Interview with Ben Weissner, producer of ‘Confusion Through Sand’

After screening 'Confusion Through Sand' at our festival last year, we've caught up with Ben Weissner, the producer of the project, to gain a deeper insight into their creative process and see how Ornana are getting on after a busy start to the year 2015!

If you would like to submit your film to the festival, don’t forget that our Call for Entries is now open

Following on from (Notes on) Biology, Confusion Through Sand takes on a far more serious subject matter, where did the idea for the storyline come from?
The story was birthed out of so many different conversations. We talked a lot about the idea as a group, but even before that we came of age having these really powerful, but difficult conversations with veterans. As we were graduating college, friends of ours were returning from years in the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy. They wore the consequences of the war. We wanted to find a way to reflect what we were seeing.

What were your main challenges while producing this film?
Balance I believe was one of the most pivotal challenges. There were hundreds of little steps, and being precise about each to make sure we had been measured was a consuming part of the process. It was difficult to determine how to be true to each element of the story (the young soldier, the young shepherd, the children amidst the violence) without over-explaining or preaching.

What was your favourite part of the creative process?
It’s always the beginning isn’t it, watching it start to take shape? For us, I think the best part was Danny doing a full pass of the film in graphite to measure the movement and the timing. Jim and I would photograph each shot after the initial animation, and watching the pencil lines start to define the shape of the story was that rush of creative adrenaline that kept us pushing through several more months of labor.

You also directed the film Euphonia, What would you consider to be the main differences between working in animation compared to live action? Do you prefer either?
There’s a tendency to swear off hand drawn animation at the end of every project. We generally switch back and forth between the two, animation and live action. The approach and execution of each really helps inform the other. I think Danny’s eye for shooting live action is one of his biggest strengths in his animation. And conversely, the understanding of birthing an entire world through animation helps clarify the focus on each specific element when we are shooting live action. You learn to bring the advantages of each style into the other.

What would you consider to be your main influences?
Really bold, original, honest art. That can be far ranging in form from Mark Twain’s novels, to Talib Kweli’s lyrics, to Tony Hoagland’s poetry. We happen to be filmmakers, but the creative spark comes from everywhere. And there is deep inspiration in the excellence and dedication of our peers: Omar Mullick and Bassim Tariq’s These Birds Walk, Patrick Wang’s In the Family, let alone the bounty of incredible independent animation happening right now.

What films have influenced you as a film-maker and on this particular project?
For this project, a lot of the influence came more directly from library research and interviewing veterans. The most significant book for us was Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War.

What do you hope for the future of Ornana? Are you currently working on any new projects?
We want to keep telling new stories in new ways. We have a couple of projects in post production right now. All Your Favorite Shows! is a pretty wild short animation that will be premiering at SxSw this spring. And we have a new live action short, A Different Kind of Movement, that is near and dear to us. We’re finishing that up this spring.

What do you think about the selection of films on show a Encounters Film Festival?
We’re really impressed by the breadth and depth of the programming at Encounters. So many films from so many countries really help give a context to where and what film is moving toward.

Any advice you would give to young film-makers looking to start their own company?
If you’re going to start a company you have to be very honest about the why and the what, so define them and stick to them. Find people that you value, and work very hard to challenge each other. The most moving work comes from people stretching their abilities. Be genuine in your work and your attitude, it takes that vulnerability to learn from the process. And focus of the story, not the results, because success is a moving finish line, but the film that you put out into the world lives on as you have created it. Those are all the same lesson: to be humble and thorough.

Congratulations on having the film premiered on PBS, what does this now mean for Ornana?
We are thrilled to be working with PBS and ITVS to release Confusion Through Sand. Bringing the film to their audience will help expand the reach of the story to more people. We are hoping to find more partners to bring this story further into the public discourse. We’ve been astounded by the response from veterans about the impact the film had on them, and we’d be honoured to continue sharing it.

Watch ‘Confusion Through Sand’ here
Learn more about the ‘Making of’ here



Reminder that our call for entries is now open!

Final Deadline 5 June 2015 – for works completed in 2015

Short films and animations of any genre (fiction, documentary, experimental, music video) under 30 minutes are eligible. Encounters festival does not have a premiere policy.

Online submissions are powered by Reelport. There are discounts for multiple submissions

Full entry guidelines and online submission at