It’s really hard not to like a guy who has a cat named Moose. Sitting in Ben Stranahan’s home and watching him play with his two cats, you get the sense Ben really is who he appears to be: an amiable man who is devoted to his pets, his music, and his movies. That he happens to be attaining the Hollywood success that so many crave yet few ever have isn’t going to his head.
Instead, he remains down to earth about his accomplishments and knows that nothing is guaranteed in Tinseltown, which chews up and spits out hundreds, probably thousands, of aspiring actors, directors, and producers every year. Ben, however, isn’t one of them, largely because he has stayed the course, worked hard, and taken nothing for granted.
“I got started on the road to being a movie producer way back in middle school in Aspen, Colorado,” he says, remembering.
I did some school plays, and the first time I stepped out onto the stage and saw that audience, I was hooked. What a rush! I was so young at the time that I don’t remember what the exact production was, but I knew I wanted to do this and be a storyteller for the rest of my life. Then It just took off from there.
As Moose settles in his lap, Ben continues. “In high school, I really got into it. I did theatre and made my first short films. There’s nothing like experience to teach you how to do something. I was even in a band and played the drums and piano in it for five years until I finished high school. As my friends were preparing for college, I knew what I wanted to do: go to Los Angeles so I could get started on becoming an artist.”
However, Ben first enrolled in the Berklee College of Music Summer Program in Boston. “I loved that time,” he says.
I was able to really dive deep into the piano and learn how to improvise, and I finished as a much more confident musician.
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.
Today, Ben is the partner/producer at Tip-Top Productions. He is also in post-production of Monstrous, a film with Christina Ricci about a traumatized woman who flees her abusive ex-husband with her young son, only to find a bigger, more terrifying monster to deal with.
Ben is reflective as he thinks back on his path to Hollywood. “There really probably were easier careers I could have chosen,” he says. “Truly, I had no choice but to become a filmmaker. It’s just something inside of me. I never would have been happy or successful doing anything else. No matter how hard I’ve had to work to get to where I am today, I have no regrets.”