Interview with Dekel Berenson

Dekel BerensonNow our guest, director of the short film ANNA, the winner of the Short Movie Club Film Festival, Dekel Berenson. According to the IMDb page, Dekel Berenson is a writer, director, and graphic designer. Drawing inspiration from traveling to more than sixty countries, Dekel explores real-world social and humanitarian issues. His 2nd film Ashmina won several prizes, including the Best Short Film award at the 59th Krakow Film Festival, allowing it to complete for a short Oscar. His 3rd film, Anna, premiered in competition at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival. He is currently working on his first feature.

We wondered about his way to Cannes, whether it was necessary to study at film school, most satisfaction/disappointment related to filmmaking, and advise to beginner filmmakers.

How did you submit your film to the Festival de Cannes?

– Like everybody else, on the Cannes website.

The turning point to filmmaking >

– I think like many filmmakers, from a very young age I was attracted to being creative, and my brother and I were putting on “shows” for our family since we were 6-7 years old, and I even remember thinking that when I’ll grow up, I’d be an actor. As soon as our father bought a video camera, we started shooting “episodes” of our favorite comedy shows, and edit the scenes between the camera and a VCR. But then, on the other hand, I knew that I wouldn’t become any type of “artist” early, and it’s something that I will do later in life. I have a very strong entrepreneurial side and knew, from a very young age, that as soon as I’ll be old enough, I’ll start a business and become independent and location free, so I could then concentrate on everything else that I wanted to do in life, which included traveling and filmmaking. After trying to go into a film a couple of times (when I was 25, and then again 32, just for a few weeks at a time) finally when I was about 36 different things happened and I was ready to stay in one place, as before that, I’ve been traveling for years. Staying in one place had allowed me to sign up for film school, which I then left after 3 months, but I was already on course to keep making films, and I finished my first short three months later. Then I just continued to make my 2nd (Ashmina) and 3rd (Anna) shorts one after the other. I also kept writing, I think I wrote at least 15-20 shorts in the last four years, and maybe 60-70 ideas for features and other shorts. And when you write a script that you feel or think is good… then this pulls you to actually go out and make it. Now, I’ve finished writing my first feature a few weeks ago, and nothing will stop me from making it. Not even a pandemic. I hope to shoot it within 12-18 months, in Israel.

 Most satisfaction & disappointment from filmmaking

– I’m very happy that, it seems, hard work pays off. I’ve been working pretty much non stop for the last few years, on making my films. I remember in the three months that I’ve been in film school my classmates spent an awful lot of time drinking and socializing, but being older than they were, I had so many other things to do and concentrated on my work (outside of film) and then on film the rest of the time, and I had no idea if putting all this work into a film would pay off, and, somehow it did. About the disappointing side, I wish there wasn’t so much politics involved in what each writer/director, is allowed or not to work on, depending on his gender or race or background. This is new from recent years and it’s a form of censorship.

How did the fact that your film was selected in Competition at Cannes affect your career?

– My “career” (I didn’t have one) and life absolutely changed, from one day to the next. But this doesn’t happen by itself, or automatically… I think if I put together all the emails that people sent me as a result of screening in Cannes, it’s not more than 20-30 emails, from people asking for a link and interested to know what I’m working on next. I had to, myself, keep meeting people, keep contacting people, keep writing, keep promoting myself and my work. Nobody will do this for you (at least not until you have a manager). The difference between before and after, is that more people would actually listen to what you have to say, read your emails, and maybe reply. There is a huge hierarchy in this industry, and the truth is, that until you make a feature, a successful one, people don’t really care about you. I get people ignoring my emails all the time, not bothering to watch my films, and not interested at all because all I did so far are shorts. Now that I finished writing a feature, I feel like I’ve made another step upwards on the ladder. People read it, like it, and now they see the potential of a feature, so they’ll treat me differently, as someone “on the way” to make a feature.

Do you have any films that you consider to be the benchmark?

– Not films but filmmakers – Céline Sciamma, Kieslowski, Zvyagintsev are some of my favorite directors.

What would you advise to beginner filmmakers?

– I think it really depends on who you are and what your situation is. If you’re someone like me, who doesn’t need a school or a bit older… just find 4-5 other crazy people like yourself and start writing and shooting and improving. If you’re young and not very entrepreneurial – go to film school.