Editor’s Note: Bindle & Keep, a Brooklyn tailoring company featured in “Suited,” offers its clients a personalized experience and takes their customers’ personal narratives into account when creating not only the perfect custom-made suit, but clothing that looks beyond gender and comes to represent identity and empowerment. Every filmmaker has a winding path story of how they got to Sundance, and the director of “Suited,” Jason Benjamin, is certainly no different. We asked him to tell us his unique story of how he discovered filmmaking and how taking work as a boom operator to pay the bills ended up leading to his big break.
READ MORE: Why Sundance’s Tabitha Jackson Wants Audiences to Look at Documentary Films in a Very New Way
I came to the film industry in an unlikely way. I studied sculpture in college. After college, I worked as a welder in a metal shop. I took a break one summer and drove to Texas to visit a friend who was spending time in prison. On the way, my road trip partner and I started to document the experience. We shot on video and Super 8. We came home and tried to cut together our story.
The process fascinated and challenged me. I’ve been hooked ever since.
I eventually went back to graduate school and got an MFA in documentary
film. I needed work and found myself a job as a union boom operator. While working on the television show “Girls
,” I discovered the subjects of “Suited” by reading an article
in the New York Times. In the article, Rae Tutera talked about navigating the landscape of clothing and the power of putting on a suit that fits for the first time. It struck me as a moment of self-fulfillment, a moment of great personal power that was poignant and touching. The article hit me hard and inspired me to contact Rae with the hope of getting a project off the ground.
The people who work on episodic television shows spend a lot of time together. I had been the boom operator on “Girls” for four seasons, and during that time had developed a friendship with Lena [Dunham] and Jenni [Konner]. I mentioned the article to them and they agreed that it sounded like a potentially great story. They encouraged me to go towards it and investigate. I met with Rae and then with Daniel. We talked through the idea and I felt like this was definitely a story that I wanted to tell.
I wrote a simple one sheet description of the project. Jenni and Lena offered up their own money to shoot and edit a short sample of what the piece would look and feel like. That budget gave us three production days and three edit days. The result was a 10-minute reel that Jenni and Lena took to Sheila Nevins and Sara Bernstein at HBO.
“Suited” was commissioned as a short doc shortly after HBO looked at the sample. Several months later, after seeing a rough assembly, HBO increased the scope of the project to feature length.
I don’t have an exact count but I think we shot 25 production days over the course of almost 2 years. Lena and Jenni were highly involved every step of the way. During the process, they screened dailies and gave notes on every cut. We had frequent discussions about the characters, the story structure and even the music and graphics.
Early in production, Lena and Jenni came to Bindle and Keep’s new studio for a set visit. On that particular Sunday morning, I realized there was no mirror in the new space. We were about to film a fitting and not having a mirror was a huge problem. They borrowed my car and, with Ericka Naegle, managed to return with a beautiful full-length mirror in time for the fitting.
They were truly hands on in every way.
“Suited” premieres at the Sundance Film Festival at 9:00PM on Monday, January 25 at the Temple Theatre.