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Filmmaker Focus I Ben Aston

In this edition of Filmmaker Focus, we dive into the filmmaking journey of writer/director, Ben Aston. Known for Dinner & A Movie, Russian Roulette, and his multi award-winning short film, He Took His Skin Off for Me

So, let’s start off by looking at Ben’s journey into filmmaking…

Journey into Film

Ben began shooting short films at the age of 16 when he would write and create projects with his friends from school and college, many of whom he still works with today! 

As he went on to university, he studied Philosophy but still spent his free time writing and directing shorts and quickly realised that this is what he wanted to do—in fact, he couldn’t see himself ever doing anything else. He wanted to tell stories and make art, which led him to the London Film School where he studied filmmaking and met his partner and co-writer, Maria Hummer. 

Maria wrote a short story that had such an impact on Ben that he just had to make it. Despite not being the biggest fan of the horror genre (Ben has admitted that certain horrors, such as Get Out, cost him sleep) when approaching the task of bringing Maria’s story to life on screen, he created arguably the most unconventional horror film to hit the short film world in a long time. 

He Took His Skin Off for Me

He Took His Skin Off for Me is a domestic fairy-tale about a man who takes his skin off for his girlfriend but quickly realises that it probably wasn’t the best idea…

If you haven’t yet watched it, you can check it out below.

He Took His Skin Off for Me was critically acclaimed and was selected to be screened at multiple film festivals, including BFI London Film Festival 2014, Palm Springs International Shortfest 2014, and St. Louis International Film Festival 2014. It was also named one of the 21 best short films of the 21st Century by XFDR. Critic David Chen from Slash Films said “(He Took His Skin Off for Me, is) beautiful, haunting, and profound. Weeks after watching, I can’t get over how perfect it is”.

So, what is the story really about? 

Well, Ben Aston admitted in our podcast episode that he isn’t a fan of typical horror. Demons, monsters and zombies are just not his thing. But what he finds most terrifying, are things like toxic relationships, being continually hurt by somebody you love. 

So, in terms of He Took His Skin Off for Me, this film explores a relationship where one person has made a massive sacrifice and is quite literally bleeding for the person they love, while their partner just lets them do it and would never do the same in return. Although, Ben goes on to say that the story is told from the female character’s point of view and despite the way she is received in the film, she is not a villain. She is just a woman who doesn’t initially think of the consequences this dire act will have on her relationship as both grow to resent the other.  And further to this, there is a point in the film where she is in the shower and considers taking her own skin off but hesitates—prompting the audience to ask what they would do in her situation? 

While the tone of the film is gentle and harmonious, the imagery in this short is quietly violent. This is a key element in highlighting the traps many of us fall into, particularly in relationships, in which we allow ourselves to remain in situations that quietly damage us, all the while hoping that things will get better. Ben and his team succeed in fine fashion, seamlessly blending the trappings of domestic bliss with overpowering images of gore. 

Ben As a Filmmaker 

As mentioned earlier, Ben has openly said that he could never envision himself doing anything else. In fact, the mere thought of it terrifies him because this is what he was born to do. He goes on to say that a calling to make art is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because art is life giving: everything you want to be and do. And a curse because it is everything you want to be and do, and so you have a deep hunger inside of you, eating away at your very being until you make that art. 

As a creative, do you feel the same? Do you feel a deep hunger inside of you just yearning to make art? Would you consider it both a blessing and a curse? Let us know in the comments! 

If you want to watch our live Q&A with Ben Aston at our recent Shortest Night of the Month event, sign up to our Launchpad Membership today! 

You can also see our full podcast interview with Ben below. And click here to explore Ben’s body of work on his Filmmaker’s Collection page.

If you want to watch more short films and learn about other short filmmakers, head on over to our film page where you can find a collection of our amazing short films and insightful reviews. Don’t forget to hit up our podcast, where we meet with filmmakers and talk about their backgrounds, passions, influences! 

Find out more about Ben Aston and stay up to date on his projects and development by using the links below.

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