In a cold and unseasonably wet British June, it was really good to catch up with ex-Hurtwood student Ben South, ensconced comfortably in LA and exuding that equable climate alongside an irrepressible enthusiasm for what is fast becoming a kind of Californian enclave of Hurtwood film potential, and indeed talent. Studying ‘BFA Filmmaking’ at the New York Film Academy in Los Angeles, Ben could not have been more enthusiastic for what he is learning in the ultimate film city, and indeed the way in which he is learning it. He describes his move west as brilliant and is delighted that he is being joined regularly by more Hurtwood talent: currently Amr Nabeel, India Edwards, Kristien Alexandersen and Daniel Azimova are all part of a dynamic Hurtwood ‘team’. Supportive and equally excited by the stimulating buzz of LA and such targeted challenges, they are all thriving, it seems.
It is easy to ‘get’ the idea of studying in one of the most gorgeous climates on offer (surely?) but what makes this place such a valuable continuation? Well, first and foremost, Ben describes his decision to come to the Surrey Hills and then to study Media, alongside A levels in History and Theatre, as ‘the best choice I ever made.’ He waxes lyrical about his time at Hurtwood and, in particular, the happy hours spent in the editing suite, working and shooting the breeze with Matt and Luke, and very swiftly thanks Cosmo for the timely advice to give the A level that he had considered ‘wishy-washy’ a try. He was very quickly converted: the practitioners, the expertise, the working practice, all of which he feels is replicated in his LA studies, have shaped him into a determined, focused and totally committed student. Certainly it sounds like there is little time spare, working alongside of the likes of Tony Richmond, who he freely describes as ‘epic’, and one of the best cinematographers in the world. Every single teacher at NYFA, he tells me, works within the industry, across a really wide spectrum. He litters his conversation with many impressive names and projects, is clearly still in awe of the fact that his place of study is right in the middle of all the great studios, Universal and Disney to name only two, and is genuinely excited by the fact that he finds himself on the edge of film shoots almost everywhere he turns. Exciting times.
So, what’s his best piece of advice, even at this very early intersection of his career? ‘Get out of your comfort zone. Take the plunge,’ he tells me, clearly having thought about this before. ‘I have learnt so, so much already.’ About independence, about himself. So much enthusiasm, I think. It is delightful to see, especially as LA time as we speak makes this only 8.30 am, he is having a breakfast glass of orange, and he has to be out of the door for work by 8.45. I find myself wondering if he was quite so prompt back at Hurtwood. His current project? As it happens, it is a collaboration with another ex-Hurtwood student, Tom Gass (see his AH interview also on MUSE). He hopes to be taking this film, a ‘mockumentary’ called ‘No Child Left Behind’, to some film festivals, and is waiting to hear if he has been successful. Not applicable, I think, as this is a young man in a hurry and very much at the centre of a wave of enthusiastic and committed Hurtwood talent. I leave him to his day and very much look forward to hearing how he turns all these amazing experiences into a glittering career. Bring it on, Ben, and (unofficial) Hurtwood in LA!