Life and career
Bryan Barber takes inspiration from many sources and says his upbringing has always helped form his vision. For Barber, writing and directing began as an outlet to have a voice. Raised by a single mother in the heart of Silicon Valley, before it was a coined phrase, Barber viewed life as a teen from the streets of East Palo Alto, California. Only two miles from where Steve Jobs was building Apple, Barber was writing stories in what was at the time the murder capital of the nation.
Bryan moved to Sacramento at the age of sixteen. His early love for film led him to work for Tower Records video distribution center and Tower Video during high school. While working at Tower, Barber learned early on that storytelling would be his way to bridge the gap between economic and racial divides. His family was involved in art and activism, so it was only natural that Barber would follow suit, but it wouldn't be easy.
Barber failed out of three colleges before finally deciding to study film at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. The challenge for him was taking his studies seriously. Eventually, a short film written and directed by Barber won him a trip to the Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival sponsored by the United Negro College Fund. From that experience, he knew he had a place as a filmmaker.
After graduating college, Barber worked as a production assistant (PA) on the feature Black Dog directed by Kevin Hooks. However, steady work was hard to find. Barber worked many jobs as a production assistant (PA), an assistant editor, and he worked at a telecine film- processing lab in Atlanta before finally saving enough money to buy his 16mm camera, with assistance from his grandparents. “Without the help of my grandparents, I would have been a PA forever,” explains Barber.
“Back then the barrier of entry for directing was too expensive,” Barber states. However, Barber was determined. Owning a camera allowed him to focus on directing. For him the timing was right. There was a boom in the music industry in Atlanta and not many music video directors. “I grew up admiring all of these guys who had cut their teeth on directing music videos, directors like John Landis, Ridley Scott, Michael Bay, David Fincher, and Spike Lee. Barber states, “I knew if I wanted to make movies the easiest way to gain experience was through following their footsteps.”
Early on, Barber produced his videos through his own company, Bush Harbor Filmworks, Inc. He eventually joined a major production company where his success as a director took off working with stars like Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre, Kanye West, Janet Jackson, and Wiz Khalifa. This led to him being a groundbreaker in the field and hailing several award-winning classic videos.
Barber has directed more than 200 music videos; 40 commercials; and wrote, directed, and produced various television and film projects.
Barber received a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video, Short Form for directing Outkast's "Hey Ya!". He is also the winner of three MTV awards; five BET awards; two Soul Train Michael Jackson Icon Awards; five MVPA awards; and two Much Music awards. His videos and artist collaborations have amassed over 100 million albums sold worldwide.
After a decade of pushing the genre, Barber was inspired to move into feature films with his debut of the HBO/Universal Studios produced Idlewild written, directed, and co-produced by Barber. A 1930s musical set in the fictional Georgia town of Idlewild (inspired by the Michigan resort town that served as a safe vacation haven for middle-class blacks in the pre-Civil Rights era). The film starred OutKast (whose members include André 3000 and Big Boi), Paula Patton, Terrence Howard and Faizon Love. OutKast also produced Idlewild (album) an accompanying album.
Barber spent "$50,000 for a presentation that included motion capture, stunts, concept art, storyboards and sound design" to try to get the job directing X-Men Origins: Wolverine from 20th Century Fox. He did not get the job but Fox was impressed enough with it that they reimbursed Barber. Barber is currently working on an adaptation of Gigantor after acquiring the rights from Fred Ladd.
|Dr. Dre Up in Smoke Tour feat. Eminem; Snoop Dogg & Ice Cube||Second Unit Camera Director|
|MTV||Making The Video||Himself|
|MTV||MTV Awards (2002)||Himself|
|MTV||MTV Awards (2006)||Himself|
|MTV||MTV Awards (2007)||Himself|
|BET||106 and Park||Himself|
|HBO||Idlewild promotional 2006||Himself|
- Bryan Barber on IMDb
- Mike Fleming Jr, "After Getting Close On Several Big Jobs, Director Bryan Barber’s Taking His Next Meetings With ‘Gigantor’ In His Corner", Deadline Hollywood, October 20, 2011.
- Roni Sarig, "Retro Hollywood With a Hip-Hop Beat", NY Times, June 18, 2006 (article on Barber's accomplishments).
- Manohla Dargis, "Trust Me, Baby, the Joint Is Jumping and Singing", New York Times, August 25, 2006 (Idlewild movie review).
- Bryan Barber on IMDb