Mr. Ben celebration. Helped goes VHS.

maG Syd and Mr Ben web

Today would’ve been Mr. Ben’s birthday. Shortly, I’ll be sitting down to watch …And Then I Helped on VHS. I had the honor of being the first director to work with Mr. Ben as a lead in a feature film. Something that should have happened many years before. But when you have star presence, small roles get cut from feature films. Because you take attention from the films stars. Tarentino is one of the few directors to give star power to smaller roles and highlight them, but traditional cinema showcased its stars… and if you were lesser in casting, you couldn’t over power them. This of course isn’t the case with every film, but it was the case for nearly every film Mr. Ben was lucky to land a role in. So it never built to larger casting… that he so deserved.

Later in his life, he helped out a group of hungry young filmmakers. In turn he finally had the opportunity to take the helm next to an incredible cast. All of whom equally loved one another, we were one huge family. With Nikki McIntyre, Justin Alvarez, Jerry Summers and myself… I considered myself very privileged and terrified to have to bring it, amongst such a team of talent.

When writing the story with Nikki and Max Almeida, they urged me to play a supporting role as well. At first I was reluctant but being an independent film, you always know you’ll be a reliable actor you can count on when directing. So I dove in…

But the week leading up till I acted, it felt as if it was the first time I’d ever acted for a camera. It is the key opening scene in the film, when Mr. Ben, Nikki and I converse on the porch of the cabin. It occurred to me that my character was the most underdeveloped because we collectively just brushed it off as a character we knew we had. When I had to prepare, I was struggling to find something. I was panicking to act with such talent.

… I was out for a jog, collecting my thoughts. A light bulb went off. It all made sense. I excitingly sprinted the remaining few miles home… and began making notes. I now knew who I was going to play, now it was time to prepare.

Then the first big day came…and it was a major location shoot. The first film I’d directed with a camera of this caliber. I’d just come off of directing duties on George Romero’s son’s directorial debut (Cameron Romero’s The Screening)… which co-starred Nikki as well. We’d shot with some incredible equipment and a cozy budget. Much bigger then we had, though this was one of the many cameras we did in fact shoot on as well. But when it’s for your own film, the bar is raised on another level. You want to put your complete stamp… and see it through. Also, I not only had to direct, but jump into these acting shoes…

So…I step up onto the porch first thing. Starting to block out the shots. The floor of the cabin breaks and I fall through…up to my hip. Everyone begins running to my assistance… and all at once stop, when they realize they could quickly join me… I wait for the pain. But realize, I appear to be fine. I then begin to laugh. As I realize this is exactly the final piece to the puzzle for my character… and decide to incorporate this accident into the scene, be it on a much lesser scale. So it doesn’t come across as slap stick humor, as it had just happened in real life…

We then spend countless takes of me breaking my foot through the floor of the cabin… and my foot’s now starting to hurt, all in the name of art. Pain has always been a huge part of me performing. I don’t plan for it, but at the end of the day it seems to be a huge key to the performance. Somehow.

Now… here we are a little over a year after Mr. Ben’s passing. Probably the largest pain that strikes me when thinking of …And Then I Helped. Also, the proudest we can collectively share of it too. The wonderful opportunity we shared in creating this insanely crazy film.

To keep the magic alive… I want to announce the pre-sales for the long awaited VHS release of …And Then I Helped. (They will ship the week of January 27th 2014.) There will also be a secondary option of buying it with a DVD screener for those without VCRs. The DVD will be recorded straight from the VHS itself, so you can enjoy the trailers and complete 4:3 aspect ratio of the VHS itself. As well as the wonderful nostalgic quality VHS offers.

The film has been converted to 4:3 as traditional VHS releases. This includes Pan and Scan and many techniques used when converting a feature for VHS release. An enormous part of the VHS experience for sure. Also, following the tradition of the VHS release of His Devil’s Night, I’ve compiled another slew of directors trailers from the underground. It kicks off with a scathing short film by Rachael Deacon as well as trailers from fellow filmmakers: Brian WilliamsScott SwanDamon PackardKapel FurmanAdrian GoodmanMatthew Clark and Jeff ParenteauJon WamsleyJason T. Swinchock and Ronny Carlsson.

Thank you Mr. Ben for allowing us all the chance to create this monster of a film. Happy birthday from down below… Today I realized you shared the birthday with Richard Dean Anderson, responsible for the portrayal of MacGyver. Easily the most influential fictional character in my life. There’s always something reinvigorating when you discover details like this.

Mr. Ben and I shared a decade of friendship and constant collaboration on film and stage. Now he continues to inspire through the impressions he made on screen, much like I was affected by MacGyver at an early age… and continue to be to this day. Long live the world of cinema and how it can offer us a look into a world that is timeless…

Helped VHS cover