Film producer, actor, and musician Ben Stranahan, known in Hollywood as the man without a huge ego, is brave enough to show me a video of the play he starred in back in middle school. He makes me promise not to laugh, however, and I give him my word. I nearly break it, however, as I watch a 12-year-old Ben, dressed in an 1800s costume, walk confidently to the center of the stage, stop, squarely face the audience, and deliver his first line as an actor: “Halt! Who goes there?”
I don’t crack up, but my face hurts. Ben kills the video and gives me a dirty look, then has to laugh. “Well, come on, I was only twelve. Fortunately, bigger things came my way later.”
Bigger things, indeed. As a producer for Tip-Top Productions, Ben has finished the post-production of Monstrous, his thriller starring Christina Ricci, and is beginning production of Better Than Yourself, a highly anticipated mystery about four friends whose dreams inexplicably come true. As his resume grows, so does Ben’s reputation, and he says he owes his success to his parents, who encouraged him to follow his creative heart.
“I definitely come from an artsy family,” he affirms, thinking back on his childhood. “My parents were very creative themselves, so it didn’t surprise them when I volunteered for that play.” He ignores my smile and continues. “They were very supportive when I dove into filmmaking in high school. Mom in particular was proud when I joined the theatre, where I can attest my acting skills deepened.”
Ben also used his teenage years to explore life behind the camera. “I loved making my first short films,” he remembers. “That’s a completely different experience to be the one who directs the actors. I could see how much fun a career like that would be.”
Life wasn’t all about acting and directing, however. “I got into music and probably gave my parents a headache with all the time I spent practicing the drums. Fortunately for them, I was also into the piano, which I think both Mom and Dad appreciated. I had a blast playing in a band for five years.”
Senioritis hit Ben just like it did his peers. “I had the best plan: I was going to go to LA so that I could get started on my career in Hollywood.”
The first stop, however, was the Berklee College of Music Summer Program. “Boston was clear on the other side of the country, but I knew that I could learn there from some of the finest musicians in the country,” Ben explains. “I was right. My time there definitely made me into the musician I am today.”
Ben was then thrilled to be accepted at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. “I’ll never forget when I saw my acceptance letter with my dad standing right beside me,” he states. “That was huge. It was a major step toward me getting what I wanted: a career in Hollywood and the performing arts. I couldn’t wait to get out there and start taking classes. I spent three years learning everything that I could. As an actor, I especially enjoyed breaking down characters and learning accents, including Southern, Standard RP, New England, and Irish. I also got good at stage combat, both armed and unarmed.”
When Ben finished his classes, he began building his career as an actor, producer, and musician. He has found success in particular as a movie producer, including 2016’s Mean Dreams, which starred Bill Paxton, Sophie Nélisse, Josh Wiggins, and Colm Feore. Ben says that one of his proudest moments was watching it premiere in 2016 at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes and as a Special Presentation at TIFF. “Then it went on to be sold in over fifty countries and to be released theatrically in over ten countries. That was beyond amazing and very satisfying.”
One of his favorite movies to produce and act in was Population Zero. “That was a blast,” says Ben. “It was a psychological thriller and really took the genre in a different direction. Critics around the world liked it. I also enjoyed producing Calibre, another thriller, which was released on Netflix in 2018. That ended up being nominated for four BAFTAs, and it won for one: Best Actor for Jack Lowden. The night we won was incredible for all of us.”
Ben has also found success as a TV producer with The Midnight Anthology, starring Clancy Brown. Its pilot premiered at the New York Television Festival in 2015 and went on to win the Artistic Achievement and Best Director awards at the festival. Ben and The Midnight Anthology team are developing the remaining episodes of the series.
Every once in a while, Ben watches that video of his middle school debut to remind himself of how far he has come. “And to keep me humble, of course!” he says, giving in and laughing with me. “I never want to get to the point where I idolize myself the way some people in Hollywood do. Instead, I want to remember that I am only here today because I have worked hard and have had doors open for me as a result. Ten years from now, I hope I can stand here and say the same thing.”