Brenton Oechsie is an award winning filmmaker with an interesting story to tell. His 2011 travels through Europe turned into a documentary editing project that won “Best Editing” at the Meters Film Festival in Tver, Russia. He was recognized at the 2012 RAW Awards with a 2nd place win for “Best Filmmaker of Indianapolis”.
When did you first develop a love of film?
My love for film dates back to my very early years – but I would say that my first memory of being impacted by film was when I saw Requiem for a Dream as a freshman in High School. I fully realized how much film could change minds – and I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.
How have you trained as a filmmaker?
The training I have had to learn how to make films has been guided by a very simple rule: watch as many films as possible and absorb the good ones. Every filmmaker in operation today is just an amalgamation of their predecessors. Every film that I watch either teaches me how to do something better or teaches me the reason for not doing something at all.
What was the first film that you worked on?
The first film that I worked on was a short film with a friend of mine, Garret Hoover. It was titled Bound and it was a project for the Bible class of our freshman year in High School. It was a simple concept about a man being bound by ropes only to struggle, fall down, and get up as if he was not bound by anything at all. I don’t think either of us realized how much that would would typify our lives in the future.
Tell us about The Day When My Day Began and its win at the Meters Film Festival.
The Day When My Day Began is probably the best thing I have been involved in to date. I was travelling Europe in 2011 when I met a Russian documentary photographer, Irina Popova. She showed me footage of this trip she had taken to Morocco – about 8 hours worth. It featured a young man named Yassine. He had all these ideas and aspirations to change the world, but all were diminished by his addiction to hash and the peer pressure of his friends and those around him. The footage was from Irina’s second trip and her goal was to help Yassine get a start with his dreams. Unfortunately, he kept thwarting her efforts and eventually they had a falling out, but what came out of that was a great story. After viewing all this footage, I knew that there was something there, but there was one problem. I was leaving the next morning. However, Irina had a solution. She decided to buy a hard drive and put all the footage on it for me to take back to the states. When I would return, I would have to edit all this footage into something viewable within two weeks. I was reluctant, but I eventually accepted. When I got back, I did nothing but edit for two weeks. Finally, it formed into a 27 minute documentary. From there it went on to premiere in the Meters Film Festival in Tver, Russia and won two awards : best documentary and best editing. Needless to say, I am glad I took the challenge.
As a cinematography instructor, what is the most important thing that you teach your students?
Teaching cinematography for the past two years has been something that has been quite eye opening. It has not only taught me how to communicate story and composition better but allowed me to see the grand scope of what I was teaching. While the class is mostly technical, I and my long time friend Garret Hoover have always tried to instill a strong sense of purpose in cinematography through story. Everything in a film is in one way or another influenced by story, and so it is the cinematographer’s job to accentuate the story through visual. Beyond that, we try to teach that cinematography should reflect humanity in its attempt to convey story to visual. After all, cinematography is just trying to replicate what would be seen by the human eye.
Where did you get the idea for Trust Your Driver?
I first got the idea for Trust Your Driver by viewing the 1971 film Two Lane Blacktop. In the film there are two cars racing across the country for pink slips. One of the cars is a Mustang GTO and is driven by a character named Warren. Across the way Warren picks up hitchhikers but always changes the story of how he came to drive this Mustang. I have always been fascinated by hitchhikers, so I decided to turn that idea on its head and make a film about a hitchhiker who changes his own story every time he meets someone. This provided for several themes dealing with faith and trust in society – not to mention the trust that is required to hitchhike.
What do you consider your greatest strength as a filmmaker?
I think my greatest strength as a filmmaker is the ability to put myself in other people’s shoes. Most of my stories are about everyday human beings and the struggles that they face in life, and so I need to picture what it would be like to live their life. By making myself vulnerable to the emotions of the character, I am allowing myself to create characters that will connect with the audience on a deeper level.
What is your ultimate goal as a filmmaker?
My goal as a filmmaker is very simply to get people to think differently than they usually do. I want to offer up ideas and concepts of love, death, happiness, and faith. The most important of those I believe is faith. We have been put on this earth with the ability to question why. My goal is not to answer these questions, but rather pose the questions that most people try to avoid. By asking these questions and getting my audience to think, I am hopefully pointing them in the right direction. The direction of having faith in the only thing worth putting faith in.
Also – if you are intrigued about my film Trust Your Driver – I would invite you to like my facebook page : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Trust-Your-Driver/418592708191030