Jamie Benning Filmumentaries.com

Interviewed on 29th May 2015

Up until now my interviews have been with 80 yr old men who were famous for wearing white suits. Jamie Benning is not 80 yrs old and I’m not sure what colour suits he prefers. Jamie is not a star from the 1980s, he’s the same age as me, but he is championing movies from the 70s and 80s by means of his fantastic filmumentaries. He hunts down rare ‘making of’ footage and new exclusive interviews with cast and crew and edits them all along the timeline of the film so you can see the movie being made whilst watching the movie in realtime. See my recent blog post for more info about his filmumentaries and you can also visit Filmumentaries.com.

Watch my Twitter feed later today where I will be running a competition to win a signed poster from Jamie.

I had the pleasure of visiting Jamie in his home recently and interviewing him for the podcast. I hope you enjoy.

Podcast links



Hi everybody, I’m here with Jamie Benning, who makes amazing documentaries about some of our most loved movies from the 70s and 80s. Hi Jamie, how are you?

Hi, I’m good, yeh. Thanks for coming.

Well, thanks a lot for letting us into your lovely home and for having a chat with us.
Now, you call your movies Filmumentaries. If any of our listeners haven’t watched them, and if you haven’t I strongly urge you do, could you explain exactly what a Filmumentary actually is?

Well it’s obviously a made up word. I struggled to come up with something that described what they were, because what they are is a kind of feature length commentary of a particular film. I picked the Empire Strikes Back for my first one, it’s one of my most loved films that I grew up with and watched again and again. What I wanted to do was make the ultimate making of documentary but I didn’t want it to be your usual kind of marketing fodder, with people saying how great it was and how wonderful the script was. I wanted it to be telling all the stories I’ve heard all over the years. So I find interviews from the past, I find new interviews, in some cases I’ve done interviews myself with cast and crew. And it’s about putting that together, but in the timeline of the film, so you can still watch the film but you watch it being made at the same time. That’s the idea behind the filmumentary concept.

So far you’ve visited the Star Wars original trilogy, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws. Is there a reason you chose those movies in particular?

StarWarsBegins Well these are the movies I grew up on. My sister and I, you know, I think of the rainy half terms, and rainy summer holidays probably, and we would just sit there watching these things endlessly on VHS. So they’re the films I grew up on. I was born in 76, so by the time Return of the Jedi came round I was seven. I remember my seventh birthday I was taken into London to see Return of the Jedi at the Dominion, which I think was the biggest cinema at the time. And I was completely entrenched in that world. I had the toys as my presents, I bought the books from the cinema. In fact I bought a Making Of book that day which I still have now. It’s just on the desk behind me over there. And that really turned me on to how these films were made. Because until then I didn’t realise films were made, I thought they just happened, you know, I was six or seven. But following that I started looking into how films were made and I became more interested in the whole process. And so those films are the films that we just watched again and again. We quoted in the playground, we invented games around at school. As I say, my sister and I, we’d get to the end and we’d just rewind and start again.

So how do you get all the footage that you put in your filmumentaries? There’s stuff from other documentaries, there’s storyboard artwork, and there’s interviews you record yourself. How do you gather it all together and how much research is involved?

Well it takes a lot of research, but it’s not like I do the research and then make the filmumentary. It’s a process that happens, kind of organically for want of a better word. So what I do initially is I just lay the film down in a timeline, in Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, or whatever I’m using at the time. And then I go about collecting interviews from old documentaries, from online, from TV shows that I’ve got VHSs of from other people. Because what you find is in this world of, which I’m sure you’re aware of running your website, is that you find people who are like minded and you swap information. Well with Star Wars, my first ones I did, I joined a group called OriginalTrilogy.com so there were people on there from Germany and Finland and France and Spain and Australia, and what they do is they promote those films in those countries but they promote them with different clips, so I might have three seconds of George Lucas talking to Harrison Ford from the UK version but in Germany they might have shown another 3 seconds from that same portion, and when you stitch them together you’ve got a 6 second seamless sequence. So it is like putting a puzzle together. It goes on and on. I remember with Star Wars Begins, which I released in 2011 I think, I remember just having to release it because I just kept finding more and more stuff. In fact the day after I released it I heard an interview with somebody who I’d never heard talk about their experience in Star Wars, which was Denis Lawson, who played Wedge, one of the X-Wing pilots. And he was talking quite extensively on this radio interview about his experiences of Star Wars and Star Wars fandom and he’s not much of a fan. But it would have worked perfectly in the context of Star Wars Begins. But with these things you have to put a lid on them, you know, you have to say, ‘Look, I’m done now’, which is why I do these sort of self imposed deadlines. I say right, it’s coming out on this date whatever happens. But it is a lot, a lot of research. But the thing is with the Star Wars films and Indiana Jones I already know a certain amount already. If I look to my right here I’ve got quite a few books on those subjects and yeh by using a combination of those books, magazines, I go on eBay and trawl around for old material, old magazines, old books. So it can be relatively costly but then I can always sell them on if I don’t find myself too attached to them at the end.

Has the process evolved at all over the years since you made the first Filmumentary?

Yeh, I think so. I mean the first one. It was literally just trying to cull everything together from all over the place. Just putting it together and collating it in a way that I found interesting. And then I realised that it isn’t just about hearing from the Director, Producer, the main actors. So now I go about interviewing people myself. So with Raiders I went and interviewed Wolf Kahler who plays one of the people whose faces melts at the end of the movie. He happened to live in North London, I happen to live in South East London. So I went and interviewed him, on very similar equipment as we’re talking on now. And that was the start of doing my own interviews. I’ve since then done telephone interviews and Skype interviews with people. Because what you find is, you look at the credits of a film and there’s thousands of people, and every one of those people has got a story about their experience on that film, and maybe they’re more likely to tell it how it is than somebody who’s contracted for a series of movies or whatever. So it’s always great trying to dig out that kind of information from people, particularly face to face because I think enough time has passed on these movies for people to talk about them slightly more candidly than they would have at the time.

But how do you get hold of some of the more obscure members of the cast and crew, and how do you know if they’re living in London, or how do you research all that?

BuildingEmpireWell it’s a combination of looking on the internet, speaking to people that I’ve made contact with on Twitter who go collecting autographs at these film fairs. I think there’s a big Film and Comic Con in London this Summer. About four years ago a Twitter contact that I’d made was getting autographs and he was giving out postcards that I’d had made about my Star Wars documentaries and said that I was making one about Raiders and that’s when he met Wolf Kahler. Equally you can find people, most people have websites these days. Even if they’re not acting any more they might be into music or they might be doing something else. For instance Claudia Wells, who was Marty McFly’s girlfriend in the first Back to the Future she runs a clothing store in L.A. It’s just a bit of research online, asking around. I’ve got an interviewed lined up in a couple of weeks with Dave Barclay who was one of the puppeteers with Yoda. He was like Frank Oz’s right hand man, and he also worked in Jabba the Hutt. And I’ve also got another one lined up with another guy who worked on Aliens, on some of the miniatures and he came via a colleague that just knows him as a family friend. So the more my stuff gets exposed out there the more chance there is of people saying ‘oh I know somebody who’s involved in the industry’ and will happily pass my contact details onto them.

And you’ve now started making those minimentaries or what are you calling these smaller versions?

Yeh I don’t know what I’m calling them yet! Short filmumentaries, they are a slightly different format. They’re not the film unravelling in front of you. They’re more, they pick one topic. So I’ve done one on Jabba the Hutt. I spoke to Toby Philpott who was one of the puppeteers on that and he also worked on The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth as well, so I’ve still got material of him talking about sharing cigarettes with David Bowie out the back of the studio and all that, so maybe I’ll release that some day. But I’ve also did one on Biggs, who was Luke Skywalker’s best friend in Star Wars and then got pretty much cut out of the movie. Garrick Hagon played him and I happened to meet him at the BFI when there was a Star Wars screening on, which I was invited to by Toby Philpott, so these things kind of snowball, they roll on, and I think I’ve got enough work to keep me going for the next months probably.

So how long would you say the process of making a Filmumentary actually is, and what’s the biggest challenge involved?

Well with Raiders and Inside Jaws I got it down to about 14 months I think? 12 or 14 months. But as I said it could have taken years and years. And with Star Wars Begins it actually took me four years from start to the release date but then I had a lot going on in my life. I had new kids. We moved from Cambridge back down to London. My job became busier, I was going away more. So it was difficult to find the time. And actually I had a massive hard disk crash and lost a lot of the material and had to raise about £500 to get that restored. And luckily people who liked my previous work, some of them donated very very kindly to help me do that. But the other problem, because I’m on the road a lot, although I do get time, on coaches and trains and planes, one problem is you don’t always have power. The other problem is you don’t always have the right kit at the right time. The other thing is I’m a live sport editor, so the last thing I want to do is stare at another screen. So it’s difficult trying find the motivation. I get home after being away on a Grand Prix. I’ve got three kids, I’ve got a wife, I’ve got other work I need to do because I’m a freelancer, I do other jobs as well. So it’s trying to a) find the time and b) find the motivation if the time is right.

And what’s the most enjoyable part of the process, or have you come across any specific nuggets of information that you hadn’t heard before in past documentaries for example?

ReturningtoJediYeh definitely, you come across stuff all the time if you dig hard enough. The one that sticks out is when I was doing Star Wars Begins, the original Jabba the Hutt scene in the first Star Wars movie was played by a Northern Irish actor called Declan Mulholland. Big guy in a furry costume, and there was talk that they were going to matte over him, but then why is he wearing a costume. I think the initial idea was that they were going to use this guy and it didn’t quite work out. So this scene had been released in snippets but not entirely. So there had been snippets on an original documentary called From Star Wars to Jedi, which was an official Lucasfilm release. Then there was another snippet I think in another one called classic creatures. And then when they re-released Star Wars in ’97 with the added CGI Jabba, the awful one, they released a couple more clips. But there was always this elusive last 15-20 seconds. So nobody had ever seen the scene in its entirety until I got contacted by a guy from Canada I think it was, and there was a show over there that he had recorded off Paramount TV at the time, and as the credits rolled of this TV show they played the end sequence which was this last 10-15 seconds. So I think when I put that sequence all together it came from about 12 different sources. Some audio, some video, some audio without video, some video without audio. And I put it all together. So Star Wars Begins remains the only place you can see that entire scene. It’s never been released on the Blu-ray extras or anything like that, or even on the new digital releases of the films. And I think there was another interview that stands out when Mark Hamill talks about they had to stop production because it was ladybird mating season in Tunisia. It’s the sort of stuff you wouldn’t hear on your average official documentary. I think it was on an online interview he did for GMTV in the UK. He was interviewed on the TV programme live and then he did a little extra bit online and I just happened to record it at the time.

Well, on behalf of Star Wars fans everywhere thank you very much indeed for your hard work there.

You’re very welcome.

You’ve mentioned in past interviews that you actually were in discussions with a film studio at one point but it didn’t happen in the end. Are you able to elaborate on that at all?

RaidersYeh well this is a story I’ve not really told in full but it might take five minutes, but what happened was that I was sitting here one day and I got a message via Facebook saying ‘I represent Brett Ratner the movie director’ and it kind of sounded familiar, I thought yeh Brett Ratner I know that name. ‘He’d like to have a conversation with you’. But it didn’t say anything else. So I replied to his assistant saying ‘ok what’s the best approach’. And she replied saying ‘Well, he’s in Budapest just now filming Hercules with Dwayne Johnson and John Hurt so it would have to be after 9pm’. And I said ‘Well I’m actually in Budapest as from tomorrow because I’m going to the Grand Prix out there’. So straight away it seemed fortuitous set of circumstances. So I flew out to Budapest to work on the Grand Prix and the following morning I got a message saying could I have dinner with Brett Ratner tomorrow night, and I said ‘Yep no problem’. And then later that day they said ‘actually Brett said why don’t you come down to the set’. So I managed to finish work early, get out of work maybe 20 minutes earlier than everyone else, got a lift back to the hotel, got picked up by a posh Mercedes people carrier, driven out of the city of Budapest out to the countryside, about half an hour or an hour out of the city, and arrived on this set. With 300 extras all dressed in their battle gear, and Brett directing. And we were told to be very quiet. And when he called cut he turned around walked up to me gave me a huge hug and said ’This guy makes the best f-ing making of documentaries I’ve ever seen. We’ve got a lot to talk about’. He introduced me to his cinematographer, his producer and he got me sat in the director’s chair while he directed, and there’s big monitors in front and there’s Dwayne Johnson doing this big scene where he’s rallying the troops and he kept saying cut and he’d turn around and he would say ‘Jamie you’re the man’. I mean it was ridiculous. It was like a stereotypical sort of Hollywood fantasy. And they cut for the day after about two hours of doing this scene again and again and I went for a little walk with Brett doing this grassy hill to where they were scouting out for tomorrow’s location, and he said ‘we’ve got a lot to talk about’. We jumped in the car and on the journey back, which took a little longer than an hour because the traffic was bad we talked about the films that we liked, how he loved my stuff and has ‘Stephen’ seen your Jaws one and I said ‘I don’t think so’ and he said to his assistant ‘Get Stephen on the phone’ but they couldn’t get hold of him at the time, so there was this moment where I thought I was going to speak to Stephen Spielberg! It was crazy. We were talking about making books, making documentaries, about Netflix, how he had a contract with Netflix and he needed material. We talked about doing one for Chinatown, which is one of my favourite movies, and also one of Brett Ratner’s favourite movies, and he said he’s close friends with Polanski and knows Jack Nicholson and it transpired over some time that he had a connection with Warner Brothers. After that he’d just done a big deal with Warner Brothers with Ratpack Entertainment, his company, and we were talking about doing a series of filmumentaries with Warner Brothers via another production company that they’d used before. So we were talking about Superman, Gremlins, Goonies, Batman, Chinatown, and over this period, I think it was almost a year until we reached that point, so over that year I was researching Chinatown. I had seven or eight or nine interviews lined up with cast and crew members and family of crew members who weren’t with us any more. I had Jack Nicholson’s phone number, I had Roman Polanski’s phone number and address, and it got pretty crazy. Warner Brothers all said ‘yeh we want to do it, we’re going to go for it’ and then they had a reshuffle at Warner Brothers. So the people who said yes were no longer there, or they moved sideways or up or down or somewhere. And then it was probably the very start of this year, almost two and a bit years since I met Brett, I just got an email saying Warner Brothers had decided to pass. And it just ended as quickly as it started. So yeh pretty gutting. I mean to be honest it was a relief, because it had been hanging over me for so long. Is it going to happen? Isn’t it going to happen? You know, what exactly is going to happen?

So how long was that period between meeting Brett Ratner and then hearing that Warner Brothers had the reshuffle?

Yeh so I met Brett in 2013 in August I think. And then the reshuffle was sort of a year, or two years after that. So yeh just over two years I think. So you know, they talk about development hell. We talked about budgets. I submitted a budget and a full, like a proof of concept. I made a 20 minute, half hour proof of concept. They loved that. It was all steaming ahead but now what I hear they’ve decided to do is go and speak to Roman Polanski and do these typical sort of sit down interviews. I think I saw a still of Brett Ratner talking to Polanski. So they’re still doing something with Chinatown. But the thing is, I can understand it from their point of view. When they work with people like Laurent Bouzereau, who’s the guy who does the Making Ofs, he’s ‘the guy’. They work with him. So why would they give it to some guy who’s just done a few online things. I think initially they thought maybe there was an angle in that. But they decided against it. But you know I’m still trying (laughs). I’ve got an agent now. A guy approached me a few months back and said ‘Look I’m happy to go out there and just tell everyone about it’. He’s an agent. It’s not costing me anything yet, until I make some money from it. So yeh I’ll keep trying. And in the meantime I’ll just do these short ones.

We wish you all the best with that and we’ll spread the word as much as we can! Now I could be showing my ignorance here but after watching Raiding the Lost Ark, I learnt that a lot of Raiders was actually filmed in the UK. I never knew that. Do you happen to know why a lot of these big movies from the 70s and 80s, particularly from Lucas and Spielberg were filmed here?

Well I think there’s two things I’ve heard of. I know Lucas when he first came to London to shoot Star Wars, although he had a bit of a difficult time with the unions and the British crews who didn’t really believe in the movie, and they would finish at 5.30pm and I think if you got the agreement of everybody you could get an extra 15 minutes of filming, and they barely agreed. So Lucas had a bit of a crappy time here. But then when Star Wars was a huge success I think it became a bit of a good luck charm to shoot in Elstree. So I know Empire Strikes Back was then done there, along with Gary Kurtz, the producer. And then when they came to do Raiders it just seemed like the natural place to go because by then they knew the crew, they knew the personnel. It’s like it is again now actually. People come to the UK because of the skill set I think. There’s a quite specific skill set of manual labour, people, builders, set builders, and sculptors, that are still in the business today that were working back then. But I also think it had a lot to do with the tax breaks that Margaret Thatcher’s Government allowed back then. One of the good things that she did (laughs) in her reign in Government. You know, there’s a George Lucas stage now at Elstree, where I think they did the final shots for the last Star Wars movie. It’s a shame they didn’t get to do the new ones there but we’ll see what happens. We’ll see if it’s still a good luck charm.

One of the bits that I’ve really enjoyed watching from the Filmumentaries is the parts when you get to watch people like Spielberg actually working with the actors, watching how he works and how he relates to the actors, and how relaxed he is actually when making a movie, it’s incredible. Have you got any personal highlights like that after watching the footage yourself, and are you a frustrated director yourself at all?

jawsikea_frame.inddWell I watch those scenes, and I’m 38 now, 39 next month, and Spielberg, I don’t think he was even that old when he did Raiders. I think when he did Jaws he was in his late 20s. So I watch those with admiration, you know. I see him, like those scenes you talked about, when they’re in the Raven Bar and Karen Allen is rehearsing a scene and he’s talking to her about exactly what he wants and which way she should look and all that kind of stuff. And there’s so many extras there and you just think the pressure, if you allow it to get to you I suppose, must be incredible. I mean my job has a certain amount of pressure because it’s live work and if you get it wrong you absolutely get torn apart by the director. So there is this seat of the pants kind of aspect to my job. But I think that’s a different kind of stress. I think when you’re making a film you definitely take it home with you every night. You mull over it. I know Lucas suffered a lot on Star Wars. I can’t imagine you get any sleep doing something like that. You know, I wonder how people like Gareth Edwards who just did Godzilla, after doing Monsters, and now he’s doing a new Star Wars movie, a spin-off movie, how you can cope with that pressure. But I suppose it all comes down to having that natural ability or even that practiced ability. I know Spielberg made a lot of films when he was a kid. He had a little Super 8 or 16mm camera. I dare say if I had one when I was a kid I would be a lot more comfortable. I don’t think I’m a frustrated director. I’ve always liked the post production process. I’ve always liked creating something out of, I was going to say something out of nothing, but something out of something else, you know something different. And watching Brett Ratner, those couple of years ago out in that field in Budapest, I could see the frustrations of the director. You know, the extras weren’t quite doing the right thing, and then a plane went over, and then some random guy was hiding in a bush watching the film and was in shot, and all this time money’s trickling away. I think, yeh I don’t think I could cope with that.

If you could have worked on any movie in the past, which movie would you have worked on and what role would you have wanted, like a director, editor, special effects assistant?

Yeh, it’s difficult to say isn’t it? I mean, you know, since a kid, those Star Wars films and Indiana Jones films are kind of a world that many of us wanted to live in, you know they seemed very whole, didn’t they? You felt like you could just jump in there and live in there. Equally it would have been fantastic to be on the set of those movies but I think the reality is very different. It’s a professional environment, it’s very pressurised. You know, we hear all sorts of things leaking from film sets these days with people losing their minds. Christian Bale comes to mind. I don’t know. I think if I had worked on Raiders it would have been too hot for me out in Tunisia. I know when they filmed Star Wars at Elstree it was one of the hottest Summers because that was the year I was born. Yeh I think I would have liked to have been around, it sounds daft, but I would have liked to have been around for Return of the Jedi maybe because I get the feeling that had a kind of, they were closing a chapter, you know, and I think it probably had a bit of a nicer feeling on set. That’s the impression I always get. Even though it was still pressurised and there was a lot of pressure on them and a lot of pressure involved, I think because the crew had all worked together for so long. I’d like that, I mean that’s what I like about my job. I work with the same crews and a lot of the same people throughout the year. And I’ve been doing it 15 years now. And that is one of the reasons I still do the job, it’s working with the people and the experiences I have with them, rather than the work itself so yeh I think it would have to be a film series, the end of a film series that I would have liked to have worked on yeh.

And what’s your opinion on all these reboots we’re getting nowadays? Are they ruining our childhood or are they keeping franchises alive?

I think there’s a bit of a mixture isn’t there? I think some of them have been successful. I quite liked the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie. The first one, the second one wasn’t as great. And it did feel like a superhero movie that second one. The first one I quite enjoyed but then a lot of my friends who are Star Trek fans said you know it just completely undermined everything that came before. I think the problem I’ve got is that the studies are so worried about risk, so worried about losing money, they’re not willing to embrace original ideas any more and it feels like they’re purely going back to things that were successful for that reason. It’s crazy, Spider-man, The Amazing Spider-man, was released just a few years after the previous Spider-man which was a reboot already. We’ve got numerous Batman releases, and although I enjoy those movies and I think they’re good, I show my kids old movies. We watched E.T. recently. They’ve been scared of E.T. for a number of years because of the cover with that creepy finger. But I showed them E.T. and they loved it. Even my oldest who was a bit reluctant. She said that really was quite good. I think if they rebooted E.T. it would show it to a new audience but I don’t think you need to in a lot of cases. They’re on DVD, they’re on Blu-ray, they’re on streaming, just go and watch them. No, I think it would be nice if Hollywood took a few more risks now and again. Because of course there are some great independent movies out there that have been very different. Very new approaches to things. And also just the accessibility of film-making equipment now being a lot cheaper, I just think the financing side, thank goodness we’ve got things like Kickstarter and Indiegogo and all those places that allow the audience to speak and say this is what we want.

I think a part of the reason must be also that the people in charge of making these movies now, were children in the 80s and want to keep them alive.

Yeh definitely, you know I work with a lot of people in the TV industry who wanted to get into the film industry because of films like Star Wars and Indiana Jones and all the Spielberg movies as well, and I’m sure you’re right, I’m sure that the people who are now in power and now get to tick the boxes and green-light things are the people who grew up with these movies and they want to hark back to that. Let’s not forget that Indiana Jones itself if a reboot in a way, it’s a reboot of those serials from the 40s and 50s, so I think our generation is quite quick to dismiss sometimes but our stuff was as derivative as this generation’s, so it was just better, wasn’t it? (laughs)

I think so. Now, you obviously have a lot of love for movies from back in the day in particular. Does this love extend into other areas of the 70s and 80s such as TV programmes, cartoons, or video games or toys. What kind of other memories have you got from back in the day?

As you would be able to see behind me, Michael, I’ve got some Star Wars toys on the wall, some original figures. Yeh, I mean, that was part of the experience for me. The Star Wars films for me are about the original movies and the toys. It’s not about the comic books, and the books that expanded on those stories. I’m more interested in those specific things I experienced as a kid. Still in my loft I’ve got a load of matchbox toys. I had them on display in the bathroom for a while. They were just to difficult to dust. But I’ve still got my Matchbox toys. I’ve got a lot of those things I’ve been, that’s been difficult to let go of them. Sometimes I’ve sold a few things on eBay to raise a bit of cash, because I’m a freelancer, just to try to keep things going. But yeh we’ve got plenty in this house. I think the kids still play with Weebles. My little baby who’s 8 months old, we’ve got a little Fisher Price wind-up TV toy, there’s loads of that stuff around. And that love extends to things like in my cupboard over here I’ve got a Quantum Leap boxset. You know we’ll sit down and we’ll watch things like Columbo. I’ve only just finished Breaking Bad. I’d joke to my friends that I’m almost at the end of Columbo or Ironside. So we’ve got a lot of that stuff going on in this house. I think at heart I’m a nostalgist. But I try and embrace new things as well.

Would you ever think about making a documentary about something else that wasn’t a movie, but was still from the past that you could interview people about, like a cartoonumentary or something else about Star Wars toys maybe?

Yeh, well there have been documentaries about Star Wars toys already. There’s a good one called Plastic Galaxy that came out last year. But yeh absolutely. My agent guy at the moment is out there, Steven, and he’s talking to all sorts of people about all sorts of TV stuff from back then and yeh I’ve got loads of subjects I’d like to make documentaries on. I won’t say them all now because I don’t want to give away all the ideas but yeh it doesn’t have to be specifically tied to films. I don’t know about ‘cartoonumentaries’. I think ‘filmumentary’ is a mouthful enough.

And what would you say is your most nostalgic memory from your childhood?

Ooh, I think it’s probably that visit to the Dominian theatre to see Return of the Jedi. I just remember me it was me, my sister, my two cousins, my uncle and my aunt and my mum and my dad, and we all travelled into London. And even though we lived in Dartford in Kent it still seemed like a long way to go, you know, quite an adventure. And we went to Hamley’s and it was just a wall of toys. Star Wars toys and Empire Strikes Back still then and I just remember buying some stuff with some birthday money and sitting in a park near Tottenham Court Road just opening it all. I just, everything seemed right in the world. I’d just seen this fantastic movie, I’d been spoilt rotten. And I can still remember sitting in those cinema seats, watching, there was like a little Weetabix cartoon before the film was shown. Just like an extended advert. And I can remember that. And I was seven. That’s like 31 or 32 years ago. So that’s one of the most nostalgic things, yeh.

Ok, excellent. We’ve now reached the stage of the interview that we call the Five Fast Facts.

No.1 – What is your favourite drink?
It is dark rum and ginger.

No. 2 – What is your favourite meal?
Probably a chicken shaslik curry. Like big bits of chicken in the clay oven.

No. 3 – What is your favourite movie?
Favourite movie is very difficult. I often say The Empire Strikes Back but I also love Seven Samurai, the Kurosawa movie. I don’t know though. It’s difficult, because if… Yeh I’m elaborating. If I say The Empire Strikes Back then surely Star Wars has to be up there because it wouldn’t exist without it, and that’s what started this whole obsession, if you like. Yeh, so it’s got to be one of those three.

No. 4 – What is your favourite song?
Oh, that’s a toughie. Well there’s a band I like that I’ve been listening to for the last few years. Well it’s a guy really. They’re called Shearwater, they’re out of Austin, Texas. And I find myself listening to his albums, their albums when I’m on the road a lot. And there’s a song called Animal Life that I listen to a lot.

No. 5 – What is your favourite travel destination?
Probably Austin, Texas actually. We’ve been going there for the last three years. This will be the fourth year coming up in November, for the Grand Prix and it’s just a really cool city, very welcoming. Everyone’s very friendly there. They all carry guns though, so maybe that’s why everyone’s friendly! It’s just a really cool, vibrant city. A lot of creativity there. ‘Keep Austin Weird’ is the sort of tagline. There’s a lot of people with tattoos and crazy clothing but they kind of seem to embrace that they’re different you know. People often say to me, ‘Why do you go to Texas’ and I say well I’m going to Austin and they say, ‘Ah, that’s different’. Because Dallas and Houston are a bit straight, a bit boring. Although I’m not the craziest dresser or I’m not one of those tattooist people but I just like the environment. I just like the fact that they’ve got fantastic cinemas there. When I was there last year I saw Quote-along Ghostbusters, and they had a load of props you could use and you could yell things out in the middle of it. Or you could go to the same cinema in the middle of the day and you could just sit there quietly and they have a rule about nobody says anything or you’re chucked out. And they seem to have got the balance right. It’s a cool city.

And before we wrap up, can you tell us about anything you maybe have coming up in the pipeline at all?

Well, feature length wise I haven’t got anything lined up, as in a feature length filmumentary. But the shorts, I’ve got one with a guy named Anthony Forrest who played the Sandtrooper who says “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for” and he played Fixer who was one of Biggs’ friends in Tosche Station, that scene that was cut out of Star Wars. I’ve also got the interview with Claudia Wells that I need to get round to doing. And these other short ones I mentioned earlier. In terms of doing a longer project I would have loved to have done Back to the Future, I would have loved to have done The Shining. The problem with The Shining is that the Kubrick, the people who hold the Kubrick estate are very particular. I spoke a little bit to Lee Unkrich who’s the guy who wrote Toy Story 3 because he’s making a book on The Shining and it took him several years to convince them to allow him to do that. I mentioned on Twitter that I’d love to do The Shining filmumentary because it’s one of my favourite movies, and then I tried to get access to the Kubrick archive up near Elephant & Castle but I was told that I was not allowed because I was making an unauthorised project. And I wasn’t I was just going there out of interest to see if I could spark my interest enough to try to seek out sort of officialdom with them. What you find is when you try and do something official is you’ve just got so many doors slamming in your face because a) is there a market for it and b) is their intellectual property going to be used in a way they don’t want it to be used. There was that documentary Room 237 that I don’t think the Kubricks were too pleased with. But yeh I’m striving to get something official. I kind of was hanging on with Chinatown and Superman and The Goonies and all that sort of stuff at Warner Brothers to have something official to release, I just wanted to get something out there where I was getting the support of the studio rather than seemingly working against them. I’ve got a few meetings lined up through my agent with a few production companies in the coming weeks and months, so maybe something will come out of that. Whether that will be short stuff or whether that will be long form stuff I don’t know. But there’s always something, hopefully.

Didn’t you just go to an event this week, about The Shining? Did you get to speak to anyone there?

Yeh, I did go to an event. It was at the Odyssey cinema in St Albans and a guy called Howard Berry who runs a really good project called the Elstree Project where he’s been doing an oral history of the Elstree Studios and has got people that work there interviewed on video and audio. He organised this event. They managed to get 25 or 30 original cast and crew members there. The twins were there. Garett Brown, the inventor of the steadicam was there. But unfortunately I arrived a bit late. I arrived just as the movie was about to start so I didn’t get the chance to speak to anybody there. My intention was to go there with a load of business cards. I probably should have taken my audio recorder, but Howard gave some people press passes. I maybe should have chased that up myself, but I also didn’t want to tread on their toes because they’re already doing a good bit of work with The Shining. They made a documentary called Stairways to Nowhere which is nice. A lot of talking heads about their experiences on The Shining. Yeh so I didn’t want to tread on Howard’s toes. So I was a little bit reluctant to kind of push that. But yeh I think it may have been a missed opportunity.

And where can people watch your movies online? Where should they go?

Ok, if you go to Filmumentaries.com, might be hard to spell. You can go to Vimeo.com. Just search for Jamie Benning on Google. A lot of websites and interviews and things pop up. Or @jamieswb on Twitter.

And you also use Patreon don’t you? Do you want to mention that?

Yeh can do. So, you can also find me on Patreon.com/jamiebenning. What I’m doing is I’m trying to raise a little bit of money to help me do these short form documentaries because if I get enough money it means I can turn down other freelance work to stay at home and not only does that satisfy me and my family but it means that I can get more of that stuff done. So what I’m trying to do initially the intention was to do one thing per month, but I’ve managed two in five months, so it’s probably going to be maybe six over a year. Six short interview/documentaries. So yeh Patreon.com/jamiebenning. Even if you can spare a dollar a month it’s really helpful and gratefully received.

Well Jamie, we absolutely love your work, and I wish you all the best for your projects in the future, and thank you very much indeed for having a chat with us.

Thank you for coming down. It was good to chat.


Massive thanks to Jamie Benning for inviting me into his home and letting me interview him for the podcast.

You can view Jamie’s work at Filmumentaries.com.

Music – Happy Chiptune by Soniau
Voiceovers by Spike Real