Oct. 13, 2021

Shatter Belt - An Interview with Series Creator James Ward Byrkit

Shatter Belt - An Interview with Series Creator James Ward Byrkit
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2013 movie COHERENCE is a firm favourite over at Bad Dads Towers. We caught up with the film's director James Ward Byrkit to find out all about his new series sci-fi SHATTER BELT.

We're so excited to see this series once it's finished. Listen in to find out what you can expect from this visionary writer/director.


Shatter Belt

Reegs: We are delighted to have James Ward Burkett back on bad dad's film review to chat about his new project shatter belt.

Jim has writing and directing credits on the brilliant coherence that we were fortunate enough to talk to you about before you have writing credits. So he saw an AMD bay on the Oscar winning rang, go and storyboard artists credits on things to do in Denver when your dad, which is the terrific Andy Garcia and Christopher Balkan.

And it's a movie


isn't it. And the vehicle for English comedian Lee Evans, mouse hunt, which is an interesting one, three pirates of the Caribbean movies and the stylish Edgar Wright, heist movie, baby driver, which I checked. And yeah, that does give you the most impressive career in Hollywood, out of the four of us on this chat

JWB: Oh, well, well, I'll take, I'll tell my mother.

Reegs: So thank you for coming back on the show. We saw some S some buzz on social media about your new project shatter belt. What can you tell us about it?

JWB: Yeah, well, we're just starting to get the word out in the last couple of days or weeks, and it's, it's brand new and it's a little series that I wanted to create. And, you know, people know that peop that directors make independent films and they take them out. But I thought, well, what if I just make an endless.

T V series, what am I just start shooting my own episodes to my own show, the show that I wished existed, and we're just kind of willing it into existence right now. And it's happening right now. We just had our first shoot last week with Patton Oswalt and we're gearing up for our next shoot next week, which has Emily Baldoni and Hugo Armstrong who were in coherence.

There are two of the actors and we're just trying to get. Friends and supporters and figure out how to raise money to to make it.

Reegs: So it's all being done in this sort of spirit, that gorilla spirit of coherence.

JWB: Exactly. Yeah, it can't be more independent. I mean, you read this list of Hollywood movies that I've been involved in and, and that's been great and I enjoy helping other people make their dreams come true. That's fine. But I, I, I want to be a director, you know, I want to make my own stuff. And instead of waiting around for.

A studio to give me permission, which could take years and years. I'd just like, I'm just going to make it. I'm just going to do it. I'm just going to start shooting it. And that's how we make coherence. And that's how we're making shatter belt.

Reegs: Wow. And so. You mentioned, I think in our last interview, your fondness for the Twilight zone. And in a series that you mentioned to us that came out a little bit after our chat was tales from the loop. So are they sort of and those are sort of Saifai anthology shows, is that the kind of thing that you're bringing to us with chat about?

JWB: Yeah, exactly. Imagine just a very, very indie version of those where you can tell, well, hopefully you won't be able to tell, but you can sense that it's, you know, of tiny crew and it's straight out of the creator's mind. It's unfiltered by executives. It's unfiltered by a network. It's just, I

Reegs: been focused group today.

JWB: Yeah, I just have the idea, I write it and then we're shooting it and it's got a rawness to it. And an immediacy that I think true science fiction fans will really respond to because. It just goes into some weird ideas about reality and the nature of consciousness. And, you know, we don't have any money.

We don't have any budget to have a spaceships and robots. But the actors are great and the ideas are really interesting and they're, and they're short, they're, you know, 25 minutes each. So you're in, you're out. You have a whole complete story. And you can win then watch the next one. It's a completely new story.

New cast. There are little threads that tie them together. A couple of the actors appear in different episodes and there's definitely the Matic threads that connect them. But yeah, there's like little bite sized pieces of science fiction for, for true, true nerds.

Reegs: Excellent. Excellent. And now all of the shows exploring a different facet of consciousness or.

JWB: Yeah Like one of them is about AI and, and kind of this strange stair-stepping of AI, you know, usually in, in movies they show, oh, AI has suddenly become completely conscious and now it wants to take over the world. And, and we were sort of saying, well, wait, wait, wait, wait, what is. 800 steps before that, like, what are the, what are the baby steps?

And one of them is about dreams. And what happens in this sort of collective consciousness of, of our dreams. One is a little bit of the, multi-verse a different take on the multi-verse than coherence. And, and a lot of them. Reflect on, like, what are the rules of how the universe is put together?

Like, are we in a simulation? Is, are there codes, can you crack the code to the way reality works? It's all kind of fun ideas that you want to be up till two o'clock in the morning with your

Reegs: Yeah,

cause I'm already thinking there's, there's a few people who argued that we're more likely to be in a simulation than, and that there is no reality. So that's, that's good thoughts for keeping you up at night.

Dan: Is

JWB: And you can just speak out on it with your buddies and eat, eat apple pie, and talk about these things until you fall asleep.

Dan: I was going to ask, is this how you come up with these ideas? Is it two o'clock around the table? A couple of beers with friends and, and bouncing these thoughts around.

JWB: Sometimes, but for me, it's usually first thing in the morning, I wake up in that weird state of coming out of whatever dream world I was in. And you're like, wow, my brain is now coming online. So where was it? Where did I go? And what if it came online into a different operating system? You know, it's, it's booting up every time you wake up in the morning, it's like,

Reegs: Mm.

JWB: and you know, our computers have different offices.

What if, what if our brains.

Reegs: Yeah, I love it. I love it. And you mentioned before that partners will, is involved. How, how did he get involved in what's what

JWB: That's that's part of the story of how this whole thing exists. You know, I was writing scripts a few months ago and patents suddenly tweeted about coherence and how much he loved it. And he just discovered it. And enough throughout the day, he's tweeted like 15 times about it. And suddenly we have.

People talking about it again. And this whole year, people have been talking about it in ways that haven't really happened. It's it's strange because we came out very small when we came out six or seven years ago and it's grown, you know, the awareness has grown. And so now I get more fan mail than ever, or more requests from people to talk about it than ever.


Reegs: I think it's probably the movie that when people talk to us about the podcast, I think it's the, probably they talk that movie. They talked to us about the most that we've

JWB: I love that. I love that it's, it's like a slow wave. And then apparently in China it has become this cultural cultural talking point for people under a certain age. It's now in a list of all time movies, like the 250 movies of all time up there with like Titanic and Schindler's list and the godfather, like, so in weird places around the world, I'm getting feedback that it's, it's sort of finally finally getting waves of.

Reegs: Yeah. Well, you created a Colt masterpiece seen by millions of people, inspiring, incredible online discussions. And yet it doesn't appear to be enough to convince Hollywood that your movie was a success, which just, it must drive you crazy because it's a conversation we've had a few times sometimes. It's gotta be something wrong with this guy.

Maybe he's got like,

JWB: Yeah. he's just

Reegs: he's just crazy. Yeah.

JWB: Yeah. Yeah. And you, and if you want to keep thrusting that knife in, as far into my heart, as it, as it can go, I could really tell you some stories about how over the last few years there have been, you know, at least 30 things that almost went, you know, that were just about to go and for some reason or another they imploded, or, you know, what also happens is that the studio wants to.

Change the idea or, or start altering the course of, you know, affecting the purity of, of the idea. And I just kind of realized that if I'm going to make something on my, on my terms, I mean this just going to have to do it. My.

Reegs: I think that's really inspiring. And, and part of the thing that I thought was interesting about shat about as well, is that.

Passing on that drive and that information to aspiring filmmakers as well as part of the Kickstarter project. Right? For shatter belt, because you're saying, well, this is how, if you want to know how to go and make a movie with like five or six people and a camera, this is how you.

JWB: Yeah, that's one of the most gratifying things about the last few years is connecting to all these young filmmakers. And by young you could be 90 years old. It just means that it's. You're starting out. You're, you're starting to make your And I, I feel very honored that, that people have been inspired by it and want to know how we did it.

And, and so we thought, okay, when we do it this time, we got to share this information. We have to allow those people to be a part of it. And it's really sharing problem solving because it's nothing but problems. You know, when you, when you don't have money to, to throw. You're constantly just dealing with every little thing, like on the patent Oswald shoot, we had a sand storm come up the very first day and we instantly had to like make these alterations to the, to this carefully planned two day shoot

Reegs: Yeah. Cause you've, that's it, you've got his time and

JWB: Yeah he's gonna go he's he's he's out of there in two days and you can't build a wall to protect yourself from the sand storm or all the things that you could do. If you're on a big movie, you could, you could push it a month or you could CGI it or whatever.

Reegs: so what do you do? Do you incorporate it into the story then? Or how.

JWB: Yeah. I mean, we picked this location because it had absolutely gorgeous blue skies. That was one of the reasons. And so on the day, those were completely gone. And so we just said, okay, new, new idea here. This is a wasteland and it's windy and it's it's Sandy, but really it was about moving scenes, you know, just logistically like all those outdoor scenes, we now have to move indoors or that one thing that I was going to have that really clever thing happened.

I'm not going to do it. So it's, it's being mobile and being able to communicate with your crew who, who were, you know, five or six people who are just ready to do anything but say, oh, that thing that we were going to do on the mountain top, let's now do that in a field. And we were literally every five minutes making changes like that, just to get through the day.

And then we ended up getting patent out of that. On time. So that the second day he was home for dinner and we just said, oh my God, we did it. We, we didn't, we didn't, you know, force him to abandon the project. He actually stayed and he seemed to enjoy himself. So even though we completely had to change it, it was still felt like a success.

Reegs: Oh, I love that. I love that story.

Dan: I, I wonder what it was like for you then getting the old band back together after coherence, then how many, how many of the people from coherence have been included into

shatter belt?

JWB: Well, you know, my main collaborator on coherence was Alex Manoukian who played. In the film. So he was someone that I'd bounce ideas off. So he's definitely involved as a, you know, as a, as a brain. And then I'm already reaching out to some of the actors like Emily Baldoni and you Armstrong. So My sister who ended up helping raise some money.

She's now involved. She's her name is Alyssa Burkett and she's an executive So coherence had so few people involved. There's not much band to put back together, but yeah, we're, we're definitely you know, we'll take support anywhere. We can get it. And, and coherence had some of the best people, know, I could have hoped to

Reegs: And where you are running a Kickstarter and you know, people you guys should have. Jim bring his vision to fruition. The bad dads have personally back


project. Haven't we, where we want to see this come to the screen because we're excited by your work. And if you're out there listeners and you can spare anything at all, it can help bring something new and different to the world that we all want to see.

I think so.

JWB: Anything at all. And even if it's $5 or $10, it doesn't, we just need backers because then you know that the algorithm puts us at the top of the page or whatever. We just need to show that people are supporting it. And it's incredibly valuable because literally every $10 we get. Affects the quality of the shoot, like suddenly, oh, if there's enough money for water.


Reegs: What

JWB: toilet paper people, somebody just gave us $10. We got.

Reegs: W well, something that might tie into that I was going to ask you about is about how filmmaking might have changed as a result of COVID and, and how that's impacted something like your kind of shoot, which had that independent style. But I guess you've got to follow a load of rules and regulations.

JWB: We have a lot of rules and I'll tell you that the most surprising part is that there's so many people offering to help us, that we can't really. Take on because every time you add a person, you add this COVID testing and layers of complications. So in the past, if, if 10 or 15 people were like, Hey, can we come and help you and be extras and stuff?

It was great. But now we can't really do that because you can't just show up to a shoot. You have to go through these protocols and the COVID compliance.

Reegs: Concepts like the, the multi-verse and a sort of many worlds interpretation of physics, and those sorts of things are becoming much more mainstream. Obviously with Marvel firmly down that road. Do you think this kind of thing helps or hinders you when you're trying to bring an original site?

Vision to this screen.

JWB: I think it's all helpful because it doesn't matter how mainstream something gets then it just means the fringe is somewhere else and I'm always going to be attracted to. Okay. So where, where are. Right now, we're what aren't we talking about? What are the fringes of, of these ideas that are out there, but haven't been explored enough.

There's there's always more, there's always other places poke around and explore, and it's always thrilling to, to figure out what that is. And, and especially with shatter belt, because we're allowed to be a little strange and, and allowed to be a little more niche. We took coherence on these. Film festival tour, you know, around the world.

And I got to talk to both horror fans and science fiction fans, and the horror fans were like, they get a new horror movie every day, almost, you know, they, they are completely satisfied because they're just, there's so much horror being made. But the science fiction fans were like, we got to wait a year.

Reegs: Yeah

JWB: good science fiction between some, you know, smart science fiction, like challenging science They're saying, yeah, sometimes it's 10, 12 months between these things. And so I realized, oh, there's a really underserved audience out there who would love to have something every

Reegs: I love the fact that I'm just as well sitting there thinking the horror fans can claim coherences there's in the science fiction. Fans can too. So they're both

JWB: Oh, I hope so. I hope so.

Reegs: I saw that you worked as a storyboard artist on baby driver. I mean, that's really cool. I really like that movie. Did you, can you tell us anything about what that was like to work?

JWB: well, it was so fun. I only worked on it a few weeks. Editor reached out because he was already very far into the production and. Working with directors. I love it because your mind meld with them, you know, I, to be effective, I kind of have to first understand where they're coming from and what they're trying to do.

And he was so thorough and he had already figured out every beat and every musical. Note and how it related to the shots that honestly, really, I was just a hand drawing what was already in his head and which I don't mind, because it's still fun to be in someone's head for a few weeks, but I was really impressed at how much Edgar had already figured it out and, and was really letting the music and the rhythm of it sort of drive these scenes.

It was really wonderful. Is it completely new way of working? And, and I learned a lot from it.

Reegs: Oh, fantastic. the last thing I had on my list, and I don't know, I don't know about you guys is I probably spent two and a half hours Googling this, and I'm still not a hundred percent clear on what a shatter bell is. The description I can most get behind is a series of states or regions where local conflicts are endangered and manipulated by opposing greater powers.

It's a geopolitical term. Is that, is that what you're.

JWB: I learned it as a geopolitical term, but then I also realized quickly that it could be a poetic term, but yes, it's, it's this area disruption between two big powers, often, you know, two countries in that weird strip, you know, between. Two, two worlds where like, oh, that's where the scavengers are. That's where these weird deals are being made between, you know, on the black market.

But it's. If you notice, like where, where a university is often in a city, there's a little band around it, of tattoo parlors and art, funky art galleries and weird coffee shops and weird arts, art house theaters, and late nights, you know, installation things. That's the shatter belt. That's this area between the two worlds where the rules are a little bit different.

Anything can happen. It's disrupted and yet livable. And it's more interesting than anywhere because of that. It's a special place.

Reegs: And if that doesn't make you want to see shatter bell, then you've lost your damn mind.

Dan: Fantastic. I'm just so impressed listening to your, about the, the agility really of your shoe being able to transform into the situation that's thrown at you. And I just want. Looking back now are these things that worked out well and you really pleased that that kind of sandstorm came and the way that it's come out and everything, or. would you Go back again. If pat and had his time.

JWB: Oh my God. I mean, it's a great question because in the moment it's painful, it's stressful. It feels like it's all going to crash. We had a truck that was a key piece of the story, that it was an old truck from the seventies. And we were really excited because we found one online that we could rent for a day and we drove it all the way, two hours to this remote location.

And after the sand storm happened, the truck wouldn't start. And my heart and my muscles and my lungs are just like locking up and going, how is this happening? This can't be happening. And so you just have to like use every ounce of problem-solving and calm down and breathe through it and say, okay, this is what we're going to do.

This is what we're going to do. This is what we're going to do. And somehow through those calm, You have to put blinders on in a way, but through this calm step-by-step, you can lead your way out of the pit of despair, get the shots you need and somehow call it a success. So, yes, I'm actually thrilled that it happened the way it did, because it's going to come, you know, come out completely different than I imagined, but I'm absolutely sure it's going to be the way it needs

Dan: Fantastic. Yeah, it, it, it, it does kind of just wet the appetite to see this. Doesn't it. I'm a. I mean, I was totally blown away by, by coherence. This sounds even more exciting. What's I mean, you've got another, how many is in the series of of shout about.

JWB: Well, the first season, if we can raise a little bit of money, we'll be four or five episodes and we'll call it a series. And then the seasons after that, or we'll call it a season. The seasons after that, I would hope, you know, there'd be 10 or 20 per, per year.

Reegs: Oh, wow.

Dan: Wow. Yeah. Excellent.

Reegs: I think we all look forward to that.

Dan: Fantastic.

JWB: and the budgets will be bigger.

Maybe we can go into space. Finally, you know, little bit of art department,

Reegs: Jim, thanks so much for giving us your time today. Any bad dads film review listeners go to Kickstarter, a shat about.tv is the website. And there's a link to the Kickstarter as well. We can all help bring this to you.

JWB: Thank you guys so much. Well, any support is helpful and just getting the word out. And again, this is just the very beginning. So. This will, this will keep going and going and this'll be just just the start of something special. So thank you for all of it.

Reegs: Thanks, Jim.

James Ward-ByrkitProfile Photo

James Ward-Byrkit

James Ward Byrkit is an American film director and writer. He is best known for directing the science fiction thriller Coherence and co-writing the script for Rango. Byrkit also was the conceptual artist on the first three films of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and designed some of the most iconic sequences of the series.