Dark's Corner

a very important meeting

Mighty Minds
photo by Bing
Mighty Minds

Thanks to

hectic

production

schedules, my

film viewing

choices at the

8th annual

Florida Film

Festival were

limited to a

precious

handful of

screenings, none of which I regretted. Out of the short

films that I saw, one struck me with its hyper-fast edits,

surreal symbolism and absurdist situations. Four

corporate types, chinese take-out and a wind-up toy

puppy set the stage for director Ben Rock’s

eight-minute blast “The Meeting.” Recently relocated

to Los Angeles, this Florida native has a string of

shorts, commercial work and stage directing behind

him and is currently trotting around his hilarious

festival entry to various events around the country. He’s

a former UCF film student who ran with Haxan

crewmembers Eduardo Sanchez, Gregg Hale and Dan

Myrick when they were still dreaming of funding. We

talked about production and also his involvement with

this year’s hot-topic indie flick “The Blair Witch

Project.”

Bing Futch: How did you meet screenwriter/executive

producer Jonathan Mangum and who originally came

up with the idea to skewer boardroom politics?

Ben Rock: I had been a fan of Jonathan’s when he was

a performer at SAK theatre. He was always a very

inventive performer with an elastic body and face.

During the summer of 1994, I was a writing intern on

the ill-fated sketch comedy series “The Newz.” At the

same time, I was a DP on a student film in which

Jonathan (and [“The Meeting” producer] Jay

Bogdanowitsch, ironically) were starring. I told

Jonathan about “The Newz,” and he wrote “The

Meeting” with the idea of submitting it as a sketch to

the show.

BF: Were there any production difficulties while

shooting “The Meeting” that stand out?

a very important meeting

BR: The

biggest

production

glitch was

unavoidable,

we had no

money to rent

a studio

space, so I

asked my

friends at

Theatre

Downtown to let us build a set in their back warehouse

area. This was good in that we basically had free run

of the place, but the building is not designed to be a

soundstage. When we shot, actors would often have to

wait for traffic to clear before saying their lines. There

is a silver lining, however. It gave us a ton of footage

of them looking nervous and impatient. You can see a

lot of that dead air in the film. It helped to set an

atmosphere of unease!

BF: The film manages to harvest quite a few emotions

and thoughts through tight editing, a succinct

screenplay and nicely restrained direction. If you had

had $14,000 instead of $7,000, what would you have

done differently?

BR: I would have paid the crew. Possibly, I would have

built the set in a soundstage. For $14,000, however,

there probably wouldn’t have been enough to pay the

crew and build the set in a soundstage, so the crew

would have gotten it.

BF: You did a lot of D.P. work and theater directing

after graduating from UCF–how long did it take before

the call of Los Angeles ripped you out of the Orlando

area?

BR: I realized about a year or so ago that if I stayed in

Orlando, I would get more and more comfortable

while the kinds of opportunities that I wanted to

explore were not available to me. The work that I did

after school was good, in terms of learning craft in a

safe environment. I also was given a ton of

opportunities to direct film shoots, which would have

taken longer out here. That being said few people are

looking to hire directors out of Orlando, and the kinds

of projects that are being offered are limited. It was

hard to leave, though. I love it there! I grew up there! I

plan to come back a few times a year, and Jonathan

and I are actually working on a script right now which

has many Florida locations.

BF: Has the L.A. scene been kind or indifferent to you?

Do you find that opening doors in that town is easier or

more difficult for a transplanted filmmaker?

BR: I was only here two months when “The Meeting”

played at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival at

the DGA theatre. So I would say LA has been pretty

cool. You have to be patient in a town this big, but

that’s not to say you should sit around and wait for the

city to discover you. If you’re willing to work for free,

there’s a lot of opportunities to direct.

a very important meeting

BF: Do you

foresee a day

when central

Florida

actually

supports a

large number

of indie

filmmakers?

Or is that

getting too

much hope up?

BR: With the whole digital frontier, where you could be

set up to shoot and edit feature-length programs for

under $10,000, the roof may blow off. There are many

people who hope that this will revolutionize

filmmaking. If and when it does, indie films will be

able to be made anywhere. What Florida seems to be

missing, in terms of indie production, is a solid base for

indie financing. The local economy does not depend

on filmmaking for revenue, and the people who could

make film happen are already doing it in places where

it is more understood and profitable.

BF: You served as production designer for “The Blair

Witch Project”, how did you hook up with Haxan?

BR: I went to UCF with all the Haxan guys, actually

Gregg and I went to VCC’s film program a year before

we went to UCF. Gregg had produced my first film,

“Vapor Man” and for some time, he lived a block away

from me in downtown Orlando. One night I was visiting

him and he told me about the whole Blair Witch

legend, ending it by telling me about three friends of

Ed’s who had disappeared while investigating it. Then

he told me the footage had turned up and he and Dan

and Ed were going to examine it and the blood

drained from my face. I said “You guys are gonna die!”

Then he told me it was all a hose. The Blair Witch was

fake, and it was all this idea that Ed and Dan had been

kicking around for a few years. He told me the

“method” they were going to use to film it, and it was

the coolest thing I had ever heard.

BF: What kind of stuff did you do for the film?

BR: The first thing Gregg had me do was research and

writing for the trailer we made to attract interest to the

project. A year later, Gregg and I went to Maryland to

shoot the film. It was the best and most fun experience

I have ever had doing anything, much less making a

film. My biggest contribution to the film is probably

those infernal little stick-men you see everywhere.

They were based on ancient runes. I also helped to

design and implement some of the scenarios in the

film, though that was mostly Dan and Ed.

BF: What are you doing for sustenance and what are

your newest projects?

BR: I just finished working for Haxan again, co-writing

a special about the Blair Witch for the Sci-Fi channel

(it’s nice to know they stick with their friends).

Additionally, I am directing this play, “Golden Elliot,”

in Hollywood and Jonathan and I are working on a

script right now. When I first got out here I found temp

work that paid more than I ever made in Orlando

within a week. There’s a lot of schlepp work out here if

you need a job quickly.

BF: What’s your motivation for making films?

BR: I like the job of directing, the process of making a

film. When it works, it really works. I enjoy

collaborating with actors, writers, and editors (though I

edited this one). The process reveals quite a bit about

everyone you work with. This is especially the case in

theatre, where the final show is a pure collaboration

between the actors and the director. Even when it

doesn’t work, you learn a lot. You pull something from

the experience. It eats you alive while it is happening,

but you stay there anyway and plug away as best you

can because you know that directing is a privilege.

“eyn a iei pvee en ipenpp


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