FilmInk speaks to novelist Garnet Benzie about his trilogy of books, ‘Only in the Movies’, an epic family saga and a mash-up of cinematic influences in novel form.
Screenwriter and novelist Garnet Benzie's book trilogy Only in the Movies has certainly been a long time coming. Exploring the lives of a family through a reaction to wealth and passion for filmmaking, and described as a 200-year family epic, it celebrates the absurdity of what's presented to an audience on the screen and also delves into the corruption within the film industry itself.
Studying at the Queensland School of Film and Television meant Benzie was constantly challenged and felt like he was heading in the right direction. After leaving his studies, he decided he was ready to experience filmmaking firsthand, which kick-started what would eventually become his trilogy of books. Beginning in 1998 as a movie length video called Tenacity, Benzie was unsatisfied with the completed piece and began rewriting various scenes - which would eventually become pages in his novels.
While Benzie is an enthusiastic filmmaker, his desire to write prose is equally strong. "By writing books I could explore the characters in a more intimate way without being restricted by page length and budget," the author explains. Growing into something very different from his initial ideas, with a nine-year gap from the production of Tenacity, Benzie believes the novel's universal themes should resonate with a wide demographic of audiences, but notes that his storytelling may also take readers to a place they weren't expecting. "I think there is an audience for a lot of people as it is about filmmaking and family," he says. "The trilogy has so many genres because movies have so many genres. When it comes to movies I wanted to capture as much about them as I possibly could."
Combining his passion for filmmaking and writing, Benzie came up with the idea of making an animated trailer to promote the books and also to work as a companion piece in a way. As the scope of Only in the Movies is enormous, taking place in various countries, he knew live action wasn't financially feasible so animation was the clear choice. It took some time to find the right style, but Benzie says working with friend and animator, Michelle Hawcroft, was a very collaborative experience. "It was great to let my imagination come to life in a way that I couldn't pull off in live action," he says.
While targeting his books at those who love going to the movies and have an appreciation for filmmaking, Benzie isn't restricting it to a young audience. "As the story progressed I became interested in people getting older," he says. "I worked on the trilogy for fourteen years and I've started to view life very differently to the days when it began."
Benzie lists iconic American author J.D. Salinger as one of his biggest inspirations. "I have a lot of respect for him in his refusal to allow The Catcher in the Rye to be made into a movie," he says. "It's a fantastic novel that would have made a great movie, but the fact this will never be adds to its mystique." Also, with the rise of remakes in contemporary cinema, Benzie has a curiosity regarding the sentiment of the filmmakers involved, exploring this notion in his trilogy.
Interestingly, the novels are currently only available via the Amazon Kindle. "The reason I've chosen Amazon Kindle is that it works economically for me," Benzie says. "Unfortunately the GFC has not made things easier, but it's just something we all have to live with. In terms of making the books more well known, I plan to continue advertising in other countries, starting with England and France."
Benzie isn't stopping here, having recently started work on a new project based on the fictional religion he created for his trilogy. "I find it fascinating in terms of what religion does with various cultures around the world," he says, with four ideas for short stories in the making. Stay tuned.
To view the trailer and find out more about Only in the Movies, head here.