For a commercials director to be recognised as an accomplished features director is an aspiration to which many aspire. Two of Exit Films’ directors have won that honour.
Ben Lawrence’s feature film, Hearts and Bones, was selected to have its world premiere at the Sydney Film Festival on June 15. Selina Miles’ feature documentary Martha: A Picture Story was chosen to have its Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival on June 8.
Lawrence received funding approval for Hearts and Bones, which he wrote as well as directed, one year ago. At the same time, he won the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary at the Sydney Film Festival, for his feature documentary, Ghosthunter.
“Ben Lawrence has had huge success as a TVC director, and so we are excited by this timely, moving and surprising feature film story he has crafted with co-writer Beatrix Christian, about the residual trauma of war and the road to redemption and hope, set in Western Sydney. It is compelling and distinctive,” stated Sally Caplan, Head of Production at Screen Australia.
“Ben’s a star on the rise and it’s fantastic to see his talent develop into features, first with his extraordinary award-winning documentary, Ghosthunter, and now with his first scripted feature, Hearts and Bones.”
For Lawrence, these rounds of applause owe a great deal to his commercials experience. “My commercials work has always been really in that non-actor space, what you call documentary or real life. Its strength has always come from storytelling because my commercials haven’t always been vignettes of real people, they’ve been interview-based,” he explained.
“My two films are the natural progression of twenty years of meeting people who hadn’t been on camera, walking them through the process and getting the best from them to share their story in an honest and open way.”
Andrew Luri, who stars beside Hugo Weaving in Hearts and Bones had never been in front of a camera before. Never been on a set before. That he was able to deliver a credible and captivating performance was due in no small measure to the months of work with Lawrence that preceded filming. “Andrew had even more lines than Weaving,” Lawrence noted.
Watch Lawrence’s reel here.
Selina Miles’ full-length documentary on the life and career of New York photographer Martha Cooper, Martha: A Picture Story, has just finished its screening at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, where it received outstanding reviews, including this one from the Hollywood Reporter, “Eighty of the happiest minutes documentary-lovers are likely to spend in a theatre this year, the film shows the debt that the graffiti and street-art communities owe to the septuagenarian artist [Martha Copper], who co-authored a landmark book on subway art in 1984 and is still going strong…”
Popular culture authority, Brooklyn Street Art, commented, “Separated by four decades and an ocean or two, the Australian film director and the American photographer – each of whom has garnered serious respect in the myriad subcultures of art-in-the-streets with phenomenal storytelling abilities and an innate sense of timing – together land a remarkable film capturing life as a street-shooter, making the multi-chaptered story sing.”
Miles feels documentary work has helped her identify and advance her skills as a commercials director. “The last commercial I worked on before diving into post production on the documentary was Meet The Matriarchs with Exit for Carefree. What made it most enjoyable for me, and I think successful – it won the Glass Spike Award for Change – is that we were working with older women and real people as opposed to actors,” she stated.
“It solidified for me that I’m keen to take all of the experience I’ve gained over the last two years on my first feature documentary and apply it to more commercials in the docu style. With consumers looking more and more for authenticity in advertising, I think it’s great that this style is a growing trend.”
Declan Cahill, EXIT Films EP added, “Both performance directors have used the skills that are apparent in their commercials to create feature films that have stood out in the crowd of film festival hopefuls, and have already delighted audiences and reviewers with their compelling narratives. We could not be more proud of Ben and Selina’s achievements so far.”
Watch Miles’ reel here.
Ben Lawrence and Selina Miles are available for commercial work.
For enquiries, contact EXIT Australia EP Leah Churchill-Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org