Who quits their day job to pursue a career telling stories? Well, it seemed like a good idea to Ben Pohl. Pohl gave up a full-time gig as a motion graphics and visual effects artist to pursue a career as a writer and director. He recently wrapped his first independent film, “Divination,” a movie Pohl describes as “madness meets magic.”
Pohl is a digital storyteller. He is fascinated by the mystery of communication and all of its moving parts. Until now, much of his time was spent locked in a basement editing on the post side of production for Victory Studios, a production house here in Seattle.
I recently sat down with the 30-year-old director at a Starbucks in Phinney Ridge. When I walked up to introduce myself, Pohl had already settled into a table, sipping an Americano as he thumbed the pages of Stephen King’s “Danse Macabre.”
Although Pohl enjoys the editing process, his real ambition is directing, high-end imagery and motion graphics.
Three years ago Pohl began to scribble story ideas on napkins and used stacks of paper–paper that he eventually would assemble into a script for his first feature film, “Divination.”
During that time Pohl found a new mentor, Thomas Lee Wright. Wright is best known for his original screenplay “New Jack City” and is a former story editor at Walt Disney and Columbia Pictures, before serving as a creative executive at Paramount Pictures. Wright took Pohl and “Divination” under his wing.
“I’ve been locked in front of a computer,” Pohl said. “For two years I’ve sort of dumbed myself down. He [Wright] sensed that I’ve become too visual and did not incorporate enough narrative into my work. He advised me to get back into books and write more.”
Pohl quit his day job to start his own business, Bad Pixel (www.bad-pixel.com). He began to read Brian McDonald’s “Invisible Ink” and found his inspiration for “Divination.”
“Divination” explores interpersonal conflict in a supernatural realm. Conflicts like dealing with fear, nightmares and a tortured relationship. Themes, which Pohl believes will effectively resonate with his audience.
“To me, the key element in storytelling is putting the audience in a place where they can see themselves in the story,” Pohl said. “Either the leads are very relatable, or there are common situations that are universal to everyone – situations the audience can easily relate to.”
Pohl is very much like the main character, Jason, in “Divination.” He’s characteristically antsy, worrisome, pensive – not very smooth. Most of the time he is very content pecking away at his projects and not interacting with people.
However, he is also ambitious and has discovered the power of networks.
“Everything flows through people,” Pohl said. “The more people you mingle with, the more people you meet and are friends with the better rounded you are. For me, the most consistent people I know are well connected and they are a pleasure to hang with.”
There are two things Pohl is trying to accomplish in his career. The first thing Pohl wants, he also considers a pipe dream or a very expensive hobby,; Pohl wants to make full-length feature films that are successful enough to pay the bills. The second and more tangible goal is to continue producing high-end motion graphics and visual effects. Pohl is currently doing this as a freelancer and works project by project.
“I love both and in “Divination” I was able to do both,” Pohl said. “It was immensely satisfying. It was a huge collaboration. I was able to push pixels around in a basement, work with actors and write a script. It was a merge of two loves.”
Pohl is capturing an audience by telling stories that feel real to him — stories that are giving him a new perspective.
So far It seems to be working.
Pohl has three distribution offers on the table for “Divination” and is working on making this a sustainable business model.
Ben Pohl’s Tools:
Final Draft, After Effects, Panasonic P2 Camera, Pen, Tons of Paper, Phone and MacBook Pro
This post is categorized in: Social Media