A few weeks back, veteran hardcore musician Greg Bennick emailed me with a link to the trailer to an upcoming sci-fi flick called 7 Splinters In Time. It turns out that the vocalist of such bands as Trial, Bystander, and Between Earth and Sky is also an actor, and the movie marks his debut on the Big Screen. Also starrring Edoardo Ballerini (Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos), Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage, Don't Mess with the Zohan), and Austin Pendleton (Amistad, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps), 7 Splinters In Time is a mind-bender that brings to mind such sci-fi films as Memento and 12 Monkeys.
Greg is also an in-demand keynote speaker and personal coach who travels the world working with companies like Microsoft and Boeing. Clearly, the hardcore lifer isn't suffering from any kind of stage fright. In this new interview, I chat with Greg about his acting work, and also get some intel on his future musical adventures.
First off, the reaction most people that know you from your musical work will be something along the lines of, “He’s an actor?” So, let’s clear the air there. Is this the first time you’ve acted, or do you have a background in drama?
I actually have a college degree in theatre and studied acting, Shakespeare, textual analysis, and physical theatre at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA. I have acted over the years in one short film in 1995 by the same director (Gabriel Judet-Weinshel), but this was my first ever feature film.
Does your experience as a public speaker inform your acting approach at all?
Absolutely! I have spoken all over the planet, often to audiences for whom English isn't a first language. With that, and being onstage for decades, it's taught me that communication is a full body experience. In acting school, in my physical theatre classes, we learned that "everything signifies." That means how you move your fingers means something, just as how you use your voice and your facial expressions. How you stand. How you move. The same has been true for speaking in that every word signifies something. So, they are very closely related. In acting, all things mean something and it is the job of the actor to make their communication as rich and as specific as possible.
How did you get involved with 7 Splinters in Time?
I got involved with the film at the very beginning of the process. Gabriel, the director, sent me an email in June of 2009 which said "I think it's been about 13 years now since we made a film together, and over this time I know I've made many overtures about our doing another one. And, recently, I've been talking about it more and more." And that was the beginning of his mental process which led to the development of the script and the involvement with all sorts of people to create what became 7 Splinters In Time...so it was very non-traditional!
Watching the trailer, it brings to mind Memento, 12 Monkeys, and The Matrix. How would you describe the feel/look of the film?
7 Splinters In Time has elements of all of those, for sure! Add to that some David Lynch and a bit of Terry Gilliam, and a seemingly chaotic array of images and edits that ultimately yield a perfect piece of poetry. Describe it that way and you have the film pretty well described. Gabriel Judet-Weinshel's mind is like fireworks, and that is the best simple image I could use to describe the project. It is like if the past, present, and future of a relationship could be seen through flashes and colors in three dimensions. Its visually engaging and really requires a second and third viewing to capture all the nuances and threads which all come together at the end.
What was the toughest aspect of playing the role Luka? Did you seek out guidance from the other actors on set, or did you have what you wanted to do already dialed-in before you stepped on set?
Many years ago in Seattle, Gabriel and I made what was to be a short film clip of me speaking directly to the camera about my performance career. He wanted me to just look into the camera and describe what I do for 30 seconds. Just to be funny, I didn't stop at thirty seconds. I kept going. And going. And going...for 45 minutes, nonstop, just a continual insane train of thought. When we finally stopped filming, we watched what I had done and it was really funny. Gabe told me for years after that, that he wanted me to play a character in one of his films which was based on that train of thought. So, when we met in New York City for the filming of 7 Splinters In Time, we already had a sense of what and who Luka was in terms of how he communicated. Of course, acting is always collaborative, and in my scenes with Edoardo Ballerini (lead actor) we would connect on different approaches for one scene or another for our characters before we would shoot. A film is collaborative and not, all at once.
What are some of your future goals in film?
I recently was asked by a friend of mine who is a professional actor what my long-term goals were. I told her that in the 25 years since I graduated from acting school that I secured one role: a starring role in a feature film. Many actors never even get that, so I am deeply thankful. I told her, and I will tell you now, that if I get only one more role in the next 25 years, that I will be happy, but it has to be another starring role in a feature film. I am patient. I will wait for major studios to call me to cast me alongside Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible XVII after seeing my astounding performance as John Luka. Tom can play my sidekick [laughs].
What’s on the burner for Bystander?
Thanks for asking! My new band Bystander will be putting a 7" out this summer on Safe Inside Records in the US, and on Goodwill in Europe. There will be a 7" version out on Spreading the Hardcore Reality in Mexico and Latin America, and on Life Lair Regret Records in Australia. We are also working with cassette labels as well for different world regions: Ugly and Proud Records, Reason Records, Worlds Appreciated Kitsch Records, and Kick Out the Jams in Belgium, which will be a partial benefit for One Hundred for Haiti.
There will also be some Bystander shows this summer and people can keep up to date on what we have going on by way of our Instagram. Of course people can follow the film at @7splintersmovie on Twitter, and I'm on Instagram.
Trial is headlining the New Age Records 30th Anniversary show this summer. Tell me about working with Mike Hartsfield and how you guys initially connected. Also, will this be the only Trial show for some time?
Back when we had our first 7” out on CrimethInc., Timm (guitar/BBQ) made contact with Mike and made the New Age relationship happen. We’ve all been in touch regularly over the years. Mike and I probably text each other 10 times a day. I should switch my Facebook info to say that "Greg Bennick is in a texting relationship with Mike Hartsfield and it’s complicated" [laughs]. Working with him is great and I am so glad he is more active with the label again with lots of new bands coming up. I’m excited to see if and when Trial will play again. There’s no plan currently but one could always develop.
7 Splinters In Time will be out in theaters and VOD on July 13.