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Meet the 2015 SXSW Filmmakers #13: Benjamin Dickinson Augments Reality in Sci-Fi ‘Creative Control’

Meet the 2015 SXSW Filmmakers #13: Benjamin Dickinson Augments Reality in Sci-Fi 'Creative Control'

Written, directed and starred in by Benjamin Dickinson (though, to be fair, he had some help — the screenplay was co-written by Micah Bloomberg), “Creative Control” takes a look at just what shenanigans ensue when you use virtual reality glasses to make a beautifully life-like avatar… of your best friend’s girlfriend. Set in the not-too-far-off future (Google Glass, anyone?), Dickinson’s second feature is already establishing itself as a standout at SXSW.

What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?

A young ad exec uses augmented reality glasses to conduct an affair with his best friend’s girlfriend…sort of.

Now what’s it REALLY about?

It’s about how we construct desire, abstract desire, and sell desire, both individually and as a culture. I wanted to present a different slant on the Technological Utopia we’re constantly being sold.

Tell us briefly about yourself.

I grew up in the Midwest. I’ve lived in New York for 15 years now but I still struggle with a gnawing puritanical guilt that I haven’t been able to fully shake. It’s like a toxic sludge that melts joy.

Biggest challenge in completing this film?

There’s nearly 100 effects shots in the film, and it was a massive undertaking to arrive where we are now. All the iterations and experiments, trial and error involved in designing a UI that felt realistic but also unexpected, futuristic yet familiar. There wasn’t much money and Mathematic Paris did an insane amount of work. And they did beautiful beautiful work. And I got to spend some time in Paris which wasn’t bad.

What do you want SXSW audience to take away from your film?

I’d be pleased if the film encouraged people to look at the role of technology in their lives in a different way. To be clear, I don’t think that technology is to blame for our problems, if anything it amplifies what’s already contradictory about human nature. And perhaps that’s fortunate because when something is magnified you can see it more clearly.

Any films inspire you?

I was basically trying to make an Antonioni movie, but with some jokes.

What’s next?

My next film takes place in a future where nearly everyone has a computer chip implanted in their brains, but the main character does not. It’s a love story.

What cameras did you shoot on?

Alexa Studio w/ Hawk V lite anamorphic lenses.

Did you crowdfund? If so, via what platform. If not, why?

Yes! Kickstarter!

Did you go to film school? If so, which one?

Yes, I went to NYU undergraduate. I don’t think it’s necessary to go to film school to become a great filmmaker, and in some ways it may actually inhibit people from following their best instincts, but I met some very dear friends there and I’m grateful for that. I also had the opportunity to study under Kelly Reichardt while I was there and that was an amazing experience. She pushed us to go deeper, but also not to give in to our insecurities. Not to be sentimental, but neither to compromise our intuition. She’s really something of a radical.

Indiewire invited SXSW Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. For profiles go HERE.

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