Watch and 'Listen,' Teen’s film to be featured in national festival

Eat your heart out, Orson Welles.

The legendary Hollywood auteur was only 26 years old when he made “Citizen Kane,” still regarded by many critics as the greatest film ever made. It was his first film.

Brendan Bennett beat him by a decade.

A sophomore at Bainbridge High, the teenage filmmaker’s own first movie, “Listen,” is being featured in the upcoming International Student Film Festival in Hollywood on Oct. 26. The movie is already gathering praise and its success has only solidified Bennett’s already intense passion for cinema.

“I really enjoy watching and also making dramas,” Bennett said. “I think that you’re more interested in what the characters are going to do next and how they’ll be able to solve their conflicts.”

Bennett said his influences as a young filmmaker range from the works of Steven Spielberg and Danny Boyle to Quentin Tarantino. His favorite movies are “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”

His favorite types of stories, Bennett said, are character-driven and plot-based dramatic narratives.

“It’s all about the story and they’re kind of slice-of-life in that you can really relate to the characters. And that is interesting to me,” he said.

“Listen” is an eight-minute short film, written by Elias Ginsberg, in which Bennett was both co-director and lead actor. It tells the story of a young man trying to find his way in life despite several negative influences and the emotionally stabilizing power of music.

“Listen” was filmed by Bennett in collaboration with a group of other film students during a two-week advanced film making course earlier this year at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Fla.

“We were originally trying to do a comedy,” Bennett said of his filmmaking team, and he recalled that time was short. “We had a week to write, shoot and edit it.”

The story did not come together as planned, and the team was forced to scrap the project and look for a new idea.

“I think it’s a lot harder to write comedy than it is to do drama,” Bennett said. “One of the guys in our group, Elias Ginsberg, he had this script already written called ‘Listen’ and we all read it and instantly fell in love with it.”

Bennett’s fascination with storytelling began at a young age and, like the late Welles, it all started at the theatre.

“He’s always been very interested in visual storytelling,” said Siobhan Maguire, Bennett’s mother. “I used to take him to the theatre all the time.”

Focusing his interest early on directing, Bennett set out to get as much experience with varied aspects of production as he could.

Bennett has worked in various roles on a number of local productions, including as a crew member for the Seattle Children’s Theatre student productions of “As You Like It,” “Big Friendly Giant” and “The Witches.” In his hometown of Bainbridge, he has been involved with the Bainbridge Performing Arts Shakespeare Society’s student productions of “15 Minute Hamlet,” “Dear Edwina” and “Sum Might Dream.” He has worked as a member of the lighting team on Ovation Theatre’s “Try Not To Dance,” and is a member of the BHS Tech Team, working on last year’s productions of “The Seagull” and “Winter One Acts.”

“I love going to the theatre,” Bennett said. “It’s been hard, especially on the island, to find places where I can learn film so I tried to learn all the basics through theatre so that when I was old enough to do film I would already know most of the basics and fundamentals.

“Since I was 8, I’ve been learning about the lighting, I’ve taken acting courses and I’ve tried to learn every single aspect that I can get my hands on,” he said.

Outside of his normal school responsibilities, Bennett has completed courses in acting, lighting for stage and stage management both with Seattle Children’s Theatre in Washington, a two-week summer film camp at

Red Studios in Los Angeles and classes at The Gaiety School of Acting in Ireland.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Bennett is already working on several new film projects when he’s not too busy with school work.

“I spent a week in Ireland and I brought my camera,” Bennett said. “So I’m kind of editing a snapshot of Ireland through the eyes of a 15-year-old.”

He is also working with a local therapist to make a video presentation for Bainbridge Island teachers about the perils of student anxiety.

“In the spring I’ll be helping the BPA with ‘Macbeth,’” Bennett added. “I’m helping them do some visual effects with video to kind of help with the story.”

For younger students interested in filmmaking, Bennett advises research and independent study as the fastest ways to learn the basics.

“I got to say that YouTube and Google are probably your best friends when it comes to learning stuff,” Bennett said. “Because everything I’ve learned from there has been just looking it up. It’s a real advantage.”

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