The People’s Choice Award: Adam Benay
8: Adam Benay
Petal Fall Production
Produce a short film about public education in Vermont
I am a filmmaker and educator from Fairfax, Vermont. For the past several years, my focus has been writing and producing a series of short films about addiction in Vermont entitled, “The North End Stories.” Previously, these shorts have been featured in the VTIFF’s Made Here Festival, as well as profiled in the Burlington Free Press, among other media outlets. I believe film has the power to foster understanding and empathy, as well as empower through representation.
Our production team also includes Julie Benay (a Vermont-native public educator of over 40 years), Amit Saini (a certified financial planner working in Burlington), Sinead Keirans (co-producer with a Masters in Film from the University of Texas), Maddie Van Beek (cinematographer) and Caitlin Duffy (professional actor and Vermont native with a Masters in Acting from Brown).
The short film, entitled, “Petal Fall,” is the final installment in a short film series entitled, “The North End Stories.” The triptych was inspired by real life stories of Vermonters dealing with the opioid epidemic in a variety of ways. Themes of addiction and community run throughout the series. In “Petal Fall,” we see secondary effects of the epidemic. Gwen is deeply committed to her work as a middle school teacher. She is particularly invested in Shane, a sixth grader who comes from a home of drug addiction and poverty. When Gwen catches him cheating on a test, her ideas of equity and professionalism are thrown for a loop, and her own mental health begins to suffer. “Petal Fall” is based on real stories.
My goal with these short films is to portray characters who viewers – even ones not suffering from addiction – can see themselves in. The result, I hope, is that these viewers will not just have more empathy for their fellow humans suffering from addiction, but that they will also find strength and inspiration in dealing with their own problems. A writer for a Vermont college newsite wrote about the North End Stories: “Benay sees connections between his fellow Vermonters and is able to cast a wide net that relates to any viewer.” The goal for “Petal Fall” would be to continue to make these connections.
Though addiction has become a statewide crisis over the past decade, it has been a prevalent issue throughout my entire life. I have numerous family members who are addicts, and as I got older, I began to have lots of friends and peers who struggle with the disease as well. I have my own relationship with compulsive behavior, as I have diagnosed OCD, and know all too well how it can get it the way of personal progress and happiness. I believe that understanding is a way to help people suffering from compulsive behavior, and my goal is to use the medium of film to foster understanding. As Roger Ebert said, “Movies are like a machine that generates empathy.”
Blue in Green. “From the series, ‘The North End Stories.’ It was featured in the VTIFF Made Here Festival and profiled in the Burlington Free Press.”
Pomeroy. “From the series, ‘The North End Stories.'”