Producer Nicky Bentham On The Award-Winning Short Film THE AFTER | Close Up Culture Interview
Misan Harriman’s directorial debut, The After, starring award-winning actor David Oyelowo (Selma, A United Kingdom) premieres globally October 25, 2023, on Netflix.
The After is an affecting short film that follows Dayo (Oyelowo), a Londoner who has to reconnect with himself and society after witnessing a devastating random attack in the capital. The After has its world premiere at the Oscar®-qualifying HollyShorts Film Festival, where it won Best Live Action Short. Producer Nicky Bentham talks to Close-Up Culture about this powerful film.
How did The After come about?
I was introduced to Misan Harriman through a mutual friend and we met up to talk about a documentary project revolving around some of his incredible photography. We spent the day together and I was struck by his natural storytelling ability. It was clear that he had an abundance of ideas and characters to be mined and so I asked him if he’d ever considered filmmaking. He most definitely had and he told me the idea for The After right then and there. I was hooked.
What was it about the script that interested you in the project?
When we first started talking about it there was no script. But what I loved about the story that he told me was its clear narrative, that was a simple slice of life which packs a very big punch. I think those sorts of stories make the best short films and it’s a really difficult medium to master. It also has a really unusual structure which I think puts the audience right in the middle of the unfolding drama.
After our initial meeting, Misan and I starting talking regularly so that I could extract the idea and all the details from him and get them down onto paper. After quite a bit of back and forth, we had an outline. And then we brought on screenwriter John Julius Schwabach to write the script.
Misan Harriman is know as a visionary photographer but The After is his first film, what was it like working together?
It’s no surprise that the person who manages to capture such beauty and humanity in his photographs is a deeply compassionate and collaborative person, so it was an absolute pleasure working with Misan. I love his photos because often they’re looking on the sidelines where no-body else might be looking, or focussing on a real, human detail that other people might not see. I think Misan has a wonderful ability to inspire those around him and that’s a fantastic asset for a film director.
How do you manage more on more than one project at once?
With difficulty! I’m a very hands on producer, I like being close to the actual filmmaking. So although I do always have to have several projects on my slate, and I do have a small team to keep things ticking over, if something is in production it will be taking up most if not all of my time. I know it’s very frustrating for the other writers and directors having to wait for me to re-emerge…but I think they know that they’ll get their turn and when they do I will be there for them.
How did you get into producing?
I did a film degree at University as I thought I wanted to be a director. Nobody in my class wanted to produce so I ended up having to produce the shorts that I wanted to make and I quickly realised it was what I was meant to be doing. After uni I got a job as a production assistant and then freelanced working my way up from PA / Runner roles.
Congratulations on the film being under consideration for an OSCAR and a BAFTA, what makes The After stand out for you?
Thank you! I think that The After tells a really extreme and specific story that is oddly relatable and universal. It speaks to the importance of human connection and also makes us really consider how all the people we bump up against and cross paths with on a daily basis are having their own, sometimes enormous, struggles. It’s message is really about the power of simple human kindness and I think that’s an important one to be reminded of in these confusing and challenging times.
Did you have any difficulties in making this film?
There’s always difficulties making a film! And I would say a short film can be harder than a feature because there’s less time, less resources and a narrower target narratively. Finding a route for a first time filmmaker to tell their story and to tell it their way is always a challenge because there will always be other voices and perspectives. I’m really proud of the fact that the finished film is very, very similar to the story Misan pitched me that first day we met.
What is next for you?
I’m making a feature film called Brides with a theatre director, Nadia Fall, so this is her first feature and it’s a UK/Italian co-production shooting in Wales, Turkey and Italy. It’s another big challenge…which I’m always drawn to it would seem.