Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmakers Benjamin Jacob Smith and Keeran Anwar…

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Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmakers Benjamin Jacob Smith and Keeran Anwar Blessie Are Helping To Change Our World

Be brave enough to speak up and have an opinion that your opinion is valid but be aware that not all of it is essential in creating work. That’s the heart of collaboration, a smorgasbord of ideas and personal truths.

As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Benjamin Jacob Smith and Keeran Anwar Blessie.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I grew up in a small town in Northern Ireland. My family were always creative and encouraged me to explore the arts. From a young age, I enjoyed performing, which led to my involvement in creating short films and theatre slowly moving out of my hometown and into Belfast where I practised performance and film.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

When I moved to London, I explored several careers in the industry, Acting, Casting, and Directing and finally, I settled in Production. Often people think of production as the boring bit, the money bit, the schedules bit. Which it certainly is! However, the creativity I nurtured and developed throughout my early career has stayed strong and enabled me to truly love what I do and create the best stories.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

In an early short film, I had a rather complex scene to shoot on a train which required more balance than I possess. This resulted in several takes of fumbling around in contradiction to the suave, cool character I was playing.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Working with Keeran Anwar Blessie on A Fox in the Night has been amazing. As Keeran’s writing/directing debut, we have made the film through several bumps in the road. Notably, when we arrived to set on the first day, a colourful (loud!) A Fun Fair/Amusement Park had been set up in the park opposite. We managed to shoot around it on the first day by shuffling things around on the schedule, and by the second day, it had been rained off!

Also, anything involving a green screen is a bit of fun, I have tapped up many objects with green masking tape and made shoes disappear in a similar manner!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have a list as long as my arm, of teachers who supported me with a knowing nod when I said no to the science, technology, and maths route in education, when it felt like to do anything other than STEM was to give up on a career.

My parents have been my biggest supporters through tears and frustration. Finding collaborators like Keeran whom you like as people not just as creators is essential too.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Hold on Tight, let go Lightly. A phrase I learnt outside of my career in my life, which was easy to apply to work.

I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Telling stories I haven’t heard before is really important to me, seeing things from the perspective of someone I don’t fully understand, but can relate to, is the work I want to make. Unfortunately, these lost or overlooked stories are often stories that sit in marginalised groups. I know I have learnt a lot about myself, about others and about the world by working with a diverse range of creatives.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Following the success of A Fox in the Night at BIFA, Iris prize, Critics Circle Awards and BAFTA. I am excited to be working again with Keeran Anwar Blessie developing further complex and exciting works for the screen in long and short form. I am also thrilled to be developing work that will take me back to Ireland and Northern Ireland to film and work with the amazing creatives there.

Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?

I make a mean spreadsheet.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I’ll say it again! ‘Hold on tightly, let go lightly’

Ask for help. For a long time, and often still now, I struggle to allow myself to not have the answers and find peace and enjoyment in learning and getting it wrong.

Be brave enough to speak up and have an opinion that your opinion is valid but be aware that not all of it is essential in creating work. That’s the heart of collaboration, a smorgasbord of ideas and personal truths.

Don’t scrimp on catering, make use of your lunch break, and get to know people.

Story first! Remember that story comes first, the rest will follow

When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?

Great question, I think the Robert Bresson quote about making a film three times, once when you write it, once when you film it and when you edit it, is correct, but there is also when it is watched, and the audience then becomes a part of that creative process. I think all of these stages add more vibrancy and colour as collaborators are brought into the project. This is where a great director comes in, they pull all those ingredients together and allow them to complement each other.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Gosh, I am definitely not an influencer. If I was an influencer, I think I should stay quiet on a mass scale and influence change by being kind, humble and true to myself. Like a pyramid scheme of being kind. Pass it on.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I would love to sit with Kevin Feige for even 20 minutes to discuss the expansive and world-building vision of Marvel. Or maybe Shaq, because outside of being a big NBA fan, Shaquille O’Neal has made some crazy impressive business decisions!

How can our readers further follow you online?




This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Filmmakers Making A Social Impact: Why & How Filmmakers Benjamin Jacob Smith and Keeran Anwar… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.