This is an accomplishment that would have surprised his younger self, because growing up, he never thought there were any sustainable jobs in the creative sector. It was only through years of persistence - and some ScreenSkills support – that the Newcastle-based filmmaker managed to turn his dream into reality.
For a long time Ben was unsure how to express himself creatively. “I’m dyslexic, so I couldn’t really write,” he says. “It meant I was always drawn to visual and spoken dialogues.” He left school without qualifications at the age of 14, but decided to re-enter education via an access-to-education course. He picked photography as his topic of interest, only to find out that wasn’t his cup of tea. “I then came across an old VHS video camera and realised that film is the creative outlet I had been looking for all my life.”
He was able to write and direct his first short, A Plastic Toy Dinosaur, whilst attending university. Although the film was played at more than 20 film festivals and screened on the BBC, he found that he didn’t know much about the industry after graduation. “I didn’t know anyone in the industry, so I ended up working jobs I really disliked,” he says, “until one of my old professors encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree at the London Film School.”
Thanks to ScreenSkills funding* he was able to return to university to enrol in the LFS’ MA Filmmaking and his career has developed impressively since. “I really love collaborating with other people,” he says describing what he enjoys most about working in the industry. “Film enables you to bring people together in a way reality doesn’t quite achieve. It allows us to create an accessible world in which we can share things we feel.”
Among the projects Ben has worked on since graduating in 2015 are the BAFTA-longlisted short Mordechai and Metroland, a short funded by Creative England and the BFI. He is currently developing Marwell, a comedy/sci-fi feature, and Humans (Other Mammals) And Birds with the BFI Network, a network that exists to support, develop and champion new filmmakers.
He hopes that the industry will become more inclusive in upcoming years. “The industry will become more interesting when people who feel excluded can find a way in. There is a wealth of stories that are currently not told because we only have limited perspectives to draw from,” he says. “This risks making British cinema boring.”
As one of this year’s Stars of Tomorrow, Ben has come a long way since leaving school unsure about what would be next. “Work as hard as you can and always create new things,” he advises creatives eager to work in the industry. “But as you do that, remind yourself to enjoy what you are doing and remember that rejections aren’t failures.”
*Creative Skillset awarded Benjamin Bee a bursary to pursue his studies. Creative Skillset has since rebranded as ScreenSkills.
A ScreenSkills bursary is a cash grant designed to remove some of the practical barriers to making progress in the screen industries. Bursaries pay for training or other costs associated with skills development. We provide bursaries to help ensure the screen industries have access now, and in the future, to the skills and talent needed for continued success.
You can apply if you are 18+ and currently working in the UK screen industries, or actively trying to work in the UK screen industries. You must be eligible to work in the UK and have a UK bank account. Applications are assessed carefully to ensure the money we spend is targeted where it is needed most. Find out more and apply for a bursary.