A Camera, a Story, and a Curiosity: An Interview with Ryan White and Ben Cotner

March 21, 2014   |   posted in Filmmakers

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Someone to Watch Award-winner Ryan White debuts “The Case Against 8” at the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival. His first film, “Pelada,” played at SXSW in 2010. His Co-Director Ben Cotner on “The Case Against 8” also provided some insight. Both White and Cotner are recognized as part of CIFF’s Focus on Filmmakers series this year.

CIFF: You have earned the Someone to Watch Award for this year’s festival. What does this recognition mean to you?
RW: I feel incredibly honored. “The Case Against 8” is my third film so it is still pretty early in my career. My second film, “Good ol’ Freda,” won the audience award at last year’s CIFF, and I’m excited to be showing my first film, “Pelada,” at this year’s festival, especially in a year of a World Cup.

CIFF: How did you decide to pursue a career as a documentary filmmaker?
RW: I grew up as a film nerd. I watched movies as much as possible, and I was one of those kids who asked to stay up late to watch the Oscars. I had a passion for photography, but I discovered documentary filmmaking in my first year of college and haven’t strayed since.

CIFF: “The Case Against 8” and “Pelada” depict very different topics — same-sex marriage and pick-up soccer games. What about these stories inspired you to bring them to life via film?
RW: I’m a curious person. Some people might call it nosy. I enjoy stories about people who don’t seek the limelight. “The Case Against 8” features two regular, day-to-day couples who never intended to be the face of such a huge social issue.
BC: It is a character film, not an advocacy film, and is edited in a way for audiences to be drawn into the journey instead of focusing on whether same-sex marriage is right or wrong.
RW: “Pelada” is about two soccer players
 who travel the world playing pick-up soccer
 with locals who aren’t making millions or endorsements, but instead playing for their own personal reasons. I am not a soccer player, but I fell in love with it over the four years it took to make the film and came to realize soccer is a universal language. I’m drawn to the characters that have smaller, quieter stories.

CIFF: What films or filmmakers have influenced the work you create?

RW: I enjoy watching as many other documentaries as I can. I love coming to regional film festivals to see the work of local filmmakers who may not get a chance to attend the bigger film events. Everything I watch shapes the way I create my films.

CIFF: What advice do you have for up-and-coming filmmakers today?

RW: Roll the dice. Take the risk. Find a story that gets you excited. You can make films relatively cheap and pretty much on your own if you have a camera, a story and the curiosity.

—Interview by Amy Kersey

PDF  Download Related PDF [1.0 MB]

Related Screenings:
03/21/14 @ 4:15 PM – Pelada
03/21/14 @ 6:10 PM – The Case Against 8
03/22/14 @ 2:50 PM – Pelada
03/22/14 @ 4:20 PM – The Case Against 8

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