Meet the Filmmaker: Benjamin Bryan – Home
Benjamin Bryan is a Melbourne based filmmaker who currently works in film, commercial and documentary formats.
We recently had an opportunity to interview Benjamin about his experiences in making Home, and here is what we learned.
A look at what ‘home’ means for South Sudanese refugee Gum Wetnhiak and his family who fled their war torn homeland to start a new life in Melbourne.
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about the film?
Home tells the story of Gum and his family who fled war torn Sudan as refugees and live now in commission housing in Collingwood, Victoria.
What was your biggest inspiration to make this film/How did you get involved or attached to the project?
Tom Scott, NZ hip hop artist, who is a personal hero of mine was the initial inspiration for the project. It is his track, Home by Avantdale Bowling Club, that backs the film. Initially we thought we were making a music video until we both decided that it would be more interesting to tell another persons story. So we started looking for people who had a unique perspective on the concept of Home and we found Gum.
As a filmmaker there are many ups and downs in the process, what was your absolute favourite and/or funniest part of making/producing this film?
My favourite part of the film was the scene with the piano. I’d seen this old piano that was sitting near the commission flats gathering dust and I was trying to work out a way to get it into the film. After filming the interview towards sunset we dragged it out into the middle of this big common area and Gum, who doesn’t play piano, sat down and played a few notes and under no direction whatsoever had this really peaceful and serene moment.
What does a film festival like Byron Bay Film Festival mean to you and your work?
It’s a great honour to be accepted into any film festival let alone Byron. We’re really proud of Home and it’s great that people will get the chance to see it on the big screen.
Byron Bay Film Festival showcases an array of entertaining, inspiring and thought-provoking films. Do you feel that your film helps people ‘Dream With Their Eyes Open’? And if so how?
To dream with your eyes open is I guess to see something that evokes a connection to something personal, to make complete a puzzle of random parts forming a picture that has meaning, if only to you. I definitely think Home helps people dream with their eyes open. We used many different images and techniques to create a dream-like narrative that sees everything through Gum’s eyes, a brand new world that has echoes of the past.
What is the best piece of advice you can give to future independent filmmakers?
I feel like if you’re an independent filmmaker you’ve probably been bombarded with advice from every direction. My advice is to respectfully ignore everybody and do your own thing.
What was the most challenging part of the filmmaking process?
Making home was really challenging in the sense that we had such a loose narrative and we were trying to let the story evolve naturally. It meant a lot of time in the editing room and many times that we wiped everything and started again.
If some or all of the team is coming to the festival at Byron Bay. Who is coming and what are you looking forward to?
Ben the director is coming and looking forward to seeing the other films and escaping the rat race that is Melbourne.
Any upcoming projects for you, your team or key creatives involved in your film?
Tom the producer has just released a cool doco project called Don’t Quit your Day Job which looks at the lives of a bunch of artists that he knows.
Any upcoming projects for the filmmaking team?
We’re working on a couple of narrative feature scripts and have also been involved in a feature length documentary that focuses on the importance of country and how it relates to identity especially for many young aboriginal people who have been deprived of that connection.
What drives you as a filmmaker?
The challenge to make something new and I guess to dream with my eyes open.
Anything interesting or unique about the filmmaking process for this film, any hiccups along the way, any happy coincidences that changed the films direction?
One of the best things about making Home was time; we had all the time in the world. The producer Tom and all of us in fact took a very thorough approach to each part of the process. We went other things multiple times and if we felt like it wasn’t work we looked for something else and went out to film more. Also Gum and his family were so lovely and we couldn’t have done it without their open participation. During the interviews we filmed one of the angles with an iphone as we felt it would be less intrusive and I think that worked well, it was also the only other camera we had.
Is anything-else you would like to share?
One main thing that I learnt making Home is that something can always be better and it’s easy (and natural) to get tired during the editing process and want the project to be over and done with but you just have to stick it out, take another breath and try to look at it with fresh eyes.