I came to learn of Doc Benson, first, through movie director and producer, Sharon Wilharm, and then later, when I heard of his acclaimed film, Seven Deadly Words. Doc, as well as other professionals, later became a guest on TBAP’s 2016 Easter Fiesta, which was fantastic! Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing him. Learn more about Doc Benson in our chat below!
Miranda ~ Hello Doc! Honored to have you visit TBAP today. Could tell us a bit about yourself?
Doc: Glad to be here! Let’s see… I started off in Railroad Management and made the switch to media and ministry in the early 1990’s. I penned articles for international magazines such as Trains, Countryside, ASG, The Officer, and various newspapers across America, and won the award for TOP COLUMNIST by the West Virginia Press Association.
When it comes to video media, I worked as a CBS television affiliate producer, writing the news each day and appearing on air in various segments, including the coverage of the events of 9/11. Later, I served as a station manager and personally wrote the scripts for various television programs from documentaries to children’s shows. Today, I’m primarily known for my work as a Director, voice artist, and feature film actor.
Off and on throughout those decades, I also served as a Pastor, Church Consultant, and Restart Specialist. You can learn more at my webpage.
Miranda ~ When did you first discover God and decide to follow Him personally?
Doc: I grew up going to church with my grandmother, but didn’t make my own determination of faith in Christ until I was a teen. I guess I am another youth group success story (laughs). Of course, there has been quite a bit of growth along the way since then.
Miranda ~ When did you discover your talent for acting/filmmaking, and more importantly, when and why did you decide to use it for God?
Doc: Actually, I started acting when I was a child. I appeared in various community theatre and regional productions, both in musicals and stage performances. It wasn’t until much later, after I had been in television for some time that I decided to enter the world of filmmaking. I was in a movie with Chris Kristofferson years back called Disappearances. I took note of the work behind the lens… the Director, the crew, the organization and process. That fascinated me. More importantly, I realized the value in film as a conveyor of social norms.
For years, people who do not believe the same as we do have been using subtle implication and storylines in television and film to reshape American and Canadian public opinion. What at one time would have been considered abhorrent is not celebrated and promoted. This is in no small part due to how these issues are presented in the media day after day, year after year… Call it the trickle of propaganda if you want. I figured, if they could use the media to reshape society for the worse, we could use it to promote and encourage positive images of family, responsibility, and morality.
I should say that, in fact, this is one of the areas where most so-called “Christian” movies fail miserably. They are too heavy handed. They try to force-feed a seven-course meal of truth in 90 minutes. It’s no wonder people regurgitate at what I call “vacuum cleaner salesman” plotlines and heavy-handedness. We need to create better stories, artistic quality, and moral value, but do it as a natural part of the process, not as a cheesy hour and a half sermon.
Miranda ~ What would you say is your studio’s motto for movie making and story selection?
Doc: CULDEE ARTS INITIATIVE is on a mission “to promote the improvement and integration of redemptive storytelling in film, video and all forms of media.” We believe that the most effective way to encourage redemptive filmmaking is to create and distribute quality feature films using talented cast and crew from the industry, while inviting aspiring filmmakers to come along side, learning as they work in a real-world environment.
There is a real need to support the reintegration and visibility of redemptive/family-friendly stories in entertainment. Realistic and respectful representations of people of faith have been, and remain, terribly underrepresented in cinema; redemptive content is still an underdeveloped entertainment product, and those that are produced have often suffered in story or craft. CULDEE works to train aspiring filmmakers, while at the same time creating quality art for today’s audiences.
Due to our base of operations, particular attention is given to encourage and support individuals who live in and come from disadvantaged communities in Appalachia. You can learn more here.
Miranda ~ How have you grown spiritually since becoming an actor/filmmaker? What lessons have you picked up along the way?
Doc: I think I have addressed some of this in my previous answers, but let me think a minute. Ah, yes. Two other things—this is a busy career, full of ups and downs. You need to make time for personal devotions. If you don’t, you won’t. It’s that plain and simple. Life will get ahead of you and you will realize the dust on your Bible isn’t there from the art department. Also, if you claim that you are “called” to a particular craft, then you have an obligation to learn as much about that craft, to perfect your art to the best of your ability. If not, then you are not serving in a worthy manner. That is not only a professional problem, it is a spiritual one.
Miranda ~ What misconceptions do people have about the world of entertainment, especially in regards to hard work and a career that can lead to fame?
Doc: If you are looking for fame and fortune in this business. Get out now. Unless you are David A.R. White or Kevin Sorbo, it is highly unlikely that you will become a household name in the faith community, let alone the mainstream community. For those who do see that level of success, it often happens when they aren’t looking for it. Work your craft, study hard, work hard, and, if you eventually do well, great. If not, then perhaps, it is time to move on to something else, go in God’s grace.
The other thing is that I have learned that American “Church-ianity” is less than supportive of films in progress, and more about taking advantage of works after they are completed. Just try to get support for your film from the average church, and you will be patted on the head and sent away with a “go, be warm and well fed. We will pray for you.” Once the film is done, they all can’t wait to show it (often without permission) at their latest church membership drive, uh, I mean “ministry outreach event.” It is sad, really.
We should support and recognize the value of media ministry with the same lens and encouragement that we do any other missions work. Frankly, when is the last time that you were able to have a one on one conversation with someone, and have their undivided attention, for 90 minutes or more? It just doesn’t happen. However, when they are in the theater or in front of their screen, they are drawn into your world and everything around them disappears for that moment. This is powerful. This needs to be supported from the very beginning, not wait till the end result. We don’t wait to see if missionaries are successful and then retroactively pay them!
Miranda ~ In your opinion, as an actor/filmmaker and a Christian, what principles do you believe help sustain a person with a career in film? What principles sustain the career itself?
Doc: Operate with integrity. Be open and honest. Work hard. Love God. Support your family. Learn much. Sleep well.
Miranda ~ What other actors/filmmakers have you worked with in the past, both in the Christian and secular industries? What has the experience been like, and, what lessons/wisdom did you gain from working with them?—any interesting story in particular?
Doc: I have had the privilege of working on projects with a number of well-known and respected artists. I did mention one such movie, and the lessons learned in a previous answer. I’m not a big fan of name-dropping. I will say this: the best actor I can work with as a director is the actor I am working with at that given moment. All my attention and focus is on how to bring out the best performance in my team and, guide the ship on set to a successful conclusion.
Miranda ~ Why choose to work in the Christian film industry now, as opposed to the secular? Also, in what way is the Christian film industry different than the secular? Is one preferable over the other?
Doc: While I mentioned much of this earlier, I will say that one is not preferable necessarily over the other. I think we make too much of a distinction and build a wall betwixt the two. At one time, art was art, whether funded by royals or by the church. The solution to the moral crisis in media is not to exclusively hide behind the fortress of faith-based film, but to go out and make an impact in film in general. Also, actors and crew… you will gain much valuable experience working on regular sets. You will see the good and bad of the industry. Learn from both.
Miranda ~ What do you hope to impart to viewers who watch the movie, Losing Breen?
Doc: This is a film that addressed the crisis that families face when a loved one has early-onset Alzheimer’s. I think there is much to be learned from this film about both the illness and family dynamics.
Miranda ~ How did you select the cast for Losing Breen?
Doc: I inherited many of the cast members when I came on the project. That was a challenge. Usually directors like to be actively involved in the selection process. A couple members I did select through previous connections and casting calls.
Miranda ~ What project will you be moving on to now? When can we expect it? Also, do you plan on creating a series or will you maintain your lane in feature movie production?
Doc: Jamie Lee Smith and I are working right now on a film of my own called The Publication, along with my good friend Milt Nuzum. The screenplay for that project has won several awards. I am also working on the very first English language feature film to be shot in Paraguay. That will most likely take place this summer.
The other thing is, I am working on a project to try and save an important historical railroad site from destruction and abandonment. I can’t say much about that right now, but this project is so important and so vital to preserving our national history. I will be making announcements about that in the coming months, and hope those with interest will get behind the process and promote the effort.
Miranda ~ What Christmas/New Year message would you like to offer this year?
Doc: Blessings to you and yours this year, and in the coming year. May the Lord give you Strength to work, Wisdom to serve, and Love to share.
THIS or THAT (The fun Questions!)
Coffee, Tea or Mocha? Tea, with milk and honey if you have it.
TV or Magazine? Magazine
Book or Music? Books
Gym or Outdoor? Both, depending upon the season.
Rain or Snow? Snow
Spring or Fall? Fall
Summer or Winter? Winter
Breakfast or Dinner? Dinner
Boots or Sneakers? Since wing-tips aren’t an option, I’ll go with boots.
T-shirt or Collar Shirt? Collar shirt.
Leather jacket or Blazer? Blazer
Thank you, Doc, for visiting TBAP today!
Thank you. It was a real pleasure.
About Doc Benson
Doc Benson began his career working in Railroad Management before making the switch to media and ministry in the early 1990’s.
He has penned articles for international magazines and various newspapers across America. His regular contributions won him the award for TOP COLUMNIST by the West Virginia Press Association.
Doc worked as a CBS television affiliate producer, writing the news each day and appearing on air in various segments. He was a contributing writer to the coverage of the events of 9/11. Doc later moved on to serve as a station manager and personally wrote the scripts for various television programs from documentaries to children’s shows.
His work as a screenwriter has earned him international awards and the accolades of industry pros. Doc is also known for his Script Doctoring and Rewrite Services and has made uncredited contributions to the writing, rewriting, or review of screenplays for major motion pictures and television.
After the success of Doc’s first feature Seven Deadly Words, (which won numerous awards and even screened in Cannes), he has gone on to direct and manage the production of several films in the US and Europe. Doc has also been called on to coordinate direct, manage, and promote several other international films. In addition to his work as a director and writer, Doc has also worked as a producer, newscaster, station manager, voice artist, and feature film actor.
Doc Benson is in demand to speak at conferences, film festivals, and events across the country.