In an incredibly self-indulgent play to promote my own short film and my cousin, I decided to interview Thomas Benoy. Still, in his early 20s, Tom was my right-hand man on DOGS CHASING CARS showing a levelheadedness and foresight far beyond his years; he would help steady the ship and keep me grounded throughout the process of making it when I thought I was going to break apart from the edit. He added suggestions and was the main camera operator and editor. Both Bristol-based, we instead decided to do this interview through email so we wouldn’t have to be near one another for an extended period of time.
Jon Holmes, FinalBoss: What’s your background in film, if any, it’s definitely not your field is it?
Thomas Benoy: Since I can remember I’ve always been interested in ‘video content’. Whether it was learning how to make weird Youtube intros when I was 14 to making ‘artistic’ films for my A levels. I’ve been working with cameras for actually quite a while but I’ve never ‘really’ had the opportunity to make something which isn’t me just hacking a visual story together. I am definitely not the best cameraman in the world but I reckon I have a good eye, and that’s what really matters.
FB: You and I filled it many roles on this short… please describe what you had to do on this short?
Tom: Ha. Yeah, we did. It was an exciting journey! I was DOP and editor for this short and I dabbled a little in directing. It can be quite a struggle to act and also direct (at the same time) and I can see what the story actually looks like from behind my lens.
I also helped form some of the story. I came up with the idea of the breakdown/dream sequence section in the middle of the piece, which sees Jon’s mind really start to go.
FB: What’s your current job?
Tom: I currently work as a ‘creative producer’ In live events.
FB: What equipment did you use to shoot Dogs?
Tom: I shot this using a Sony A7s with an Atmos Shogun (for 4k).
FB: And how did I first approach you to be a part of this?
Tom: It formed quite naturally if I remember correctly. Like ‘hey I’ve got this camera, want to shoot some stuff’. Jon approached me with this idea of doing this short and I was quite excited to be a part of. We had a couple of discussions about the short. It took a while to finally get the monologue sorted. He initially came to me with a 30 minute or so monologue and only wanted like 4 scenes… After a series of edits, we finally got it down. It must have been quite hard to cut such a deep and emotional speech.
FB: Please describe how disgusting your room was when we came to shoot on that day. Is that pizza box that me and Kai (script supervisor/formerly Peroni-no extra) brought and then left upon the cupboard still there now?
Tom: Disgusting!? I wouldn’t say it was that bad but I can’t say I’m the cleanest of people. Jon brought a pizza box round to ‘add to the vibe’. Who knew that I had already created Jon’s perfect set just by being a slob. Kinda ironic right? When we had wrapped up, Jon put a pizza box above my wardrobe and for some reason, I left it there. My excuse is that it was out of my reach but we all know I’m just among.
FB: You’re in 20s, white and male. This film was made to highlight your exact bracket and how shitty depression is, how it targets us and kills us off in numbers each year – whilst also touching on the factors that come from that, ie alcoholism. Have you had much of an experience of these things yourself?
Tom: I have. I really hit rock bottom when I started university. This was influenced by quite a few things which I kind of stupidly ignored. Having this booming voice in your head constantly is such a strain and it’s a relief now to not have to deal with such a thing. However… and I hope this does not sound selfish but having depression and anxiety has shaped who I am today. In a weird and dark way, I’m actually content that I experienced it… Like, I appreciate life so much more now and it’s nice to be happy. Maybe this is what it feels like all the time but when you’ve been depressed for a couple of years you forget what its like.
We come from a very strong, tight family so its hard to believe that someone would be going through these things. Foolish really seeing as I had gone through something similar.
FB: And when you were editing through it, you told me how when I described my own history of depression on-screen it was totally news to you. How was that to find out, that I had been hiding how unhappy I really was?
Tom: Looking back, I regret not reaching out. Initially, I saw this short as Art. I knew Jon wanted to work in films so I thought this was just a natural thing (I mean, there are some really dark films out there). We come from a very strong, tight family so it’s hard to believe that someone would be going through these things. Foolish really seeing as I had gone through something similar. What makes things worst is that I know the words he spoke were true. I could tell he spoke from his heart and that he wasn’t making this film for the sake of making a film. He was making this for him.
FB: Almost appropriately, we both went through breakups in the process of making Dogs. How was your mental health during, or now, even?
Tom: Ha. It was a ruckus time to say the least. I’ve trained myself to laugh at everything now (Maybe that’s not a good way of dealing with things though). My mental health now is fine. I can actually be alone without spiralling into the abyss. It’s crazy how much my mood can change when I’m around someone. My word of advice to anyone struggling with mental health is to speak to your friends or literally just be around then. Your mind will slowly concentrate on something else and it will give you some relief even if it is just for a bit.
FB: How was the working relationship between you and I?
Tom: Awful. Don’t think I can see you again without wanting to cave your skull in. I remember it having a constant back and forth and us forcibly having to be very close. It was quite intense, but really rewarding.
Worse is that a know the words he spoke were true. I could tell he spoke from his heart and that he wasn’t making this film for the sake of making a film. He was making this for him.
FB: At the time of writing, Dogs Chasing Cars has been accepted in three major festivals – spanning Portugal, Ireland and England. Although you aren’t a filmmaker by trade, that must make you pretty proud, right?
Tom: Honestly, when Jon said he was trying for film festivals I was like… Really? And then I realised it’s me that’s the problem. I am never truly happy with my work. I actually have no idea why, but I always feel like something could have been better (looking back, it definitely could have been but that’s what reflection teaches you). However, I am actually over the moon that they have been accepted into three film festivals (hopefully more when you’re reading this). For someone to actually come out and say ‘yeah, this is a good piece of work’, it’s a very wholesome feeling indeed.
You can watch the official trailer for Dogs Chasing Cars right here
Then head this way for more interviews from FinalBoss.
Jon Holmes is a writer based in the UK. Alongside his work writing for film, he is a multi-accoladed filmmaker in his own right, and also performs. He can be followed on Youtube at Hans HS and on Twitter on @jonnyjonjon1