Interview with Ben Gibson
Trying to come up with a new idea for a show? Ben Gibson says to give it up. “There aren’t any original ideas,” according to Ben, who has run prestigious film schools for nearly 20 years. “Most people never start work because they’re looking for a good idea. But what’s important is to have a different idea every morning.”
From there, you can find ways to put a unique spin on a common human experience.
“You’ve got to show people you’re an innovator and not a repeater of things,” Ben said. “And there are various ways to do that.”
Ben will be lecturing at CME Content Academy this month in conjunction with producer Sylvia Stevens. The academy develops talented newcomers into the scriptwriters, showrunners, and TV producers of tomorrow. TV Nova and TV Markíza created CME together with The Television Institute, to not only train students in the television industry but to give them the opportunity to work long-term for the two broadcasters.
Most recently, Ben was director of the DFFB (Deutsche Film & Fernsehakademie Berlin) from 2016 to 2020. He had been the Director of Degree Programs at AFTRS Sydney from 2014-16 and Director of the London Film School from 2001-14. Before that, from the late 80s to 2001, he worked as an independent feature producer, and as Head of Production at the British Film Institute from 1989 to 1999.
Ben, a London native, and Sylvia will teach a hands-on course where they will take students through the entire process from developing an idea to creating pitch decks, then on to the actual commissioning process.
“Their projects will be taken tremendously seriously,” Ben said. “Then they’ll be ground down to test their relationship to the material.”
Ben says that all subjects are equally interesting – but how does the person pitching the idea fit with the subject?
“Yes, we know we should make a film about this,” he said. “But why is it YOU who should make it?”
Ben explained that a person may have an idea, but no access to the people who would need to be involved in the film.
Ben is also on a mission to break down the barriers between screenwriters and producers.
“Good screenwriters need to think like producers, and producers need to be screenwriters,” he said. Before HBO, he noted that screenwriters were kept off-set, to the detriment of the films.
Ben talks about the importance of teams – where all members are creative – in the craft of putting together a film.
“I can’t endorse the idea that some people will write and others will support them and produce the film,” he said.
Ben also urges up-and-coming industry professionals to hold on to their individuality and their own point of view.
“I’m against people learning a code to become someone else,” he said. “I want them to be themselves and have better tools.”
He noted that TV generally skews to an older audience and certain formats.
“They (TV executives) think it’s their job to make these young people knuckle down and produce something that pleases their grandma,” he said. That idea has been changing with the rise of video on demand and the upending of scheduled daily television.
And finally, Ben’s goal for the students at CME:
“Understand that there is a difficult journey, but feel excited that when they get to the end, they’ll be themselves. They’ll be MORE themselves.”
Author Andrea Bisconti