Sunday, April 1, 2012

Interview with BEN LEONBERG, 2011 COMEDY Winner for "The Bacon Tree"

Ben Leonberg's film, "The Bacon Tree," won best Comedy last year at the 2011 Ivy Film Festival. Check out what he has to say!

First of all, could you give a short summary of your film, so that those reading the blog will have context?
The Bacon Tree is the story of two young men who have become lost in a seemingly endless desert.  After a week of wandering through the wasteland Ben and Woody are at the end of their rope.  But things take a turn toward weird after the appearance of the fabled Bacon Tree.

If you really want to get the picture you can see The Bacon Tree online at  (

What got you started in the filmmaking process?
I started making movies around age 8, at which point I was making my own version of Indiana Jones (starring myself as the main character.)  I have progressed slowly from there.

What would you say is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is stories told in the oral tradition (i.e. spoken stories.)  Spoken stories require a lot of imagination to play out in one's head.  Even stupid stories or cheesy jokes can be really entertaining if presented and told in the right way- I endeavor to capture and duplicate that in my movies.

What is the hardest part about making a film?
Finding people who are really willing to do what it takes to make a movie.  There are a lot of people out there who think they know how to work hard, but really almost none do.  Unfortunately this seems to be disappointingly common amongst the people who come to "help out"/act in student films- but then again it's hard to complain about people who are volunteering their time for a movie that will never make money.

What was the hardest part about making The Bacon Tree?
Within the first few hours of getting to the set (an alpine desert in New Zealand's Tongariro National Park) the cast and I were caught in a freak summer blizzard with 70mph winds, hail, snow, and a sky that looked ready to drop doom.  Somehow in those conditions I managed to get horrifically sunburned and the next day had to strap on a heavy backpack laden with camera gear and trek 20 miles out of the car park where my rented vehicle had been broken into and vandalized.  Conveniently this was also the most fun I've ever had in three day weekend!

Do you have any filmmakers, directors, writers etc. that you look up to, or take inspiration from?
Wernor Herzog is a personal hero of mine.  Between being a total bad-ass and a hilarious narrator, he's accomplished some of the most reflective and thought-provoking films I've ever seen.

Are you currently working on any projects right now? If so, would you like to share a little bit about the project(s)?
Currently I subcontract as a director for a major apparel brand, but it is not nearly as exciting as making student films on whatever resources I had in my wallet.

What would you say is the most difficult aspect of creating a comedy?
I find the hardest part of comedy is keeping things natural and off-the-cuff.  I think the key is not to over think it; nothing is less funny than an overly thought-out joke.

What made you gravitate toward the genre of comedy?
I don't think I gravitate towards comedy on any conscious level.  I think I just prefer to tell a story in what most people consider a humorous style.  I probably make films this way because I've talked and told stories in that same fashion as long as I can remember.

Would you ever consider making films in a different genre? If so what would you like to try?
Absolutely, I'm dying to make a real pulp adventure film (In my opinion no one's made one since Last Crusade.)

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself, your film, or other projects?
To all those student filmmakers out there:  Use your resources wisely.  Yes shooting on real film is cool, but spend whatever resources you have on what makes your movie ultimately good.  Terrible actors reading a terrible script shot on beautiful 35mm are still terrible actors reading a terrible script- and most audiences don't know the difference between 35mm and video.

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