AND THEN I GO’s Sawyer Barth Interview with Teens Wanna Know
AND THEN I GO, a new film about bullying and school violence has just been released this week, just in time for The National Student Walkout, being held on the 19th anniversary of Columbine, April 20, 2018. (Students will walk out of their classrooms in solidarity to protest gun violence, and show their leaders they want to see action.).
We got to the chance to do a Q&A with one of its teen stars, 16-year-old Sawyer Barth, who plays Flake. Sawyer is extremely intelligent, well-spoken, and does an incredible job in the film along with his teen co-star Arman Darbo. You can read our Q&A and a quick review of the film below. But first let’s find out more about the film:
AND THEN I GO is based on the acclaimed novel “Project X” by Jim Shepard, also features Justin Long (Yoga Hosers, Tusk, Accepted), Melanie Lynskey (“Castle Rock,” “Togetherness,” Heavenly Creatures), Tony Hale (“Arrested Development,” “Veep”), Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station, The Belko Experiment), Carrie Preston (“Claws,” “True Blood”), and Arman Darbo (Defenders of Life).
“SYNOPSIS: In the cruel world of junior high, Edwin suffers in a state of anxiety and alienation alongside his only friend, Flake. Misunderstood by their families and demoralized at school daily, their fury simmers quietly until an idea for vengeance offers them a terrifying release. Based on the acclaimed novel “Project X” by Jim Shepard, this unflinching look at adolescence explores how the powerful bonds of childhood friendship and search for belonging can become a matter of life or death.
“AND THEN I GO is a character study that dives deep into the minds and lives of our alienated youth. The film presents audiences with an important and timely story touching on such issues as bullying, mental health, parenting and accessibility to weapons.
“The film asks the essential question – why is school violence a re-occurring incident?”
The Orchard released AND THEN I GO On Digital and On Demand April 17, 2018.
QUICK REVIEW OF AND THEN I GO: This film is beautifully shot and the acting is superb. You really feel that the two main characters are just like any teens in America who feel isolated, useless, and angry because they simply do not fit in any more and life has gone from carefree to dark. The situations presented in the high school, with faculty and parents trying their best to try to help children when they act out, and not being able to do so effectively — as well as the bullying — are very real. You get the sense that, just as in actual life, a little more delving in and a little more communication and even discipline would turn things around and prevent tragedy. I hope this movie is watched by a lot of people, not as an “anti-gun” movie because it is not, but as a means of hopefully recognizing anti-social personalities and the damage they can do when left to their own devices. We can do a lot better to protect society and treat these people before they cause harm, and I hope this film gives some clues as to their characteristics and motivations — because AND THEN I GO was spot-on in this respect.
And now, let’s meet Sawyer Barth!
Hi Sawyer! Before we get into AND THEN I GO, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in West Long Branch, New Jersey which is a tiny town maybe an hour and 15 mins outside of New York. I go to a school called Communications High School. It’s this specialized technology school that has a radio and TV studio and teaches you how to code. It’s all sorts of visual and technical communications. I’ve played rec and travel soccer ever since I was a little kid. I’m an amateur at the ukulele and the guitar, but I like to pretend that I’m a professional musician [laughs]. My favorite color is orange, that’s a fun fact.
How did you get involved with AND THEN I GO?
Well, I auditioned for it in the spring of 2016. I auditioned for Edwin; I auditioned for the part of Edwin, now played by Arman Darbo. I went in to casting and I read for it and they gave me the Flake’s lines and told me to go out to the room and learn them and then wait until everyone else had read and left and I was the last one there. I went back in and I read for it and I was in there for like an hour working on it and trying to perfect it and then I left and I came back awhile later, maybe like three weeks or a month later, and I did a callback for Flake. It was another hour, I’m just working on it and what was really great about auditioning is I felt more like it was a workshop than an audition. I didn’t feel like I was being tested, but rather it was a collaborative effort to make this character as real as possible, which you get so rarely in auditions. Then I found out really soon after that, that I got the role and I was ecstatic about that.
Your character in the film has some pretty despicable characteristics, were you hesitant to take on a role of such a negative character?
I wasn’t so nervous about it because I think it’s fun. You know, they always say ‘it’s more fun to play villains than superheroes,’ and that’s because they’re so unlike ourselves and it’s kind of an exercise in character works. So yeah, I was excited about that. The other thing is the subject matter it’s sort of attracted me in a way because it’s so topical. I wanted to be in something that makes such a difference and it’s touching so many people who have been through situations like this. It’s just important is what really drew me to it.
You played Flake with a very raw, authenticity. What helped you get into this headspace?
Well, I think I saw a kind of no B.S. attitude in him. He does things without putting up a front and without acting for other people. He does things entirely for himself. So I thought the way his outlook on life kind of reflects the fact that he just does things to do them. He might have ulterior motives, but he knows what they are and you can kind of see this in him. He knows what he wants and he’s going to get it and he’s going to grab the future for himself. He’s very ambitious and he’ll do whatever he has to do, whatever field he’s pursuing. I definitely saw that.
Have you ever known anyone like Flake in real life? If so, how did this person affect you?
I’ve definitely known people who are as upfront about things as he is and have that kind of very straightforward, ‘I deserve this and so I shall retain it’ attitude. And the way that they affect you definitely depends on what they really want and if it’s a more malicious thing that they’re going for. They want to hurt people, which unfortunately, a lot of people like that do, then they could effect you negatively and you have to come out of it better as a person and realize the differences between you and that person. Sometimes they work for good, which is great and they can affect you definitely positively because they have such a rigorous attitude towards doing the right thing and it’s great when you see that as well.
What was the most rewarding part about working on this film and what was the most challenging?
Oh man, it’s the same thing! The most rewarding and the most challenging was getting inside his head and doing character work. Flake is such a three-dimensional character and the fact that he’s evil raises so many questions because he is still a person and why he does what he does that’s just one question that raises so many other questions that need answering to. So, I loved delving into that and I felt so good kind of diving into my own mind and doing additional research and kind of trying to personally understand you know, why this kid ticks the way that he does. It is definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s definitely the most challenging part I’ve ever played, There’s always thing I feel like I can improve on, but I felt like I did a good job.
Most memorable moment on set?
There was a good scene, I think that got cut out, but there was a glass window. I picked up a rock from the ground and smashed it through the window and they had this glass panel, but it wasn’t really glass, it was crystalized sugar or something. I would take a rock from the ground and I threw it through, the whole thing shatters and then I stick my foot in there. Then I removed all the loose pieces. Arman and I wanted to see what the crystalize sugar tasted like afterwards, so we both had a little chunk of it. It was definitely worth it.
Have you ever experienced any bullying like the characters in the film and if so how did you handle it?
Yeah, I got bullied a lot when I was a little kid and I think everyone does. I think it’s a fundamental part of growing up and the way that I handled it was just by recognizing what’s wrong and what’s right, realizing these things that are being done to me aren’t how a person should be treated and learning that instead of laying down and take it, say ‘I deserve better than this. This is not how things should work.’
What would you recommend to teens out there who are feeling isolated or bullied and might want to do something rash – like get revenge?
I would say talk to someone. There’s so many people who are trained in this. If you feel ostracized or down in the dumps, or like nothing is going well in your life, talk to someone. Even if you don’t want to talk to an adult, talk to a friend. Talk to someone your age because chances are, they’ve gone through the same things that you have, or something similar. Even if they can’t give you the solution to your problems, it’s good to have someone to vent to.
What would you like to see to reduce school shootings?
I think honestly, I’m not educated enough on this subject to come up with any specific solution. All I want is for something to happen. I think it’s great that kids have more power today than they ever had. I think that’s definitely unarguable with all the national school walkouts. I think kids just need to keep staying firm about everything and form their own opinions so that we can decide as a collective unit what should be done.
What has been the best part about being an actor and the hardest part?
Best part about being an actor is the ladies. No, I’m just kidding [laughs]. The best part about being an actor, for me, is stepping into another person’s shoes and kind of being enlightened as to other ways of life tat exist and ways that people live that are unlike your own life and being able to play a character that’s nothing like you. The most difficult part is often times, staying grounded and doing your job and getting everything done efficiently, especially when being taken out by the world wind of set and show business. When you go on a set, you can have as much acting training as you want but nothing can prepare you for the amount of commotion that is occurring at any one moment on a TV or movie set. There’s dozens of people, especially when you’re a kid who are all older than you and you don’t have much experience with all these people who are older than you because you’re used to hanging around kids your age. So just staying the course and doing your job and being able to work things out on your own and learn how to work efficiently on a set is definitely not something that can be learned right away. It’s not just like a math equation where you know the answer. You need to work at it and keep getting parts and keep getting on sets and hanging out with people who know what they’re doing. You’ll figure out this really difficult aspect of the industry.
What’s you biggest pet peeve?
You know what’s a really big pet peeve? When you’re tying or untying your shoelaces, usually untying your shoelaces, and you pull a certain thread of the knot and it gets more caught so that you have no way of getting it undone. That’s the worst thing ever.
Biggest guilty pleasure?
Doritos. I love Doritos. I will munch on them all night. I’ll get a bag that’s big enough for like five people and I’ll eat it by myself in like an hour if you don’t stop me.
What do you find most attractive in another person?
I think a quality that I really appreciate in people is loyalty. There are so many great things that you can find in a person. They can be good at this, good at that, be accommodating in one way or another, but in reality, if they stayed the course with you in hard times, I think that’s definitely the thing that’s most attractive to me in a friend. I find myself gravitating towards people who will gravitate towards me when I need them.
Short Term 12 by Dustin Daniel Cretton.
James Bond, maybe.
Favorite musical act or band?
I really like Vampire Weekend, which is kind of hipstery. But I really like their music.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. There’s a movie that came out about it about last year, which I haven’t seen yet.
What’re you working on next?
I was just in L.A. for a couple of weeks filming this pilot for ABC called “The Untitled Tim Doyle Project” which it’s not titled yet but whether or not it gets picked up in May, I could be working on that or I could have a lot of free time this summer.
Where can people follow you on social media?
I have an Instagram – it’s just @SawyerBarth. I don’t post much, but if you want to give me some support and if I get a couple more people paying attention, I might be more inclined to put some more stuff on there [laughs].
Can we get a quick selfie of whatever you are up to at the moment?