Ben Rekhi, Waterborne’s twenty-something writer and director has been making bold statements on film for more than a decade. He graduated from the NYU School of Film and Television, where he directed, shot, and produced several award winning shorts, including The Waste Project, which won the Best Actor prize at the First Run Festival, and Dirty Laundry, for which he received a Post Production Grant from Warner Bros. Pictures. Upon graduating, Rekhi went on to direct music videos for Hindi pop star Sanjay Maroo that aired on Zee TV in India. Rekhi’s video for Interscope Record’s band Dredg (for the song ‘Of the Room’) was voted number one on the Fuse TV Network program Oven Fresh, with over thirty million viewers.
Ben got his first break in the film industry working on the set of the Coen Brothers’ cult classic O Brother, Where Art Thou? as a camera intern under world-renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins, ASC. He was subsequently hired by O Brother star George Clooney to shoot the behind-the-scenes documentary for Clooney’s directorial debut Confessions of a Dangerous Mind starring Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, and Sam Rockwell.
In Los Angeles, Rekhi has interned and worked in development, production, and management at New Line Cinema, Sony Pictures, and MGM before forming his own production company, Drops Entertainment, under which he produced his first feature film, Bomb the System. The independent 35mm feature, which stars Mark Webber (Storytelling, Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers) and was cut by award-winning editor Jay Rabinowitz (8 Mile, Requiem for a Dream ), was nominated for the prestigious 2004 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature against Monster, House of Sand and Fog , and Thirteen. In addition to participating in nearly thirty film festivals around the world with Bomb, Rekhi also co-managed the sale and distribution of the picture in the U.S. to Palm Pictures for it’s 2005 theatrical release and to Japan and Australia as well. Rekhi recently signed with ICM and Mosaic Media Group, and is currently producing the independent 35mm comedy CarBabes , as well as developing the screenplay for Waste, an inside look at the harsh and often dangerous lives of NYC garbage men.
What was the journey like?
It’s hard to say because I feel like I am still on the journey. The creative journey has been tremendously satisfying. The process of having an idea, going out and shooting it, editing it into something that makes sense, and then showing it to an audience is the most gratifying experience I can think of. I went to film school at NYU, which was a thoroughly enlightening experience. We were given equipment and instruction of how to master the craft, but the ideas and inspiration still had to be born within ourselves. I made a lot of friends, many of which I still work with until this day. While in school, we were making music videos for local hip hop artists in New York, and a few summers I had the great fortune of working on a few feature films as an intern, namely “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and Goerge Clooney’s “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” I learned more in working on these films than I did in four years of film school! Upon graduation from NYU, I moved to Los Angeles and started at the bottom of the totem pole, making copies and answering phones at various production companies, all to pay my dues and understand how the industry works. I can’t say I’ve figured everything out just yet, but after three feature films under my belt, I can say the journey thus far has been worth it!
Was the path from dream to realization difficult?
To be honest, the path has not been easy and at many times extremely treacherous. Anyone who has attempted working in the arts can tell you, it’s not an easy way of making a living. There is very little money in it, especially when you are starting out, and it is extremely competitive. For every one spot in Hollywood, there are literally thousands of people vying for it. You have to go above and beyond, work long hours, master your craft, and try not to hurt anyone along the way, all in hopes that your films may get seen above the clutter of all the media out there. To even begin the journey, you have to ask yourself, why I am doing this? For me, it’s even a question, it was a compulsion, I HAD to do this. Once I realized that, I knew that it was independent filmmaking or bust! but one of the toughest lessons that I have learned, and continue to learn, is how working relationships are different than friendships. Although it is many people’s dreams to work with friends to realize their dreams, I have learned to be very cautious in who to work with in pursuing these dreams. In many forms of art, the artist works alone (ie. writing, photography, painting, sculpting, etc). But the filmmaking process is different because it is collaborative and requires vast amounts of people, resources, and financing. When you are making a movie, as with any small business venture, you are going to be under tremendous amounts of stress with very little sleep or money. In these circumstances, people’s true colors shine through, which sometimes is not a good thing. It is important wo work with people that understand the value of teamwork and collaboration, because after all, no filmmaker is an island! You have to pick and choose your battles, and hope that everyone has the same goal in mind.
As hard as it’s been, nothing compares to the feeling of finishing a film and sharing that experience with your team. When the lights go down in a theater, and the projector flickers on, there is an indescribable rush that you get, sharing your art with the world. Filmmaking is communicating, it is a two way street that requires an outlet, an audience. That feeling is what keeps me going.
Who were some of your role models?Favorite filmmakers?
I grew up on Spielberg and Lucas, but have since explored many groundbreaking filmmakers who work outside of the studio system. Michael Winterbottom, Steven Soderbergh, Alejandro Innaritu, Michael Haneke, the Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, etc. I think if anyone is serious about getting into filmmaking, you have to look outside of mainstream cinema to see the real pioneers and innovators of the industry.
What advice would you give to a young aspiring filmmaker?
Do it. Don’t make plans to study it, don’t think you have to go to film school, and don’t make excuses. With technology where it is, anyone can pick up a camera and with no money, can start making films. The more hands on practice you get, the more you will develop as a filmmaker. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people complaining that they have an idea but don’t have the money, or who have seen a film and think they can do it better. Build a body of work. Becuase believe me, you will make mistakes at first. Better to get those creative ones out of the way early, so when you do have an opportunity to make a film, you can make the most of it.
Where can we find out more about your work?
Bomb the System, my first film as producer, is out on DVD, as is Waterborne, my directorial debut. You can view the trailer for my third film CarBabes at www.carbabesthemovie.com. Also please check out www.dropsentertainment.com and www.thenextattack.com. Fortunately, there has been great exposure for our work, so if you are really bored, type “Ben Rekhi” into Google and a bunch of fun stuff comes up.
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