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We Were Students and Filmmakers

Al Benoit (BA ’13) debated with one of his teachers in his first year at Columbia about how there are very few female lead characters in films. “I found myself trying to come up with roles, but found it to be difficult,” Benoit said. “After that, my writing and filmmaking drastically changed. I wanted to make films with strong female leads who were interesting, had range, who were three-dimensional, complicated and complex, because to me, that’s writing a strong female character.”

Al Benoit is the writer and director of the short film that just recently completed production We Were Monsters And Detectives. The film follows two young women over the course of a summer of change in a forgotten rural town. The two young women have shared a long lasting friendship, but this particular break they find themselves facing the challenges of adolescence as they discover that growing up doesn’t always mean growing together.

With the help of a successful $10,000 Kickstarter campaign, and a cast and crew of Columbia filmmakers, Benoit and company were able to make their passion project. Benoit continues to work with the same core of people on each film.

“When I first attended Columbia, I knew I loved film and that I wanted to direct, but I admit, I didn’t really know the first thing about making a good film. What I truly loved about Columbia was the relationships and collaborations that are formed from meeting and working with filmmakers just as passionate about telling a worthwhile story through the medium of film. Columbia calls it your ‘creative posse’ and that was something I took to heart.”

Benoit has written and directed 12 short films, some as school projects, and others as independent works. His last completed film, Driftwood, was produced by Magnanimous Media, one of Chicago’s leading Camera production houses, in the spring of 2013 as a way to test their brand new camera and video equipment.  Benoit was approached by Craig Maltby, the owner of Magnanimous Media. He had seen some of his previous films and was looking for someone to write a script for this project.

“Columbia has given me the tools and the knowledge to be able to take an idea and see it all the way to a completed film.  Something I knew nothing about when I first set foot on campus.”  Benoit is now in the middle of post-production on We Were Monsters And Detectives. He plans to enter the short film into larger, more prestigious festivals such as Sundance.  

Columbia alums and students that collaborated with Benoit include: Corey Lillard ('13), Director of Photography and Gaffer, Nina Portillo ('13), 1st Assistant Camera, Zoe James ('14), Production Designer, Matt Mazzone, Sound Mixer, (BA ’13), Sarah Jones ('14), Boom Operator, Cady Perez ('14), Editor, Elaisa Vargas ('14), 2nd Assistant Camera, Veronica Idoate ('14), Assistant Director, Seth Oberle ('12), Grip, Chris Owsiany ('14), Grip, Jason Woodward ('14), Grip, Ali Hadley ('14), Actor, and Kelsey Sante ('15), Actor.