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Washington’s Bennett gets Emmy nod for film

By By JONATHAN CLAYBORNE
jonathan@wdnweb.com
Staff Writer

A Washington-born filmmaker and some of his colleagues have been nominated for a regional Emmy Award.
Rain Bennett, originally of Washington and currently of New York, is credited as the director of photography on the Emmy-nominated “SurvivorTales: Jen’s Story.”
The program focuses on a woman who worked in encology while suffering from breast cancer, Bennett said in a recent telephone interview.
“It was pretty intense,” he said. “A lot of the success was because of her. … She had this kind of ‘I’m fighting for you, you’re fighting for me’ mentality.”
This documentary was the pilot for a TV series initiated by the Foundation for Biomedical Research in Washington, D.C.
The winners of the regional Emmys will be announced Jan. 29 at a ceremony in Nashville, Tenn., Bennett related.
“It’s not like the prime-time Emmy, but an Emmy’s an Emmy,” he pointed out. “It’s the same award, but I’m not going to be up there with big movie stars. I’m still very proud.”
Bennett graduated from Washington High School, and later received his higher-education degree from N.C. State University, where he majored in communications with a focus on production.
Just 28 years old, Bennett is producer/director of his own production company, Flying Flounder Productions. The company’s name is a sidelong reference to his hometown and the Pamlico River.
Bennett said Flying Flounder is “kind of an inside joke” between him, his brother Beau Bennett and a couple of friends, “kind of paying homage to where we grew up.”
“I grew up catching flounder in the Pamlico and then eating them,” he explained. “It kind of sticks in your head, even when people don’t understand it.”
Bennett acknowledged his choice of profession was inspired by the movies, but not in the typical Hollywood way.
“What inspired me is just real-life things I’ve been to, things I can relate to,” he said. “I don’t go to the movies to escape, I go to see things I can relate to.”
Bennett isn’t new to the industry-awards circuit. His work has been recognized with Telly Awards for public-service announcements and “Jen’s Story,” which already has attracted awards.
He said he averages an output of 10 to 15 projects a year, with some small endeavors in between. In the past year, he has concentrated mostly on TV and documentaries.
“What I’m really interested in is writing,” Bennett said. “Producing and kind of managing and the business half of me kind of comes really natural. I think I have to work a little bit harder for the creative side of it.”
At present, he’s trying to raise money for a reality TV show and is producing and editing the pilot in New York while meeting with networks.
“We’re already getting a lot of really good response about it,” he said.
Bennett said the show tracks national-champion sporting-clays shooter Brad Kidd, with whom he graduated from Washington High School.
The series would continue trailing Kidd through the world of sport shooting, taking an unblemished look at the people behind the scenes, he indicated.
“We really followed it as it was. It’s tense, there’s some rivalries,” Bennett said. “It’s not like ‘Rock of Love,’ where you just put a bunch of people in a house and get them drunk and make them fight.”
In other words, this isn’t your typical reality show, he agreed.
“I’m trying to keep some depth in the storyline,” he said. “It’s more of a character piece.”
Bennett speculated he might try working on a TV show or some other creative project next year, and could even try his hand at writing a novel.
“I don’t have to abandon what I’m currently doing because it just adds to it,” he said.
Bennett said he started his film career with acting, breaking into the industry through “no-budget” independent films in the Triangle area.
He has been an extra in moves, including “Leatherheads” with George Clooney, whom he met during the shooting of that feature.
In another brush with fame, Bennett interviewed poet Maya Angelou at her Winston-Salem home for a public-service announcement.
“I flirted with Maya Angelou in her house,” he said with a laugh.
“She called me handsome,” he continued, adding he responded in “typical Southern gentleman style” and said something flirtatious.
“And she came right back with something like, ‘You know you are (handsome),’” Bennett said.
She also signed a copy of a poem for him, “On the Pulse of Morning,” which she recited at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
Bennett’s mother, Gerri Bennett McKinley, lives in Washington. She said her son’s entree to show business might have started with show-choir classes under the now-late Joyce Harris and Stunt Night shows at Washington High School, as well as church plays.
Bennett saw his first movie, “E.T.,” at 2 weeks of age, she said.
“I’ve ridden this ride with him, and we’re having a ball,” McKinley added.
Bennett may live far from his old home, but he implied Washington still holds a special appeal.
“That place is hard to shake,” he commented. “I still go back a lot. … That’ll always be home and I’ll always have a home there. Absolutely, my heart will always stay on that river.”