Horror, heavy metal and art combine in feature, five years in production

Justin Baron is nearing the end of a five-year odyssey to complete his debut feature, “Peep Show.”

Baron began shooting the 16mm film shortly after he graduated from Columbia College in 1998, financing the under-$100,000 budget mostly from his earnings as a parking valet.

“Peep Show” is a dark drama about a voyeuristic photographer who lives on the fringes of society. “Dying to participate, but forced to observe, he keeps his camera between himself and his relationships,” Baron said. As the photographer, Baron’s co-writer John McLean bounces between failed relationships, trying to find a way to make a deeper connection.

Baron shot the final scenes of “Peep Show” in June 2003. He’s been cutting it himself, in the downtown loft of his production company Redworks, where he shot many of the film’s interiors. Close to picture lock, Baron is considering bringing in another editor to make final adjustments, as he lays in original music by local art metal band Yakuza.

Baron’s extensive collaborations, with Yakuza and others, may account for some of the delay in getting “Peep Show” into the world. When he met the band in fall 2002, they were looking for a music video director for their song “Chicago Typewriter,” off their album Way of the Dead, released by Century Media.

“I was really cautious, because I wanted to finish my film, but the more I felt it out, the more I saw there were no roadblocks to our working together,” Baron recalled. “We’re all big metal heads ? we grew up on the same stuff, horror movies and heavy metal and art.”

Baron shot the “Chicago Typewriter” video in one night, a horror vignette in which the band does not appear. He’s also been extensively documenting their live shows for a video companion piece to the demo for their next album. “Doing the lives shows has made me fall back in love with documentary cinema,” Baron said. “You can capture a moment in time, to teach somebody about that moment later on.”

Baron is also a regular collaborator of underground icon James Fotopoulos, with whom he attended Columbia. Baron handled optical printing for Fotopoulos’ first feature, “Zero.” He did opticals and sound transfer for Fotopoulos’ next film, and the Redworks loft was a shooting location for the feature “Nest.”

In 2003, Baron edited Fotopoulos’ series of seven one-hour films, two of which, “Leviathan” and “Grass House,” played at the Biennial Exhibition of the Whitney Museum in New York, and one of which, “Fountain,” played the Chicago Underground Film Festival. Baron is about to start cutting Fotopoulos’ latest feature, “Esophagus.”

Matt Woodburn produced “Peep Show” with Baron for Million Ways Productions. “Peep Show” DP was Dennis Best. Sound by Larry Kapsan, Ken Nowak and Robert Aguilar.

Reach Baron at jbtheredone@yahoo.com. ? by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com.