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Clint Bentley

An interview with an up-and-coming filmmaker and story-teller.

Clint and I tend to catch-up a few times per year. And, each time, I always leave feeling wildly inadequate.

Just a few weeks ago, we caught up for drinks. I shared that I'd been able to find time to start going to the gym again. Clint, meanwhile, shared that he'd been teaching classes in a maximum security prison for the past week or two, whilst developing several new film and television concepts.

Similarly, a year or two ago, I was droning on about raising funding and developing my company. Meanwhile, Clint had just cut the trailer for his first feature-length film and had managed to convince members of 'The National' to record the soundtrack for it.

If it's not already obvious, he's on an amazing journey. It's been a genuine pleasure to see, too, as it couldn't happen to a nicer or more humble person.

So, for those of you just stumbling across Clint, I'd encourage you to check out Transpecos. As he shares below, he's not a marketer, so he probably won't tell you to do so. But I will.

Oh, also, you should know that Clint was kind enough to provide some of his own questions and answers for our interview today. (I'll let you guess which.)

Enjoy.


Matt Alexander: First, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Clint Bentley: I was raised on a cattle ranch in Florida. I’ve lived all over. I’m married to Rachel Bentley and we have a little dog.

Matt Alexander: Do you consider yourself a writer, a filmmaker, or otherwise?

Clint Bentley: I tell stories. I love what fiction can achieve and I love what cinema can do ​for people​. Anytime I start thinking too hard about this question I ​start to get anxiety, so I mostly just avoid the question and focus on the work.

I’m sorry, I’m not very good at marketing.

Matt Alexander: How did you get into the world of film?

Clint Bentley: In fits and starts. I made my first documentary when I was in college. I bought a camcorder and drove the length of the U.S.-Mexico border, interviewing anyone who would talk to me​ — everyone from the Minutemen who are stopping people from crossing the border to the Samaritans in Tucson who are giving water and medical help to people crossing, to State Representatives. ​I was trying to make sense of the whole crazy situation. Of course, that’s impossible — like trying to figure out how your car works by staring at the engine.

I also ha​ve a background writing fiction and so my first paid jobs were writing scripts for actors who wanted to direct themselves in a movie ​and just had an idea​. Then Greg Kwedar (my writing partner and director of Transpecos) asked me to write a border patrol film with him and six years later we made it.

That’s an extreme oversimplification of the story ​(and skips over all the corporate video and TV work)​, but the whole story would take up a few pages and I doubt your readers want to wade through all that while they’re killing time on this website at work.

Of course, I’m still on the very edge of “the film world” — working the docks, watching the big ships go past. Hoping one day I get to take a ​little ​boat out there.

Matt Alexander: Who are some of your greatest influences?

Clint Bentley: They range pretty widely. In no particular order: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Akira Kurosawa, Bob Dylan, William Faulkner, Paul Thomas Anderson, Toni Morrison, The Beatles ​... If you think about it, you can learn everything you need to know about being an artist from The Beatles​.

Matt Alexander: Do you believe in Ghosts

Clint Bentley: What an odd​ question. I’m certainly not against the idea. You get feelings every once in a while, you know? I saw a UFO once, but that was in Florida and you see a lot of strange things if you spend much time there. I’ve seen the mystery lights in Marfa. ​They say those could be glowing gasses, methane ​and phosphine, or they could be old spirits. Both are probably true.​ I certainly think there’s another reality that lays overtop or around the reality we see around us, kind of like a filter on a camera lens. Maybe there are moments where the line between those realities just get a little blurry.

Matt Alexander: Your film, Transpecos, has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and has received a tremendous amount of attention over the past year or so. How has that felt for you?

Clint Bentley: It's nice. I'm happy people have responded to it. I think pretty much every artist hopes to move people with their work, so we're lucky this has happened with this movie. Maybe that will happen with the next one, maybe not. Ultimately, Greg and I made the film hoping it would start conversation. We wanted to show that empathy exists in a very contentious environment with the hope that if it can sprout somewhere like the border. We all can make it a reality wherever we are.

Matt Alexander: What's next for you?

Clint Bentley: Same old stuff. I just want to keep making movies and writing stories. I want to ​learn to be more ambitious in my writing. I want to remember to be a better person. ​I want to get better at the piano. And on and on...

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