Winner: Best Psychological Film & Best Actress in a Short Film - July 2022 Edition
Thank you Tiffany for having us. What —or who inspired you to write Ellie's story ?
Hello! And thank you for having me. Ellie’s story is loosely based on my own experiences, at a difficult time in my life. I wanted to tell this story to give an honest perspective of what it’s like to struggle with depression and declining mental health. This is an experience that so many people are familiar with, that isn’t always easy to express.
What made you choose Gilles Plouffe as your Director ?
Gilles was my acting coach before I asked him to direct my film. I had met Gilles several years ago in Montreal whilst still living in Los Angeles.
At that time, I had given up acting on-camera for nearly seven years and was only pursuing voice acting, when two close friends of mine in L.A., encouraged me to return to acting in front of a camera. I had decided to find an acting workshop outside of California and flew out to Montreal for a week to attend Gilles’ workshop. I wanted to find out if I still loved acting, away from the noise and stresses of Hollywood.
After a week with Gilles, I realized that I still loved the craft, but also, that I enjoyed his natural and realistic approach to acting and continued taking classes with him when I moved to Quebec. Shortly after moving to Canada, I began taking acting classes with him in French and soon after that, I decided to make my own short film and asked him to be my director. I’m so happy he said yes!
Can you describe your experience in playing a part that you have created (written) ?
When presented with auditions for film roles, I usually have to do some research to understand the character, their experience, get some backstory. But as I was also the writer loosely basing the story on my own experience, my memories were my direct catalog for this character. It was a difficult time in my life and very difficult to revisit and mentally live in that headspace for the duration of filming.
In the weeks leading up to filming, before directing me on set, Gilles spent a lot of time asking me what things had been like for me during my depression to better understand how to instruct me and inform the crew on set.
Was this your first experience as a film Producer? How did you like it?
What did you learn that you would not have learned as an actor?
Yes! This was my very first time producing. ☺ It was a LOT of work. Ha-ha!
Being my very first film and of course trying to stay on a budget, I took on multiple jobs.
I was the writer, actress, and producer, but I was also craft service, the location scout and manager, script supervisor, set decorator, wardrobe, hair department for myself, transportation service/driver etc. etc. My husband and I also fully funded the film ourselves. I am naturally a more organized person, so staying on top of emails and communications was I think the easier parts of producing, however, the next film I make, I will absolutely need to budget in the hiring of some assistance —both secretarial work and someone to help with physical work (like lifting or carrying heavy objects, driving, etc.)
All in all, I loved it. Extremely rewarding and enriching, and I do plan on doing it again!
I’m currently in the process of forming my own production company and I have many more stories to tell. Something I learned producing that I would also offer as advice to first time filmmakers… Whatever your budget is, anticipate it may actually go two or three times higher than that. ☺
And something I’ve learned from spending time around other producers that I would not have learned as an actor… Being talented or possessing all the requirements, is a small part of getting the job done. Quite often, the people who make decisions as to who gets hired, may choose the second-best qualified person, if they believe them to be easier to direct, work with, or get along best with the rest of the cast/crew.
Why did you choose French over English to tell Ellie's story (voice-over) ?
This is the question I get asked the most, and understandably so!
Mais Je Veux Quitter La Fête or its international working title, But I Want to Leave the Party is loosely based on my own experiences at a difficult time in my life.
So difficult in fact, that in order to tell this story, I had to form some distance with it by creating a character different from me, from another side of the world, speaking another language. Mentally, that was the only way I could revisit this story.
Do you have a favorite film ? Who are your favorite actor and director ?
A favorite film, actor and director… Oh it’s hard to choose just one in any of those categories! I’m going to have to credit a few in each category and add TV shows too. There are simply too many favorites…
When I was younger, I loved Stealing Beauty and Moulin Rouge —I don’t know how many times I’ve watched those two films. I also really enjoyed Wolf of Wall Street and anything Leonardo DiCaprio has worked on.
More recently, I saw the French film Les Intouchables and that was very beautiful as well.
As for TV shows, Succession —my goodness, what an excellent show.
But also, Handmaid’s Tale, Game of Thrones, The Crown, The Great, The Expanse.
I’ve also watched a great deal of Danish TV shows with my husband (he is from Denmark) and I’ve found Danish cinema to be of excellent quality. Authentic in their acting and intriguing in their writing. I highly recommend The Bridge, The Killing, Department Q, The Team, The Eagle. I’ve also watched a great deal of French films and TV shows, especially when I started taking French classes. Some of the incredible French TV shows that have captivated me: A Very Secret Service, Lupin, Call My Agent, Standing Up, The Bonfire of Destiny, Unit 42…
Favorite actors and actresses: Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Noomi Rapace, Jodie Comer, Omar Sy… I love their commitment to whatever role they take on. And directors: Wes Anderson, Bernardo Bertolucci, Baz Luhrmann… styles and cinematography that compel, and that I admire.
All of these are summarized lists. In every one of these categories, I’ve named a few, but the real number is not limited to these. I have too many that I appreciate and hold in high esteem! ☺
Advice for up-and-coming actors ?
The road to an acting career is not straight, or paved, or easy. This is a relentless industry, and it is so important to surround yourself with people who care for you, support you and believe in you. There will be times in your life when the only person to do that, will be yourself.
Short statement describing your vision of the post-covid cinema, do you think there will be notable changes ?
I do believe there will be notable changes. When the first lockdowns began, in an attempt to keep productions moving, actor auditions took place remotely, film crews shrank (so as to curb Covid outbreaks) and in doing so, productions realized they could continue filming with smaller crews and of course, less money.
Mailing of computer equipment and tech hardware to professionals to allow them to work from home, became the norm. We had the internet long before the pandemic, but relied on it more heavily than we did before.
Some animated films that went into production pre-pandemic, were completed entirely from home during the pandemic, further breaking the long held perception that Hollywood and the film industry were only in one place. Covid nudged us into realizing that filmmaking doesn’t need to be as rigid as we’d always thought prior to the lockdowns.
I see new possibilities and efficient solutions emerging from this. There is a push to return to our version of “normal” before, but I see some of the things we learned and efficient ways of working, remaining with us in the entertainment industry.
Tiffany Lauren Bennicke
Tiffany was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, with a multi-ethnic background of Chinese, West African, Irish and English. Her mother at the time was an aesthetician, and her father a commercial airline pilot for Air Jamaica. At the age of 17, she and her family emigrated to the US, living in Fort Lauderdale Florida for three years together, before she moved to Los Angeles on her own, solely for the purpose of pursuing a career in the entertainment industry and life in California suited her well.
During her time in Los Angeles, she established a career as a voice actor, appearing in such roles as “Delah” in Horizon Forbidden West (Sony PlayStation), and other various voice over roles on films such as Captain Underpants (DreamWorks Animation) commercials for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (DreamWorks Animation), online video games for Target, ABC Mouse, amongst many other major productions, soon to be released.
She met the love of her life in Los Angeles (A Danish animator) and they married in France in 2016. Four years later, she and her husband migrated to Montréal, Canada, where Tiffany continues her career as a voice actor, and more frequently, acting on camera, in both English and French. Mais Je Veux Quitter La Fête, is Tiffany’s debut in writing and producing, and she looks forward to continuing a career producing more films.