We had the great pleasure to talk to Dutch director Ben Brand about the making of Re-Entry, an extraordinary short film that explores universal themes and offers a message of unity and hope.
You mentioned your inspiration for the film came from reading Andy Weir’s short story. At what point did you decide to open the door to filming unscripted documentary footage and mixing it with the staged scene of the afterlife?
I guess the form of the film took shape after I first heard the voice of voice-over actor Johnny Reilly. The idea popped into my head that we didn’t have to actually see two people talking but we could do it via a voice over dialog and travel wherever we wanted!
Re-Entry was filmed in 5 countries and 3 continents, something exceptional for a short film. What surprises did you and DP Maxime Desmet find along the way that you’re happy you could include in the film?
I guess everything in a way. Just to be clear, everything was scripted and thought of before we ever shot a single shot, but if you work like we worked you get presents every day. You’re not only shooting specific shots but you’re open all day and you’re free: there is no client, no five light trucks, no 100 people crew so you can sort of go with the flow.
What was the editing process like, working in collaboration with Patrick Schonewille? How did the film change/evolve during this process?
In a way it was the same as always. Patrick set up the film according to the storyboard and then we looked at stuff in the edit that we could build on or make better. One thing I really love about Patrick is his energy, when I arrive in the edit I’m normally very tired and insecure so I love the new energy he brings to it and freshness of ideas he throws at me. What he also did really well was cut out some of the text that was not helping push the film forward.
Please tell us about the VFX work. How were the shots created and how did the green screen / CG shots help enhance the story?
In the end we didn’t have any money left for Visual FX but I did once see a beautiful Dutch short which had some awesome footage so I asked them the very strange question if we could use a couple of shots from that film. Luckily they liked the film and helped us with the shots. In terms of green screen we shot a lot of people’s faces in front of greenscreen to give god a liquid like face made out of a hundred different faces but it was too scary in the end so I skipped it..
Re-Entry is a film that has been built on generosity, from many talented artists who understood its importance. How have you and those who participated in the film been feeling about the exceptional feedback and positive impact it’s been having on the people who watch it?
I guess everybody is really happy. It’s always very strange to have to wait for such a long time (in this case 1,5 year) before you can put the film online. So when you put it online and get private messages from people who cried while seeing it or had any other very personal story they want to share with you this is the highest gain you get from any film.
Any fun or interesting anecdotes from the making of the film that you’d like to share?
For sure: when we were visiting this very remote tribe in Namibia I was thinking
the tribe was really crazy for living in between the sand dunes while there
was this nice stream of water and some trees only a couple of miles away where we
were sleeping in tents during our stay there.
After our first day of shooting we arrived back at our tents and our guide told us we should watch out for elephants because last year somebody died because of an elephant attack. I’m a very good sleeper so i was asleep in 5 min but Maxime (The DP) was wide awake all night until he saw some Jurassic Park like shadows on his tent. At some point I woke up and didn’t know why. Just as I was going back to sleep I heard the car doors slam. I decided to take a look and saw everybody was sitting in the car and two elephants were walking right by my tent! In one second I grabbed my laptop and I ran to the car in my underwear. Luckily the elephants didn’t attack us but it was a crazy experience and this was only just after our first shooting day of the film!
How can we all who enjoyed the film so much help you make more films?
I guess it helps the most when people follow like, view and share your work because the more it gets viewed the more chance important people see it who can fund your next project.
If anyone would be interested you can follow me on: