Makers At Heart | Editor Al Benoit on what our earliest projects say about us & why you should always follow your instincts

Community February 17, 2021

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In our Makers At Heart series, we introduce the people behind the projects to hear more about their inspirations, motivations and creative insights. We spoke to Editor Al Benoit about how our earliest projects say the most about us as creatives and why it’s important to treat characters with tenderness.

If you had to choose a project that defines your career, what would it be and why?

Gosh, that’s a sweat-inducing question. You know what’s funny, I’ve watched a lot of interviews with my favorite directors and when they’re asked a similar question, they tend to refer to an early project of theirs. A project they made before they were established, I don’t disagree. In fact, I believe our earliest projects say the most about us as creatives. They’re from a time when we had zero constraints, only the burning desire to tell a story that’s been firing in us before the thought of structure ever entered our vocabulary. That being said, I believe the project that defines my career is the first short film I made outside of schooling and my home base. It’s a little darling called ‘Warpaint.’ I’m not saying it’s the “best thing I’ve ever made.” In fact, far from it, but it was all passion.

I raised the money to make it on my own, and a group of kids who were similarly in love with the craft stood with me through thick and thin. They poured their hearts and souls into the story alongside me. That is something I will never forget, ever. It’s a gem I secretly carry with me until this day. I bring it into every project I’m a part of. No matter how many projects you work on, you’ll end up asking yourself the same question, “Am I giving enough?” The lesson you learn from early projects is… follow your instincts… follow your heart. Let them navigate you towards the end.

Al working behind the scenes on the set of Chicago History Museum’s ‘The Great Chicago Adventure’.

Are you working on any passion projects at the moment?

I am working on a passion project at the moment, yes. Still in the pre-pro phase, but it’s a spec spot for Polaroid Now, which is an evolution of the original Polaroid OneStep cameras from the ‘70s. It’s an ad, yes, but more importantly, it’s a performative dance film. It’s the idea of love and how it’s expressed visually. A raw and intimate piece about emotional intimacy between two black men. Depictions of black love among same-sex couples are not impossible to find, but we plan on treating our characters with the tenderness that is so often overlooked in mainstream commercials. We want to paint a luminous portrait of a delicate balance: their love may be hard to find, but it’s a story, above all, of joy. At the root of all these emotions is the love they feel for one another. We already have two amazing actors/dancers attached to the project, as well as a brilliant choreographer. Once we are able to safely shoot it, we’re going to hit the ground running. Couldn’t be more excited about it! Check out some of Al’s photography below.

Check out more Makers At Heart features here and get in touch with our editorial team regarding any upcoming projects here. You can also follow Al on Instagram @al_benoit.

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