Co-directing 7,000 Miles Apart: "Tombstone Pillow" Social Change Projects

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

By Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett, Directors of “Tombstone Pillow” 

As Directors and Creators, we had been really working to figure out what we really wanted to be known for.  It was clear to us that that the very famous and respected Directors in the industry all were known for something very specific and when you heard their names, Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze…you instantly knew what type of cinematic experience you were in for. 

After starting together as a husband and wife writer/director team in 2007 on the Lower East Side of NYC, Bayou Bennett and I, after several years started to see that the world really needed our help and that filmmaking could be the most powerful change maker.  In the last years, we were lucky to team up with celebrities like Coldplay, Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo and viral sensation Lindsey Stirling to unite around stories that truly matter.  This convinced us of our cinematic purpose and became passionate to use our talents to inspire on a big scale. 

Our latest film project, “Tombstone Pillow” which premiered at Oscar-qualifying LA Shorts and winner of Best Drama at ICP Shorts Series, is one of our most passionate social change projects yet. ”The idea for "Tombstone Pillow" first came about during a trip the Philippines and visiting the Manila cemetery where we discovered actual families live amongst the tombs.  The reality of life in the cemetery shocked us so much, we couldn't get the world and imagery out of our minds.  6,000 families living where people go to die in the most difficult conditions.  We called up our dear friend, writer and filmmaker, Fraser Scott who lives in Mumbai.  We had collaborated on the Coldplay project together which raised over a million dollars for at risk youth.  Fraser instantly decided to hop on board to create a story that would be unforgettable while acting as a vehicle to raise awareness and help the community who lives there.

Behind the Scenes of "Tombstone Pillow" Discovering families living in cemeteries from Dream Team Directors on Vimeo.

Unable to physically come on the shoot due to being a loving Mom of a very active 3 year old, Bayou Bennett was not going to let that stop her from co-directing the film.  The desire to tell this emotional and powerful story and help the families, drove her to great experimentation.  In fact, this is where she relied on one of the greatest thing about our modern era-technology.  Bayou researched various methods of live video conferencing such as What's App, Samsung video and finally settled on Facebook Live Video.  This behind the scenes video gives the interesting details of how she did it and the team co-directed more than 7,000 miles apart.  

Co-directing "Tombstone Pillow" 7,000 miles apart. from Dream Team Directors on Vimeo.

The emotions, world and characters of "Tombstone Pillow" are inspired by real life.  The Philippines is one of the countries in Asia with the greatest resources but unfortunately the greatest corruption and poverty.  Casting Director Jam Vergara did a brilliant job casting the supporting roles.  We called "ACTION" as Directors but long after "CUT" they kept going.  This inspired long takes and led to the traditional idea of the "Extra" being tossed out the window.  These actors ending up being just as central as the two main characters, Olivia and Maria-combined with a strong and visual setting of the cemetery which became the 3rd grouping of characters.  

Executive Producer, Lourdes Baron who stars in the film is an actress, humanitarian and singer. The characters of Olivia is loosely based on her life as a rich woman who went through a major life transformation to discover what real riches actually are in life.  For her the answer to happiness lies in helping people.  She passionately, with the help of her husband, leads the Hope for the World Foundation which is a non-profit providing medical care in the Philippines and Mexico to those who desperately need it but cannot afford it.  

Lou BTS Nov 14, 2019 Olivia Character from Dream Team Directors on Vimeo.

Our goal now with the film is to present the film to the Mayor of Manila who wants to help relocate the families living in the cemeteries and improve their lives.  We will be screening the film where it was filmed, Manila at the Asian Cinematography Awards Feb 23, 2019 where the film is a Finalist.  The film will also open the NYC International Film Festival at the Dolby Theatre March 23, 2019.  

This is a dream come true to be able to come up with an idea and story and have a desire to help a community.  Then to get the funding to make the film, lead a group of 100 cast and crew through the most intense cinema environment imaginable and finally be able to share the film with the world. 

If you have an idea and a story you really believe in, go after it and don’t stop.  The bigger the barrier the bigger the win on the other side. 

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  • charleryals said…
    Thursday, January 9, 2020 7:43 AM
    I like it.
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