Adam Baranello's Existential Noir Journey
The film noir aesthetic has appealed to Adam Baranello, a Hampton Bays-based multimedia artist, for as long as he can remember. “I love black-and-white film, and the over-saturated black of black-and-white,” he said. “Aesthetically, I feel it has a cool artistic quality to it, and kind of takes you out of reality because the film isn’t supposed to be super lifelike. It’s supposed to be a little hyperbolic, or even a little more specific, like the characters don’t have every range of emotion that a real human has.”
But his latest film, “Exit,” is far from a typical film noir, which often tells a murder mystery or dark detective narrative. Sure, “Exit” tells an existential story and features a troubled heroine, but this one carries a positive message consistent with his larger body of work — that of being one’s authentic self and finding truth.
Through his production company, AJB Productions, Mr. Baranello writes and records original hip-hop and electronic dance music and produces and directs films. He is also a painter who has exhibited locally and in New York City, as well as a clothing designer, professional dancer, and popular dance teacher at the Hampton Ballet Theatre Company, Project Most, and other school and town-sponsored programs.
“Exit” tells the story of Diane Gardiner, a woman who escapes the captivity of her everyday life through wild dreams in which she is a performance artist. Interactions with her friends move the story forward: Reckless Tracey tries to convince Diane to rob a bank and run away with her, while Kiki, herself too far indoctrinatedinto the corporate culture of their go-nowhere jobs to pursue her own dreams, tries to convince Diane she has the potential to be something greater. The end of Diane’s journey is left open to wide interpretation.
While the film is mostly black-and-white, the characters’ dreams are in color. It was shot predominantly on the South Fork, including at the East Hampton and Hampton Bays train stations, the Bridgehampton Community House, the Hampton Ballet Theatre Company studio, Ponquogue Beach, his own house in Hampton Bays, and various roadways and restaurants.
“Exit,” which Mr. Baranello completed over the course of a year beginning in May 2015, made its New York debut on Oct. 21 at the International Film Festival of Manhattan. Mr. Baranello is in the process of lining up screenings on the South Fork, and has had interest from the East Hampton Library, which will be carrying the DVD in its collection and which screened his first feature-length film, “Dead End,” last year.
Just before he began filming, Mr. Baranello saw an exit sign that was missing its plastic red insert, exposing its interior wiring and helping to spark the idea.
“The process is the reward for me, and with the people involved in the experience, it’s exciting and gratifying,” he said. “I don’t feel like my work is the type that gets the big awards, because it’s something different than that. It’s, ‘Here’s what I do, here’s my statement, here’s my original kind of art,’ and hopefully it resonates with the right people who are going to find it.”
The film stars Gail Baranello, Mr. Baranello’s wife and teaching partner, who is also a professional dancer, as Diane Gardiner. Adrianna de Svastich, who danced in “Black Swan” and is a member of the Pennsylvania Ballet, stars as Tracey, and Kiirstin Marilyn, who has numerous indie film credits, plays as Kiki. Mr. Baranello also called upon young actors-in-training and dancers from the Hampton Ballet Theatre School to portray the young people in the film.
In writing and producing “Exit,” he tapped into the experiences he had in finding his own identity.
“As far as the exit path of it, I was an athlete first, figuring out how to exit that into the arts and feeling the resistance behind that,” Mr. Baranello said. “In real life, to me, there’s never a real clear sign and then you take the step. . . . I wanted that feel of ‘I know something is not right here, and I’m trying to figure it out.’ ”