The Dynamic Duo

Weekly Newsletter
Issue #326

The Dynamic Duo

Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett have been Film Connection mentors for 10 years! They have worked with an unrivaled client list, including; Michelle Pfeiffer, Mark Ruffalo, and Juliette Lewis, as well as, brands and celebrities such as Bella Hadid, Chrome Hearts, Smashbox Cosmetics, Paris Hilton, Coldplay, Lindsey Stirling, and Norman Reedus– winning 75 film festival awards along the way. I sat down with this dream team to discuss their career, the program, their secret sauce, and the upcoming premiere of their latest film, Connection.


How did each of you originally get interested in film?

Daniel: I was looking for a way of expressing myself as an artist and wasn’t sure what that would be. I took a film class at Art Center College of Design after taking many different types of classes. It just really really felt like the right thing for me and my life. It was an incredible experience.

Bayou: I got my Masters of Fine Arts in college. During that time, I experimented with filmmaking. I realized, after pursuing painting and performance art, that my passion was in filmmaking. This medium has the potential to reach millions and make a real difference on our planet.


Your collaborative relationship is so unique! How did it begin and progress?

Daniel: We met at a vegetarian cafe in the Lower East Side of New York. Bayou was coming out of her yoga class and I was sitting there eating my veggie dog and there was only one seat available, which was next to me.

Bayou: When we first met I was doing a feature documentary and I needed an editor. So I saved his number as ‘Editor.’ I went off to Jordan Aman to teach a class on filmmaking–

Daniel: Wait, I think I saved you as, ‘Girlfriend.’ I guess we had a different point of view… 

Bayou: I didn’t think too much about it except that I had met this talented editor. We stayed in touch and ended up working together on a film that got into the Hot Springs Film Festival. After about six months I realized we were more than just coworkers.

Is it ever difficult to work with your spouse?

Bayou: Not at all! We’ve figured it out. It has not. We wear different hats at different times. We keep them separate; coworkers, parents, husband and wife.


You guys should write a book! I’m sure a lot of collaborative partnerships could benefit from learning your relationship tips n’ tricks.

Bayou: Yes! Maybe we should! We get asked this question so much.


You have a premiere coming up! Can you tell us about it?

Bayou: Our film is called Connection and will premiere at the Blue Water Film festival. We are going to be going to beautiful La Jolla, California, this weekend. We will speak on a panel and then present our film on the ‘Blue Carpet.’ We are excited!


Amazing! Can you tell us more about the film itself?

Bayou: It’s about how we are all connected on this planet. About how what we do here in America affects people in different countries. We were lucky to be able to film it in four different countries. We filmed in India, Pakestan, Africa, and Los Angeles. It was a huge pleasure.


Is it in the mode of… you know the film, Samsara?

Bayou: Exactly! You are very perceptive! Every time we do a film, we always figure out the gold standard reference point, and for this film it was Samsara. We had to reshoot Africa, actually, because it didn’t meet the Samsara standard.


You mentioned that what draws you to film is its ability to make a difference. How does this project touch on a larger social issue?

Bayou: Connection is about environmentalism, but it’s made in a hip way that can reach a younger audience. The protagonist is an influencer. In the beginning she has no attention for anything besides herself. As the film goes on, she becomes more aware of her use of fast fashion and plastics and how it affects animals and other cultures and how other cultures affect our culture. The character progresses to be more aware of others and the environment.


Were you in Africa focusing on textile waste?

Bayou: Again, very perceptive. There is a lot of textile waste discussion, but that was focused on in India. We got into a sweat shop and shot–  

Daniel: It was not easy to pull off!

Bayou: It was not! We had to fly our crew in from a big city to a small city. That’s where we make the comment on fast fashion. What’s behind the fast fashion rack? In Africa we were more focused on plastic pollution.


It sounds like you were doing a lot of this guerrilla-style! What were the hardest parts of the filming process?

Daniel: A lot of negotiation.

Bayou: Also figuring out what the current truth of each situation is. For example, when we started location scouting in Africa we couldn’t find as much plastic pollution as we feared. A lot of places have been cleaned up. There is hope.

Daniel: In India, we were thinking about spending some time on child labor and harmful chemical dyes, but when we got on the ground, both had been recently outlawed. There’s definitely hope for our planet.

Bayou: It was somewhat guerrilla-style, but it was very planned.


How did you two originally discover Film Connection?

Bayou: We’ve been in the program for almost 10 years. We are probably some of the longest-running mentors!

Daniel: We walked into the school when it was in Downtown LA. I don’t know how I found my way there. I think we had originally reached out wanting to host a contest for young filmmakers.


We’ve been in the program for almost 10 years. We are probably some of the longest-running mentors!


How many students have you had so far?

Bayou: We do 10 every 6 months. So around 200. Maybe a little over. Before that I was a professor of film at Parsons New School where I was the first woman to teach in the media department. Before that I taught at the New York Institute of Technology. I also wrote classes for the San Francisco Academy of Art.  

Daniel:  I had no teaching experience before Bayou, I learned it all from her. She gave me an opportunity to speak to her class at the Institute of Technology and I loved it. She said I did good–

Bayou: He didn’t do ‘good,’ he did excellent. He has a crazy natural ability.


What do you both think are the main benefits of the program?

Daniel: I think that without this program, a new filmmaker has a very difficult journey ahead of them. There is a massive cannon between school and the working world. We are trying to bridge that gap. I went to NYU and it was literally an ivory tower; an imaginary world that has nothing to do with the real world. Some of my professors had never done filmmaking, they just talked about it– which is really weird.  We try to instill in students imagination and a love for film, but also the tools to turn this into a career. Learning by doing, learning from someone actually in the industry, is extremely valuable.

Bayou: In traditional film school you learn about filmmaking but you don’t learn how to get a job or promote yourself or be on set. The program allows students to learn, not just from a book, but from actual experience. 


What do you think is your greatest asset as mentors?

Bayou: We’ve been in over 100 film festivals, we’ve won over 75 film festivals. We can show a student how to navigate that world. We know what we’re talking about!


Finally, do you have any advice for a student entering the program?

Bayou: Take advantage of everything the mentor is offering. We, as mentors, go above and beyond. We give our students events to attend, if they are in LA. They get to meet producers and directors. Get your feet wet. Watch your mentor. Keep your eyes open. Every second you’re with your mentor is an opportunity to learn. On the set and in the office.


Get your feet wet. Watch your mentor. Keep your eyes open. Every second you’re with your mentor is an opportunity to learn.


Daniel: Your success depends on you, as a self-motivated individual. Being a filmmaker is like being an entrepreneur. You have to wake up every day and put in the work. We have worked with so many big names and done so many successful projects, but none of that has an effect if we don’t wake up everyday and build our career. Set goals and go after them.



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