Sisters

Sage Bennett

Namesake Content (US); Boogie Nights (France); MindsEye (UK)

1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 

My first professionally directed work was a PSA that I made in spring of 2019 for a women’s empowerment organization called “Better Days.” For the director’s cut I used a Michelle Obama interview as the voiceover, in which she states “understand that what’s in your brain is really useful: do not hide it, don’t dumb it down. Just put it on the table, and let people deal with it.” I felt genuinely inspired by the message, hoped it might do the same for others, and I was delighted with how it fit beautifully with the rest of the spot.

2) How did you get into directing? 

When I was growing up, I’d always wanted to work in film, but I didn’t really know how to do it. During my first two years of college, I studied environmental science, until I realized I was terrible at science, and I needed an outlet for all my creative energy. I changed my major to film, and later started interning at a production company called Saint Cloud, now Namesake, and it was there that I began to see how people work in film, and how making commercials could create a clear path to a career in film. After interning, I worked as an editor, and started creating spec work with my friend and DP, Sidney Unga, work that eventually got me represented as a director.

3) What is your most recent project? 

My most recent project is a short titled Permission to Feel. I felt compelled to make it because of how difficult it is sometimes to recognize, process and value our emotions. We’re often taught to fear them, to sweep them under the rug, and to keep moving, keep enduring. But our feelings are valid and vitally important, and in the act of really feeling our feelings, we reclaim the power they held over us and move forward richer from the experience. In short, I can be emo, and I hope other people can embrace their emo for a bit too.

4) What is the best part of being a director? 

The best part of being a director is being able to immerse yourself in so many different worlds. I’ve connected with so many people, and I’ve been places I would never have gone or even think to go to because of directing. Directing, to me, is looking for the magic, or being able to observe the world in a way that the magic reveals itself to you over the course of a project, and it’s your job to craft and capture it. There is nothing more gratifying to me than birthing an idea into the world, and watching the finished project and thinking “we did that!”

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 

It’s hard not to take things personally when you pour your heart into your work and it gets rejected. It sometimes feels like there is a consistent stream of rejection as a director. I love the idea of “failing forward,” and that every rejection or failed project is one failed project closer to creating something I’m really proud of.

We need a greater diversity of voices within our community of directors. The more work we have from women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups, the more our work will accurately reflect the richness, diversity, and stories of the larger world.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre--comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 

My current career focus is commercials and branded content. I love being able to tell stories, and evoke a feeling, in a short period of time. Most of the commercials and branded content I make are narrative, and have a bit of grit, a relatable humanness to them, and hopefully have my fingerprints on them.

7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you? 

My two director mentors are Cole Webley and Julian Acosta. I don’t have specific advice they gave me that I have embroidered on a pillow at home, or tattooed on my arm. They’ve mentored me more by inspiring me as I’ve watched them create and direct incredible work, and through their confidence, they’ve shown me how I can find and embrace my own distinctive voice.

It’s also very comforting to know that the people I look up to are human like myself, striving for their next achievements. That knowing gives me permission to enjoy where I am in my career because there’ll always be something else to achieve. I can create my own happiness right now, and still strive for greatness moving forward.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 

My favorite director is Agnès Varda. She didn’t adhere to traditional filmmaking and carved her own unique style. I love how playful many of her films feel, and how woven within that playfulness are contemplations about deep and painful aspects of the human experience. I’m inspired by the way she used non-actors, her family and friends, and her locale to make her movies.

Her work was often centered on women, such as her films Vagabond or Cleo 5 to 7. She told nuanced stories of women, who in mainstream Hollywood, weren’t (and sometimes still aren’t) given much space to be fully flawed, complicated people. I admire that her stories often left me with more questions than answers, allowing me to come to my own conclusions.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 

I don’t have a favorite movie of all time, but my favorite recent movie is Lady Bird. Greta Gerwig: your work is amazing! My favorite recent television show is a tie between The Great and I May Destroy You. My favorite commercial, and one that has always stuck with me, is Spike Jonze’s Kenzo World’s commercial.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 

I was born in NYC, lived outside of Boston, and then spent my middle school and teen years in downtown Chicago. I grew up in a family that loved art and artists. My dad would take my siblings and me on epic summer road trips, crisscrossing the US, from Marfa to Minneapolis, from Montreal to the West Coast, stopping at every art museum and exhibit on the way. As an adult, I can see how my family shaped me, and how seeing all that art over the years developed my eye and my taste.

I worked a variety of odd jobs from nannying kids from the Mormon church I went to growing up, to interning for a man that embezzled the money for a feature he was directing, to working on farms for room and board, to photographing my dad’s wedding for platform heel clogs, to teaching yoga.

11) How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?

The pandemic and quarantine hit right as I was getting started directing. There was a painful radio silence for months. I even developed an intense eye rash from pandemic stress, but I eventually was able to lean into the stillness and enjoy it. I worked on some personal projects, and spent some time doing hobbies I had neglected, since I had previously thought they weren’t productive or important. There was time to do yoga, go biking, cook elaborate pasta dishes, play ping pong with my grandma, and time to work on my own projects.

The pandemic has taught me that I can still be motivated and driven, while at the same time rejecting the idea of the endless rat race. I am in this business for the long haul, and as my career progresses, I’m going to be sure to take time to check out from work, and renew myself and those all important connections to friends, family, and myself. COVID-19 has taught me the value of the meaningful emptiness that we so often rush to fill.

Contact

USA: Contact Tori Palmatier, Namesake Content via email
          Website
France: Contact Jonas Ramuz, Boogie Nights via email
             Website
UK: Contact Hughie Phillips, MindsEye via email
       Website