Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A New BFF Judge!

Benedict Campbell 
The Bridge Film Festival judges reflect on and evaluate each entry and give constructive suggestions to our filmmakers. They are either filmmakers, activists, educators or Quakers, and more often than not, our judges are a combination of all four.

Our newest judge, Benedict Campbell meets all of these criteria. Benedict is a New York City-based Quaker, filmmaker, and founder of BlackAuk, a content production company. Benedict is a writer and director focused on fictional dramas for short and feature films. His interest in filmmaking grew from photography, leading him to study film & television at New York University.

His short film, Lloyd Neck, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and screened at 20 international film festivals. The film won Best Director at the HollyShorts Festival. His short documentary, The Watch & The War, premiered on

He recently completed A Quaker Sound, a short film that screened at the 2017 Provincetown Film Festival. Benedict is a member of the Bronx Filmmakers Collective and was a Teaching Artist at The Ghetto Film School. He is developing The High Bridge, a feature film about a teenager confronting fatherhood in the Bronx.

Below is an interview with Benedict about his film "A Quaker Sound:

BFF - Why did you make this film?

Benedict - I grew up attending Meeting and I realized at an early age that there's a gap in understanding Quakers. Quakers are confused with the Amish because the only visual reference is the imagery on the oats in the grocery store. I wanted to dispel a popular misconception and show Quakers in a modern setting. The Meeting I attended in Jericho is where we shot the film. The sunlight in that space, the windows, and the wood stoves definitely made an impression on me and I wanted a story that allowed for capturing those sensory details. I'm wary of trying to say too much in a short film. Since Quakers embrace simplicity, I focused on a simple story in a setting both unique and historic.

BFF - Who was your intended audience and what message were you trying to convey?

Benedict - The inclusion of certain procedural details and visual cues universal to Meetings might conjure some nostalgia in the Quaker community around the experience of Meeting. It would be wonderful if Quakers from diverse background or family situations saw themselves reflected on screen. Since the setting is so specific, I thought audiences unfamiliar with Quakers might develop an understanding they didn't have before. Historic settings don't have to have historic characters and there's a pointed use of technology in the film to remind us of that.

BFF - How did you choose the cast?

Benedict -I chose the best talent available and I worked with a terrific casing director. I knew Aubrey (Elias) was right for it when I saw his tape. I found out later that he played Simba in The Lion King and I'm not surprised he's landed some big roles since filming this. I didn't want Elias's grandmother to be a sweet movie grandma. It was important for her to show how difficult aging can be. Movies also make any relationship that might appear different the focal point of a story or feel a need to explain them when there's nothing that unusual and no explanation is necessary. I see it as expecting the audience to accept it and effectively daring them to question it. Arthur French (James) had a great look for the role of a stern clerk and Steve Beauchamp (Henry) was the perfect counterweight to keep their dynamic light.

BFF - What is the most challenging part of the filmmaking process?

Benedict -Writing can be hard, and fundraising, and the logistics of shooting. Then there's the challenge of getting it seen. A major challenge for us was a leaf blowing crew that refused to leave during shooting. It made it impossible to record dialogue for a period. We shot on Super16mm film and I didn't see any footage for over a month. You always worry there's light leaks or damage or maybe nothing came out but we had an experienced crew and all was fine. I have a lot of patience for the process and it's always worth it when you see your finished film on screen.

BFF - What advice to have for first time filmmakers?

Benedict - I think it's important to write something you know you can make if you want to see it on screen. Think of a great location you have access to and a story you might set there. Storyboards are a critical part of my process. I recommend drawing out every scene like a comic book because it forces you to think exactly what you want your movie to look like. When you're in production, make sure you have good food and good sound.