Ben Joyner is a Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker and cinematographer. He was born in North Carolina and graduated from the Savannah College of Art & Design in 2015. Ben’s short film ABDUCTED was a 2018 Indie Grant recipient and was selected for the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. He served as cinematographer on a documentary feature for Clay Tweel (Co-Director, “Finders Keepers” Sundance ’14, Director “Gleason”, Sundance ’15.) He also recently wrapped another documentary feature for co-directors J.Cole and Scott Lazer. A music video Ben directed for Black Marble, shot in his grandfather’s rural hometown in Mississippi, appeared on Booooooom.com, Director’s Library, Paste, and received a vimeo staff pick. He also collaborated with his cat Mushu on a film during quarantine that can be viewed on Vimeo. Ben is represented by Innovative Artists.
Q & A
If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?
Oh, absolutely. Avoiding any too-specific spoilers, I’d say a world like that of ABDUCTED, where very bad men don’t necessarily “win,” would be a better world for everyone.
Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?
Oh, humanoid or not, we’re absolutely gonna get slaughtered by artificially intelligent robots, once they take the time to think through the best possible outcome for this planet. But if they decide to keep a few of us alive as pets or whatever, and if I’m one of the ones they choose, and if they then decide to make Sci-Fi films… I will absolutely cheer them on, as long as they keep up my supply of Soylent Green.
In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?
It’d be hard to do better than Michael Jordan and Bill Murray.
Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?
I consider myself part of a sci-fi conversation. Sometimes that means engaging directly with other creators – whether in person, or through their work. But even if I’m alone in my hidey-hole, inventing worlds, those worlds will always be part of a larger conversation. Nobody creates in a vacuum.
Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?
While I’d prefer to be more analog than I am, the pull of the digital is relentless. It’ll be the death of us all, I think… which is why Sci-Fi is and always has been such a wonderful genre. It’s an opportunity to explore alternate realities, where perhaps our species isn’t poisoning our minds and our living environment through greed and straight-up avarice. But even when our work isn’t pointing to an ideal possible world, it can act as a wake-up call to this one.
Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Both. Neither. Practical. Dystopia. Post.