Benjamin Gilmour is a writer and filmmaker, director of the award-winning films Son of a Lion (2008) and Paramedico (2012), author of bestselling books Warrior Poets (Allen&Unwin) and Paramedico – Around the World by Ambulance (HarperCollins), a tie-in with his recent film of the same name. Benjamin is a regular contributor to magazines and newspapers, and a guest speaker on issues relating to Pakistani politics as well as Emergency Medical Services (EMS) worldwide. He is a degree-qualified ambulance paramedic with global experience and is currently completing a Masters of International Public Health (MIPH). Benjamin is based in Sydney, Australia, where he lives with his wife Kaspia and children Paloma and Romeo. He works full time as a frontline paramedic between book and film projects.
Hi, what’s your name?
Where do you hail from?
Who do you work for?
Humanity. I see myself serving humanity in order to somehow better the condition of the species. My particular interest is in contributing to humans understanding one another, which in its most perfect form is known as empathy. I believe empathy is the antidote to greed and selfishness and the evil that leads to conflict. This is because empathy is the seed from which compassion grows. Human survival depends as much on our relationship with each other as it does on our relationship with the environment.
Tell us a bit about you – how did you get to where you are today?
There is very little I ever desired that I don’t have. I’ve worked nearly twenty years in my dream job. The only two books I’ve written are both bestsellers and the critics have been exceptionally kind to the films I’ve collaborated on. I’m blessed with a loving wife and two young children who are breathtaking works of art. All these gifts seem more like blessings to me than achievements. None are of my own making. I’ve merely been receptive to, and engaged with, the ideas that birth in my mind and the challenges and rewards life throws at me. My gratitude knows no bounds. I cannot congratulate myself for getting to where I am today because I believe I’m simply a receiver and a giver of the greater force for good. And I’ve discovered that my happiness is directly proportional to how well I am channelling this force for good.
What are your career highlights?
I’m honoured that life has dealt me so many highlights, too many to count. For me, highlights come in the form of storms and sunsets and little moments in time, like seeing my children waving to me from the window of a Chevrolet bel air ’57 in Trinidad, Cuba, on the way to the beach. When it comes to career or creative highlights, my time as a paramedic has allowed me to help change lives, even buy people more time. It’s given me tremendous insight into the bitter-sweetness of humanity. A very different highlight was living with the Pashtun tribes of Pakistan’s wild west, which catapulted me into an adventure that was the making of the feature film Son of a Lion (2008).
Who or what inspires you to get out of bed in the morning?
Despite the sky-is-falling fear propagated by politicians and their media collaborators, the world is teeming with beauty and the promise of marvellous adventure. Getting out there and discovery the new, savouring life, admiring it, that is enough for me. But I’m also very conscious of the negative impact humans have on the earth and each other. That’s why I’m also driven by an urgent need to contribute positively to the world. Those of us who have competency and capacity, if we can’t give back more than we take from this planet, then we’re simply accelerating our demise.
Which storytellers do you admire?
Writers like Hemingway and Twain, filmmaker like Cassavetes and Scorsese, they’ve inspired me a great deal. But the most captivating storytellers are all around us. They are people you pass on the street, unaware of their incredible life narratives. Everyone has a story, and some people have absolute crackers they will never tell you until you ask.
What do you plan to share at Storyology?
Guerrilla filmmaking is too often seen as an unfortunate necessity for struggling filmmakers. Funding is rarely available for the craziest ideas, at least from the outset, as the risks are too high for those putting up the cash. Once you have quality in the can however, luck can change. At Storyology I plan to spruik the benefits of guerrilla filmmaking, arguing that a subversive process can be a choice as a necessity. I want to share my view that making films on a shoestring and breaking the rules along the way is the most exhilarating experience and often results in a certain magic that conventional films struggle to deliver.
Where can we find you?
Around lunchtime somewhere in the Gertrude & Alice bookshop café, Bondi Beach.
LinkedIn: Benjamin Gilmour
Vimeo and/or YouTube: Paramedico