Brendan Bennett is marking his return home to Bainbridge from the University of Southern California this summer as a particularly special occasion.
Not only has the Bainbridge High grad just finished his junior year in that school’s storied Film and Television Production program, but he’s set to debut his biggest movie yet during the biggest movie event in the Emerald City: the Seattle International Film Festival.
Bennett directed, edited and co-wrote “Cutioner.exe,” a 15-minute movie about a code-savvy IT guru searching for human contact in an AI-dominated near-future, looking for companionship at any cost. He dismantles faulty systems for a living, but has no idea how to begin a dialogue with his assistant, with whom most of his human contact comes from, when he begins to have feelings for her.
“This world is a world where the humans are very robotic and distant from one another, almost more computer-y and robotic than the actual computer AI are, which are more human,” Bennett said. “They connect more with our protagonist.”
The movie will be screened as part of a special nine-film lineup (91 minutes total) called “Destination Northwest,” at noon Monday, May 27 at the SIFF Cinema Uptown. Bennett and several of the other featured directors will be in attendance.
Tickets, $11 each ($9 for SIFF members), are on sale. Visit www.siff.net/festival/destination-northwest to learn more.
“Cutioner.exe” was made by students Bennett met at USC. A sparse tale told using practically just a single location, a stark white room, it stars Andrew Gehrlein and Nicole McCullough, was co-written by Jamie McNeill and produced by Jamie McNeill and Brandon Marsh.
The film was composed by Alex Mansour, with production design by Kennedy Reed and Tiffany Lin and sound design by Ethan Grafton.
In this case, the setting came first for Bennett and co-writer McNeill, even before the story. But finding that chosen location became a bit of a story itself in the end.
“Basically we wrote this sci-fi piece based on that core idea: Where is the simplest place we can set a story and still make it engaging,” Bennett said. “The central kind of heart of film takes place in this totally barren white room.
“Later, we found out it’s actually really, really difficult to find just a single white room, so we ended up actually building the room ourselves, which was a major hassle but it was a fun process.”
It was, Bennett said, so far the biggest project of his budding career.
“We had a bunch of crew on the project and we built a bunch of sets; we were traveling all over L.A.,” he said. “This is definitely the biggest project that I think myself and most of the people who were on the project have undertaken — which is a really exciting and very daunting process.
“I’m really proud of all the work that we did and I’m happy that we were able to come together as a team and make something really cool happen together.”
Having a film screen at SIFF, Bennett said, is something of a lifetime goal achieved.
A regular attendee of the festival, he had long fantasized about one day having work featured in the lineup.
“I’ve been submitting there for a couple of years and I’ve never gotten in,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to have my films shown in my local hometown.
“I always knew it would be a pipe dream, like at some point in my life I’d really love to have a film show there.”
Bennett said he actually opted to not submit the finished film to several other festivals, with deadline and acceptance dates closer to when he completed editing, and instead chose to hold back “Cutioner.exe” and take a shot at SIFF.
“When we were done, I knew the first place I wanted to go,” he said. “I really wanted to have it premiere at SIFF.”