Director Ben Cleary – Irish Newcomer up for Oscar Glory

Barbara Soares

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This Sunday, 28th February, the 88th academy awards takes place in Hollywood and 2016 seems to be a bright year for the Irish film industry.

The Emerald Isle is holding it’s own this year with numerous nominations on the cards. Leading the charge is Lenny Abrahamson’s ‘Room’, which is in the running for a total of four gongs tonight including best picture and best director. John Crowley’s “Brooklyn” is also a serious contender, up for three nominations including best picture and best actress for Saoirse Ronan.

Even though the spotlight is focused on those directors, newcomer Benjamin Cleary, director and writer, could be the Irish revelation at this year’s Oscars.

In 2015 when he wrote, directed and edited his first short film entitled ‘Stutterer‘, Ben Cleary could never have dreamed about his first piece being nominated for an Oscar. He said: “I remember winning our first award; we just couldn’t believe it, pretty funny”.

The idea for ‘Stutterer’ came up when he “saw something online”. He added: “A stutterer gentleman talking about when he was speaking face to face to people he was fine, but when he went on the phone his stutter came back quite badly because his voice was the only thing on show”. After that the Dublin born director started to think how life might be for someone with a speech impediment and started to come up with ideas.

The film, that stars Matthew Needham and Chloe Pirrie, has been accepted into 20 festivals at time of writing and has won nine awards so far, including Best Foreign Film at the LA Shorts Fest.

About the expectations for the Oscars, Ben Cleary said: “We are just delighted to be nominated and really happy just being here (in LA)”.

Benjamin first started thinking about movie structure and writing at the age of 8, and as a teenager found inspiration in the movies of Woodie Allen. “It is something that has always been there”. Benjamin’s favourite director at the moment is Paul Thomas Anderson.

He goes on to say, “it just got serious about six years ago” when he decided to join the Screenwriting masters in the London Film School.

In order to make a good film, the most important thing for Ben Cleary is the script, ‘if you got a solid script you got a chance to make a solid film’.

Vimeo / benjamincleary – via Iframely

‘And the Oscar goes to… Stutterer’. Yes indeed, director and writer Benjamin Cleary won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film for “Stutterer” at the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood. At the end he was the only Irish director getting an Oscar at that night.

Ben Cleary on his Facebook page said: “Holy smokes, what an insane 48 hours. Still can’t quite believe this has happened. Thanks so much everyone for all the incredibly nice messages, texts and mails. I’m blown away by it all. Sorry I haven’t gotten back to everyone yet but I will soon as I can. Thanks and big love” What a gent.

The Oscar winner is a humble person indeed. He was two years ago when I met him; and happily he still. The entire Ireland has many reasons to be proud of this achievement right now, and many of them are definitely coming in the near future.

“Every day is a proud day to be Irish but today more so than usual” Ben Cleary at the Oscars 2016.

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Barbara Soares