 

Jonathan Baker: Atlanta’s definitely got their own vibe, their own thing.

 

Josh Baker: And they’re definitely having a day right now. I feel like pretty much everything from the LA side of things, the top of the list is Atlanta and then there’s Vancouver and Toronto and whatever. I would say the majority of stuff that all our cinematography friends are coming over here to shoot in Atlanta.

 

KIN is now playing in theaters nationwide. Be sure to check out Shakefire later this weekend for an extended interview with Josh, Jonathan, and Myles as we talk about KIN's surprise ending and where the story could be heading in the future.

Matt Rodriguez
Interview by Matt Rodriguez
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