Filmmaker and star Benji Otte shooting “I Hope They See It In The End.” Photo by Eliana Brown

“I Hope They See It In The End” might as well be a transcription of the thoughts rattling around any creative person’s head. In this particular case, though, it’s the title of the first feature film from Cumberland-based filmmaker Benji Otte. About a young artist (played by Otte himself) struggling with his own artistic journey and the stresses it places on his life and relationships, the film mirrors Otte’s own role as a young filmmaker trying to find his way in an industry where getting people to “see it” isn’t always easy.

“When I started writing the film, I thought about my friends who are artists, dancers, actors,” Otte said. “There’s always this thought that you want to be seen, you want people to see your art. And for some people, that’s more of an egotistical thing. But for me and my cast and crew, it was more about the love of movies and stories and acting. That’s what I’ve found in filmmaking, that it’s a community.”

Gathering a crew for the low-budget, Maine-shot film was all about gathering a community of like-minded creative sorts, with Otte reaching out to everyone, from childhood friends to his former classmates at Southern Maine Community College, where the filmmaker cut his teeth in the vaunted and challenging filmmaking classes of Maine educator and filmmaker Corey Norman. After directing his entry in Norman’s prestigious Maine Mayhem student film festival (the moody black-and-white crime drama “Late Nights”), Otte graduated from SMCC in 2021, taking his hard-earned moviemaking lessons with him into the world of independent filmmaking.

“Before then, I was totally self-taught,” said Otte, a Falmouth native. “In the age of YouTube, there were so many tutorials, so many things to learn through trial and error. At SMCC, Corey Norman is a director himself, and he’s an amazing teacher. Getting to direct for Maine Mayhem is an amazing opportunity. It teaches you how hectic the process is. You have to make a whole short film in the span of two semesters, and it’s a lot of work, but it’s also fun and intense.”

“I Hope They See It In The End” is shot in faux-documentary style, an unusual choice for such a personal tale, but one that Otte says was the perfect format to capture the intimately autobiographical story he wanted to tell.

“I really wanted to try something out that not a lot of other directorial debuts explore, and that’s the faux documentary,” he said. “I could have explored it through the lens of a normal narrative drama, but there’s a rawness and a sort of innocence and truth to the faux documentary aspect. It feels more real, people can connect to these people better in some senses. I’ve always loved documentaries, stories about real people, the human stories that can be about someone you see on the street. Those stories really connect with viewers, inspire them, even cheer them on in a way.”


For the protagonist of “I Hope They See It In The End,” Otte plays Zack Mooney, a scruffy Mainer with aspirations to be a painter and the burly yet fragile demeanor of someone with a lot of baggage weighing him down. The film’s trailer is an intriguingly layered experience, the filmmaker’s obvious affinity with the young artist he plays lending the expected story beats a little bristle of added tension and intimacy. The cliché that young artists always start out by depicting their own artistic pain exists for a reason, but there’s an assuredness to Otte’s style that makes this well-trod material feel fresh – an effect at least partly due to Otte’s risky choice to rely on improv for this, his first feature film.

“I’d say some 30-40 percent of the film is actually improv,” said Otte. “That might be a little bit scary for audiences to hear,” he laughs, adding, “But I had such great actors on hand who were so open to diving deep into their characters and diving into the world we were creating.”

Otte points to one of the most pivotal scenes in the film, where Zack and his estranged girlfriend attempt to reconnect as proof of how the looser improv style can enhance even the most dramatic of scenes.

Eliana Brown and Benji Otte in “I Hope They See It In The End.” Photo by Till Tomorrow Pictures

“It’s between myself and Eliana Brown, who’s an amazing actress,” he said of the extended quest to land the sequence just right. “Maybe it wasn’t the smartest idea on my part, but I decided we were going to improvise that scene. We tried it and we knew what the motivations were and where we were in the story, but it wasn’t quite there. We came back with a little more structure and then, on the third night of shooting, it was just so organic and felt so right for the characters. We really just write the scene together about finding our place with each other and in the world, and it was just a beautiful thing. It’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever done.”

With “I Hope They See It In The End” deep into post-production (and with the self-taught Otte also providing the evocative music score), the director is looking for a spring premiere in Maine before subjecting his passion project to the brutal gauntlet that is the festival circuit.

Benji Otte, Devin Poitras, Connor Duncan, Noah Anderson and Jared Vigue in a scene from faux documentary “I Hope They See It In The End.” Photo by Till Tomorrow Pictures

But for Otte, the true reward has been the experience of bringing together such a personal project with like-minded creatives here in Maine.

“That’s what’s great about Maine,” he said. “People here want to make movies, they’re passionate, and they view any opportunity as a beautiful thing. This past summer, everyone came together, gave up days and days of their time to help me realize a dream. I’ll never be able to thank them enough for their talent and the education they gave me.”

As ever, it’s all about finding the people who see it.

Learn more about Benji Otte’s film work at his Facebook page,, or his YouTube channel,

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: