Benjamin ‘Benj’ Welmond graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with the first self-defined Film and Digital Video degree. They directed a documentary web series, DIYSECT, which examines the intersection between modern DIY biologist and bioart across America. Inspired by the volunteer efforts of a group of veterans, they also directed a short film on the ongoing efforts to remove of bombs and mines from what was the demilitarized zone in Vietnam.
Inspired by Lynch, Cronenberg, and Gilliam, they enjoy making creepy movies that combine the genre-tropes of science fiction and horror with the surreal. Their newest short, Faulty Father, has screened at 25 different festivals, and won the Staff Award at the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival.
Benj is currently a freelance editor that has worked with the Martin Luther King Community Health Foundation, Amazon Prime Video, the National Ad Council, and many more.
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
I would definitely visit the world of Faulty Father. The world of my film is supposed to be the vision we had for the future in the 90s. Back then, we had just started to imagine the potential of interconnectivity, and we thought that everything in the future would be interchangeable, hackable and with the right knowledge, highly personalizable. Now that motherboards are being glued into laptops, and most phone plans come with a phone you can rent rather than purchase, and everything conversation you have is being regurgitated to you on a social media site, we are slowly moving into a future in which nothing belongs to you.
Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?
I feel like Jeff Goldblum’s character from the fly (Seth Grundle) is so tragic and beautiful that I always related to his obsession to perfecting his work, even if it came at such a grave cost.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
I’m sure they are doing it already- and they are probably winning awards! I think robots are just really sophisticated computers, so as long as they are not putting people out of work, I’m not very worried about them.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I feel there aren’t many bad ideas- just ones you haven’t really thought through. I have many ideas that I get excited about, only to have a friend tell me, “oh, you mean like this movie.” It feels like a gut punch.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
I think it’s important to think about the future, and to consider that you might still have some control over it. I’m not a big fan of post-apocalyptic scifi, because I find that it surrenders are responsibility and makes death, destruction, and animalistic anarchy seem inevitable. The world is a big and depressing place, but human beings are incredibly resourceful, and we usually figure things out.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
There is no question that I am hopelessly addicted to social media, but every time I go for a walk oustide I think, “oh that’s right, nature is beautiful.” So I guess I’m more of a sheep than anything. In my films, I try to imagine technology as something highly personal, and I don’t really think that my relationship with tech is anything like that; it functions more as some emotional dump.
When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
I’m very inspired by the science fiction of them 80s, so I appreciate expansive set design and over the top practical effects. In particular, I’m a big fan of messiness, and I think this is a direct response to the sterile aesthetics that Apple brings to the markets.
What Scifi are you into/reading right now?
I’m in the middle of reading the book Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson, in which a bunch of Scientists with very different philosophies construct a colony on Mars. I love it not only because the writer has clearly done extensive research on what that would look like, but presents the perspectives of scientists as complicated, and debate as necessary. We are so often given narratives that tell us that either science is going to kill us all or save us all, but I think things are much more complicated than that.