The film scene in Washington, especially in Renton, might be small and seemingly insignificant compared to the big guns in Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a gem that’s waiting to be polished.
At least, that’s what Ben Andrews believes.
Andrews is a well-known figure in Renton as he’s actively fought to preserve and promote the local film and art scene, not just through his work, but in Olympia. Not only is Andrews an actor, director, producer (he has appeared in the TV series “The Librarians”), but he is also part of the Renton Municipal Arts Commission and serves as director of events at the Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ve lived in Renton for 13 years and I love this city,” he said. “A lot of change is coming to this city and I want that change to be film, too. There’s a solid core of filmmakers here that has been building in the past five or six years, and a lot of these guys are respected in the Washington film community.”
Armed with a passion that’s reserved for hopeless romantics, Andrews has been trying to bridge the gap and bring more national spotlight over to the local film scene.
“Most of my career, I’ve worked through our local leadership system,” he said. “But I think I’m old enough and dumb enough to realize that we’re in this age where things are changing so rapidly that we’re having to reinvent everything. Starting with the relationships with filmmakers and producers in L.A. — I want to do my art here and not have to move to L.A. But L.A. is where you have the people who can help you take it to the next level. I want to have both worlds. I think we can live here but we can collaborate with the professionals in L.A. And I’m naive enough to know that we can do both.”
How is he colliding his worlds together? Through the Holly Shorts Film Festival (HSFF).
HSFF is an annual independent short film festival located in Hollywood, CA that features an eclectic mixture of short films of various genres from around the world. Through some networking, Andrews was able to create a Washington Film Block.
This means that Andrews’ production company, Evil Slate, sponsors the event, and in return, they are able to choose the winner of a screenplay competition from the previous year, and help the screenplay make into a film that will be premiered at HSFF the next year.
This year, the film that’s being featured at the festival is “The Lunchbox Brigade,” a coming-of-age story written and directed by Kyle Thiele. Though Thiele was from Ohio, Andrews was able to bring in an alliance of local crew and producers, and shoot the film locally.
Andrews is also part of the leadership for Renton FilmFrenzy, SIFF Renton and REEL Renton. In 2014, he was able to invite co-founders of HSFF from Hollywood to judge Renton FilmFrenzy, the 50-hour film competition.
But for someone who has dedicated the rest of his life towards the promotion and advocacy of the arts, his love affair with the craft is fairly new.
In fact, it wasn’t until 10 years ago that he became an actor.
Having grown up in a fundamental Christian household that didn’t practice or endorse the arts, Andrews said that he felt like “something was missing, but I didn’t know what was missing.”
“When I turned 30, I became brave enough to try,” he said. “I was terrified of acting, actually.”
So he gave up his years of project management for scripts, screenplays, auditions, callbacks and the spotlight. What started off as a hobby and a mission to find himself has turned into a gratifying career.
“I’m not a good actor,” he admits. “But in this journey, I realized I could direct or produce because I was a good project manager. Producing is just project manger, just change out the product and the vendors, and it’s the same thing. But I always wanted to be in front of the camera, whether it was in front of the camera or whether it was behind it. That magic on the film set — it’s pretty amazing.”
And it is in this magic Andrews says he has found himself.
“I spent my early years external — who do I have to please, what do I have to do, or what do I have to do to make sure I fit it — but now that I look internal, it helps me really know who I am. It helps me create magic, whether it’s acting, directing or producing.”