2008 film, “Pickin’ & Trimmin’,” reveals a remarkable bluegrass hideaway in Drexel, NC
In 2007, Florida-based filmmaker Matt Morris, then a recent UNC-Chapel Hill graduate, made a trek to Drexel, N.C. to meet the men who inhabit The Barbershop, a decades-old shop that hosts bluegrass jams every Saturday, and to document this unique and colorful local tradition.
Upon its release in 2008, “Pickin’ & Trimmin’” was a film festival sensation, picking up top honors at that year’s Florida Film Festival and Woodstock Film Festival, as well as an Emmy Nomination.
What Morris’ touching and entertaining 20-minute documentary portrays is a community gathering, a collection of characters drawn together by music and the camaraderie it provides, a slice of small-town Southern culture — and, of course, some brilliant bluegrass.
Shuffle‘s Bryan C. Reed caught up with Morris to talk about “Pickin’ & Trimmin’” and where The Barbershop finds itself today, as well as some of the projects Morris has in the works. You can follow his work at www.MattMorrisFilms.com or on Twitter, @MattMorrisFilms.
Shuffle: How did you find out about The Barbershop in Drexel? What compelled you to make the documentary about it?
Matt Morris: I was living in Wilmington, N.C., and read an article about The Barbershop in Drexel by Matt Born. I had just finished college and was planning on making a narrative short film, but The Barbershop really fascinated me. I’d never made a documentary before but it seemed like a great subject- a time capsule of the South my parents grew up in. I visited the shop and it was incredible. I had such a great time and everyone was friendly and welcoming. I knew I had to make the film.
Shuffle: Your other films seem to have a very distinct idea of both place and character. What do you look for when you’re developing ideas for a film?
MM: My ultimate goal is to direct narrative features, and one thing my favorite directors have in common is an interest in unique characters and creating a concrete sense of place. It’s been a joy getting to know all these fascinating people, so my hope is to recreate that experience for an audience- introduce them to a person and let that person speak for themselves. I’ve been lucky that all of these great characters are to be found in visually interesting places.
Shuffle: Between The Barbershop’s pickers, Johnny Barnes from “Mr. Happy Man,” and Vern Switzer, the titular “Watermelon Man,” I’m dying to know how you find the people you profile?
Shuffle: Last year, you posted a follow-up video to help save The Barbershop after its owner, Lawrence Anthony, passed away, and the shop suffered some water damage. What’s the state of The Barbershop today? Is it too late for people to help save it?
MM: Carroll Anthony, Lawrence’s son, has done a great job fixing up the shop. So far, the floor in the back room has been repaired and I believe they’ve done some ceiling work. The goal is to fix up the place while also retaining the same old look and feel. Through the success of the film online, there’s been an increase in donations, but more are always welcome. At this point, keeping The Barbershop open is a labor of love, not a business decision.
Shuffle: What’s next on your project list? And when can we expect to see it in full?