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TRENDER: Screenwriter Guy Benoit

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

 

Working on the next script: screenwriter Guy Benoit

Who are the Rhode Islanders leading in art, music, film, fashion, cuisine, and style? They're Trenders, and GoLocalProv brings you those people from every corner of the state. Today, screenwriter and Providence native Guy Benoit, who is making a name for himself as a versatile writer with a style all his own. With two vastly different feature length film scripts under his belt, Benoit is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the independent film scene.

GoLocal decided to catch up with Guy to discuss writing, directing, upcoming projects and the Providence premiere of Exhumed.

What first got you interested in screenwriting?

When I was much younger – and I think you’ll find this to be true with a lot of suburban kids who dig movies – I tended to see production as "A Big Whole." That is, if you were making a movie, you were involved with and interested in special effects, camera stuff, make-up, weird lighting, etc. The first shot I ever undertook with a 16mm camera was a crude backwind split-screen effect using a rudimentary matte devised from corrugated cardboard.

When I was 23, I fell in with a bunch of cool aspiring filmmakers in Boston. We would meet in cheap eateries and ponder how to make a movie. One week, we all decided that we would each bring a script to our next powwow. I went home and wrote a short piece. The next week, I showed up and, it turned out, I was the only person who had written anything.  That was the first script I ever wrote; it was called Crosley Fiver. It wound up winning an award. Off we go.

Your script for Richard Griffin's Atomic Brain Invasion was a great throwback to the 1950s sci-fi genre; what were your biggest influences for this film?

Benoit's first screenplay: the funny horror of Atomic Brain Invasion

Thanks! In terms of basic Cold War context, I would say Them.  Nothing quite as heavy as The Day The Earth Stood Still.  For the creation of a small quiet town that is somehow full of wondrous adventure, it would be That Darn Cat, starring Hayley Mills. Those live-action Disney flicks from the 1960s are a huge and underappreciated influence. Finally, the humor is just a collision of everything I’ve been watching and listening to since about 1979.  

While Atomic Brain Invasion was a humorous spoof, your script for the newly released Exhumed was much darker by comparison. Can you discuss your approach to writing the script and what you hope audiences obtain from it?

Sure. For most of my life, I have had a strong fascination with cults.  I had originally planned on writing a script about a kid who had been raised in a cult, but who had left at an early age. The story would examine his absolute failure to adapt to the outside world.  Simultaneously, Richard Griffin and I were brainstorming ideas for a new, inexpensive horror picture. Exhumed eventually came out of that combination of people and ideas. I was very uptight about avoiding "claustrophobic horror" clichés. No big reveals or hidden rooms. I think, to a degree, I succeeded in doing that. My supremo ultimate wish for the viewing audience would be that they put the film in the same brain file category as, say, Seconds or Targets or any other horror film that is disguised as a drama. That’s a tall order, I admit.

As previously stated, Exhumed has a more somber tone than Atomic Brain Invasion; is it more difficult writing a dramatic screenplay or a comedic one?

Second screenplay: the much darker Exhumed.

Well, I don’t tend to write jokes. I would say my main writing influence, for comedy, would be Barry Levinson, who has a wonderful gift for writing natural-sounding dialogue that is also very funny. Tin Men is a great example. The toughest thing about Exhumed was that there was no escape valve. Parts of it are darkly humorous, but you have to write about a group of characters that are arguably doomed. I felt bad doing that, sometimes. I felt guilty.

Every writer must have their own vision of how they intend on their screenplay looking on the big screen. How satisfied have you been with how your written words have been translated onto film?

Generally, I’ve been happy. I tend to envision my dialogue as being terse and emotionally close to the vest. Richard really got that on this picture. My favorite part of Exhumed is how restrained all the acting is.

It was reported that you are working on the script for a feature length version of the short film Frankenstein in a Woman's Prison, what can viewers expect from this film?

I have no idea. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

Aside from writing, you were the assistant director on Richard Griffin's Disco Exorcist; do you have any aspirations to direct a film of your own?

Yeah! I’ve directed plenty of short films. I would like to direct a feature, hopefully in the next few years.

Aside from the hush-hush Frankenstein in a Woman's Prison, what's next for Guy Benoit?

I just finished up photography on a documentary about Otto d’Ambrosio, an archtop guitar builder. Brilliant dude. That was a solid year’s worth of shooting. Also, I just directed The Chair, a short film for The Rhode Island Film Collaborative and also some music videos.  I would also like to shoot another short film based on my own script. I am going with the flow!

Fans can check out the Rhode Island premiere of Exhumed on December 17th at 7 and 9 p.m. at the Bell Street Chapel in Providence. Tickets are $9.00 and are available at the store. For more information visit http://www.facebook.com/ExhumedTheMovie.

For more arts coverage, don't miss GoLocalTV, fresh every day at 4pm and on demand 24/7, here.

 

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