Be Prepared

Ben Callner

How did you get into directing?
I had always messed around with the family video camera.  So when I went to college, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t majoring in film, I still made fun little movies with friends and family.
I finally decided to submit a few films into some competitions and was surprised to take top honors.  I couldn’t believe it!  Suddenly a career I always thought to be too risky to attempt seemed worthy of trying.  Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What is your most recent project?
I just finished shooting a national spot for KFC.  And I’m now excited to start pre-production for an animated musical… go figure.

What is the best part of being a director?
Taking an idea and giving it life is by far the best feeling.  But I also love the process and collaboration.
So the other best part (if there can be two “best” parts) is working with people that think in completely different ways and consequently make you look more creative and thoughtful than you actually are.
Also, the coffee.  Wherever you go, there it is.

What is the worst part of being a director?
Being your own worst critic.
It seems with every project (no matter how good it might actually be) there comes a point where you’ve seen it so many times that you suddenly question every decision and think, “People really are going to punch me in the face for this one.”

What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre–comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
I love heartfelt comedy, and more specifically, comedic commercials and branded content that connect with people on some level.
It’s an incredible challenge to entertain and sell, let alone do so within a specific amount of time.  And to walk away with a coherent and singular direction (given all the opinions that weigh into every decision) is a tough but rewarding experience.
But when it all comes down to it, I just love making people laugh.

Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates most with you?
How I deal with challenges and interact with people is a direct result of my family and upbringing. So in many ways, my parents, older brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins have been the biggest influences.
But when it comes to commercialmaking specifically, Steve Colby from Pogo Pictures is my mentor.  How he approaches the client, the agency, and the creative (knowing where the client is coming from and how much the agency went through before showing anything) are all things only experience can teach.
Needless to say, I owe Steve a beer… or two… or a million.