Winning film has Greencastle ties

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Lake Bender joined friends for a film project. The teenager spends a lot of time on the computer and said he is always learning.

One day of shooting. Fifty minutes of film edited to five. Submission to an international short film competition, along with 1,119 other hopefuls from 76 countries.

Someone had to win the Judges’ Film Prize. Why not a crew from Greencastle?

Writer and director Ronnie Bingaman, 24, recruited his brother Ridge, 21, Lake Bender, 17, and Hagerstown resident Jake Buwalda, 17, to enter the My Rode Reel contest, sponsored by Rode Microphones. Their product, “The Tale of Benjamin Sawyer”, was the judges’ pick.

It was also a finalist for Best Soundtrack and Best Cinematography. Other categories were People’s Choice, Best Sound Design, Best Documentary, Best Non-English Film, Best Location, and Judges’ Behind the Scenes.

Bingaman watched for the results online in June.

“It was complete unbelief,” he said when he saw his film was a winner. “Time froze for a second. I kept hitting refresh. I’m very honored to be picked.”

The quartet won Rode audio-video equipment for its accomplishment. It will come in handy for future projects.

“I’m definitely planning on making more videos and films,” Bingaman said. “We want to keep creating and push ourselves with good content.”

He has an idea for HBO Project Greenlight sponsored by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

The making of Benjamin Sawyer

Bingaman had the plot for his movie a couple years ago, but not the right equipment to make it. He saved his money for a good video camera. When he learned about the Rode contest, the time was right to forge ahead.

He pulled together his team. Ridge had training and certification in sound from a stint in Nashville, so he became sound producer. Jake was a photographer and Bingaman thought this would be an opportunity for him to learn while serving as production assistant. Lake was a “talented videographer”. Because Rode also required behind-the-scenes footage, the teen was asked to join for his proven experience. The two work together at Cross & Crown, a web and marketing agency in Chambersburg. Bingaman is Director of Video, and Lake does motion graphics and shooting on location. He ran the camera at Uprise Festival in Shippensburg last fall, and edited the film.

“The Tale of Benjamin Sawyer” has an old man narrating a childhood experience after his dad died. The victim of some bullying, Ben meets Caasi, an alien creature, in the woods. The script was tagged “the story of loneliness, loss, and finding joy again.”

The four traveled to the Scranton area in April to film in one day. Bingaman’s relatives on his mother’s side were the actors, plus some of their friends.

“They were awesome,” he said. “They took my direction well; they were flexible. It was surprisingly easy. We knew exactly what we wanted and I didn’t waste time.”

Behind the scenes

Lake was assigned to record the BHS footage, something he wanted to do for the group as well as for Rode.

“I wanted to show everything we did. This was our first time planning anything this big,” he said. “I wanted to document everything just for us.”

Bingaman had prepared a storyboard for every shot, so things flowed smoothly. Lake was able to extend his youthful interest. He and his brother Cade,15, and their friends had made plenty of videos for You Tube. Lake had worked on visual effects and editing, and paid attention to BTS clips of movies. His knowledge base increased through Internet programs, help from Bingaman, and his job.

“We were surprised we won,” Lake said. “We sort of forgot about it because we had so much fun.”

He cut his film to 13 minutes, though Rode required just 10. As for the overall storyline, Caasi was an imaginary friend. Or was he?

“I don’t even know,” admitted Lake. “It’s up to the viewer.”

In his free time, he plays guitar and drums and enjoys his car. He is interested in a career in the creative arts but is not sure of the employment prospects. A senior at G-AHS, he will remain open to an engineering or math major.