Benjamin Cleary’s heartwarming drama Stutterer has stormed the film festival circuit, winning 9 festival awards so far, plus Best Drama at ASFF 2015. It’s latest accolade is a nomination for an Oscar. The film portrays a reclusive typographer with a debilitating speech problem, who must face his worst fear as he is thrown into a series of uncomfortable, challenging encounters with strangers. We speak to Cleary to get an inside into the making of this film, and how its ability to relate to each audience member has led to its incredible success.
ASFF: Stutterer has been selected for 20 major film festivals worldwide, and has won awards in 9 of them so far. How does it feel for your film to be receiving such high acclaim?
BC: We’re blown away by the response to be honest. It’s amazing to hear that people are connecting with it in the way that they are. When I hear people saying they cried for instance, that’s a great feeling, to know something you made had that affect on someone.
ASFF: This is the first film you have written, directed and edited. Did you find that having responsibility for all three roles was a challenging experience or a liberating one?
BC: Doing something for the first time is always a challenge but writing, directing and editing all feel like parts of the same storytelling process. I come from a screenwriting background, so I felt confident in the narrative and every decision was motivated by the emotional beats of the script.
It was nice taking something from a blank page to a finished product because with my team of collaborators I was able to get something that feels close to what I had in my head when I wrote it. When you give a script away for someone else to direct, you no longer own the thing, which is fine and can lead to good results, but with Stutterer, I enjoyed having control of it.
ASFF: How was your personal experience at this year’s ASFF? Did you manage to catch any other screenings at the festival?
BC: Awesome festival! Really well run, great venues and I loved York. I must have seen about fifty or sixty short films and the standard was excellent. I’m a huge animation fan so I caught most of them. Coda, Somewhere Down The Line, Fulfilament, Teeth, Meanwhile and We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, so many incredible films. We saw tonnes of quality live action shorts too. Plus I met a load of really nice people over the four days. I’ll definitely be back.
ASFF: What do you hope the audiences who watched your film at ASFF will have gained from Stutterer?
BC: I think we all take our own personal things away from a film. But I guess if it affected people in some way or had them thinking about the film after they watched it, that’s great.
ASFF 2016 is now open for entries. To win screenings at a major UK and BAFTA Qualifying film festivals, plus awards and many more great prizes, visit www.asff.co.uk/submit