AUSTRALIAN FILMMAKER RELEASES HIS LATEST ACTION HIT
GRITTY ACTION MOVIE TAKES INDEPENDENT FILMMAKING TO A WHOLE NEW LEVEL
Nathan Bender is an Australian film director, writer and producer who has an insanely fascination with a particular genre — action to be a quite specifically. Throughout his childhood, he was introduced to the classic 80's action heroes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Jackie Chan. Paying homage to these films through dialogue, composition and action choreography, his dream began in his backyard. He began filming crude martial arts fight scenes with frequent collaborator Corey Neville.
In 2012 Nathan was accepted into the SAE Institute to study a Bachelor in Film Production. His first short film ‘Greed’ produced at SAE (an martial arts/silent/comedy film about two men fighting over a twenty dollar bill) would set the tone of his future films from then on and cement his reputation as being a competent action filmmaker.
His silent film proceeded on to be accepted into the Sydney Underground Film Festival, where it was well received from the audience as a welcome change to the archetypal art/drama genre films. Following other projects throughout the years, The Goners (2017) would be his biggest project. Screening at the Action on Film Festival it would receive runner up in the Action Choreography Award. In Australia it was screened at the Sydney Indie Film Festival (2017) where it took out awards for Best Visual Effects and Best Supporting Actor.
His next and latest film Still Alive (2018) would prove to be his most successful having screened at The Artemis Women in Action Film Festival at the Ahrya Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, California. Both critically acclaimed and an audience favourite leads Lydia Sarks and Nick Wright show off their full capabilities in the action genre. The film features a strong female lead in an action heavy role going toe to toe with her male counterpart; with harden edge and a little Australian humor.
We have a special surprise for you at the end of his interview below. You can see an exclusive look at his film today!
NIE: Thank you for taking your time and having this interview with us. Congratulations on ‘Still Alive’. What can you tell us about the film?
Nathan Bender: “Still Alive” is a short film that capitalizes on the boom of female driven heroines and the rising violence seen in R rated cinema. It was important for us to at least match the action in films like “Atomic Blonde” and the “John Wick” series whilst building on my own style. I served as Director, Editor and Action Choreographer on this project.
NIE: What originally attracted you to this project? How did you get involved? And why now?
Nathan Bender: I got to work with a terrific cast; Nick Wright, Lydia Sarks and Mitch Wright are very skilled, accomplished and recognizable talent working in the aussie indie scene at the moment. I worked on several films as an Action Choreographer, which starred Nick so I got involved when he pitched me the idea at the Sydney Indie Film Festival. It had also been a while since I worked with Nick on film so any chance to collaborate is a worth while experience.
NIE: How has your experience from your first Award-winning film ‘The Goners’ help structure your vision and better prepare yourself for ‘Still Alive’?
Nathan Bender: ‘The Goners’ was a massive learning experience for me, mainly the style of filmmaker I want to be. We experimented with a lot of filmmaking techniques and editing tricks; some of which I incorporated into “Still Alive” some of which I abandoned. I think it’s now important for me to build on a recognizable style which audiences can identify as being unique to me.
NIE: Any particular reason you are a huge fan on action? And what message are you trying to get across to the world through your work?
Nathan Bender: I believe that action is the universal language of cinema. A car chase, fist fight or shoot out plays exactly the same in China, America or Australia; there’s something fascinating about that to me. Action is also another way for me to stand out from other filmmakers in the industry at the moment; which is very important to me. My message is that action films aren’t just restricted to massive Hollywood production, they can be accomplished on a shoe-string budget; you just need to know what you’re doing.
“You shouldn’t dream your film, you should make it.”
- Nathan Bender
NIE: What was your favorite part of a project? What have you learned specifically from each production that will help you in your continued profession?
Nathan Bender: This was the first time I’ve worked with Lydia Sarks, having only seen her on TV; it was also the first time working on a female driven project so that was really exciting for me. I was also pleasantly surprised that she was a very capable on-screen fighter. Most recently I’ve learned how to manage actor’s focus in between takes. Because we’re doing really fun stuff that they don’t normally get to do, they’re quick to start laughing and joking around which is nice and all but generally wastes time.
NIE: What techniques do you use to both direct your actors verse editing their performances to bring out both your vision and their best performances? What position in the industry and what role have been the most challenging for you, and why?
Nathan Bender: I’ve heard Michael Kahn say that Spielberg’s montra is that he “Shoots for the editing room” So I try and get as much footage as I can so there’s variety in the editing room; without wasting time on something I can’t use. I don’t believe in doing multiple takes if it’s a performance, line read or action beat that doesn’t work for the scene. Directing has always been the most challenging for me; it’s all about communicating to cast and crew what’s in your head, so that what the camera sees is what you want.
NIE: What obstacles do you face as a director and what do you do to overcome and achieve your goals?
Nathan Bender: Budget and Time are always the biggest obstacles for me as an indie director. The script calls for these massive action sequences involving weapons, fistfights, VFX, special effects makeup and collapsible props with only a 10 hour shooting schedule and no rehearsal time. We want everything to look industry-level too so that makes it much harder. For me is about extensive preparation and surrounding myself with the best possible crew. Mason Grady and Renee Giles have been working with me for a few years now and are essential for success.
NIE: What do you personally take out of a production when you are a part of it and what impact does it have on you?
Nathan Bender: It might sound cliché but every project is a learning experience; every new actor you meet you learn out to communicate with them differently, what lens size works best, when to move the camera and when not to and what shots you need later. I could go on and on but it just makes you more prepared for your next project. Practice makes perfect as they say.
NIE: Tackling directing and editing are two huge feats. Do you feel the challenges of dual roles helps develop the film and yourself to perform to the best of your ability in a way if you only took on one role as oppose to both?
Nathan Bender: I think it helps immensely, I really believe that when I’m on set I’m looking out for myself later when I’m editing; it’s weird but director me is trying not to let down editor me with any missing pieces or bad performances. I also think director/editors should also try editing other filmmakers films as an exercise too. Shots you may want as a director may not be there for you as an editor so it’ll help you on your own projects if you ever have to do similar scenes.
NIE: Where did the desire to be in the film industry stem from?
Nathan Bender: I knew I wanted to do something where I get to flex my creative muscles I just didn’t know what. I dabbled in drawing, acting, stand-up comedy and even trained to be a stuntman at the Australian Stunt Academy in Queensland but all those things lacked a structure/control aspect that I wanted. I remember getting my butt kicked in the stunt assessment film and not be satisfied by how it was shot; so it was around that time I realised that directing was the best option because I would have complete control of how it was shot, cut and performed.
My earlier films were crude and were rejected by many festivals and public syndication tv stations but I was encouraged by many that while my technical grasp was lacking, I displayed an instinct for basic storytelling and creativity. I was urged to study film by my peers so I enrolled at SAE Institute in Sydney for a Bachelor in Film Production. It was there where excelled in school for the first time ever and made many of my cast and crew connections. From there I really started to grow as a filmmaker.
“Do it now, not later; you’re not as busy as you say you are.”
- Nathan Bender
NIE: What would you say is the biggest asset for any filmmaker in the industry to achieve?
Nathan Bender: I think if you create a visual style that solely and uniquely yours is a monumental achievement for a filmmaker. My goal is for audiences to know a Nathan Bender film by simply watching it. I think action directors like John Woo, Edgar Wright and Chad Stahelski have left their stamp on the action genre and are now leading the way for filmmakers like me to follow. But that’s more of a long-term goal for me; short term I think upcoming filmmaker’s priority should work on being good. An obvious statement but some people are asking question like “how do I get big budgets, name actors, cool cars?” When they should be working on becoming the best at what they do without all that stuff and then rest will come to you.
NIE: What are some of your secret tips that help you in this industry to keep grounded and focused?
Nathan Bender: 1. You are your only competition and 2. Don’t forget why you wanted to be a filmmaker in the first place. A lot of my tips have been heard a million times but they’re the best ones. If you compare yourself to other filmmakers all the time you’re only going to be disappointed; you’ve got to work on being the best version on yourself. I stay focused on my filmmaking because I’m still working as a bartender; which is a constant reminder that I’d much rather be working on my films full time.
NIE: Who inspires you to be a better at your profession?
Nathan Bender: For me it’s my actors. Because they’re working so hard and working for free, my priority is not letting them down. I want them to have a great experience working with me on a film they’re proud to be in and tell people about. I want to build a reputation in the industry for delivering high quality films that are fun to watch. That way more and more people will want to work with me.
NIE: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to pursue a career in the field?
Nathan Bender: Persistence and Patience is key. If you really want to have a career as a filmmaker you won’t get far without those. Skill comes with practice, so you just have to keep making films to get better. Also find your favourite genre and focus on being the best at that; I didn’t get good at action films by splitting my focus with horror, sci-fi, fantasy, drama, period, thrillers and romantic comedies.
NIE: What are the most impactful words of wisdom someone told you and who was it?
Nathan Bender: Face to face I’ve never had many talks where someone has imparted words of wisdom to me. I watch a lot of behind the scenes docos of movies and really listen to what the directors have to say. If anyone who is reading this looking for words of wisdom I’d say “You shouldn’t dream your film, you should make it.”
NIE: What are three things you would say to your younger self that you know now?
Nathan Bender: 1. Good friends aren’t necessarily good actors. 2. Do it now, not later; you’re not as busy as you say you are. 3. Keep up your acting and stunt training; you’ll be in starring in more films than you think.
NIE: What’s next for you?
Nathan Bender: We’re working on another short film with Nick and this’ll be the most ambitious film to date because it’s an period American western. There are a lot of elements that can’t be faked or made up on the spot like “Still Alive” so even more prep is required. We’ve got a crowd funding campaign up and running at the moment so hopefully that’ll be successful and we won’t have to bankroll it ourselves.
NIE: Thank you for having this interview with us. Before we let you got though, is there anyone you would like to thank?
Nathan Bender: I’d like to thank News In Entertainment for reaching out to me and making this press release possible; it’s been very flattering taking part in this interview. I’d also like to thank my cast and crew for saying yes to every project I’ve pitched, the long shoots, long post productions and hours of free labour. It’s my cast and crew that make me look good and I couldn’t have progress as far as I have without them.