Sage’s work has a spirited emotive quality that spans both her narrative films and commercial spots, many of which embrace and shine light on the human experience from a female perspective. As a director, she seeks to bring levity to the topics she explores in her work, hoping to spark conversation amongst her audience. Sage is also directing our Spring ’23 campaign, so we can speak first hand as to what an impassioned collaborator she is. Read on to learn more about how her experiences off-set, and across different mediums, helps inform her work on screen.
What do you enjoy most about your process of telling stories as a director?
I really love bringing talented people together, and being on set. Especially because as a director you spend significantly more time, in my experience, prepping and in post than actually being on set. I enjoy the adrenaline rush of all these people coming together to bring an idea to life.
"I really love bringing talented people together, and being on set. I enjoy the adrenaline rush of all these people coming together to bring an idea to life."
I'm curious how your work as a photographer might effect the way you approach directing, as I'd have to think it makes you very particular when it comes to the visuals. Do you find that each role helps inform how you approach the other?
Photography has helped me develop and strengthen my eye for compositions. I move around and experiment a lot if the shot is not working. It's taught me you don’t have to stick with a bad shot, and can tinker with it until something works. But at the same time you do need to know when to move on.
Film has influenced my photography- figuring out how you can tell a story in a photo. I use movement in my photography to diffuse any awkward stiffness, which I also tend to do in my films too.
"Photography has taught me you don’t have to stick with a bad shot, and can tinker with it until something works."
How does being a director & photographer influence how you go about your day to day life?
I am willing to try things and put myself into unique experiences because that is where good stories come from. I don’t think you need to have lived everything you write about or direct, but it definitely helps! Some examples include working on a cheese farm, hitchhiking through NZ, and performing as a Minnesota mom pursuing her dreams of stripping at a comedy show. It’s important to have a life outside of filmmaking.
Can you talk a bit about the process of pitching, and what it's like to ride those ups and downs of winning & loosing bids. Are there things that you do regularly outside of the work that help you stay balanced and not get burnt out?
The process of pitching varies, but if you are chosen by an agency to pitch on a project you create a treatment. A treatment is essentially a presentation on how you would approach their idea-cinematography, tone, art direction, sound, music, etc. Based on your reel and your treatment they decide which director gets the job, usually there are three directors bidding against each other. And for some projects clients reach out to you directly, you still write a treatment but it's usually not as extensive.
I've lost more bids than I have won, and as much as you get used to it, it does sting a bit. Directors and production companies often put many hours into these pitches, and don’t get paid, unless they win the bid. I believe that this system is a bit outdated- people deserve to get paid for their ideas and work!
To help avoid burnout, it's important to learn to find a balance between creatively fulfilling jobs, money jobs, and jobs you do to meet people and be connected to talented humans. I believe to say yes, a job needs to have at least 2 of those 3 qualities. I also love yoga, dance, traveling, comedy, and spending time doing other artistic things that aren’t for my career, just for fun.
What types of projects do you find you are most drawn to?
I love projects with a sense of adventure, and exploring relationships. I recently shot a love story on 16mm film in Acapulco, Mexico titled Aguamiel. I would happily do more work on film.
"I am willing to try things and put myself into unique experiences because that is where good stories come from."
Where is one place that your lens has taken you that you otherwise might not have gone without a camera in your hand?
In college, I shot a documentary in Sierra Leone. We went to really remote villages and some of the kids had never seen white people before and started crying and yelling “ghost!”
I more recently did a commercial that involved scouting for the flower fields in the areas surrounding Mexico City- we went all over trying to find the most beautiful field of flowers for the kids to frolic in.
What kind of feelings do you hope your work evokes?
I hope my work and future work brings levity to heavy topics, sparks conversations, conjures a sense of awe, and makes people laugh and cry. If you can make someone laugh and cry- I mean, the power you hold!
Sage Bennett is a director & photographer based in Brooklyn, NY.