How a Film About the London Film Fest Landed a Spot ... at the London Film Fest

Benjamin Still - Publicity - H 2018
Laura Radford/Courtesy of London Film Festival

'Benjamin,' the directorial debut of British comic Simon Amstell, is a comedy about a filmmaker premiering a film in London.

Among the world premieres screening at the London Film Festival is Benjamin, the directorial debut of British comic Simon Amstell. Perhaps best known for hosting the U.K. TV shows Pop World and Never Mind the Buzzcocks in the noughties, Amstell has spent the past decade focusing on his standup and, more recently, film work, in 2015 writing and directing the short William, starring Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game, Black Mirror). Interestingly, his first feature centers on a filmmaker having his film premiere at the London Film Festival.

So, was the the story of Benjamin written purely as a cynical ploy to get accepted into the London Film Fest?

(Laughs) No, it really wasn’t! I didn’t even know that it had been submitted. But it’s quite amusing. Things keep coming up where I feel a bit like Benjamin. They’ve asked me if I want to do an interview with the screening and I’m aware that, in the film, my character introduces his film and the speech doesn’t go that well. So I’m resisting what he did in the film. I might go for the Q&A option.

How do your anxieties over your debut in London compare to your character’s?

He’s more anxious than I am. Because his entire identity is that of a filmmaker with his second film at the London Film Festival. Seven years before we meet him, he won the BAFTA for his first film. And Benjamin is really about the loneliness and fear of failure that comes from having too much success too early. It’s been too long since his first. So he’s a real mess. I, however, am very healthy, very happy in my life. (Laughs)

Any elements of fear about your screening?

The most nerve-wracking thing is sitting in the audience while they either laugh or don’t laugh, feel things or don’t feel things. That’s the real terror. Watching the film will be the worst moment for me. Hopefully that won’t be the case for the other people in the room.

This story first appeared in the Oct. 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.