Logline: When a surrogate pregnancy ends in a stillbirth, two gay couples and soon-to-be parents are faced with an impossible decision.
Director: Sherren Lee
Producer: William Woods, Marc Tetreault, Courtenay Bainbridge
Writer: Kathleen Hepburn
SHERREN LEE | Director
Born in Taiwan and raised in Montreal, Toronto-based Sherren Lee has been writing, producing and directing her own work since 2007, including the 2014 award-winning web series, Someone Not There. Lee attended the Canadian Film Centre’s Directors’ Lab in 2014, where she directed five shorts and teasers, including the 2015 short film, BENJAMIN.
KATHLEEN HEPBURN | Writer
Kathleen Hepburn is a Vancouver-based writer and director and recipient of the 2014 WIDC Feature Film Award for her screenplay Never Steady, Never Still. Her previous short film works draw from fragmented memories, personal histories, and a deep connection to landscape. Hepburn is a 2014 alumna of the Canadian Film Centre’s Writers’ Lab.
COURTENAY BAINBRIDGE | Producer
Courtenay Bainbridge is a Toronto-based filmmaker and alumna of the Canadian Film Centre’s Producers’ Lab and Ryerson’s Image Arts program. She has actively worked in the film industry since 1998 and has produced documentary and dramatic short films, including STILL, LIFE ON JUNIPER, BENJAMIN and Hit Men.
MARC TETREAULT | Producer
Marc Tetreault is an independent producer and writer based in Halifax, Nova Scotia and the co-owner of the boutique production company Shut Up & Colour Pictures Inc. In his eight years in the film industry, he has produced short films, music videos and the feature film Saudade, and line produced a feature film and several seasons of unscripted television. Tetreault is currently in production of Suck It Up, a feature film directed by Jordan Canning.
WILLIAM WOODS | Producer
William Woods is a Toronto-based producer and a 2013 alumnus of the Canadian Film Centre’s Producers’ Lab. Woods began his film career in 2011 after leaving his PhD in environmental ethics. He has had three short films screen at the Toronto International Film Festival and his first feature, In Return, won the Audience Choice award at Cinefest and sold to eOne. Woods is currently producing his third feature film, Mean Dreams, which premiered at Cannes 2016.
Key cast: Joanne Boland, Kimberly Laferriere, Jean-Michel Le Gal and Jimi Shlag
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Any and all!
Funders: Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre
Release date: June 2015
Where can I watch it? At Palm Springs we are screening on June 22nd at 5:30pm at the Camelot Theatres and will be screening in Long Island, New York at the Stony Book Film Festival on July 26th at 9:30pm EST.
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you! I wanted to tell a story about what it means to be someone's family, and what it's like to deeply love one another.
Sophie, Della, Teddy and Cal are four great friends who come together to give each other children – something so brave and generous. Now, that's great love. When Sophie goes through a stillbirth, they must all hold strong through a horrendously difficult and traumatic experience.
But when the women ask the men if they can keep their baby, they put their friendship at stake. Are the four friends still able to really be brave and generous with each other?
Though the conflict is complicated and the line between right and wrong for all parties is easily blurred, I wanted to shine a light on our ability to act with love. While Sophie and Della do not ask this of Teddy and Cal flippantly, and Teddy and Cal cannot escape the heartbreak of having to make this decision, I did not want to tell a story about a friendship torn apart by tragedy, but rather, the opposite – a story about a family of friends that rise above adversity by being brutally honest even when it hurts, and by being truly selfless for love.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Benjamin is an unique drama about friendship, family and love. It challenges many aspects of our modern world, discussing politics of gender, parenthood, friendship and the modern family. I believe the themes of the story are very relatable to each of us, and hope that the film will engage and move you to think from a different perspective.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I truly believe that the more personal a theme is, the more universal it becomes. Benjamin is about two LGBT couples in a unique situation that is unlike our conventional idea of how a family is formed. However, I always considered the film to simply be a story about the very universal theme of family and parenthood. What Sophie, Della, Teddy and Cal go through are very specific, and yet so palpably relatable for any parent.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
The script has definitely evolved a lot from its first draft to its final draft. I was so fortunate to collaborate with such a talented and intelligent creative team. To us, the screenplay was the most important and we were hardest on ourselves in always challenging each other to raise the stakes, while remaining authentic to our characters. We stayed attentive to the heart of the film and managed to find our way! The development and production of Benjamin with my incredible cast and team was the best part of the entire experience for me.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The response to the film has been incredibly rewarding. I love it most when audience members approach me with their personal stories of how they relate to it.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The feedback I've received further demonstrates to me that we are not so different from each other, that we all face the same trials and tribulations. That love is love and we all really care about and want the same things.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
The only thing I wish for, is for Benjamin to reach more people. It's incredible to be featured on We Are Moving Stories as it is a curated place where people can find content they feel connected to. We are very grateful to be included and can only hope that audiences will be moved by this story as well.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Benjamin is lucky to be distributed by CFC Distribution, but we are certainly always looking for ways to screen at more festivals and speak to the media and press about the film. All I really want is for the film to reach a diverse audience from all over the world!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
My primary goal as a filmmaker is to tell stories that further our understanding of each other and encourage love and compassion for one another. I hope Benjamin does just that, to anyone who experiences the movie.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
The debate is clear in Benjamin--should the remaining unborn baby go to the men or the women? If you were any of these characters, what would you do? Would would be the right thing to do? For me, the most salient question I wanted to explore was--what is it like to be truly selfless for love?
Would you like to add anything else?
I am so grateful to be included on We Are Moving Stories and it's just been such a thrill to see Benjamin travel the world. I hope this is only the beginning and that many more will get a chance to see it.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Producer William Woods just had his latest feature film, Mean Dreams, premiere at Cannes and is developing a new feature with his team. Producer Marc Tetreault is currently in the midst of production of feature film, Suck It Up! Producer Courtenay Bainbridge is covering a maternity leave as an agent at a renowned Canadian agency, Meridian Artists. Writer Kathleen Hepburn has just wrapped principal photography on her first feature film as a Writer-Director, Never Steady, Never Still. Director Sherren Lee is developing a number of projects, including a short film, a web series and a couple of feature films.