The New York Times Op-Docs debuted Long Live Benjamin, a captivating six-part episodic documentary directed by Wieden & Kennedy’s Jimm Lasser and Rock Paper Scissors’s Biff Butler, and produced by Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment. The film focuses on acclaimed portrait artist Allan Hirsch who, while visiting his wife’s homeland of Venezuela, unexpectedly falls in love. The object of his affection: a deathly ill, orphaned newborn Capuchin monkey named Benjamin. Nursing Benjamin back to health and sneaking him into New York City, Allen would find his life – and his sense of self – forever changed by his adopted simian son.
The collaboration between Jimm Lasser and Biff Butler was first forged in advertising, working on campaigns for Chrysler. One day, Creative Director Lasser was delayed to arrive to an edit session with Butler by the funeral for his cousin’s Monkey, Benjamin. After explaining the unusual circumstances, he asked if Rock Paper Scissors could help transferring material he’d shot onto a hard drive. Fatefully, a copy of the media was left on Butler's computer and on a cross-country flight, Butler began exploring – and then editing – the fascinating footage. Over the next five years, Lasser and Butler carved out time around their intensive work schedules to collaborate on this original story of relationships.
For Butler, unlocking the mystery of this powerful and intimate story proved to be one of the most challenging and rewarding of his career. “At first, the clips Jimm showed us were hilarious, but watched in their entirety I soon realized the story emerging was heartbreakingly sad,” recalls Butler. “Crafting the film from archival footage and fractured stories over time was an immense challenge, and appealed two things I love to do: direct and shape narrative through editing.”
The process of crafting Long Live Benjamin became a through-line for the lives of both Lasser and Butler who, along the way, started families and continued to develop their independent careers.