Interview with director Benjamin Leo Bryan

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling Stories?

When I was young my mum bought me a Sony Digital 8 camcorder and I began making movies with my friends. I really enjoyed the process of filmmaking as it allowed me to explore my ideas visually and there were so many different ways I could tell the same story.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I’m not really of the opinion that going to film school is a necessary thing for young filmmakers. You learn a lot more by doing and getting on real sets than you ever do in class. However, it is a really good way to connect with other young filmmakers and explore which aspects of the filmmaking you’re drawn to.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer todo either?

I think both are equally hard because they’re really the same thing in the film industry. As a freelancers, you go from job to job and getting your next job sometimes feels as difficult as getting your first. It’s generic advice but it’s really a case of “don’t give up”. There are definitely times where you feel like you’re going nowhere but it’s important to learn to appreciate your downtime because most probably you’ll be busy soon and wish you had some time to spare.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

The most important lesson we learnt making home was that your film can always be better and working through the frustration of seemingly never-ending edits and re-shoots will leave you with a better film. Working with Tom Scott, who helped produce the documentary, was a really good experience for me because he never compromises and is always searching for a way to make things better. I thought I was a perfectionist but working with him was a real eye-opener.

  • How do you find or generate ideas for documentaries or is it a different process for every project?

I’m always listening. Whether it be to a story told to me by a friend or a news story. I always jump at the opportunity to tell a good story so it’s just finding the right one that takes time. I think the best stories to tell are the ones closest to you, geographically, spiritually, the ones that come from places and feelings you know well.

  • Can you describe your approach to writing treatments?

I begin trying to find images that I can relate to my idea and break the idea into it’s different facets; idea, approach etc.

  • Do you ever use the camera yourself?

I am usually the one behind the camera. As my background is in camera I feel comfortable there and I find with documentary it’s really helpful for me to be the one framing the story. Its important to have somebody you trust with you to co-direct and interview because sometimes the camera can get in the way of communicating with your subject.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

To be entertained, moved, I don’t know… I don’t think it’s the filmmakers role to worry about that. You are your first audience, so make the film the way you like and hopefully, people will identify with your storytelling.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I’ve had a few short films screen at a number of festivals and I think initially it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the submission process and cost of entering your work into festivals. I really believe they’re necessary though and you should apply to as many as you possibly can because people aren’t always going to like your work.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

Nothing is entirely original in isolation. So in that sense, I don’t believe that filmmakers should worry about trying to be original, in the words of Charles Bukowski “don’t try”. It is in the trying that art becomes self-conscious and loses its originality. Make things the way you want to and don’t worry about how they’ll be received.