Mill Director | Ben Smith

Ben’s background in product design provides the foundation for his talents in innovating solutions that strike the perfect balance between beautiful form and seamless function. Having worked and directed in an array of storytelling mediums, from linear advertising to short film to immersive VR experiences, Ben’s ability to tell compelling stories through almost any lens serves him well at The Mill. He is a thinker and a craftsman who constantly sets a new bar for future work.
Work May 28, 2020

You come from a background in 3D – how did your career path lead you to becoming a director?

My background is firmly rooted in design. I studied Product Design at Glasgow School of Art and became familiar with 3D as a prototyping tool. I got excited about the creative possibilities and ended up working with some friends on a music video for Radiohead. I went to supervise the compositing stage at the Mill, met the gang, and became a 3D artist there. In many ways, creative development and direction is a return to my design roots. It’s about deeply understanding a problem or need and then applying creative thinking and technical knowledge to find the most elegant solution – much like Product Design.


Below: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies | Prologue

How does your background in visual effects influence your work?

Creatively speaking, VFX and animation are amazingly versatile tools for making awesome stuff with. I’m very comfortable with the processes and they influence my choices, I suppose. It’s certainly liberating to know where the edges of possibility lie, too. In live-action projects, it’s often about finding the right division of labor between what you shoot and what you create with VFX. So practically speaking, a good understanding of both is enormously helpful when planning production.


Below: March For Our Lives | The Most Vicious Cycle

Where are you sourcing your creative inspiration in isolation?

I’m most inspired by things that combine agile thinking with beauty. The unfamiliar patterns that have sprung up during Covid have forced people to think differently and invent clever ways to make things, so weirdly, it’s been quite an inspiring time. Otherwise, I read a lot of fiction (I have read every David Mitchel book published!) and I regularly check sites like thisiscolossal and Surfacemag to see what’s out there. I go through phases of imgur addiction, too (Glorious and proud!). I’ve also used the lack of traffic on our street to teach my son how to ride a bike! So that’s been great fun.


Are there any common themes that run through your personal work?

I love exploring the magic found in the cracks between possible and impossible. The ‘what ifs’ at the edges of perception. My short film, Product Recall, and the current script I’m developing both share those themes. I also just have a profound need to make beautiful things : )

Below: Product Recall | Trailer

What are you working on at the moment aside from your commercial work? 

I’m working on the first draft of a feature script exploring the future of recreational drug culture. A kind of 90’s rave culture/sci-fi mashup. It’s great fun and I work on it whenever I get a chance. I’m also building some furniture for the yard!


You can check out more of Ben’s work on his Creator profile or on his Instagram @beenzzzz.

Mill Director | Ben Smith