One of the biggest and most successful things that I believe filmmakers can do to help learn and grow their careers is to Make. It is something that I firmly believe teaches the best lessons and whilst I have featured many women on my blog who have started their careers by just simply making films, none have overwhelmed me more than this weeks featured female Saranne Bensusan.
Starting as a hobby her filmmaking journey began in 2009 when a friend asked her to score their film. Coming on set lit a spark for Saranne and from then on the hobby began to turn into career. Her next project was quite ambitious. A stop motion animated retelling of Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Hunting of the Snark’. “This film was a lot of work and I finished production in 2014. I then spent six months in post production and took it to the Marché du Film at Cannes in 2015, where it was picked up by an AmericanVOD distributor.”
It was in 2014 that Saranne decided to make filmmaking her full time career after registering her own production company in 2012. By this stage she had worked on nine short films, three TV series episodes, and three feature films in addition to ‘The Snark,’ building up experience in a variety of different roles both on set and in post production. Since then this number has grown, “My portfolio today consists of 27 film and television titles, including 14 as a producer and 10 as a director.”
But even with this impressive list of credits Saranne has found time to start a hashtag initiative on Twitter to help other directors find opportunities in the industry. I asked her how it all started, “#DirectorShowreelDay was started off the back of #ShowreelShareday for actors…Lots of film directors were sharing their showreel on #ShowreelShareday however it wasn’t effective for them because it was casting directors and casting agencies that were looking at the reels. I started the #DirectorShowreelDay to give directors their own platform, so that producers, writers and agents could have a specific day to look at the work of new and upcoming talented directors.”
The next #DirectorShowreelDay is on Wednesday the 26th of July for anyone who wishes to participate.
But all of this wasn’t achieved without struggle. “The challenges I have faced as a female film maker have been many!” Saranne remarks. One of her biggest hurdles she has observed has been having to work harder than her male counterparts, noticeably her own husband; now the director of the film company she started. “I worked on a project where I got more work done and more respect when I logged on as my husband, or I made a suggestion using his name (such as Lawrence says….). When I logged on as me my decisions were often challenged and picked apart by the other women, but as Lawrence I got listened to and thanked for my work.” This kind of scenario is not completely unheard of within the industry and this is part of the problem
Another part of the problem, as Saranne points out, is the labels. “As a woman I am a female film maker or a female director, but men are just film makers or directors. No one asks men what the challenges are as a male film maker! It is like we are still a novelty. Women film makers need to be seen as just film makers, like our male counterparts.”
Pushing through the various hurdles that are currently in place hasn’t stopped Saranne’s passion for making. Her next project is a series call ‘The Anthropocene Chronicles’. They take place in a dystopian future where humanity is dominated by AI. The project began in the form of two books with eight stories told from eight different perspectives and are now available on most Kindle and ePublication formats. Saranne has produced a series of short trailers for the books which you can find via the hashtag #WhatHappenedToEmilie.
Moving forward from the books the second part of the project is a Short Film called ‘Lavenders Blue.’ Set a few days before the first story in the books the film is a home video that Emilie makes where she suspects her personal AI unit of lying to her about what happened to her sister.
Following this is a feature film set 30 years after the stories in the books. The plot follows Dominic, a journalist from LifeStories, (Nick Jackson’s story ‘The Colour of Roses’) as he leads the underground resistance by teaming up with an air-side woman called Dotty, and breaks humanity free from the AI.
With a UK Production company already on board Saranne is now at the stage of seeking international partners and securing a budget. It’s going to be a big project but with plans for a franchise and the stories already available for people to get invested in, it looks like it’s shaping up to be quite an impressive series.
With a passionate heart for fairness and equality as well as an unquenchable thirst for creativity I think we will be seeing a lot more from Saranne in the future. She has certainly inspired me to find a project, no matter how big or small, and break through the barriers to get making!