5 minutes with… Ben Horowitz

5 minutes with… Ben Horowitz

Tell us about yourself – who are you and what do you do?

I have been in the “industry” for over 35 years and I’ve dipped into nearly every genre, medium and department there is. Amongst other things, I’ve directed and produced commercials, line produced features and dramas, been a writer and mostly I was a pretty good AD. I made a career out of helping other people make their movies.

What are you currently up to? Are there any exciting projects ongoing?

The freelance life has been good to me; I paid the bills, saw some of the world, worked with some brilliant people, had a lot of fun, shed some tears and spilled some blood. I made friends and enemies and I even got some affirmation along the way.

I was always dreaming about making  my own movies, but I was never making them. Instead I was continually looking for work, seeking praise for my skills, trying hard to impress and pursuing other people’s dreams. The “industry” prescribes your dreams and aspirations… it decides for you what success is and is a harsh critic if you step out of line or speak out of turn.

So I bought some equipment, combined a lifestyle that I love with the skills I have, and went on a journey. Along the way, I’m making films. I’m lucky to be able to do that. I’m grateful I can. I’m thrilled I eventually woke up to the possibility.

What’s your best project/work to date?

Last year I shot a feature doccie on the Kavango River in Namibia. I call it African Fish Stories. I think it falls into the “educational” genre. It’s all experimental until it’s finished and sold. I’ve been experimenting and learning a lot. I’m at least 6 months over schedule. I think it’s going to be good. I know that when it finds the right audience it will contribute positively to the conservation of the Kavango’s wild fisheries and to conservation debates elsewhere.

Like all humans, I need affirmation. I get it more often when I complete films more often. So I’m making more little films. I don’t have an audience yet, but there is always someone you make it for. I make it for me first. It’s my POV and I need it to be very clear to me first. If it’s good, I laugh and cry at all the right places. The other players in my stories seem to like them too. That’s important to me. I’m starting to tell stories that reflect my understanding of the world and my small audiences are “getting it”.

I met an interesting guy, went diving with him and made a small film about him. His life is at a crossroads, involving possible jail time, so I can’t show the film to anyone. I love that film… it’s some of my best work.

I made a 3 minute movie set to Marley’s Three Little Birds which consisted of my wife and kids body surfing on the South Coast. It was a love letter to them. It makes me cry every time I watch it. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever done. I didn’t post it – it was for me and them.

Who or what inspires you?

My lens is focused on the conservation of our natural resources and its impact on humans. I seek truth and hope. I’m not a sensationalist, I believe all people are essentially good and all people deserve to be heard. I tell stories about the conflict between people and nature conservation; ironic stories because I believe people are part of nature.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do?

I love experiencing the power of nature. I love fishing. I love the oceans, rivers, deserts, mountains, secluded places and adventure. I love violent weather, driving rain, deep snow, cool winds, warm sunshine and perfect mornings. I love Southern Africa and all her people. I have a deep interest in human nature and an insatiable desire to help build a sustainable future for our species.

I work best on my own. I am my own boss and take responsibility for every decision and every outcome. I have faith that I can make this work. I just have to be patient and consistent. I have to get more skilled every day. I have to create every day. I have to have an exciting mission lined up to follow the task I’m completing.

I’m going to the Transkei next. There are stories I want to pursue and I’m researching the prospects of starting a Youtube channel. I’m excited by the idea of having an independent channel. I’m excited about making small films often. I think social media is the right place for me. It’s probably the right place for anyone seeking independence.

Finally, what tips or advice could you give to other documentary creatives, just starting out or to the most experienced creatives needing a bit of encouragement?

I still know nothing about this business and have no idea how to find an audience and monetise what I’m doing. It’s experimental, and expensive. My funds will run dry one day. I’ll just have to make a plan. Today, I’m an independent filmmaker and I’m having the best time of my life.

Of course I’m still somewhat seduced by the notion of success. In the long term I do want to be recognised as a filmmaker. I want to win awards and be admired and respected. I hope I will make some money one day. But, right now, I’m focused on making this new lifestyle sustainable. It’s not a big dream but it’s the most important dream I’ve ever had.