Ben Safdie

Ben Safdie

Born and raised in New York City, Ben Safdie grew up with his father filming his and his older brother Josh's every step with a Video 8 camera. Safdie's parents divorced when he was six months old, and from that moment on, his father recorded more than 300 hours worth of home movies that showed the brothers as they ate, played, fought, drew, and even slept. They eventually lived with their mother, who provided the brothers stability while their father remained consumed with filming their lives. Safdie attended Columbia Grammar and Prep School in Manhattan, the kind of school that applauded conformity - something he and his brother were not used to. Safdie found himself at home at Boston University, where he took every course offered by the film department. While in attendance, Safdie formed the production company, Red Bucket Films, composed of fellow film buffs Sam Lisenco, Zachary Treitz, his older brother, and high school friend, Alex Kalman. Safdie and his brother collaborated over the years on many short films including "The Adventures of Slater's Friend" (2005), about the people a man encounters on his way to work, and the comedy "The Acquaintances of a Lonely John" (2008), which chronicled the experiences of a loner who wandered off into the city.Safdie often wrote films about the ordinary things that happened in his life. The 2007 short "The Back of Her Head," for instance, was inspired by some random stranger's late-night rants below his brother's apartment, a person who Safdie imagined might have been a woman he eventually would fall in love with. Much of the siblings' work, not surprisingly, was spiked with spontaneity and interaction with the public. The brothers preferred to work with non-actors, whom they often found by approaching strangers who looked the part they had in mind. Since forming their production company, many of Safdie's movies made the rounds at various independent film festivals, including the 2008 Director's Fortnight in Cannes, which screened "The Acquaintances of a Lonely John."In 2010, Safdie and his brother received rave reviews for their first feature film, "Daddy Longlegs," a semi-biographical account of their well-documented childhood. The film explored the two weeks of the year that Lenny Sokol, a lonely and frustrated projectionist, has custody of his two elementary-age boys. Safdie cast fellow filmmaker, Ronald Bronstein, in the pivotal role of Lenny because Bronstein embodied both the serious, neurotic, and goofy sides of their actual father. To lend a more cinematic and nostalgic look, they shot the film entirely using 16mm film. In recreating their childhood, Safdie and his brother took steps to show two perspectives; one, the anger they felt when their father sometimes acted more like their playmate than a parent; and two, the love and memories they all shared. For their insightful work on "Daddy Longlegs," the brothers were nominated for a John Cassavetes Award from the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.