From the Blog

Interview With Benjamin Cleary: Taking Stutterer to The Oscars

Oscar night is quickly approaching, and with everyone ramping up their favourite votes, we started to take a deeper look into the Short Film Nominations. Today we had the chance to chat with Benjamin Cleary, director of the nominated short film ‘S T U T T E R E R’.

‘S T U T T E R E R’ is a heartwarming short film which earned its nomination through its intimate and challenging connection with its main character and his issue. The film is about Greenwood, a lonely typographer with a cruel speech impediment but an eloquent inner voice must face his greatest fear. A roller-coaster ride of joy, doubt and romance in the digital age.

Everybody dreams to be invited to the Oscars, tell us how you got there, what inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Ben: Well I’ve been sketching out my own film ideas since I was about 8, coming up with Disney style stories and characters. That continued all the way through my teens, then I finally got serious about it a number of years ago when I applied for a screenwriting Masters at the London Film School.

Still from Stutterer - Oscar Nominated Short Film

You’ve been writing short films for a while, but this was your debut in directing, is there a difference in the way you are emotionally attached to the film?

Ben: Well I think when you give your script away to someone else to direct, part of that is accepting that you no longer retain full ownership of the thing. And of course, every director will have their own way of shaping the script into the final product. So yeah, I think when you direct it yourself it’s definitely closer to your own vision. Add to that the amount of blood, sweat and tears that you’ve put into the whole process and I think it’s fair to say that you’re likely more emotionally attached to the film.

The Academy has a sweet spot for heart-warming stories, when you wrote Stutterer did you have the Academy voters in mind?

Ben: I can’t imagine thinking anything like that while writing something! I think if I had things like that in mind while writing a script it would never turn out good. It has to come from somewhere personal for me.

Still from Stutterer - Oscar Nominated Short Film

Where did your inspirations for Stutterer come from?

Ben: The idea for the story originally came from seeing something online about a man with a stutter who had gotten to a point where he could speak face to face with little difficulty but he found phone calls extremely difficult because it is only his voice on show. This struck a chord with me and got me thinking about what it might be like living with a stutter in today’s world. And it is this image that we open with, an extreme close up of Greenwood’s mouth as he struggles to speak to an impatient phone operator. This was the original inspiration for the story.

Was your actor a real stutterer? Or did he master the act?

Ben: No, Matthew Needham doesn’t have a stutter in real life. We spent a lot of time researching it and working on that aspect, which I think he pulls off very well. He’s an immense talent and was a real pleasure to work with.

Still from Stutterer - Oscar Nominated Short Film

What’s the next step for you? Will an Oscar win influence your next move, or is your near future already planned out?

Ben: I’m trying to raise funding for another short I’ve been dying to make for years while also developing a feature film and a few other projects on the go.

Have you seen any of the other nominated films? If yourfilm wasn’t in the mix, which would be your pick?

Ben: Yes I saw them all in a theatre last week. I must say they’re a great bunch of films and we have very stiff competition. I genuinely think any of them could win. It’s an exciting, unpredictable category. We’re just very happy to be in the mix!

Your Best Picture prediction?

Ben: I’d be surprised if The Revenant didn’t win, but Room is easily the best film of the year for me.

Ben, thank you so much for taking a few minutes of your precious time to speak to us about your film. We truly hope the entire world gets to see this grasping short film, and of course we will be routing for you on Oscar night!


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