The Benson Brothers Direct James Nesbitt

Peter Brennan meets the Coleraine filmmakers as they prepare for competition

A short film about a man's struggle to deal with his gambling addiction looks set to be a springboard to success for two Coleraine movie buffs.

The imaginatively titled 0.0270270, which was written, produced and directed by twin brothers Steven and Wayne Benson, debuts at the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine on April 4.

Set exclusively around the Triangle area, the dark and edgy affair is inspired by the work of top directors such as Michael Winterbottom and Robert Rodriguez and tells the story of a man driven to despair by his gambling.

It is one of two short films the two young film-makers will be showcasing at the Riverside, alongside The Elephant Graveyard - another dark tale involving six fictional university students in Portstewart.

The 23-year old Benson brothers know all about gambling, having risked their livelihoods by putting all their earnings into the two projects and their fledgling production company - De Novo Films.

However the ambitious duo have been tipped for success after enlisting the cream of the north coast's acting talent for the two projects, as well as securing a cameo role for the most recognisable local actor of all - Jimmy Nesbitt.

Their love of film and the idea of telling a good story well is also a key feature of their work, as audiences will find out next month.

Although they join a long list of film-making brothers - such as the Farrelly and the Coen Brothers - it is the multi-layered approach to films favoured by directors such as Quentin Tarantino and the aforementioned Robert Rodriguez that they prefer. Both of their short films involve the interweaving of a number of storylines into one.

The two explain:

'As the name of the production company suggests, De Novo Pictures aims to make films in every genre, in every style and take steps in every direction.

'We are committed to not only making films that entertain, but also to provoke and most importantly to tell interesting stories.'

Rodney Tosh is a young actor from Coleraine who appears both in The Elephant Graveyard and 0.0270270. In the latter, he takes the role of the gambling man at the centre of the film - something which he could also relate to.

Rodney was studying Biotechnology at Dundee University in 2000 when he decided to quit in order to devote all his time to his real passion - acting.

The former CAI and Dalriada student then met the Benson twins at the Causeway Institute in Ballymoney, when they were studying Media and he had taken a course in Performing Arts. Before long he had accepted the lead role in a short film of theirs entitled Horseplay.

'They had been doing short films for a few years before that and they seemed really serious about what they were doing,' he explains.

'They are very professional and they like to work with people who are equally committed to the project.  There is a lot of mutual respect.'

The 24-year old, who has starred in TV ads for UTV Internet, worked with the duo again in 2003 for the filming of The Elephant Graveyard, which he compares to last year's award-winning film Crash.

In the film, which Rodney describes as 'pretty dark', he co-starred with five students from the University of Ulster's Theatre Studies course.

The more ambitious of the two projects, however, was 0.0270270. Filmed around the same time, it also features a small cast of around six or seven, including Jimmy Nesbitt.

The Cold Feet star was recruited when the Bensons heard he would be appearing at a local rugby club dinner and turned up with the script in hand.

They kept in contact with him through local school teacher Stephen Graham, before the man himself finally contacted them to say he would do it.

'He was very easy to speak to ever since,' Rodney recalls. 'It was really good of him to do it as he's obviously very busy with other projects.

'He was home visiting family for a short break when he filmed his part. Obviously it's very good for any film to get a big name involved and this is no exception.'

The film, running in at about 20 minutes, also stars Mark Adamson, fresh from a starring role during the Grand Opera House's Snow White, Claire Connor and McClean Stewart.

The Benson twins also plan to enter it into the Edinburgh Festival this August along with other film festivals around Europe. For Rodney Tosh, it could be the beginning of a Steven Soderberg-George Clooney style working relationship.

'I would love to work with them again,' he said. "There was a lot of work went into 0.0270270 and a lot of hours went into getting funding for it.

'Its not cheap making a film, even a short film, there are a lot of costs involved. Full credit has to go to Stephen and Wayne for having the vision and commitment to see it through.

'We're all doing this because we enjoy it and if it does well then even better.  We'll have to see.'

Tickets for the screening of their films 0.0270270 and The Elephant Graveyard on April 4 are available priced £4 from the Riverside Box Office on 028 70323232.

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