Let me introduce you all to one talented film director, Mr Ben Garfield. Ben Garfield is a London based award-winning freelance film director, writer, cameraman and editor. It is safe to say Ben is more than a triple threat. After studying Drama and Screen Studies at university, it is clear that Ben understands the language of the cinema, and how to make an enchanting film.
After recently working at Sundance film festival in London, I discovered one of Ben’s videos ‘Homey’ on their website. I needed to view more of Ben’s work. I went onto his website, and soon I found myself addicted to Ben’s short and sweet narratives http://vimeo.com/bengarfield. I wanted to share with you guys two of my favourite films by Ben; Homey and Modern Conversation.
Modern Conversation is a hilarious short film, about how the iPhone generation cannot have a conversation without checking into Facebook, live tweeting about your convo, Instergramming, liking, hashtagging, tagging and Snapchatting pictures to your friend who is sitting right next to you. I am one hundred per cent sure every person can relate to these two brilliant characters.
Homey had me glued to my seat for the films three minuet length, following a tense game of British Bulldog. I found myself biting my nails in hope that the 8-year-old young boy Bertie would make it to the other side of the playground safe and sound. Ben’s creativity and amusing short films have not gone unnoticed. Homey has been chosen as part of the Official Selections at the BFI Future Film Festival 2013, Sundance London’s 2013 Short Film Competition, the St Albans Film Festival 2013 and British Shorts Berlin 2013.
I got the chance to ask Ben a few questions about his career, love for film, and plans for the future.
So you studied Drama and Screen Studies at The University of Manchester. You clearly knew from a young age that you wanted to get involved in the film industry. Where has this love and passion for filmmaking stemmed from?
I always loved film but it was only on the course that I actually developed any serious ambitions to become a writer/director. I had a couple of very inspiring tutors – David Butler and Johannes Sjoberg – and around that time I started dating a girl who really loved her cinema too. Their passion rubbed off on me and I started to see film in a new light.
I actually only ended up on the screen studies course in a roundabout way – I switched from philosophy after my first year at Manchester as I wanted to do something more creative, so I took a punt on it. I’m pleased I did!
How did you come up with the narrative of Modern Conversation? From your frustrated experience of modern technology?
I didn’t actually come up with the narrative. It was written and performed by the wonderful Mixed Doubles, a London based comedy sketch group (you can find out more about them at http://www.mixed-doubles.co.uk/media). I did all the film stuff for it – produced, directed, shot, edited etc.
I agree it’s a very poignant sketch. Modern technology seems to allow you to be everywhere and with everyone at the same time – before long that can lead to an overload. It’s an easy trap to fall into! Ironically the sketch itself led us to spend an unhealthy amount of time online. We entered it into The Dave Leicester Comedy Shorts competition, where there was a prize for the most views on YouTube. Consequently we pretty much turned into those characters promoting it like mad on Twitter and Facebook!
What made you want to create ‘Homey’?
I remember the inspiration for it coming one day as I was crossing the Holloway Road in London. It’s a busy road and, although I wasn’t actually in any real danger, as I got to the island in the middle I got a rush, a feeling of “I’m safe! I made it!” The sensation triggered a memory of playing British bulldog in the school playground and the relief of getting to the other side. I got to thinking it could work well as a film and be something others could relate to.
Is the game of British bulldog an allegory?
I think you can look at the narrative whichever way you like really. I wanted to capture something of the goldfish bowl mentality of it, and show how seriously we all took games when we were younger. I based a lot of the shots on the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. To the kids, it’s a war.
I think you can apply that to grown-ups too. It raises interesting questions for me about how seriously we regard the events in our everyday lives.
What does it feel like as a filmmaker to have your work not only noticed, but also nominated for awards by massive institutions such as BFI and Sundance London?
Homey got on the official selection shortlists for those though it didn’t win the awards unfortunately! It’s great to get noticed by those institutions. Having your film screened at the BFI in front of a packed cinema is always exciting.
What tips would you give young people trying to break into the film industry?
I think the best thing you can do if you want to start making films is to not be afraid to make that first step and get a project underway. For my first short film the cast and crew were recruited entirely through Internet networking sites, none of whom I’d previously met. Before that I felt like I’d been waiting around for things to fall into place too long, like I’d do a job as a runner and I’d meet the perfect producer, then at the next job I’d meet a brilliant cinematographer. When that didn’t happen I decided to just do it off my own back and with sites like Casting Call Pro and Shooting People it’s all possible.
So my advice is to believe in your project and go for it.
What have you got planned for the future?
A few things. I’ve shot some more sketches with Mixed Doubles which will be out soon. You can like their Facebook page to stay in the loop about those: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mixed-Doubles/390702900983297?ref=ts&fref=ts
I’ve also directed a music video for Hypeman Sage and Subculture Sounds, which we’re editing at the moment. It’s an exciting one, there’s a great team behind the project and the rushes have come out well. I’m looking forward to getting it out there!
Short film-wise I’ve just finished the script for my next film. It’s the longest to date and will probably come in around the 15 minute mark. Now I’ve got to start thinking about getting it off the ground…
Just like the two amazing ladies in Modern Conversation would do, go and tweet, share, like and retweet Ben’s brilliance.