15-year-old Oscar winner in training
March 22, 2011 · Updated 9:54 PM
When speaking with amateur filmmaker Ben Kadie, one can't help but think, "Is this kid really only 15-years-old?" Not to sound agist; creative genius comes in everyone from age 8 to 80, but while many of his peers are caught up in the day-to-day activities of dating, socializing and general teenage-hood, Kadie is busy making award-winning films. Already immersed in his field before he's even earned a high school diploma, Kadie teaches himself how to use 3D animation models for his movies, sets a budget of a couple hundred dollars at most, casts his films, and gains inspiration from classic literature, old school film genres, Shakespeare and Italian renaissance theater.
With a friend, he made his first film in third grade, a World War I comedy that won the Seattle Times’ Three-Minute Masterpiece Contest. A dozen or so mini-movies, gold medals and international film festivals later, he is now a sophomore at Interlake High School, already getting ready to tour college film schools. His most recent accomplishment, receiving a Scholastic Art & Writing Award from the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, can be viewed at Seattle Art Museum (SAM). There, his three-minute film noir, “Sparks in the Night” is being shown with the traveling exhibit ART.WRITE.NOW, which showcases select winners of the national writing award. The event is free and open to the public at SAM from now until April 24 during regular museum hours.
REPORTER: What are some of your favorite films for 2010?
BK: "True Grit" was a very well-made movie, "The King's Speech, "Social Network."
REPORTER: In other words, all Oscar material?
BK: Pretty much.
REPORTER: Who are your favorite filmmakers?
BK: I really love the Coen brothers. I love "Monty Python," their writing and comedy. Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane."
REPORTER: Why the Coen brothers?
BK: They're just very confident filmmakers. They portray tight, well-told stories that are very clever and funny. They've got that sort of crazy-style humor, and their plots are non-traditional and meandering.
REPORTER: For your films, you've used 3D computer models, 2D animation, archival footage, and digital matte paintings. How did you learn to use all that?
BK: I'm mostly self-taught. The first time I used 3D software, I was able to find 3D virtual set pieces on the Internet. That was helpful.
REPORTER: Any other film education?
BK: I've taken two short classes, one at Seattle Film Institute, which gave me some hands-on production experience, what a real set felt like, what all the jobs where, etc. And another one at TheFilmSchool's first Prodigy Camp, which focused on storytelling.
REPORTER: How do your parents help?
BK: My parents are very, very helpful. My mom used to work in theater as a costumer. My dad is a computer engineer who can help me with the software. Those are two great elements to have in filmmaking.
REPORTER: What do all good movies need?
BK: The most important thing is a a good story. Most movies tell clear stories, even documenteries have a vision for a story they're trying to portray.
REPORTER: What films are you working on next?
BK: Well, I started writing a couple things and I've been throwing them out and rewriting. I don't know what I'll be doing next, yet, other than it'll be short.
REPORTER: Walk me through the creative process.
BK: You break it down into pre-production, production, post-production. Pre-production: I'm writing in my spare time at home or at school. Production is a fun, crazy, fast process. Things go wrong, you have to fix it. Post-production is pretty solitary and time-consuming. You have to pay attention to details. I put the footage together, I edit it, that takes a while – deciding what shot to use when. Sometimes I put in visual effects, so then I have to find background to use on top of the green screen and play with color and sound.
REPORTER: How has your work evolved from third grade to 10th grade?
BK: I hope that I've gotten better at everything. I've been focusing on storytelling and having that be the focus. Some of my other films were very special-effects oriented and the stories were fantastic and fun. Now, I'm more interested in telling more human stories. Special effects are still a great thing though, and I've gotten pretty good at them.
REPORTER: What do you need to improve?
BK: Just about everywhere: my skills directing actors and cinematography.
REPORTER: How can other children and teens get involved with filmmaking?
BK: It's a lot easier than people think. If you have a camera, or friend who has a camera, you can make a movie. There are a lot more young people making films than there ever have been before. There are now quite a few youth film festivals and more and more high schools have film programs.
Watch "Sparks in the Night" and other Slugco films at Kadie's website.