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Brandon Koen talks passion for acting and award-winning performance in 'Benji'
Like many children, Brandon Koen was always changing his mind about what he wanted to be when he grew up. The now 22-year-old found himself dreaming of a new vocation almost daily in his youth, but it wasn't until he was a teenager that he found a way to live out all of his dreams, and he set out to become an actor. Each new role allows him to experience something new, and this versatility is dream come true for the South African native.

"I wanted to be a professional actor because acting allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and open me up as a human being. Acting made me a more confident person, and the more I did it the more I fell in love with the craft of exploring other people's lives and living them for a span of time," he said. "Acting is the ultimate form of expression for me, there's nothing like the feeling of being on stage or on a set. I've learned something and grown as an actor from every project I've been on and I love the collaborative aspect of filmmaking."

Throughout his esteemed career, Koen has shown time and time again just why he is such an in-demand actor in Britain and abroad. Films like The Solipsist MindThe Little Picture, and Night Shift show his versatility and commitment to his craft, as well as his innate talent. He has taken home several awards recognizing his acting capabilities and contributions towards any project he takes on, and he is always eager to take on a challenge.

"The challenges in acting are also usually the rewarding moments. It's difficult to do things that scare you and take you out of where you feel 'safe', but it's immensely rewarding when you do it," he said.

Despite all of his success, there is one project that sticks out in Koen's mind as the highlight of his career. The film Benji began as a passion project for Koen, which he wrote, co-directed, and starred in, but when it went on to grand success at many of the world's most prestigious film festivals, Koen was thrilled.

Benji took home a whopping eight awards at various festivals, five of which recognized Koen's acting specifically. He won Best Actor in an Indie Film at the Actors Awards Los Angeles, Festigious International Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Awards, the New York Film Awards, and the Top Shorts Film Festival.

"It's incredibly gratifying to receive such tremendous praise for a project so close to my heart. If anything, its proof that hard work pays off. I really put everything I had into the role and the film, and whilst the making of the film and executing my vision was the most awesome part of the experience, the validation of the awards also means the world. It means a lot to know that people like your work especially when it's so specifically an expression of who you are," said Koen.

The quirky film follows Art Student Benji's first experience meeting his girlfriend Lana's parents for dinner at their house. Koen's Benji is the lead character and protagonist. Upon meeting Lana's parents, Benji is lambasted with insults and a lack of appreciation for his choice of career and quirky nature. The role required reacting to the other actors with reaction shots of facial expressions. A lot of the comedy in the film came in between the lines and it was important to Koen that he brought that to the performance. All of the comedy falls on Benji's reactions to the situations and the delivery of his lines, also largely his physical comedy. Koen was able to portray all of these 'Benji characteristics' without fail, understanding the character he created inside and out.

"Brandon couldn't have been more fun to work with. He was totally prepared, a pleasure to direct and of course immensely talented. Every once in a while I meet a young actor who's the whole package. He's bright, funny as hell and a really decent person. He's going to be big. I love this kid," said George McGrath, Co-Director.

Koen managed to create and embody a relatable character that touched the hearts of worldwide audiences. He was essential to the film's success, but more importantly, he told a beautiful story, and one that he wanted to share with the world.

"I think Benji is important because it allows people who are considered different or don't feel like they fit in to have a character they can look up to. Laughter is the greatest medicine and seeing a character like Benji in the lead role rather than a supporting role, in all his awkward glory, is an awesome thing for young people to see who grew up like me," said Koen. "It's normal to lack confidence and to look at yourself through a negative lens when you're young everyone seems to be in the pursuit of fitting in. My film promotes the opposite. Be your authentic self and don't allow anyone else to have a say in molding you. Embrace your quirks!"

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