APRICOT/ Ben Briand
[typography font="Raleway" size="30" size_format="px"]Apricot[/typography] is a film released two years ago, like most "great" short independent films it was met with accolades with in the industry but little exposure on a mass level. Apricot will be a first of an ongoing series of short film features for Design Tonic. Ben Briand is a film maker with intense film integrity and rap sheet. With in the past few years alone he has won the coveted major prize for the Optus ONE80 Project, for the critically acclaimed one-hour film ‘Hammer Bay’ produced in conjunction with MTV. He was awarded a New Director award at Adfest (Asia Pacific Advertising Festival) in Thailand in 2010, followed by an esteemed New Director Award at the Cannes advertising festival. In the last year alone, Briand has helmed a variety of distinct projects featuring Cate Blanchett, The Vines and Public Enemy. He has been honing his style in numerous commercial campaigns for clients such as Telstra, Sony Ericsson, Westfield, Toyota and Ballantines Whiskey to name a few. Whatever the project, commissioned or a labor of love, his style is ever present. To sum it up we chose Briand to start off our series because of his consistent care of quality, thought provoking content...and above all he's a genuine nice guy.
The film Apricot is a narrative that plunges into the deep of two people and continues to weave snap shot memories together prompting an investment in the outcome. Briand eloquently captures a moment in the human experience, leaving us talking and meditating far after the credits roll.
Catching up with Briand we dug further into his creative perspective.
What was the genesis of the film Apricot? (A personal memory, idea, a short story, a photograph...). I have a preoccupation with the theme of identity and memory. It comes from my early childhood love of zombie films. In fact Apricot was a challenge that I set myself, seeing if I could make a romantic drama and approach it like genre horror film. Nightmare On Elm Street has more influence on Apricot than anything else. I am draw to two ideas that are opposed to each other, this was intended to be a dark romance.
The visual impact of this film is styled to perfection, from lighting, the children's costumes, the woman's countless rings,..how much weight do you give to styling a film? (Is it meticulously planned, or does it happen organically?)
I believe heavily in implied storytelling, rather than concrete, dictatorial storytelling. So the design of the film is as equally as important as the dialogue to me. I worked closely with Alice Babidge and Fiona Crombie (Co Production and Wardrobe Design) to ensure that there was an integrity to the world that we were capturing. You really have to believe the elements of magical realism in the script and if there is one gap in that imagery then the whole piece can fall apart. We are all very meticulous people in our jobs but have to strike a balance of being open to all the organic design points that may naturally occur in the process. Adam Arkapaw (Cinematographer) is very much the same. For instance the opening shot of the film was an accident. I was watching the video split when a lens was being changed and immediately fell in love with the texture of the image snapping into focus. So we ended up shooting it.
The casting of the two characters, seems immensely important given the powerful quiet. What were you looking for in your main characters? I was looking for a two actors who could project an outer confidence as a defense mechanism to hide an inner pain that their characters hold onto. Ewen Leslie has a young Jeremy Irons charisma and Laura Gordon was so committed in her film Em4Jay, that I knew they would hold your attention for what was basically a 10 minute talking heads scene.
Apricot opens with an anti beginning, dropping the viewer in the middle of a casual meeting. How did you decide upon this structure and why? I like starting the audience in a position where they have to play catch up. Viewers are far smarter than film makers give them credit for. They are so cinema literate that they only need small pieces of information to form a story. So by letting them form the story themselves they form an emotional attachment to it.
How would you define your genre of film?
I don't know. I am probably the last person you should ask. My viewers would probably be better at answering that.
Whom do you admire and draw inspiration from? (creatives in your field, or in art, contemporary culture, music,...what moves you)?
Musicians are my biggest influence. Most of my ideas come from sounds. People like Nice Cave and Mike Patton are responsible for my imagery. I love painting too. Hopper. Francis Bacon. Malevich. Anything with just enough abstraction that you can project yourself into it.
You work with commercial clients, music videos, and narrative shorts. How does this spectrum of clients influence your overall style and work?
I love moving across all different mediums. It keeps things interesting for me. Especially when now music videos look like short films, commercials feel like video installations etc I am always interested in what ways I can take ideas and techniques from one and apply to the other in a fresh way.
Film festivals have long drawn out the underfunded independent films. Now, platform sites such as Vimeo, and Youtube have taken hold the options have changed for contemporary film makers. How have you chosen to view and use these avenues?
The majority of my fan base is online. They are watching and passing around images and content to friends and strangers. The most amazing thing about it is that I have a direct dialogue with my viewers, so it feels very pure in that sense, almost real time. Especially as you don't need to wait for the acceptance of a select few in positions of power to allow people to see your work. The power lays much more with the audience now than it did before. As a filmmaker and artist it keeps you fresh.
What are you working on now and what should we look out for?
In the coming months I am putting on a video installation as part of a gallery exhibition with my partner's accessories label The Benah. Then heading to Montevideo to shoot a commercial. But most of my creativity goes into my feature film which is in development at the moment. It is an extension on the the themes of Apricot.