This week, Giles Alderson and Tobias Vees chatted to producer Benjamin Munz, whose film Blood Red Sky is currently the most popular non-English film on Netflix.
After Ben finished school, it was still expected in Germany, that you’d join the army for a year. However, if you were a pacifist, you were able to do social service instead.
Ben opted for that and during that time, he met a guy who made short films. The guy’s brother was also studying filmmaking at the best film school in Germany.
“And he said, you’re into film too? And I said I’m super into film. He said I’m doing short films with my buddies. Do you want to work on it? And that’s what I always wanted to do.”
At that point, Ben says that his life path wasn’t showing in the right direction, but after meeting his new friend he realised that this was a step towards his dreams.
Taking the Next Step
“I love producing. And then obviously you start talking about stories and when you have a big background in film, you have storytelling in your blood. You didn’t have to teach me storytelling.”
After making some shorts with his new group of friends, the older brother (who had now finished film school) had “became one of the biggest advertising directors in the world and was fond of me.
So I started being PA on his shoots and I started to move up the ladder. I became AD on his movie sets from there and was invited to other shoots. When you’re very passionate about what you’re doing, that’s all that people want to see. And they saw it, this kid straight out of high school, who’s interested in film and has some organisational skills.”
At the time, Ben was working 24 hour days (unpaid) while working on shoots and doing an internship at a local advertising agency.
“The day I finished that job, I started working, for the first time, on a real music video shoot for some big band. And suddenly everything in my life pointed in the right direction. And I knew I was doing the thing that I always wanted to.”
“I worked with the producers of the Resident Evil movies, these German guys who live in LA and were producing big Hollywood movies. And one of them told me, all you get for being a producer is beat up every second and every step of the project for the rest of your life. The points where you will have success are so small compared to the daily job of running against doors that close or people that sit behind those doors and tell you that you’re shit and your movie is shit.
That’s your daily life. Making a movie is not easy. It’s just a pure heart job.”
You rarely have the budget that you want or manage to get the people that you want. It’s a struggle.
“And the only thing that keeps me going every day is this kid who said 20 years ago that he always wanted to do movies. And sometimes I just sit in my bed in the middle of the night and I smile because I’m doing that.”
What Do You Look For In A Project?
“I would answer it different every day, but right now it’s two things. I’m a producer: I have to make money and I have to make movies.”
Ben says “first of all, you are a salesman” as a producer, so when he gets projects, he has to think about whether he’d be able to sell them.
“It doesn’t matter if it is genre, a comedy or a crime story. If I get it on my table and I know an executive that I can send it to, who might want to pay for it, then I’m interested.”
Having had years of experience in the industry, he now knows that it is not worth pursuing projects that he doesn’t think he could sell or isn’t very passionate about creatively.
The problem is that trying to produce a film that you don’t think you could sell, means that you “raise the hopes of your writers and directors. Then you run around for five years and don’t get it off the ground. That’s really, really devastating. So I started to select way better and way harder.”
Meeting Your Heroes
At the Frankfurt Book Fair, “probably the biggest book fair in the world. They had David Heyman, who is the producer of all the Harry Potter movies and people could ask questions.”
After the panel, Ben approached David and said:
“I’m a young producer, just out of film school, and I just wanted to say that your work inspired me. I think it’s in Robert Rodriguez’ Rebel Without a Crew that that’s what you should say to your idols. I was literally star struck standing there and he stood there for a second, looking me in the eyes, shaking my hand. And he said ‘hey guy, thank you. There will be a lot of doors closing in your face, in your career and all you can try to do is keep knocking down those doors.
With all the devastations and desperation, doors close every day and you have to keep reopening them every day. And after this, I finally have an answer to the question: What does the producer do? It’s kicking doors open.
Listen to more from Benjamin Munz here.