Rising Star Filmmaker Brando Benetton: “I truly value time; It’s better to have and not need, than need and not have”

This is a simple one, but I truly value time. So when people ask me why I carry around a book or a laptop even when I don’t intend on using them, I tell them that “It’s better to have and not need, than need and not have.” At some point I guarantee you’ll find yourself stuck […]

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This is a simple one, but I truly value time. So when people ask me why I carry around a book or a laptop even when I don’t intend on using them, I tell them that “It’s better to have and not need, than need and not have.” At some point I guarantee you’ll find yourself stuck and in need of occupying the time, and be glad you you carried that extra with you. Keep productive.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Brando Benetton.

Brando is an Italian award-winning filmmaker and MFA graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. His most recent short Tumbili, inspired by Gothic fairytales, received festival acclaim for the haunting atmosphere created including the Audience Award at the South Film and Arts Academy Festival. He recently completed Nightfire, starring Emmy-nominee Dylan Baker, which he co-wrote, produced and directed as an independent TV pilot. In April 2015, he was listed by Variety magazine as one of “110 Students to Watch.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us Brando! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Thank you for having me! I grew up in northern Italy and moved to the United States at age 16. I was supposed to remain in the country for just a one-year exchange program, but never really came back.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was raised without TV channels, only experiencing English-language VHS’s as a source of entertainment. American movies are how I learned English, and I feel like in a way that cinematic experience — whether it was Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — influenced the way I myself began aiming to replicate and offer to others that sense of entertainment.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I feel like I’ve been extremely lucky to have first-hand exposure to the best filmmakers, people I’ve idolized for years. I learned a lot by being on film sets for films including The Dark Knight Rises, and observing just feet from their monitor how directors like Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott works.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

So keep in mind, since elementary school I’d gather groups of friends after hours to shoot action movies in the school’s yard (under teacher supervision, of course). Firecrackers became bullet hits and smoke effects — we really aimed for production value, you know? I remember this one time gathering a lot of people and a lot of moving elements and props, only to realize I had forgotten the mini-tape for the camera. So we had actors, special effects, costumes… and it was all for nothing once I realized we had no digital tape!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I think for aspiring filmmakers it’s crucial to present a variety of projects not only for themselves but the larger industry. It’s important that all the stories you want to tell are somehow emotionally specific to you — and ranging not only in genre (if you want to write an expensive robot movie then you also better have a very cheap drama in your back pocket) but also different in medium. What use are your 3 feature film scripts if you meet a TV series producer who is only interested in funding television?
So I’ve been pushing forward, especially in a time like this, a number of different projects in different stages of development — a short film, a feature and a pilot we wish to expand into a TV series.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

I think Korean director Bong Joon-ho boiled it down when he said “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” Cinema is more than Hollywood. More than expensive blockbusters or small-indie dramas. There are thousand of nuanced films out there waiting for us to be discovered, made by talented filmmakers who need the opportunity to express themselves just like everyone else. The more specific the emotion and tone of the story, the more it feels like it was made specifically for you. Life often makes no sense, and stories help us frame the meaning of our own purpose in the world. So why hear 10% of the stories when you can experience all of them?

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Over the years I’ve began transcribing concepts, quotes and creative reflections that have helped expand my understanding of the larger filmmaking experience. So let me draw back to my notebook to answer these questions:

  1. “The best way to learn how to make a movie is to make a movie.” — Quentin Tarantino
    There’s no better film school than failing hard. Run out of media, ruin a take, work with terrible actors then embarrass yourself in the middle of a public screening. It’s will all allow you to grow. There are wonderful books and programs out there, but the more ambitious your first projects, the more you will learn once you emerge on the other end — regardless of the final result’s actual quality.
  2. “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” — Orson Welles
    Finding your own voice as a filmmaker can be such a daunting task. As you study and develop new projects, key patterns will start to emerge about what you love. This, in the rawest form possible, is your vision. Your voice as a filmmaker. It’s who you are, as a writer and a human being, on paper in front of you. Go back to it often.
  3. “The difference between a mediocre idea getting adopted and a great idea being rejected is how the story is shared.” — Walt Disney
    Pitching, pitching, pitching. As great as one’s ideas may actually be — being a good pitcher is what will allow you not only to clearly share your vision with others, but also get in the right rooms with people who could make a difference in your career.
    I’m pretty shy myself, but had to learn through a lot of bad pitches when or how to keep listeners engaged. Pitching a movie is like bolting out of a movie theater, incredibly excited, and calling your best friend to tell him/her all about the movie you just saw. People grow passionate about what other people seem passionate about.
  4. “Be so good they can’t ignore you” — Steve Martin
    It’s fair to say we’re in this for the long haul. Succeeding in the film industry is not easy, otherwise everyone would do it and well. Martin Scorsese and Tom Cruise described their relationship to cinema as an addiction, and I think it’s fair to say that taking “no” should never be an answer, if you can persist politely. If you believe you can make it, they will too. But be strategic, always about investing time and resources into projects and relationships that are special and creatively challenge you. Everything you receive, put back into the community.
  5. “Study more than film.”
    Self-explanatory. You can love as much a Hitchcock film as you admire a Caspar David Friedrich painting. Study the light, return to your favorite quotes, visit a church or a cemetery and then mull over how to learn all about cooking. Making great movies requires the emotional authenticity you will find from your own life experience. When writing story, always pick the specific over the generic.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

If you dream of working in this industry, you need to be as motivated as you are insightful. I deeply believe in creative strategy and how you plan on leaving a footprint with your projects. Mike Sweeney reminds everyone that not every idea is necessarily a movie. You don’t want to run out of plot before you run out of pages. So invest time into dreaming up the most fun movie you can write for yourself, but also be realistic in regards to how achievable it is for you to shoot it. Don’t hope for someone to necessarily give you money to make this. “Hope” is not a strategy. But if you’re feeling sad remind yourself of what you’re capable of — go out there and make yourself proud.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am awfully flattered, but I feel like this question is way beyond me. With everything going on in the world, I think there are amazing workers and charity organizations out there who support causes that truly need our attention.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

What would life be without mentor figures? I was extremely lucky to grow up with incredible men and women who shaped my education, professors at Ithaca College who took me under their wing and talked me off the ledge well beyond my college years. Likewise, even someone like Dylan Baker (who stars in our film “Nightfire”) has demonstrated relentless support over the years — often believing in me even when I myself did not. There’s so much to be grateful for in this life, and I feel lucky when people go out of their way to help.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This is a simple one, but I truly value time. So when people ask me why I carry around a book or a laptop even when I don’t intend on using them, I tell them that “It’s better to have and not need, than need and not have.” At some point I guarantee you’ll find yourself stuck and in need of occupying the time, and be glad you you carried that extra with you. Keep productive.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would have loved to have breakfast with Walt Disney.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find more about our work through the “Nightfire” Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Nightfiremovie/), my personal website (https://www.brandobenetton.com/) or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/brandobenetton/).

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you guys! Thank you for having me and remember: “Watch More Movies”

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