Today on he is one of the craziest and bravest indie filmmakers I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, writer/director Benjamin Gilmour. His film Jirga was shot with a tw0 personal crew, a Sony A7s Camera he purchased at a local camera shop, and an ever-changing screenplay. Did I mention he shot this film in Afghanistan?
Three years after an Australian army helicopter raid on a small village led to the killing of an unarmed man, former Australian soldier Mike (Sam Smith) returns to Afghanistan to find the victim’s family. He sets off on a perilous journey over a terrain where both the Taliban and ISIS are active. Mike is determined to make amends and so puts his life in the hands of the Jirga – the village justice system. Jirga is screening in US cinemas in August
This unconventional film about the war in Afghanistan became Australia's submission for the Oscar's Foreign Language category in 2019. As we spoke on this episode my mouth keeps dropping on the floor. One issue after another, with crazy stories and life-threatening g situations this episode has it all. I don't want to hear any excuses. If you want to make your film you find a way to do it.
Enjoy my inspirational conversation with Benjamin Gilmour.
Alex Ferrari 1:49
Now Today on the show we have easily one of the bravest filmmakers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. His name is Benjamin Gilmour. He's an Australian writer director who made the film Jager. Now, what makes his story interesting is not only that he shot the whole movie with basically a two man crew that he purchased the Sony A seven s camera that he shot the whole movie with, because that's the only thing he had access to at the time. And that the screenplay that he had was being constantly rewritten on a daily basis. Oh, and did I also mentioned that he shot the entire movie in Afghanistan? Yes, that's right. He actually shot his entire film in Afghanistan. While there's a war going on, it is insane what he was able to do. And it never ceases to amaze me the power of drive and hustle and someone's passion to make their film under the craziest circumstances you can imagine. So I wanted to have Benjamin on the show. So he could tell us his story. Tell us and by the way, his stories are insane some of the stuff that he has to deal with, while making this movie where he is almost abducted, he's almost killed. And he was obviously a big target being a white Australian man and in the Afghani desert. It's just it's just remarkable his stories. But I also want to say before we get before we get to the interview is anyone listening to this, I don't want to hear an excuse about I don't have this to make my movie or I, I need that to make my movie or this or that. It doesn't matter if there's a will, if there's a passion, if there's a story that you need to tell, you can do it. Please use Benjamin as an example and what he was able to do with his film Oh, and by the way, his film was also the official submission from Australia to the Oscars foreign film category, just as a side note. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Benjamin Gilmour. I'd like to welcome to the show Benjamin Gilmour brother, thank you for so much for being on the show.
Benjamin Gilmour 4:48
Thanks, Alex my honor.
Alex Ferrari 4:49
You are in a rain forest right now somewhere in East Australia. Right?
Benjamin Gilmour 4:54
Yeah, I mean, it's quite, quite different to the you know where I shot the We're going to talk about today but I, I live up in a part of Australia most easterly point and it's some beautiful rain forest and it's raining today, strange lates again, but it's rain forest down to the down to the ocean where there's great surf so I get to surf and go for walks in a rain forest. I mean, with my family,
Alex Ferrari 5:18
It's tough. It's a tough life, sir. It's a tough life. So, so do me a favor, tell me about how you first got into this film business in the first place?
Benjamin Gilmour 5:30
Well, it was back in 2005, or 2004. And I, I flew to Pakistan, I was actually working in the UK as a medic as a unit nurse on film sets. And, and, and was kind of, you know, that nurse that you kind of see in the background, every now and then but is kind of, you know, on set and comes out and gives people brockers and pick me up some band aids and paracetamol and so on. But that allowed me a really great opportunity to, because really, there's not a whole lot to do unless you're working on a movie with lots of stamps and so on. But, um, it gave me a great opportunity to get very close to the action and observe films being made fairly big budget films, you know, down in, in London, and studios and, and I used to just kind of attach myself to various departments to the, you know, to the camera department and the wardrobe department week, you know, week on week and and learn from each of those departments and kind of the heads of those departments kind of took me under their wings and gave me this great opportunity to learn kind of on the job. So in between handing out my headache tablets, I was I was kind of learning filmmaking, and then this great opportunity came up to go to Pakistan, where I had just been traveling with my girlfriend through the through the tribal areas along the Afghan border and came across this incredible town where they manufacture manufacture weapons out of scrap metal, so they melt the metal down and they and they make these replicas, weapons, and testify them in the in the air and the main street. And it was such a crazy place that I thought wouldn't this wouldn't this be a fascinating spot to make? make a film in? So I wrote a story around a true story of a boy growing up in his father's arms manufacturing workshop. And that became that became son of the lion, my first film and I went to Pakistan. And you know, I had the gorilla filmmakers handbook. I don't know whether you remember?
Alex Ferrari 7:50
No, yeah, I remember that. Oh, absolutely. I remember that book.
Benjamin Gilmour 7:53
You would know it. And I had that in my suitcase. And so I went to Pakistan with the gorilla filmmakers handbook. And, and ended up shooting this film with a small camera on in Pakistan on the on the Afghan border and ended up, you know, being selected for the Berlinale and went to all these great, prestigious festivals and had cinema released around the world. So that was kind of my first experience of wow, you know,
Alex Ferrari 8:17
Was that's a feature that's a feature right or short?
Benjamin Gilmour 8:20
Yeah, feature length drama. And that kind of solidified for me the possibility that I nobody with, you know, a unit nurse of all people because my background is paramedicine. I'm a paramedic. by trade. That's my my background, no film, school training. Now, you know that somebody from you know, left a field an outsider can pick up the camera, learn from books, and learn by hanging around a film set and go out and do it. And so that kind of spurred me on to to further films. That's insane.
Alex Ferrari 8:56
That's insane. Now, not many people get to go shoot a film in the border of Afghanistan. Which we're gonna get into the dangers of that in a second with your new film. Now, the new film jirga, I pronounce that correctly. That's right. Yeah, Jerry jirga. You know it. From what I've been able to see. It looks I saw the trailer of it. It looks fantastic. By the way, it looks beautifully shot in the one of the reasons we have you on the show today is because you have this insane story on how you shot that film. So please enlighten us on how that movie got me.
Benjamin Gilmour 9:33
So Jager is my latest film, and it's about an Australian soldier who had a had a tour of a couple of tours of Afghanistan. And his last tour he was involved in a night raid on a village where he accidentally in the course of a battle, in this particular village, he accidentally shot a civilian and killed the civilian and he's been You know, hasn't been able to get that out of his head and has been living with the burden of that guilt. And just makes makes a very bold decision to return to Afghanistan as a tourist as a traveler to try and find that family, so to try and reach that village where, you know, he had, he had this this array to take in place, and face the family and essentially apologize to them. So, I film I've read a classic redemption story, but told him, you know, Kim, Kandahar, Afghanistan, and so we, we being a friend of mine, and actor, Sam Smith, from Sydney, we met over coffee and Sydney and worked on this script, getting it right, and then flew to Pakistan to make this film, because I'd been, I'd been in contact with a businessman who was going to put up the money for this feature film. In Pakistan, if we were going to shoot in Pakistan along the Afghan border, we could kind of cheat it and shoot there instead. But when we eventually flew to Afghanistan, happy to make this movie, Sam Smith and myself, it turned out that the money was was not there. Mainly because the Secret Service had had, you know, not agreed to issue us permits, they weren't happy with the political element of the film was very politically sensitive. And once they vetted the scripts, they decided they weren't going to support us. So they essentially blocked the film from being made. And the investor pulled his money. And so we had nothing to work with there apart from our own personal savings. And that's when we had to make a decision whether to come back with nothing or to buy plane tickets to Afghanistan, and try and wing it, which is what we ended up doing. So we had a little bit of crowdfunding, Indiegogo, crowdfunding, a bit of personal savings and some Screen Australia development funding is our government funding body down here, they gave us a little bit of development money mainly for doing a draft script, but without telling them we actually use that to shoot and so we bought plane tickets. And we bought bought a camera in Sony A seven s in a in a in a shopping mall down in Islamabad. Say and off we went up we went Yeah, it's kind of kind of crazy. Not knowing whether we could pull it off or not. And we're, you know, with the odds stacked firmly against us. But willing to give it a go anyway,
Alex Ferrari 12:33
I would have completely I would have completely consulted you against going without question. say, well, that's an insane.
Benjamin Gilmour 12:42
You wouldn't have been the only one. We I don't know how he got my phone number. But the Australian ambassador in Campbell, was phoning me on a regular basis telling me to get out. You know, I mean, we shot most of the film, Alabama, which is in the eastern area of Afghanistan. And on the outskirts of Jalalabad, you had you know, Islamic State, ISIS operating Taliban, of course, it was super dangerous part of the country. And an Australian aid worker was pretty much the last Westerner who was in town and she had been kidnapped. Two days before we arrived. So we we kind of rocked up in Jalalabad in environments where, you know, everyone was tense, the police and the army were tense, I was getting phone calls from the ambassador telling us to get out shoot the film in Morocco. I said to him, I got no money to even fly to Morocco, let alone shoot a film there. Were going to forge on, you know, and, and so we just stuck it out and dug our heels in and met a great bunch of local Afghan actors and filmmakers, and collaborated with them to tell the story.
Alex Ferrari 13:51
That's insane. So what are I so you're you get to get to Afghanistan, with a camera you buy at the mall, or at a store somewhere? And with an actor, and and you just kind of do you have you have a script? Or is it a script meant? or How is it? Like how do you What's that? Where's the story?
Benjamin Gilmour 14:12
Well, I do love a scriptment. And I guess it it was kind of, you know, probably 80% of the script was that. And the reason being that it's very difficult when you're writing a story like this when you're trying to put a script together. You know, that involves people from another culture and other countries speaking in a different language to write those kind of dialogues, especially when you're distant from that. And so a lot of those scenes we you know, we left we had obviously action and descriptions in the scenes, but we left a lot of the dialogue to the day there are essential dialogues that were in the script. I think the the length of that initial script we went over with was only about 50 pages or 40 pages. So it was pretty slim. But But yeah, we had a script and we just kept reworking it. And, and there's a, there was a real I love that process, that kind of dynamic process that we weren't going there with something that we written in Australia, 1000 kilometers away from Afghanistan, putting words in the mouths of local Afghan actors. We needed to be open to what was going to be given to us, and the surprises we were going to get come across along the way. And, and so that that was, we left that we left that open the through line, that the arc of the story was always was always the same, from the beginning, to the end, but it was just the details along the way. And the dialogue that changed, you know, and, and we would, it was the right approach, I think, because there was so much that we came across that the local actors, the Afghans helped us with, and suggests the suggestions made by them that enrich the story and made it feel all the more authentic.
Alex Ferrari 16:04
How did you get local Afghan actors? Like how does that work? Like you do do a casting call? I doubt it. How did you get these people?
Benjamin Gilmour 16:15
You can't kind of you can't kind of do your traditional casting there you we had to be super secretive about what we were doing. We did get permits from the Afghan Film Commission.
Alex Ferrari 16:28
Okay, well, is there an Afghan Film Commission?
Benjamin Gilmour 16:30
Well, it's a dude in a little office in a in a rundown building. So you know, it's, you could call it that, but really, it's funded by a European NGO, and it's literally, you know, two or three people who are in charge of the Afghan Film Archive, which was, which, which, you know, is just kind of, like, held in his, in his super secure building, that Afghanistan is quite quite a rich history, and in film, that kind of ended with, you know, with the the invasion of the Russians and the end the war that started in 79. And then, of course, under the Taliban wasn't much of a love for film at that time,
Alex Ferrari 17:17
Not so much not so much for the media, no,
Benjamin Gilmour 17:20
No, no. So that, you know, there is this organization that has been given the task of protecting and preserving and, you know, digitizing their, their film stock, and they're all real films. So they also give you permits, when you want to shoot the country, they are very suspicious initially, because they've been burned. So many times westerns coming over, kind of pitching, pitching films and documentaries, that about about the, you know, the rich culture and the positive side of Afghanistan, and then, you know, eventually making films about the oppression or, you know, the, you know, the kind of negative, depressing side of the country. And they were fed up with that they're really fed up with these depictions of the country, that that kind of seem to overlook the rich culture and the beauty and the beauty of the people in the landscape and all those positive things about Afghanistan, so, but the way they got on board was kind of a bit crazy, because we went had a meeting, the head of the Film Commission was very reluctant to give us permits. And then he asked to see my passport. Now I travel on my German passport, I'm an Australian, German, German national, my mother is German. And I, unfortunately, because Australia has participated, as you know, as part of the coalition of the willing, with their American counterparts in various wars, the feelings towards Australians in many parts of the world, and not quite what it used to be, you know, used to be able to, you know, so kind of like an Australian flag on my on my backpack when I was backpacking through Asia. And you know, you'd always get a lot of love from people. It's not quite that that way anymore, because of our, you know, involvement in various conflicts. So, I now choose to travel on my German passport, I handed that to him, and he breaks out in German language is head of the Film Commission. And he turns out, he spends half the year in his in Germany, and then travels to Afghanistan for the other half. And so we started chatting in German, I managed to maintain a little bit of German, growing up in Australia, speaking with my mother, so I just mind, you know, kind of chatted to him in German and won him over and he gave us a stamp of approval off we went with these permits. So we had that but you still had to be really secretive because of the risk of kidnapping or the risk of particularly around Jalalabad. At that time, there would have been nothing there. ISIS would have liked more than to find a couple of Ozzie filmmakers to kidnap. for ransom. Yeah, we were told that we were told that by various people so we had to keep things kind of on the lowdown.
Alex Ferrari 20:17
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Benjamin Gilmour 20:27
And and, and so we have to we get those actors. Well, I knew and Australian artists who lives in Jalalabad and has a little artists collective there. Yes, Australians are crazy, as you already know. But obviously, he knew, he knew a couple of local filmmakers who make kind of low budget, Pashto films, kind of a lot of martial arts and gunfights and so on, for that market. And, and so put us in touch with those guys there, you know, who a lot of them ended up in the film. And we had to work with them quite closely on on pulling their performances back a little bit, because the films that they used to making quite, quite melodramatic and over the top, and so, you know, once we, we had worked on that they were brilliant, and our great team, and, and, and really important to the process.
Alex Ferrari 21:31
That's, that's insane. Now, what was the craziest thing that happened while you were shooting?
Benjamin Gilmour 21:38
Well, I mean, there were, I guess, one that we do mention a bit, in terms of giving people an appreciation for the conditions were working under was that we had to shoot, probably, we had to shoot about four days in these, this incredible location on the outskirts of Jalalabad. So, Afghanistan was once pre Islamic times was once a very important part of Gander, and was actually the, you know, the kind of center of Ghana and Buddhist culture. And so there are these are these Buddhist stupas and statues and border and caves and underground monasteries, across Afghanistan, but particularly in the East where we were shooting, and on the outskirts of Jalalabad, there was this cave complex. And this is a stone's throw from Tora Bora. You might remember Tora Bora baring being the place that Salman bin Laden and his al Qaeda fighters kind of retreated to prior to crossing back into Pakistan after 911. And so, these cave complexes were originally carved out by the Buddhists in I think, 272 BC, as part of the edX of a shocker, I mean, and they're incredibly well preserved. You've still got Buddhist hand carvings all through these caves. This is where the like this was the location we shot out. This was the Hubba hideout, essentially, that our Taliban commander and his his men who were would be holding our hostage because, as you say, those who say joga will say that the the Australian soldier is kidnapped about halfway through the film. And so they hold him in this cave complex, so we had to shoot there. But the area is not particularly secure. And you have, as I mentioned, ISIS and Taliban operating mainly at night, but some, but even during the day, and there was one moment when we were proceeding to the set on our third day, and two men were saying coming out of the caves, and they were apprehended by the police and army that we were traveling with the Afghan National Army and and who then after interrogating, these men told us that we couldn't shoot there anymore, because there was a fear or a suspicion that these two men had planted an ID in the caves for us. So we, you know, and we still had scenes to shoot. So this is
Alex Ferrari 24:19
I love this. I mean, there's, there's an attempted murder, but we got, we got stuff to shoot, we got to do
Benjamin Gilmour 24:25
Stuff to shoot here. So there was you know, there's constant rewriting as well. You know, in response to the circumstances that we were facing and the environment that we were operating in. You know, I guess the way I felt we were operating was a little like a, like a news crew where we were kind of standing by ready for a moment when it was safe enough to shoot and we're given the thumbs up and out. We went and we got what we could and then came back and and yeah, I mean, there were a whole lot of nice ticket. scenes that never that just never, we just never managed to film because of of this very, very difficult environment.
Alex Ferrari 25:11
What I mean? I mean, I just have to, like, why? Like, that's the question. Why go through? I mean, you're literally risking your life. I mean, I have to ask you as a filmmaker, I mean, I've heard of crazy filmmakers before. And that's fine. I'm a crazy filmmaker myself, I shot a movie at Sunday at the Sundance Film Festival, which I thought was risky, but Jesus, I mean, this is a whole other, this is a whole other world, why would you go down this road? I'm just trying to get inside the head of the filmmaker that's like, you know, we're gonna go into a war zone. And we're gonna shoot a narrative film. Why not? Yeah, what goes into the head?
Benjamin Gilmour 25:51
Well, I think that for me, those environments, I'm not an adrenaline junkie, well, at least I don't think I am some of those environments, or are, they just, they just keep on giving, they are just full. I mean, you're bringing in elements of reality continuously. You know, happy accidents, whatever you want to call them. They're there. And, you know, you're, you're when you're, when you're making say, you're making, you're making a war film 1000s of kilometers away from the, from the from the front, it's not going to feel as authentic, at least, you could get it to feel authentic, if you have a big enough budget, we just had such a small budget, so there was no way we couldn't, we couldn't, there's no way we could make this film anywhere else then in the real place. And, you know, and I think and, and, you know, I, I'm not intimidated by those environments, I think a lot of our fear is misplaced, people would disagree. Yes, stuff happens there. And, you know, people are killed, kidnapped, and kidnapped and kidnapped, okay, it does happen. But, but at the same time, you know, it also doesn't happen to a lot of people who travel there. And there are locals who live their lives here and raised families, they're, you know, have children there. And there's kind of like level of normality, even. In, you know, in a place where we're reading in the news is constantly, you know, seeing seeing conflict, so, you know, the environment, those environments, you know, I'm not intimidated by sitting around in a circle with with men wearing turbans and holding ak 40, sevens, you know, that image, my, because of the way we've been conditioned, you know, just to think, might intimidate and cause people to have a fear response for me, because I've had previous history in that area. And I know that, culturally, this is the way the locals live their lives. And you know, in some of those areas that have very remote you've, they've been leaving the house with a weapon slung over the shoulder for for for centuries. It's just not a normal part of their daily lives. So they're a little things that you know, I guess, make me feel I feel comfortable in that environment I feel comfortable with with I feel comfortable operating in that environment,you know?
Alex Ferrari 28:42
No, I think yeah. So so when you were shooting this you're shooting this with basically a camera and how did you get audio? Well, audio was into the camera. So you literally were just like, whatever the camera mic was, or whatever, the little mic that you had on the camera. That was it.
Benjamin Gilmour 29:00
Yeah, it was the camera that was inbuilt into the Sony A seven s was what we used, and it wasn't full. for, you know, it was kind of like, necessity, I couldn't actually find an appropriate microphone in cobble that would fit on top of this at the time, I mean, and so we were kind of forced to record sound into the camera. So I do kind of master shot and then I get closer, or I do it the other way around. But I'd always get at least one take very close to the subject so that I get reasonably small. Yeah. And a bit of course, in the end in a very, in a very costly post production process. A lot of that audio was replaced not the Afghan dialogue, but in but certainly the dialogue from the lead character was was replaced in a lot of the environmental sounds and there was a lot of money spent on cleaning up that audio.
Alex Ferrari 29:58
It's It's It's It's insane. I mean, the story that you're saying is, is pretty much. It's crazy. It's a crazy crazy story. But it shows the passion of the filmmaker, it's a passion that you wanted to tell the story. And it's paid off for you because the film was the official submission to the Oscars from Australia, which is an insane accomplishment, you won a bunch of awards at the Australian Oscars. And you also got into TIFF, you know, the Toronto Film Festival, which is no easy feat. And now it's going to get the adage it was going to get released here in the States soon.
Benjamin Gilmour 30:34
It is in July, Joker's coming to the states in July. And if it's something that you, you know, that listeners are keen to see on the big screen, I can always contact their local cinema and ask them to book it through lightyear entertainment, who are releasing it. But you know, it's funny, that when you're when you're on a mountainside and Afghanistan shooting this and believe me that the you know, I had many moments over there where I thought this is this is just not going to work out. And what are we doing? This is crazy, you know, but yet you haven't a shot at it. And but, you know, there's this constant self doubt. And, you know, it is always that little for me, it's that little sliver of light of possibility that, you know, he could come to something. It wasn't like, you know, you're not over there thinking, yeah, we've got it. But But there were there were several moments when we were shooting, when when, when stuff when, you know, what we were shooting was working out really beautifully. And we were given these golden moments that were unscripted. And that really, really made the film. And that they're the kind of moments that kind of spurred us on and really gave us a bit of a push, you know, thinking that maybe this could is so unique, as in very few films come out of Afghanistan, at all, let alone feature drama films, you know, that this, this is something special is something special this is this is reality, this is a real look at everything, because the script was constantly being assessed and discussed by the Afghans we were with. So in terms of authenticity, you know, this is this is right down there with, you know, you want an insight into Afghanistan. Now. You know, this, this film really does that. And I think people have responded to that. They've responded to how real it feels. And, and because we drew in all those elements, but yeah, it when you're over there, and you're in that moment, you've just got to kind of keep keep going and not really think of so much of you know, worry so much about where it's going to end up, or is it going to work or is anyone in the CDs are we even going to be able to get post production funding, you know, it's you just kind of kind of you go, you know, kind of go along for the ride and, and let that let it kind of sweep you up and take you on that journey, because it felt like that it felt like we were kind of being propelled along by something as if we were, you know, doing something that we only had a little bit of control over. But it was it was a journey that we were meant to be on and then and this beautiful collaboration that formed between the Afghans and US and in an environment that something magical was happening, you
Alex Ferrari 33:45
Now, how many days did you take to shoot the film?
Benjamin Gilmour 33:49
We took to I think we calculated it to be about 22 days, that wasn't successive days shooting, you know, but and some days the security was didn't allow us to you know, did wasn't wasn't conducive to shooting safely. So and in those times, we were kind of holed up in our safe house and discussing scenes and, and working on rewrites and so there's this amazing thing, you know, opportunity that that a lot of, I guess, traditional film productions don't have where we were living together in very close quarters, right. Under very trying conditions. But But using that to our advantage using every moment to our advantage. And and and I think there's a beauty in that is a beauty and being a small crew. Yeah. You know, and and just being so flexible and unable to kind of move at the drop of a hat and and getting to know each other Well, especially under that kind of pressure, no. And it almost felt like we were, we were kind of like, we're at war together in this and like people who have gone to war, you know, they make these bonds, soldiers make bonds with each other, and there's something special there. That's, that's some history there they have that, you know, that only they will ever understand. So it was kind of it was kind of like that, you know, working under pressure. And with that crew that that made the film all the better?
Alex Ferrari 35:33
Well, I'll tell you, I mean, I want to get I want to congratulate you on being an inspiration to everybody listening, right now to this episode, because, you know, you, you basically are the definition of indie film, hustle. That's, I mean, you grab the camera, you wanted to go tell a story, you went into a hostile environment to tell that story for yourself. And you didn't get caught up with like, Oh, I need a red camera, or I need these many people, I need this kind of query, like, Look, this is what I got, this is a situation I have, and I'm going to go out and make a movie.
Benjamin Gilmour 36:07
I think people you know, I think people wait for certain, you know, as you mentioned, certain equipment or certain budget or so, yeah, like, you know, there's a lot of there's a lot of obstacles, I think that a lot of people put up to their own, to making their own dreams a reality. And, you know, I would say, you know, if you want to do it, you just go out and do it and, and find a way to do it to get around those obstacles. And I think that process, it's like a test. It's like the very, the very journey, the very test that your protagonist goes through to achieve his or her goal in the film, is it kind of mirrors the challenge of making the film itself. And just as your, you know, protagonist gets, you know, the Holy Grail by getting around these obstacles. A film making experience shouldn't come easy, either. You know, it's it's similar. It's a similar pattern. It's a similar kind of formula, you know. And that's the way I saw it in Afghanistan. And Sam was saying, the Afghan act is what every time we were throwing an obstacle, that we thought, oh, gee, how are we going to get around that it's going to be the end of this, it's going to be the end of the shoot, the film's never going to come to anything, we realized that now Hang on a second, how can we have a protagonist who gets thrown on these obstacles and has to get around them, but we, we can't find a way we must find a way we are doing we are taking the same journey as as our hero is. And and so once we once we kind of accepted that, then those obstacles actually became really wonderful challenges that we embraced. And and they actually started to excite me, it excited me when we came up against a wall, I'm like, how am I going to get around this? This is great. Let's find a way you know, let's make something happen here. And it was almost as if you know, we were living this parallel kind of journey.
Alex Ferrari 38:10
Benjamin, you are an inspiration, sir. So thank you so much for telling us your story. And I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a filmmaker trying to break into the business today?
Benjamin Gilmour 38:23
Well, I reckon, you know, making a film is like a scientific medical experiments, you know, you've you've just got to give it a go. You don't, don't get caught up too much on, you know, what the outcome is going to be. So, I think, resist the fear of failure. Because, you know, I think that if you see failure as a growth mindset, as, as something that is not necessarily a negative thing, that it can actually be part of you growing, and you becoming better at what you do, then, I think that gives you a certain freedom, you know, if you don't fear the failure, then you will embark on the journey because what have you got to lose? Right?
Alex Ferrari 39:15
Fair enough. So now make peace with failure, you know, oh, failures, the best teachers in it.
Benjamin Gilmour 39:21
Best teacher, you know, and, yeah, I'm comfortable with low probabilities of success. I have to be I have to be comfortable with that. Because that allows me to succeed if you know what I mean.
Alex Ferrari 39:35
Absolutely. Now, what is the book that had the biggest impact in your life or career?
Benjamin Gilmour 39:41
Oh, my lord. It's, it's okay, that's for the most impact. Well, you know, I mean, I haven't read it for years and I'm and you know, it kind of It kind of you know, it feels strange saying it but someone said to me the other day I was I was over in LA having a meeting and I said, Look, you run into these redemption films What's going on? You maybe need to see a counselor. And they said, uh, you know, did you have some kind of like heavier religious upbringing? Wasn't really religious upbringing, but yeah, I mean, my father is a Protestant minister, alright and Anglican minister. And you know, so I studied the Bible early on. I don't classify myself as a Christian. I've lived in Buddhist Buddhist monasteries, and obviously, championing championing the Muslim cause for years. But I think in terms of like, influencing my work, and my objective of promoting peace in the world, and non violence, I think that i think i think the Bible, at least the New Testament probably has had the most impact on what I'm trying to do with my work in, in making the world a better place. Absolutely.
Alex Ferrari 41:07
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?
Benjamin Gilmour 41:18
I think that making space to think, and I and I believe that right now, in this moment in time, that is becoming more and more important, making time to reflect and to think, I feel myself constantly reaching for something to read something to look at, something to stimulate my mind. But when, where I have found my greatest original ideas, and inspiration has actually been in moments of stillness, where I am just sitting and being and thinking and in a quiet place, and, and not looking for something to stimulate myself the whole time. And just, you know, being in that moment of silence, so making those moments of quietness, to reflect.
Alex Ferrari 42:15
Excellent. And what is three of your favorite films of all time?
Benjamin Gilmour 42:20
Wow, okay. In this world, Michael Winterbottom. I do like his work a lot. Salaam Bombay was very influential on me at Mira Nair. And I suppose I suppose the mission?
Alex Ferrari 42:44
Yeah. That makes sense. That makes a lot of sense.
Benjamin Gilmour 42:47
Yeah. It kind of makes sense. But yeah, I mean, look, I could keep going with other examples. But there were films I saw early on in my, you know, we never had we never really had a TV growing up. So I started, I came to film very late in the piece, you know, in my late teens and mid to late teens. And so there were films I saw pretty early on, that were made an impression.
Alex Ferrari 43:11
Now where can people find you and your work?
Benjamin Gilmour 43:15
Well, via my website, benjamingilmour.com. And, and I've, I'm an author of several books, as you know, as well as quite a few of them. memoirs about my journey, making films, warrior poets about making son of the line in Pakistan, and most recently cameras and Kalashnikovs about making jirga in Afghanistan.
Alex Ferrari 43:38
And are those available like on Amazon here in the States or just in Australia?
Benjamin Gilmour 43:42
Yeah, they should be. The cameras and Kalashnikovs is a limited release. There may be still some copies out there online, but seems to release but I've got another book coming out in September called the gap. So look out for that one. Very, very cool, my
Alex Ferrari 43:58
friend. Listen, again, you are an inspiration, Benjamin. So thank you again, so much for being on the show and and dropping some inspiration on the tribe today.
Benjamin Gilmour 44:06
Right, my pleasure. Thank you very much for having me, Alex.
Alex Ferrari 44:10
Again, I want to thank Benjamin for coming on the show and dropping some major inspiration on the indie film hustle tribe today. So I truly truly appreciate it. Benjamin please stay safe out there. Don't do movies like this anyway. But hey, man, if you got to do it, you got to do it, man. You know, as people like you that give everybody else the courage and the inspiration to go out there and make your film no matter what. So thank you again. And if you want links to anything we spoke about in this episode, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/329 for the show notes. And if you haven't already, please head over to shootingforthemob.com and pick up a copy of my new book of the same name shooting for the mob, about how I almost made a $20 million feature film for the mob and my journeys through Hollywood. Meaning big movie stars billion dollar producers all while trying to survive dealing with gangsters and making a film. It is a allegory of what not to do. When chasing your filmmaking dream, just head over to shootingforthemob.com. And that does it for another episode of the indie film hustle podcast. As always keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
- Benjamin Gilmour – Official Website
- Benjamin Gilmour – Facebook
- Benjamin Gilmour – Twitter
- Alex Ferrari's Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Story) Book- Buy It on Amazon
- Leave a Review for the IFH Podcast
Where Hollywood Comes to Talk
Oscar® Winning Writer/Director
(Platoon, Wall Street, JFK)
(Brothers McMullin, She's the One)
Oscar® Nominated Writer/Director
(Boyhood, School of Rock)
Emmy® Winning Writer/Director/Actor
(City Slickers, Analyze This)
(Smokin' Aces, The Grey, Narc)