INTERVIEW: Amber Benson

Published on, Apr 2015


Actor-turned-writer/director Amber Benson has come along way since her stint on Buffy, and tells Daniel Cribb there needs to be more diversity in the independent film industry.

Buffy’s Amber Benson may have made a name for herself on-screen as Tara Maclay, but her true passion is working behind the scenes, writing and directing. “I was an actor in my previous life” read her welcome in a Reddit AMA she took part in in January. “That was a lot of fun; I had a blast,” Benson laughs, sitting cross legged in a Perth hotel room prior to Oz Comic-Con. “The chick that was helping me out on the Reddit AMA had done Bill Murray’s AMA, so of course all I wanted to know was, ‘What was Bill Murray like? What the hell’s he like?!’ I love Bill Murray.”

Her love for Bill Murray is no surprise – who doesn’t admire the man – what might come as a revelation to some is that Benson got along better with the writers on Buffy better than her co-stars. “I very much enjoyed the production office/writers room. I love actors; they’re great, but there’s just something about writers. I like them, I like to date them, and I am one.”

It’s a passion that afforded her the ability to appreciate the show’s scripts on a different level. “I always knew they were good. You know when you read something like that that it’s quality and it transcends a little better than the typical stuff. The dialogue is really smart and sharp, there’s many layers to a Buffy script; you can sit there and start taking them apart – or you can take that first layer and enjoy a little, blonde girl kicking monster arse.”

While Benson hasn’t yet broken into TV writing, she is working on some scripts. With her first novel series, Calliope Reaper-Jones, containing five books, and another series scheduled for release – the first book of which, The Witches Of Echo Park, dropped in January – TV writing is a format she understands well. “Television is a long con; you get to spread out your story over an extended period of time and really develop your characters and your narrative flow.

“You get to discover who the characters are, and they get to be imperfect; they get to go on different journeys and become better people, or worse people, or make horrible makes and come back from those mistakes. They can be real people when you have time to play with them.

On top of releasing a new novel at the start of the year, Benson has almost broadened her directing horizons, moving from working on predominately comedy-based work, she ventured into action with Shevenge. I really wanted to do an action piece. I’ve sort of been in the comedy world for a while, and it’s a lot of talking heads, and I wanted to do something that had some chorography. When the ladies approached me about doing Shevenge, it had a giant fight scene with blood and gore in the script, and I was like, ‘Well, this is a good entrée into that world and something to show that I can actually direct action.’”

A portion of the film was crowdfunded via Indiegogo, and the campaign commented on the lack of females working behind the scenes on indie films. I think it’s been sort of a man’s world. Women weren’t given the opportunity; if you look at editing, women were editors because they treated editing at the very beginning of cinema like it was quilting. What they didn’t realise was what an artistic endeavour editing is, and the minute it became apparent that the film is created in the editing room, all of sudden women were sort of shunted off and men to come in to take over.

I just think you’ll have more voice if more women come in – more unique voices. I think it’s the same with minority filmmakers; it’s very much a Caucasian male entertainment industry. It’s nice when you have divergent voices that have different stories to tell.”

You can catch Amber Benson at Oz Comic-Con in Perth (11 & 12 Apr) and Adelaide (18-19 Apr). Find everything you need to know right here.