Following on from our recent post about Beth Bayes’ upcoming short film Sweet Like Poison, I am excited to present another interview with an independent filmmaker. A Film Club’s creator Sian reached out to Jamie Benyon about their current project to find out more…
My name is Jamie Benyon, and I’m the Writer/Director of an upcoming feature film called The Grandisons. I started my career as a Floor Runner on Independent British Gangster films and slowly worked my way up onto the big Hollywood productions. My credits include Johnny English 3 (2018), Wonder Woman (2017), Rogue One (2016), Doctor Strange (2016) and Free Fire (2016). I love filmmaking, I love cinema and, from the age of about 12, all I wanted to do was make films. And I did. And they were terrible. But I was bitten by this filmmaking bug and it really bit me hard.
Wow, that’s an exciting bunch of films to have worked on! Before you began your career, did your love of film lead you into further education or working on personal projects on a larger scale?
I studied film at Southampton Solent University and since graduating I’ve been trying to immerse myself in cinema as much as possible. I made an attempt to make a no-budget feature straight out of university called ‘The Woman Who Came To Dinner’ and it was just awful.
The idea was about a man setting himself up on a blind date, only to find out the woman sat opposite from him was actually his half-sister, and she had been obsessively searching for him. On paper it sounds like a good story but the execution was not. Fortunately, no one is ever going to see it!
But the experience was so valuable because I got to learn how to control a budget, how to work with professional actors, and how to make a feature! It was the beginning of my film school! Although the final film was rather amateur, the process was exciting and exhilarating, and I’ll never regret it. I will always recommend someone doing it!
However, as a filmmaker you constantly want to push yourself and try something different which led me to write The Grandisons.
That is such a good lesson to take away from experiences that don’t go to plan; there is always something to learn from them. Tell us more about The Grandisons - what is it about?
The Grandisons is a family that rarely come together, but when they do, it usually descends into chaos. Set over the course of one summer's day, this bitter and abusive family collide, as their deepest, darkest secrets of adultery, blackmail, and violence erupt. The unity of the family solely depends on each member's moral compass, and how they choose to deal with the revelations. As the sun sets, only time will tell if the day has made or broken the Grandisons.
I must apologise that’s probably the most pretentious premise description anyone could ever write! But it makes me sound intelligent and I like that!
It doesn’t sound pretentious at all - I’m invested. I want to know more about these characters and what happens next! Where did the idea for The Grandisons come from?
The idea for the film came from just being around different people. In particular my own family, my ex-girlfriend’s family and my friend’s. All of these people have wonderfully strange characteristics that make great cinematic characters and I wanted to see them all interact, and ultimately fight each other. It’s kind of cliché but it’s true; write what you know, and that’s all I did. Every character, every line, every moment in the film was drawn from experiences I had, stories I heard, or my own imagination which makes this film incredibly personal to me.
So, I wrote it. It took about a year to write, especially the structure of the script, because I knew I wanted multiple plot lines happening simultaneously, and for all these stories to weave in and out and explode at the climax. It was tough, and probably the hardest script I’ve ever had to write, but the most rewarding. Once the structure was set and the scenes flowed organically – everything else fell into place.
Although a lot of the film’s narrative and plot is pulled from personal experiences, in terms of the visual and sound, where did you draw inspiration from? Were there any specific people or films that influenced the film?
During my time at University, I was introduced to a film called Punch-Drunk Love (2002) which completely blew my mind. It opened doors to the idea that films were pieces of art and that cinema could be as weird and as wonderful as you like. I was obsessed with this film, and its filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson. If no one knows this film or this filmmaker, drop what you’re doing and go watch it, and study his films!
Once the obsession with Punch-Drunk Love (2002) subsided, I then shifted onto Boogie Nights (1997). A film that has multiple characters, a pop driven soundtrack and fast, frantic camerawork – which I knew I wanted for The Grandisons. But the inspirations didn’t stop there because Boogie Nights was influenced by the works of Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman, and I wanted that feel to seep into my film too. I admit, we didn’t have the same budget as PTA, Scorsese or Altman, but the influences are there, and with the budget we had, we’ve done an amazing job.
This sounds fascinating - I am interested to find out how the various building plot lines, upbeat soundtrack and exhilarating cinematography come together to bring the story to life! When will the film be released and where can we watch it?
I’ve literally just finished the sound mix of my film. We were lucky enough to gain support from students at the National Film School so the film just needs a colour grade and we’re complete!
Do I know when the film will be released and where? Unfortunately no. I’m taking each process as it comes but as soon as I know I will tell you!
It always fills me with joy to hear budding student filmmakers have the chance to work on such love-fuelled projects - I can’t wait to know when it will be released. Whilst we all eagerly await a release date, where can we find more about the film in the meantime?
You can find The Grandisons on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! You can find myself also on these platforms so please come by and say hello!
I’m more than happy to give constant encouragement, motivation, or advice if readers want to talk! Or, if they love discussing cinema so do I! You can see The Grandisons Official Trailer through this link too.
And lastly is there anything you would love to say to people embarking on their own filmmaking journeys?
Another reason why I wanted to make this film was because I was fed up with being told ‘no’ all the time by industry people. I was frequently told that the script was ‘too ambitious for a no-budget feature’, ‘it had no stars’, ‘no one will like it’ - all the usual degrading stuff people say. So, if you excuse my French, this was my middle finger to all the doubters to demonstrate to them, myself and to others that making an ambitious, no-budget, personal feature was possible.
I knew it would be tough, but I knew that if I could pull it off, then I could inspire other filmmakers to make their films too. People can like my film, dislike my film; it doesn’t matter to me. What I’m concerned about is that my film demonstrates that you can make your film. You can turn your screenplay into a reality – you just have to do it! So, don’t listen to whatever anyone says. Please don’t be disheartened when no-one believes in you – sadly, they won’t. But the balls in your court to prove them wrong!
If anyone takes anything away from this interview it is to go out and scratch your creative itch! Do not listen to the no’s. Do not listen to the non-believers. Believe in yourself and just do it. If you turn to your left, and to your right, and find no one believing in you, then come back to this article and know that I do! Always push yourself for something different because great and unexpected results will happen.
Thank you so much for your insight and words of encouragement, Jamie. We really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us about your exciting film, and wish you the absolute best of luck with it! You can keep up with Jamie on his personal Twitter right here.