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directing Archives - Benjamin Caro

Benjamin Caro

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Tag "directing"

While I was at Sundance, I met Ellen Utrecht, the founder and executive producer at MIKE TEEVEE, an ad agency that creates some spectacular and surprising branded entertainment. Check out their stuff–it’s quite fun.

As we hurried up the hill on Main St., grasping frantically at our coats and nearly sprinting to avoid immediate hypothermia, she said in in no happy tone, “Reels! I hate directing reels. You can’t tell anything from a reel!”

I was just about to tell her she should check out my directing reel.

Based on that enlightening conversation, here’s my new directing portfolio site! It offers a quick way to watch the branded entertainment, docs, and scripted content that I’ve directed. And yes, you can also watch (sorry Ellen) my directing reel.

Ellen, if you’re out there, I hope I’ve done you proud. Head to www.bencaro.com for new and old films.

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I’ve cut together a new directing reel, featuring work I’ve done in the past couple years in the world of entertainment, travel, film and branded content. It’s nice to have a quick look back. Let me know what you think!

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We wrapped production on my passion project in October. Here’s what I had to say on our Kickstarter page a day later:

What a whirlwind weekend! One car in a ditch, two locations, three long days! But we did it. And we can’t wait to show you what we’ve got.

Late Saturday night, Rick Boggs texted me to say thanks. Since it’s only because of you that we were able to make this happen, I thought I’d pass it along to you all:

“Hello, thank you again for the opportunity to appear in your film. Your staff was absolutely professional. You’re very smart and surround yourself with some very smart and talented people. Hope there might be a screening or at least one more opportunity to get everyone together. Have a pleasant night and thank you again. Rick Boggs.”

Here are some stills from the shoot!

Jessie Lande, costumer Jessyca Bluwal, Brenden Sexton III, makeup artist Cici Andersen and Rick Boggs hanging in the dressing room. From Instagram @heymisscici
Jessie Lande, costumer Jessyca Bluwal, Brenden Sexton III, makeup artist Cici Andersen and Rick Boggs hanging in the dressing room. From Instagram @heymisscici

 

The monitor used to say "B Cam" but we went with something more appropriate.
The monitor used to say “B Cam” but we went with something more appropriate.

 

 

 

Luckily, the shoot went off without a hitch. We did not have one car stuck in a ditch and certainly did not have the battery die on the car we were using for the main character.
Luckily, the shoot went off without a hitch. We did not have one car stuck in a ditch and certainly did not have the battery die on the car we were using for the main character.

 

 

Producer Ruby Siering, costumer Jessyca Bluwal, Michele Weaver, makeup artist Cici Andersen and production designer Jonathan Denmark just joined the Babysitter's Club and this is our first book cover.
Producer Ruby Siering, costumer Jessyca Bluwal, Michele Weaver, makeup artist Cici Andersen and production designer Jonathan Denmark just joined the Babysitter’s Club and this is our first book cover.

 

 

Ruby standing in while they adjusted the light. She's a natural.
Ruby standing in while they adjusted the light. She’s a natural.

 

Sleeping on the job. Shameful.
Sleeping on the job. Shameful.
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X Men: Apocalypse was released this Memorial Day weekend with Sophie Turner playing Jean Grey. No matter the reviews, though, no matter the box-office numbers, people will still adore the actress. And for good reason. She’s delightful.

Sawhorse Productions needed a pinch-hitter to direct Sophie in her cover shoot for GQ. Blake and Gino were working on a Pepsi Halftime “rap-up” to air soon after the Superbowl, so they called me in. I’d directed an Improv Imagination episode with Katie Lowes from Scandal, but this was a bigger deal. A little more run-and-gun, a little more involved. The DP Casey doing A cam, and a B cam operator. We had a PA, who I asked to go to the grocery store and buy apples (unbeknownst to him, two hours later he’d be balancing those apples on his head while Sophie shot at him). We’d film b-roll of the photoshoot, then try to squeeze in a humorous little feature sometime afterwards or during lunch.

GQ came up with the creative a couple nights before. Bryan Singer posted an Instagram vid of teaching her archery in prep for X-Men, so we were going to have Sophie use a toy bow-and-arrow. Our first idea was some sort of archery challenge. Can you hit that target? No. What if it has Ramsay Bolton’s face on it? Yes. But that idea was “shot down” (cough) –instead, they wanted her running a-muck, shooting up the set. Fair enough.

 

 

My first and probably biggest decision was choosing the bow and arrow, which was upsetting, because you know, who am I to pick out a girl’s trusted weapon? Seems like a very personal decision, one that no man should have the right to determine or legislate. Even so, I had five options. I put myself in Sophie’s shoes: which one was the least embarrassing? They were all embarrassing. One was pink. New strategy: utility. I had the sound guy spend 45 minutes testing which ones worked, and which ones would worked too well. I didn’t want any deaths. No deaths on this set. In the end, we went with a Zelda/Robin Hood-esque arrow you see in the video. The ritualistic-looking bow stand, by the way, was one of my pillar candle holders I brought from my apartment. Yes, Pier 1 sells weapon stands for your weapon relic needs.

Sophie was great. She was down. She was totally go for all of this. The things I was asking her to do–shoot at her photographers, chase a goofy stampede of people running from her down a hall, hide behind clothing racks and look ULTRA-SERIOUS–should’ve made her want to tell me to go fuck myself. Instead, she went with it, smiling the entire time. It gave the shoot a feeling of some sort of high school project–we all knew we were making something goofy, rough around the edges and spontaneous. Instead of feeling insecure about that, she took it seriously, even after hours of being in front of the camera posing for the mag.

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A few surprises made it into the cut. First of all: Look, I didn’t actually want her to shoot anybody in the head. Aim at them, I said, but you know, don’t really pull back all the way. Just kind of let the arrow out softly.

Nope. She had no interest in that. She had the bow, and suddenly she was out for blood. I highly doubt the photo assistant knew she was going to nail him right in his head. On the first take, she drew the string back, and… the arrow fell off. On the second, right in the head. The shock on his face was so real. The three guys cracked up at how absurd it was that she actually launched that thing. I said, “Great! But let’s not um, actually kill someone.” She was like whatevs I’m a boss ass bitch.

The next outtake that made it in the cut was when she hit the mirror with the arrow. After the first take where the arrow fell off the bow, I can’t say she felt super confident with it. So when she aimed at the mirror and the thing stuck right to it? A goddamn miracle. A feat of epic skill. So she stood up and pointed at the thing and cursed in utter awe of herself and we don’t have the best coverage of that but that was definitely an awesome honest reaction. She had overcome her doubts, become one with the arrow, and now was ready to face the final boss: Kyle, our PA.

The scene was to hit Kyle in the chest with it, then bite the apple. Get it? It’s a twist. Apple twist. First off, the apple kept falling off Kyle’s head. I knew Sophie was down to earth because she kept picking this dirty apple off of the ground and trying to reuse it, but I was like, “Listen, don’t even worry bout it. I got us a whole bushel of apple” and I took out a big produce bag and she was like oh ok it was so rad. So she pulls back, aims, fires, and it hits him… right in the face. It wasn’t my proudest moment. It looked painful. When a grown man says “Ow!” in front of a small crew of people and a well-known actress, you know that whatever’s happening to him, it’s painful. So, officially, publicly, I’d like to say that I’m sorry Kyle. But she did give you a hug, so that’s nice. You can see that blooper at the very end of the video.

If you’re interested in what I’m working on now, keep tabs on Cathedrals. It’s a short film based on a Raymond Carver story. There’s no bow and arrows, but there is going to be alcohol, so join the party.

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cathedral

The Plan

My primary focus right now is preparing for the Cathedrals Kickstarter. And believe me, I’ve got big plans. This will be one of the most epic effective, crazy fairly normal Kickstarter videos of all time. We shot my portion of the video last week, but I’ve got a few more experts I want to talk to on camera in order to round out the “pitch.”

1. A Raymond Carver “expert” (or just a book editor) talking about the need for a modernized, truthful adaptation of his work, especially following Birdman, which kind of smeared him.

2. An advocate for the blind at an organization that works to support the blind or the disabled in the arts. I want to donate to an organization like this as part of the Kickstarter campaign. (e.g. “If you donate $50, we’ll donate an extra 10 on top of that to [Blind Advocacy Organization]”)

3. One of our producers, perhaps Eben Kostbar or Earl Bolden Jr., talking about why they wanted to jump on board and help make this thing a reality.

4. The blind actor who we cast.

I’m reaching out to organizations and experts for #1 and #2, but if anybody has any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them!

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The Rewards

The second thing I’m diving into is planning for the rewards for donors. These are just in the planning stages, and I need your feedback! What looks interesting? Would any of these appeal to you? Please let me know in the comments what you think works, what looks like I vomited.

Kickstarter allows you to edit perks later, so we can experiment as the campaign progresses, but we might as well start with some cool rewards that get people excited in the first place. Here are some ideas, ordered generally from low donation/high supply to high donation/low supply.

1. access to the production diary
2. digital copy of original soundtrack
3. Twitter shout out from Sawhorse/Ben/actor
4. digital copy of film
5. Kickstarter thanks credit
6. we donate to [blind advocacy organization]
7. film poster
8. invitation to opening screening and afterparty
9. Instagram shout out from Ben
10. copy of first draft of screenplay
11. special thanks credit
12. Ben writes a poem about whatever you want
13. pages from script used on set, signed by actors
14. associate producer credit
15. visit to Sawhorse offices, meet and greet with producers
16. include a personal item or artwork in the film
17. join us on set
18. interview on “Making Cathedrals”
19. executive producer credit
20. include your name in the film
21. Ben changes his license plate to whatever they want

I’m pulling for #12, because I really want a reason to have to write poetry every night for the next 6 months straight. Let me know if you have anything you’d like to see! You can leave a comment on the Facebook page or YouTube vlog.

Big shoutout to Jason Ludke for letting us use his “Cathedral” artwork to promote the short film until we can create some original artwork for the project. Check out his website. He’s got a lot more calming Carver-related paintings that are pretty cool!

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Today I launched a vlog about my journey to make the film. Why a vlog? Why bother? I explain a little more in the video, but it’s because I was reading Show Your Work by Austin Kleon (great little pick up from Barnes & Noble–even though B&N is pricey, there’s something to be said for things calling to you from the shelves), and realized that if I want people to be excited for the film… hell, if I want the film to even be made, it’s important to bring people into the experience of making it. Why wait until the DVD to throw in the extras? I want to bring you in on the journey. I’m overcoming the fear of sharing unfinished, unpolished stuff, and throwing it out there. Thanks Austin. Your $12 book is worth at least $12.50. Definitely more. I thought I’d start there.

I also talk a bit more about why we wanted to hire a blind actor for the film. Did you know that about 30% of blind people are below the poverty line? After learning more, it invigorated me to bring awareness to and provide more opportunities for the disabled in the arts (and yes, the greater workforce). I think that’s what’s incredible about independent film. Since the bottom line isn’t the dollar, we can work towards bringing about change rather than bringing in profit. By crowdsourcing (read: Kickstarter or Indiegogo), I’m hoping we can do a little part in making not only a good movie, but a little good, too.

Watch the rest above! Subscribe to my YouTube channel for updates on videos, and please like the Cathedrals Facebook page!

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Rather watch a video instead? Click here.

For a couple years I’ve been threatening to adapt Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral” into a short film that combines the best parts of that story with some truly unique sound design ideas. If I was a good salesman I might say these sound design ideas have never been done in a film before. Of course, that’s probably not true. Moreover, does anything make you want to roll your eyes more than hearing a sentence like “never been done in a film before?” Probably not. So I’m not going to say that sentence, but you get the idea.

EXPERIENTIAL CINEMA

I don’t believe there is enough form experimentation in narrative films. Even “arthouse” indie-minded films tend to showcase a story in traditional ways. Though the content is shocking, out of order, or shot in a unique way, on the surface the audience is still watching a scene shown in a frame with as little interruption as possible. Film has the opportunity to use both sound and sight to express a story, but movies tend to tell the story visually, with the audio only enhancing the visuals, always in sync, rarely contradictory. I see an opportunity to use those tools separately.

I’m interested in film as an experience, rather than a mouthpiece for a story. Most movies in theaters try to get out of the way of the story—they want the audience to forget they’re watching a film entirely. But I’m interested in using the form to give the audience a unique experience. In the same way as most movies, many novels seek to relay a story. Poetry, however, uses rhyme, rhythm, spacing and line breaks to deliver an experience to the reader. I want to do the same thing with Cathedrals.

WHY ADAPT “CATHEDRAL”?

Carver’s “Cathedral” presents a great opportunity to tell a story through an experience. One of the major characters in the story is a blind man. Blind people use what they hear to understand their world. They’ve learned to live without eyes. Therefore, I want to present his part of the story in the same way to the audience. I want the audience to hear the story first, and see it later, so that hearing becomes the dominant way to take in the story.

For parts of the film, the visuals will be delayed several seconds, so that the scene feels slightly out of sync. Like a blind person, the audience will use their ears to take in the full story, rather than just their eyes.

I’ve tested this effect before, and it has a couple amazing effects:

1). It focuses your attention to the sounds, and how they connect to what you’re seeing.
2). It makes you feel a bit stoned or drunk, which matches what happens in the story.
3). Most importantly, it creates a strange dissonance that mirrors the dissonance between the characters on screen.

The film becomes an experience.

When the climax of the story occurs, you will feel that experience emotionally, too. I can’t wait for you to feel it. It’s going to be shocking.

THE PRODUCTION

Sawhorse Productions is helping me create this experience. Unfortunately, as of now, all the money needed to create this experience is coming out of my own pocket. That’s why I’m asking for any help at all in the creation of the project. Perhaps you want to donate some of your time to providing props for the set or PA-ing on our shoot.

Feel free to get in touch with me. I would be tremendously grateful for your help. Like the Facebook page for updates, subscribe to my YouTube channel to watch more from the filmmaking vlog. Shoot me an email, and I’ll send you the script.

Thanks for reading, everyone.

Ben
703 209 6479
benj.caro@gmail.com

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