Director Justin Barber’s debut full-length feature film Phoenix Forgotten opened in theaters nationwide in April 2017. Produced by ScottFree and Cinelou Films and written by T.S. Nowlin and Justin Barber, Phoenix Forgotten is a found footage-style psychological thriller that tells the story of a documentary director searching for her brother and two other teens. They went missing in the desert on March 13th, 1997, shortly after mysterious lights appeared in the skies over Phoenix, Arizona. Now, on the twentieth anniversary of their disappearance, unseen footage has been discovered, chronicling the final hours of their fateful expedition.
Phoenix Forgotten is Barber’s first full-length narrative feature, and a natural progression of his filmmaking career. Beginning as a VFX and animation artist, Barber transitioned to live action directing and soon found a niche helming documentary-style projects. As a partner of full-service production company Strike Anywhere (where he is represented for commercial work), Barber has helmed spots for Facebook, TaylorMade Golf, Pinterest, Southwest Airlines, and GE, among others.
Barber is known for seamlessly embedding photo-real VFX inside of live action – a rare blend of technical know-how and artistry that makes him perfectly suited to imagine and tell the story of Phoenix Forgotten. While belonging within the sci-fi genre, the film is grounded in true events, the inexplicable phenomenon known as “The Phoenix Lights,” the most famous and widely viewed UFO sighting in history.
Barber’s expertise of documentary storytelling lends itself to the believable, true-to-life feel carried throughout the movie, despite it being about alien abductions. “I was able to draw on instincts and methods I’ve honed over the years, interviewing subjects and working with real people, while doing documentary content for brands,” says Barber. “We wanted to make a film that felt really authentic. That’s what is so tantalizing about the genre…it can get underneath people’s skin in so many ways and allow them to drop their guard in a different sense, because they want to feel like it’s real.”
The inaugural full-length follows in the footsteps paved by Barber’s partners at Strike Anywhere. Michael Jacobs is a documentary filmmaker whose acclaimed debut, Audience of One, won jury awards at SXSW and AFIDocs, while Ryan Simon’s first documentary feature, The Black Jacket was released by Virgil Films on Netflix in the summer of 2016. Along with long-form projects, Strike Anywhere produces compelling story-driven commercials and content for global brands.