Bennie - A Lighthearted Film by Tara Lynn Marcelle - GigSpotting.Net

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Bennie - A Lighthearted Film by Tara Lynn Marcelle

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As Stefon might say 'This film has it all. Drinking, dancing, gambling, two sisters, one who loved Bennie, one who married him... and a boat.'  He'd be right.

Written and directed by Tara Lynn Marcelle this is a comedy with a bit of drama mixed in.  Loosely based on Tara's actual grandmothers Pearl and Josephine, and Josephine's  boyfriend at that time who's name was Bennie.

Having grown up in a filmmaking family Tara became interested in the business as a young girl because she was often around while her parents were working.  Reading scripts and learning about films her parents pointed out to her.  Besides directing and acting she has been writing for the past few years, working on projects such as My Name Is Paul, The Calm Before, and Virtuous.

In this film, if you are like me, you will see in these characters pieces of people you have known as well as situations you have observed or been a part of.  This connection makes it easy to enjoy!

Warren Marcus brilliantly caught the action with an actual film camera which in unusual nowadays with digital cameras being so prevalent for local productions.  Gregory Hewitt was makeup supervisor, Phaedra Witt production supervisor, and Luis Carlos Machicao wardrobe supervisor.
Bennie is a 35 minute short that is due to be released this summer.  A feature length version is slated to be made depending on how it does during it's festival run.  I think the chances are good we will see that feature length version as soon as Tara, busy as she is, finds the time to write the rest of the script.

Check out the trailer below and the interview we had with some of the cast and crew.

When I saw the trailer I felt like I knew these characters.  I've certainly known people similar to the ones in the movie.  Where did this idea come from?

Tara Lynn Marcelle  The idea for the film is loosely based on my real-life grandmothers, Pearl and Josephine, and Josephine's boyfriend at the time, Bennie.

Tell me about your character Neva.  What's she like?

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Neva Howell  When I read the role, I understood that Josie was carrying baggage. Literally. In each scene, I literally felt the weight of her past on her shoulders. It was part of my body sense of her and if you know this about the role, you can see it, the energy weighing her down in a very physical sense, til the very end. It was baggage she couldn't talk about; couldn't even admit she carried.  She misled herself for so long, mistaken about everyone close to her and most deeply mistaken about her own worth. It was an amazing role, layered and complex and very rich.

On the surface this appears to be comedy but I sense there is some drama too.  Is that right?

Neva Howell  Indeed. It has truly hilarious moments throughout ... and it cuts to the heart in some places as well.
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Tara Lynn Marcelle  In real-life, Bennie died one night after eating Grandma Pearl's dinner. He and Josie were visiting and right after dinner, he stood up and literally dropped dead on the kitchen floor. Of course, he more than likely died of a heart attack, but we always teased the grandmothers, accusing them of poisoning him.

Catherine Trail
Mike Smyth is the perfect Bennie.

Tara Lynn Marcelle  Mike Smyth truly owned that role! So much so that I can no longer call him Mike but refer to him as Bennie.

Catherine Trail  He will always be Bennie. And once we do the feature, he'll have to change his name!

Neva Howell  Mike made it very easy to respond and react as Josie, as did Catherine as Pearl.

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Mike Smyth  Thank you ladies. Working with all of you made it so easy.

How did you come to be chosen for the role Mike.  Did someone already know you or did you have to audition.

Mike Smyth  I had to audition but I truly felt like I knew Bennie.

So the role was easy for you?

Mike Smyth  Yes ,I felt very comfortable with it.

Catherine Trail  Are you kidding?  He owned it. So hilarious.  We had such a great time on set. Every minute was pure fun.

Neva Howell  Well, the motor boat scene was pretty hair-raising for me. I was sure we were going to crash at any moment. I wasn't actually driving the thing. Someone was down under and behind me steering!  And there was that moment when the boat dipped precariously with Marcus on the end of it. We thought the camera and the cameraman were both going overboard!

Catherine Trail  I was watching from shore. Our hair was raised also.

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How long is the short?

Tara Lynn Marcelle  The short is about 35 minutes but we plan on using it for the feature.

Is the feature a given or what has to happen for the feature to get made?

Tara Lynn Marcelle  We have already had some interest expressed by a distributor for the feature but either way, it's our plan to push forward. As soon as the short's complete, we will begin submitting to festivals, while working on the script for the feature.

Catherine Trail  Tara is a marvel. Seems like everything she's involved with gets put to screen. I joke that I am only doing Tara projects.

Tara Lynn Marcelle  Oh, Catherine... that was a joke?

Catherine Trail  The chemistry was just amazing. Between all of us. Tara's writing is perfection. We just showed up.

Tara Lynn Marcelle  While writing the script, I already knew I was going to cast Catherine Trail as Pearl, so we only auditioned for the role of Josephine. When Neva and Catherine read together, I was able to envision an entire backstory with them as sisters. I knew it was meant to be.

Neva Howell  Whew, Catherine, the goosebups are coming back. I also vividly recall the first time I saw Mike as Bennie. Man, it was all there. The history, all of it. Just like slipping into a comfortable pair of shoes. Everything fit.

It's like an all star cast from this area.

Neva Howell  Ha, funny you should say that, Dan. I was actually living in Alabama the first time I auditioned but by the call backs, yes, I was living in Shelby, North Carolina!

There was a long wait between the initial auditions and the call-backs, due to Tara having a baby. I loved the role of Josie immediately and was sad because I figured it was gone. Over a year later, I get the callback call. When I walked in and read with Catherine, I felt the hair raise on the back of my neck. It felt like a magical chemistry. Goes to show, in show business you never know!  I thought it was gone and then it came back around and boy, am I glad.

Catherine Trail  When Neva walked in to the audition, she was wearing a cardigan. Not just any cardigan, Josie's cardigan. And she had this look on her face. Not just any look...Josie's look. Then she spoke and that was the end. I don't remember anybody else walking into the audition room.

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Vaness Ore   When Tara first told me about this story and then presented the Script, I knew I wanted to be part of this in some small way. I loved Josie and Pearl right now!! I couldn't wait to see these ladies bring them to life... and boy that Bennie is something else! We had some fun at the dress shop, trying to make a "lady" outta Josie.

Catherine Trail  Vanessa is an excellent stern dressmaker in this film.

Neva Howell  Vanessa you were such a great "b". Ha. The way you looked at Josie was priceless.

Mike Smyth  Dan, you just have to see it . the trailer was a teaser because there's so much more in this story to see and feel.

Catherine Trail  And we had so many locations for a short film. It was amazing that we stayed on schedule. And the weather cooperated.

Neva Howell  It's a testament to Marcus's shooting skills and the dedication of the entire crew that we got it done, and done well, in 10 days.

Were those 10 consecutive days?

Tara Lynn Marcelle  Yes, 10 consecutive days right?

Catherine Trail  We used my house for some of the scenes. We filmed on a pontoon boat in Lake Wylie. A bowling alley. A dance studio. An obscure alley. A scary bar.... Was there more, I can't remember!

Mike Smyth  A dress shop I believe

Neva Howell  Oh, yes, there was the dress shop too. Whew. We got around. The bar was probably the most fun!  So much character.  And I thought those were some of the most hilarious scenes.  Loved working with Davis Osborne and Tim Ross too, in those bar scenes.

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Catherine Trail  Yes. The supporting cast was amazing. I can't say enough about Davis. We got the church giggles in the bar over a line I said and Warren just about fired us.

Neva Howell  Ha, yes, I remember Catherine. It was hard for me to keep Josie irritable til she had a "drink or two".

Catherine Trail  Tim Ross got to develop a bartender character with tattoos and piercings. He was hilarious also.

Was this kept under wraps?  It seemed to me the trailer just popped up and I hadn't heard anyone talking about it.

Tara Lynn Marcelle  I don't think it was kept under wraps, but like Neva said, time lapsed so much between the audition and actual filming due to me waiting on the baby.

Neva Howell  That baby has been a delight to all of us. Avi is so sweet!

Vanessa Ore  Some really fun moments in this film, seriously! We need a whole other reel for the outtakes!! Neva and Catherine are truly amazing. No one else could play these roles!

Tara Lynn Marcelle  I was lucky that so many talented actors and producers believed in me and the film enough to be involved.

Neva Howell  Tara, I'd take any role you offered me, sight unseen. That's how much I trust you and believe in you.

That's what make it a winner in my book Tara.  Great story with actors we know and love. When will we see "Bennie"?

Tara Lynn Marcelle  Warren??
Warren's a busy man but I'm going to say we will have a premiere in Charlotte by summer.

Tara, is writing something you've been doing your whole life, or did you come to it when?

Tara Lynn Marcelle  I've always enjoyed writing, and I grew up in a filmmaking family so I was fortunate to be around cameras and sets and behind-the-scenes stuff my entire life. But it wasn't until the last several years that I really got involved in the Charlotte side of film.

A filmmaking family?  How is your family involved in movie making?

Tara Lynn Marcelle  My dad is Warren Marcus and he's been involved in all manner of filmmaking since his time at the school of visual arts in NYC. My mom used to do hair and make-up for his shoots. I remember reading screenplays when I was 10 and my father showing me all the great films and filmmakers  and teaching me facets of filmmaking as a little girl. I think I always wanted to be a part of film in some capacity.

Catherine Trail  I have to mention Gregory Hewett. He did makeup and special effects for Bennie. Neva and I went through amazing transformations thanks to the expert face lifting that Gregory did for us.  I've never laughed so much on a set with someone. He was so great.

Tara Lynn Marcelle  And Luis Machicao, who did wardrobe.

Catherine Trail  Alex Zhort did sound. I'd worked with Alex on another project and couldn't believe when he walked on set the first day. Be nice to everybody because you will meet them again on set one day.

Mike Smyth  Yes Greg and Luis both were fantastic. When I arrived to do the lake scene the swimming trunks were like a size 42. and Luis had to take them in by hand.

Neva Howell  Yep, Alex Zhort was terrific on sound and Lindsey Wade was a real trouper! Gregory is wonderful and so considerate of his talent!  The entire crew was marvelous!

Catherine Trail  Luis is always wonderful. He totally put every outfit together and we were fabulous every day.

Neva Howell  Ashleigh Worley braved the 100 plus degree temps to do makeup touch ups on that grueling boat scene so she's tops in my book too.

Catherine Trail  Gregory Hewett does special fx makeup. He specializes in zombies. Ha. It's funny to think that he was on our set giving all of us facelifts!  Neva and I had our jowls literally tucked behind our ears. He is so amazing.

Neva Howell  I'll never, ever forget me and Greg getting so tickled we couldn't go on when he pulled up one side of my chin jowls but not the other and was trying to figure out what was wrong... remembering how tickled we all got.

Catherine Trail  I just remembered that also. So much fun. He said he never loses his cool on set but we laughed the whole time.  He was using his dead people makeup on us. So funny!

Neva Howell  Oh, yes, Leslie Costner (make-up artist) too. She helped out on the alley scene and the very last scene. A joy, just a joy.

Mike Smyth  The chemistry between everyone involved was amazing - cast , crew, and production.

Neva Howell  Oh, I almost forgot Donna Marcus!  She provided Bennie's ashes, the signature tan cardigan for Josie, and all manner of day to day support.

Catherine Trail  So many people were involved. Kate Marcus did the poster which is sheer perfection. Donna, Tara's mom filled in the gaps.

Tara Lynn Marcelle  Phaedra Whitt was crucial to our production, too. She was our 1st Assistant Director and production manager.  We were lucky to have the best actors and most talented crew, as well.

Neva Howell  Oh, good grief. It would have been terrible to forget about Phaedra!  She was absolutely always there and so supportive and amazing!

Neva Howell  Warren Marcus... he was so efficient and always knew exactly what he wanted in the lens. He was always, always smiling too!  I remember Warren standing there with sweat running down his face, just grinning from ear to ear, so passionately involved in the filming.

Tara Lynn Marcelle  And it was shot on film, which made it really unique for a local production.

Neva Howell  Very good point, Tara.

Catherine Trail  The production quality was amazing. You can tell the difference.

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Warren Marcus  It was an incredible experience working with all involved.  I was so engrossed with the technical aspects - the Director of Photography and production overview. That is my job.

I had read the script to work with Tara about how to film the sequences, but it wasn't until I was behind the camera that I realized how profound the script was.  There were portions that were comedic. I almost burst out in laughter several times ruining a take.

Catherine Trail  When the camera guy laughs, it's a good sign.

Warren Marcus  Then we got to portions of the script that exploded the serious content.  Where the characters discover the true beautiful side of Bennie.

Neva Howell  That's what I was getting at before, Dan, how it is so comedic but also contains such poignant and surprising pieces of drama.

Warren Marcus  I really began weeping as I looked through the camera in the alleyway scene. I was having trouble making sure the camera was in focus. Yes, Neva. This is an amazing script and the actors were brilliant

Neva Howell  That was a very strong scene for me too, Warren, but I had no idea it was affecting you that way. When the cameraman weeps, that's a good sign too, eh, Catherine?

Warren Marcus  It moves from off beat comedy to profound. The main point I think people will get from the film is don't live your life assuming or categorizing people in your life. Spend time really getting to know them.

Neva Howell  That's a great way to put it, Warren.  There's a scene with Chris Cozort and a vacuum cleaner that makes that move seamlessly.

The last day was so bittersweet. Christopher Lykins was perfect as the cabana boy in that scene!

Warren Marcus   True Neva.  I am so impressed with the cast of players. Area actors who have such depth and talents.  My prayer is that this will launch them into a great career beyond even Bennie.  Neva, God bless you - you are a great talent!

Neva Howell  Thank you so much Warren!  I'm ready for my close up, Mr. Marcus!!!!

Warren Marcus  I can't wait to complete the rest of the film as a feature. Tara get on writing it

Catherine Trail  Ok, Tara. Write the feature. In your spare time.

Neva Howell  Yes, Tara, yes!  Spare time, that's hilarious, Catherine.

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