One-on-One Q&A: Tambay Obenson - Director, "Beautiful Things"
Tambay A. Obenson
As previously reported, I met filmmaker and blogger Tambay A. Obenson a few weekends back when Sujewa Ekanayake was in town shooting interviews for his upcoming documentary, The Indie Film Bloggers: A Portrait of a Community. Here is my One-on-One Q&A with Obenson.
TFPN: How did the idea of Beautiful Things come about?
Obenson: I’ve always been interested in exploring relationship dynamics. We seem to spend a significant part of our lives in some stage of coupling – we’re either looking for a partner, or we are with a partner and are working to make the relationship long-lasting. The need for companionship is after all very human. I wanted to deconstruct that notion on film.
TFPN: Is the story at all autobiographical?
Obenson: Not really, even though I play the lead male role. It’s not based specifically on any previous relationships; but as the filmmaker, I certainly drew from my own personal experiences as I created material for the project.
TFPN: Were you actually dating Hallie Brown (who plays Schola) while you were shooting the film, or was she merely someone you just cast in the part? Your chemistry seemed very realistic.
Obenson: Hallie was an actress I cast for the part. We were not dating, and never have. While there was a script for the film, about a third into production, I threw out much of it, and decided that I’d rather use improvisational methods to give the film as realistic a look and feel as possible. I felt it was crucial to do so, given the subject matter and my intent.
TFPN: I noticed your hair grew out from the "interview" segments compared to the "flashback" scenes or main action of the film. Was there a time gap between shooting those segments? How long did it take to complete the entire film?
Obenson: Yes there was a time gap of about 2 years between the flashback scenes and the interview segments (which happened in the present). During that time, I let my hair grow a little, although the film had no influence. So, the results, the effects it had on the film, were unintentional - happy accidents, I suppose. I completed the film – production and post – in about 2 years; however, not continuously; there was a lot of down time. Actual shooting happened over 9 total days between 2003 and 2005. Post production (editing, sound design, etc) lasted maybe 4 months.
TFPN: Can you talk a little bit about each of the short films that are also on the DVD? Were those made when you were living in San Francisco?
Obenson: Yes, both I made while taking a film workshop in San Francisco in 2000/2001. Both were first and second attempts at filmmaking for me. "She Is," the longer piece, was a rather spontaneous production. I had no idea what I was doing; I just wanted to get as many "interesting" shots as I could of the young lady I was dating at the time, at various locations, and then eventually edit it all together into something coherent. The second "Eye See" was planned. With Hitchcock as an influence then, I storyboarded the entire film, from the first frame to the last, in detail, prior to production. I haven't worked in that fashion since then because it was quite labor-intensive, but I'll admit that it made for a much more fluid shooting effort, even though I slipped a few times. I haven't made a short film since, instead choosing to focus on feature narratives.
TFPN: How long have you been doing The Obenson Report? Why did you create it? Has it been helpful to you as a filmmaker?
Obenson: The Obenson Report started as a Podcast before becoming a blog - a podcast I created in the summer of 2007, and which I hosted through February of this year. My focus was on black cinema and still is mostly, even with the transition from audio to the written word. I created the podcast as an extension of the work I was already doing - beating the drums for change within the realm of black cinema. But the weekly schedule proved to be quite consuming, and earlier this year, as I went through my usual New Year self-analysis, I realized that I missed the filmmaking process, and wanted to return to it. So, I gave up the podcast in mid-February to focus on writing. The blog picked up where the podcast left off, although my focus has broadened a bit. I found blogging to be less involved - not as much prep time, and much more organic to me. I figured that I already spent a lot of time gathering news and opinion pieces on and offline, for my own use, so simply moving those interesting bits and pieces of information onto a blog made sense to me. The transition hasn't been difficult, though it still takes time to put together. Has it been helpful to me as a filmmaker? Yes, certainly. I've been able connect with people like yourself, and many, many others - bloggers and readers alike - and it's boosted public awareness of me and my efforts, generating interest in people like yourself, as implied by this profile questionnaire.
TFPN: What is your next film project?
Obenson: I've been writing a screenplay off and on for the last 4 months - it's something I'm hoping to produce later this year, or early next year, provided I can raise the necessary funds. I can't give much info about it just yet, as I'm still discovering it myself. But I'll definitely announce its arrival when I'm much more certain of it.
TFPN: Are you looking forward to seeing yourself in Sujewa Ekanayake’s documentary about film bloggers?
Obenson: I most certainly am! I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing others share their individual stories, and how Sujewa puts it all together. I think it's a timely piece of filmmaking, given the "cold war" that's been brewing between the old and new school. It's certainly topical, and I think it could generate a lot of interest and dialogue.