For 10 years, screenwriter and Ambler native Andrew Barrer waited for his film “Die in a Gunfight” to be developed, produced and released in theaters.
And after a decade of anticipation, Barrer’s wait is over. “Die in a Gunfight” premiered on July 16 and is now in wide release.
Co-written with Barrer by New York University schoolmate Gabriel Ferrari, “Die in a Gunfight” is described by Forbes’ Mark Hughes as a “modern day Romeo and Juliet.” As two star-crossed lovers from rival families Ben Gibbon (Diego Boneta) and Mary Rathcart (Alexandra Daddario) rekindle a teenage romance in their adulthood, they must outrun “psychotic and lovable” hitman Wayne McCarthy (Travis Fimmel) and escape the feud that has long afflicted their families.
Barrer knew even as a child that he wanted to be a writer. However, philosophy caught his attention in college, inspiring him to write stories that explored swathes of human thought and life.
“Every story is a thought experiment. So it’s not just plot, it’s the ethical debate, or the metaphysical debate at the core of the story,” Barrer said.
After meeting Ferrari his freshman year at NYU, where Barrer majored in philosophy and Ferrari, visual arts, Barrer was able to create stories that fulfilled his artistic vision.
“The joke is that if you take philosophy and art and smash them together, you get cinema,” Barrer said.
It was this synergism of “analytical” and “whimsical” that allowed the pair to become not just colleagues, but “friends first and co-writers second.”
Growing up a Reform Jew at Congregation Beth Or, Barrer said that his religious father helped to raise him with an “intellectually curious approach to Judaism.” Though “Die in a Gunfight” has no explicit influences from Barrer’s Jewish upbringing, his open-mindedness around spirituality and truth-seeking snuck its way into the film.
“The idea of a guy who is searching for truth in a world that is not necessarily prescribing it for him, this is kind of where my spiritual upbringing came into it,” Barrer said.
Through writing “Die in a Gunfight,” Barrer came to terms with his own youth and maturation. At the film’s core is not only a love story, but the account of a man who has romanticized his own tragic ending and who must confront the reality of his future: one that has a happy ending.
Barrer aged 10 years while his film was stuck in “development hell,” a form of purgatory for creative works that have gone in and out of production without being published. (In the meantime, he managed to get a writing credit for Marvel’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”)
In this way, “Die in a Gunfight” is a time capsule for Barrer, who himself was afraid of growing old in his mid-20s and was fascinated with the “27 Club,” the trend of renowned musicians who all met a tragic demise at the age of only 27. Barrer is now in his 30s, living in Doylestown with his wife when he’s not in New York.
“It’s not all about the adventure of self-destruction,” Barrer said. “That was a lesson we were learning as we were writing that screenplay.”
Not everyone interpreted the lessons of the film the way Barrer hoped they would. The film has received poor reviews by critics, which Barrer said led to the film’s release being “bittersweet.”
“The thing that disappointed us the most is that it seems as though the joke didn’t come across,” Barrer said. “We’re not actually telling the story about some cool guy who has this death wish and is beating people up and getting into gun fights. It’s actually … the story of a guy who has seen way too many movies having to grow up and live a real life.”
But despite movie critics hoping better for the film, Barrer believes his future looks bright.
Another film project, “No Exit,” co-written with Ferrari, based on a novel of the same name, will be released on Hulu in early 2022. It’s a thriller about a young woman on her way to visit her mother in the hospital who sees a young girl kidnapped in the back of a van. It is produced by Scott Frank, writer of “The Queen’s Gambit,” the acclaimed miniseries on Netflix.
In 2020, Barrer also wrote a trilogy of novellas, the Young Blood Trilogy, a dystopian satire about the unintended consequences of a society that has been able to reverse the aging process by using the blood of young people. Published by Amazon Original Stories, the trilogy will be adapted into a film by Amazon.
Barrer looks forward to collaborating with Ferrari on the adaptation of his novella, which he wrote by himself.
“It’s never a one-to-one translation from page to screen,” Barrer said. “I’m excited to explore and have Gabe inject his specific point of view into it. It will be a lot of fun.”
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