Bennani Builds The Big Screen

Stationed in LA, where dreams are morphed into larger-than-life narratives, Mehdi Bennani, 30, is making waves in the ever-shifting landscape of the silver screen as a Production Designer. Yes – the unsung architects of the cinematic world with the pivotal role of translating the director’s vision into an actual tangible set. Charged with the responsibility of building the perfect aesthetic. 

With projects like Baby Money (2021), a film that grips you tighter than Hollywood grips onto a franchise, My Nights Glow Yellow (2023), a title that sounds like a rejected Pantone color but somehow works – and Ringing Rocks (2022), because who needs subtlety when you can have rocks that ring – shows Bennani’s incredible versatility, like a cinematic chameleon changing its colors faster than a Hollywood executive changes their mind. His work is real and it’s adaptable.

Mehdi, originally from Casa, attended Santa Monica College and the University of Southern California, where he dabbled in architecture. Yet, his true enthusiasm pulsated at the crossroads of architecture and storytelling, propelling him into production design and applying to grad school at the American Film Institute. 

“I love watching movies, but most importantly, I really enjoy making them.” – Mehdi explained that the hallowed halls of AFI became his crucible where his skills were honed, and his cinematic vision, crystallized.

Grad school bore witness to Bennani’s alchemy, as he discovered his talent through the prism of his inaugural thesis film, “End Of Day.” served as confirmation of his incredible ability to transform narrative concepts into visually intoxicating realities. The triumph was followed by the co-creation of “In Wonderland,” a second thesis film that cemented his stature not as a mere rising designer but as a seismic force in the area of production.

In Wonderland,” is a film close to Mehdi’s heart, it explores the immigration system through the eyes of a young girl. It’s the kind of narrative that tugs at your heartstrings, or in Hollywood terms – it’s a tearjerker. Collaborating with director Andrea McCracken, Bennani brought forth a visual mood for the film creating a nuanced narrative that resonates on multiple levels. Beyond building pretty facades, Mehdi’s magnetism is not just his ability to design a set; it’s his commitment to telling stories that matter. He constructs narratives that “echo the voices of the unheard”, championing BIPOC, and tackling social and racial injustices – in an industry often criticized for its lack of diversity. He is a weapon for change and representation.

The acclaim for his commitment reverberates through renowned festivals, with his short films gracing the illustrious screens of the Cannes Film Festival as global audiences witness. “The role of the production designer,” as Bennani articulates, “encompasses the visual aspects of a film, shaping the world that the characters live in, as well as everything they interact with.” In Bennani’s view, effective production design is a subtle art. 

Real-life experiences remain impossible to match.” – he claims that with AI lurking around the corner and threatening to transform the industry, he staunchly believes in irreplaceable “human creativity” rooted in real-life experiences. Where every pixel fights for attention and Hollywood dreams into a cinematic reality, Mehdi stands out as a pixel with purpose.