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Sundance Film Festival 2021
WINNER: Short Film Jury Award

Gregory Barnes 
The Touch of the Master's Hand

Troubled by an unnatural temptation, a young Mormon missionary must confess the humiliating depths of his pornography addiction.

Hi Gregory thanks for talking to The New Current, how has this time been offering you any new creative inspiration or opportunities?

Yeah, it’s been a great time to feel encouraged and dive deeper into the movies I hope to make. There’s a lot more in the world of The Touch of the Master’s Hand that I’m excited to expand on. 


You had an incredible festival run with The Touch of the Master's Hand winning the Short Jury Film Award at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, what did it mean to you to get this type of recognition for your film?

I’ve been making shorts for a while as a producer, this was the first I’ve directed, and when I approached it I kinda made this one for me, I wasn’t super sure what kind of reception it would have, and you really don’t with short films in general, the festival circuit is difficult and random. So to get to play in a fest in Utah, where so much of the Mormon community is, and to get this recognition, it really was something special 


What went through your head when you found out you had won, does getting this type of attention from a festival like Sundance add any additional pressure on you as a filmmaker?

Oh, I was just floored. I was at an AirBnB with my crew passing the fest and it really meant a lot to be there as a crew and celebrate each other. 


Other than your award and nominations at Sundance what else did you personally take away from your experience at Sundance?

It’s such a wonderful group of filmmakers, and getting to meet them via Zoom was probably the other highlight. 


"I think if you have a story you want to tell, and the film is the medium, as an artist, you kinda just have to tell it, otherwise, it will just fester."

Can you tell me a little bit about how The Touch of the Master's Hand came about, what was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

I grew up Mormon and my dad was the bishop of the ward, so as a teen he’d be in charge of giving me these godly “worthiness interviews.” It was so awkward for me, and I felt out of place, and I kinda wanted to make a short that took place in that world and conveyed that same feeling. 


Did you have any apprehensions about making a short film that had a religious theme?

I def hope to create more in the world of Mormonism. The themes that really captivate me are more universal I feel, like our human desire to find somewhere we belong. 


When working on a short film like this how close were you able to keep to your screenplay once you started shooting, did you allow yourself/actors much flexibility?

Once we had a script we really stuck to it. Some dialogue was reworked, especially in the bathroom scene that features Chris Duce. His background is in improv so we played a little in there. 


What has been the biggest challenge you've faced bringing The Touch of the Master's Hand to life and what has been the most valuable lesson you took from making this film?

We shot before COVID but the post was mostly in the pandemic. It was tough finishing the thing remotely,  especially when there was so much uncertainty about the state of film festivals. Every short film has its unique challenges, but you just gotta push it out. 


Have you always had a passion for filmmaking? 

Oh yeah, I was a kid filming over my family home videos making dumb VHS movies in the backyard. 


How much has your approach to writing and directing your short films changed since your debut short?

Honestly, not that much. I made this short as part of my grad program at NYU Grad Film, and I feel like my time there help me refine my process. 


Should filmmakers continue to push the boundaries of the stories they want to tell?

That’s interesting. I think if you have a story you want to tell, and the film is the medium, as an artist, you kind of just have to tell it, otherwise, it will just fester. At least that’s how I feel. 


For anyone out there thinking about making their first film do you have any tips or advice you would offer them?


I can be kind of a pragmatist, but keep it simple. I see a lot of films getting crushed under the scope.


And finally, what do you hope people will take away from The Touch of the Master's Hand?

I hope y’all have a good time.

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