Toronto International Film Festival 2020
Short Cuts
Paul Shkordoff

Benjamin, Benny, Ben

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An unexpected event threatens to undo the job interview preparation of an anxious young man.

Hi Paul thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times? 

Nice to speak with you. Strange times indeed. Trying my best to take things day by day and stay as present as possible. 

Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?

It's certainly allowed me time for reflection which has felt really nice. Writing without expectation and trying to balance this with vital work in my personal life as well. 

Your latest short film Benjamin, Benny, Ben is part of TIFF Short Cuts, how does it feel to have your film a part of such an amazing lineup of short films?

It feels really nice! You're always hopeful when you make a film, it'll be able to find a home somewhere. Being from the Toronto area, we really wanted to play in front of our friends and family. The feeling above all else, is one of gratitude. 

Benjamin, Benny, Ben was selected for the Cannes Short Film Competition, does being selected for such prestigious festivals add any additional pressure on you? 

No pressure at all! It was beyond our wildest dreams to get accepted to Cannes, and really, anything that happens after this (in terms of festival selections) is just a bonus. 

Can you tell me a little bit about Benjamin, Benny, Ben, what was the inspiration behind this film? 

It came from a personal place, and slowly evolved as an idea over time. I remember being around 19, dropping out of school and not having any real job experience. I put on my best shirt and tie, walked through the mall, and handed out résumés to any place that was hiring. The general anxiety I felt that day, like I needed to prove my self worth in some form, always stuck with me. The idea then complimented my desire to make something simple and economical (predominantly outdoors, one lead character). 

What was the most challenging part of making this film for you?

I think there's always an element of self doubt that feels challenging at times. I'm learning to embrace this now, but in the beginning, it can cause you to question some of your choices. On a technical note, we shot on a very hot and humid day in the woods, which also happened to be full of ticks! Thankfully everyone emerged unscathed. 

"I feel very fortunate to have worked with this cast and crew, and felt so pleased with how it was made."

Once a film is complete are you able to let it live its own life or are you always thinking 'I could/should have done this differently?

I think the most important part is finishing a thing, then letting it go. I'll have some of those thoughts immediately after a shoot, but once we're far along enough in the post production process, I'm eager to let the film live its own life. 

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

Like all of us, I was wanting to find some form of self expression from when I was younger. I tried my hand in journalism, photography, and fashion - but something always felt like it was missing. I think film was the natural endpoint from all of these pursuits. 

How much has your style and the approach to your films changed since your debut film?

I wouldn't say change, but hopefully, it's refined a little. I think with each project I try to challenge myself in some new way and pursue an idea further than I did in the past. 

Is there any advice you would offer someone about making their first film?

I don't feel qualified to offer advice myself, but as someone who is always seeking it out, I find the idea of embracing failure to be particularly freeing. 

What would you say has been the most valuable lesson you've taken away from making Benjamin, Benny, Ben?

Trust your instincts. Also, process matters just as much as product. I feel very fortunate to have worked with this cast and crew, and felt so pleased with how it was made. Festival acceptance is a wonderful bonus, but, finding such joy and purpose in the making of the film is equally meaningful (if not more)!  

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?

Whatever it is, I hope it's multifold and diverse. I don't think there was a singular feeling I wanted the audience to experience, other than being able to connect to the journey of the character and come away with their own thoughts and feelings regarding its telling.