CASPER, Wyo. — Anyone interested in catching a film created by a Casper native has the chance to do so on Amazon.
“It’s a short film, it’s 30 minutes long,” Benson said. “It’s about a star high school athlete who has an accidental child and goes through the struggles to have to choose to go on with his basketball career or start a family.”
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“So we see him in his younger days and then also later on as he’s trying to get through life like everybody else does.”
Benson and his co-producer and lead actor in the film Nathin Butler, who’s been in things like “General Hospital”, “Hawaii Five-0” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” have already shown the film at some festivals and plan to do more.
“We were at one already, the Hollywood Independent Festival, which we were fortunate to win our category for, which was fun and we got to see it at one of those really big, nice theaters in Los Angeles,” Benson said. “Got a little bit of prize money and recognition and stuff, so that felt good.”
The project has been stewing for several years.
“It’s an idea I actually had many years ago,” Benson said. “We started a production company, so I dusted off this old script and kind of brought it up to snuff. We were lucky enough to raise the money for it and made it in Los Angeles, so we had good access to the crews and good actors and all that.”
Benson worked as a sound engineer for 11 years outside of his work making films.
“I worked for Warner Music Group in Burbank, California for 11 years engineering and producing vinyl reissues for a label called Rhino, who controls everything from Led Zeppelin to [John] Coltrane,” he said.
“I got to do an amazing amount of re-issues of classic records: ZZ Top, Van Halen, Prince, Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Aretha Franklin, Zeppelin, The Eagles, kind of on and on and on. Which was amazing.”
Benson said his love for film got started when he was growing up in Casper and credits Natrona County High School film and television instructor Lance Madzey as an important source of inspiration.
“Lance Madzey, who’s the film teacher at NC was a huge influence,” Benson said. “I was the director of NCTV for the year I was there. It was a really special thing to get to have access to gear and thoughts and a smart person who had great energy and knowledge about the thing and showed some of us harmless weirdos that there’s more stuff to do than just football and stuff in town.”
“So yeah, I started making stuff in high school and was always interested in screen-writing and the psychology of it.”
His ticket into the film world grew out of a fishing trip with his father to Baja, California.
“My dad’s an avid fisherman and we always used to go to Baja for spring break to go fishing and we were lucky enough to meet a guy named Rob Tapert and his soon to be wife Lucy Lawless, who is the lady who played Xena the Warrior Princess and a couple of other things in shows since,” Benson said.
“I don’t think we even had cable at that point so we didn’t have any idea who they were except nice people. But I kind of kept in touch with them and the summer of my junior year, I sent him an email seeing if I could come to L.A. and shred paper or pour coffee or something.”
“I didn’t hear back for months honestly, and then all of a sudden got an email asking if I’d like to move to New Zealand to be like a grip or a grunt on one of these films he was shooting.”
Benson decided to graduate early from high school and travel to New Zealand to take the offer. There, he says he met some Australians and New Zealanders, some of whom ended up working on the “Along the Bed’s Edge Sitting” project.
Benson shared some advice for young people interested in the film and music industries.
“Watch and listen to as many things as you can,” he said. “Don’t feel like you have to be stuck in a genre or like a certain style. Choose the people who you really like and study them. Become as familiar with watching and what it feels to you to be part of media that moves you.”
“Study your own reactions and people’s reactions. And try to cultivate a sense of how to bring about what you want to say. Use other people’s techniques and success to amplify yours.”
“I always use the term inter-textuality which just means the quilt of different projects and ideas. No ideas come out of a vacuum. The more you can build on something that people will recognize and already enjoy, the quicker you’re going to be able to have something that people recognize.”
With the short film project being the first professional film work he’s had such a large role in bringing about, Benson also talked about some of the challenges. He identified two areas that were most difficult.
“The two things were getting started in the first place, getting money together because it’s not inexpensive to pay actors and rent cameras and have lights and locations,” Benson said. “And then to know when to stop, to know when to say ‘it’s good enough or it’s gotten there’ and to bounce out the file and be done.”
“It’s really easy to just keep going and polish and tweak and tweak and change and doubt yourself, or have new ideas. It’s really hard to say it’s over. And it’s never over, you could change it, but yeah, it’s hard to know when to stop.”
As a director, ensuring that everyone knows what to do and maintaining the energy on set were Benson’s primary tasks:
I like to stand as close to the camera as possible. My directing style is kind of a mix of walking out and whispering in people’s ears but then also trying to keep the energy up and basically yelling at people from across the room, if that’s the correct energy to promote for the scene.
I think it was Elia Kazan who said that with good actors really all you need to tell them is to go faster or slower. Of course, he was speaking about some of the greatest actors of all time, and I was lucky to work with some good ones as well.
The director’s job is to have a complete vision of the tone and the arc of the story and it’s really hard for everybody else to know exactly what they should be doing at the moment, with editing, everything gets put together piecemeal anyway.
So oftentimes, actors will find themselves doing something that they don’t really understand. So as a director you have to have an over-arching vision of how the sausage is going to get made.Charlie Benson
The short film project began in November 2016. It took about six months to shoot and an extra year and a half to edit, mix sound and color, Benson said.
“As we started to run out of money we had to do more and more things ourselves, while we still had jobs and families and everything else so it kind of got to be a weekend warriors project,” Benson said.
It was officially released around Thanksgiving of 2018.
Benson said the film is available for streaming on Amazon.
“I’ts free with Prime if you have that and it’s $2.99 to rent it,” he said.
Audiences seem to have enjoyed the film, according to Benson. He said its received multiple five star ratings on Amazon and festival audiences reacted to it emotionally.
“You know, there’s a lot of stuff to watch out there,” Benson said. “We weren’t sure who would watch it in the first place and then whether they’d like it or not.”
“People seem to be fairly moved by it. When we saw it in the theater there were a bunch of people crying, so I feel like that is indicative of our success and having it be moving and relate-able.”
Benson said he’ll continue to do projects both as a sound engineer and a filmmaker. He’s been consulting for people on other film projects and is working on recording and playing his own music.
He’ll also be performing Americana music at Deer Creek Days from 2-4 pm Saturday, June 22.
He left people with a message he hopes that “Along the Bed’s Edge Sitting” conveys.
“You can be a hero in many different respects,” said Benson. “What culture pressures you to be certainly at times, certainly when you’re young is not necessarily the thing that’s going to end up being the best for you or your family.”
“Everybody has hard times and the thing to do is to stick together and trust your heart and do what you think it right, not what people are telling you is right.”