Interview: Ben Kuwas – small time filmmaker turns international writer
“Could I have a six-inch Italian BMT on honey oat bread please?”
Subway is the fast-food establishment of choice for Benjamin Kuwas, former University of Sunderland graduate, now film writing aficionado. A creature of habit, he rarely orders anything but the usual, and even less will eat elsewhere by choice.
Strange, perhaps, when you think that his growing success and reputation stemmed from throwing caution to the wind and starting something new.
18 months ago, Ben, as he prefers to be known, was working hard on his final project on his Digital Film Production course, a short film entitled Milk, Two Sugars, (a drama about a young girl on a quest to find her biological mother), when he decided to get involved with Northern Lights.
“I’d written in my own film review journal before, but when I started on Northern Lights, it was the first bit of writing I’d done that was published.”
Small steps they may have been, but Ben quickly made the transition from website contributor to website founder, setting up his own website, Collision Film, a film blog and reviews website, though not before he could clock up further reviews for Northern Lights.
Humble as ever, he admits the strong influence Northern Lights had over his writing’s development. “Four years ago,” he says, “I had a film blog. I looked at it recently and it was so cheesy. My writing is so much better now; it’s really developed.
“That’s why Northern Lights was so good. Writing for someone else means you have to work to their requirements, which pushes you to be better. The editors were really good at helping me, giving me a structure, and tips for improving. I didn’t do a journalism course so I was kinda on the back foot. It helped develop my style and it gave me confidence in my writing.
“It sounds a bit clichéd, but, it really did inspire me to think, I could do this myself. I wouldn’t have set up Collision Film without my experience from Northern Lights.”
Going from contributing to running a website is hardly zero to hero stuff, of course, but that is not where Ben’s rise to prominence ends. Barely three months after launching Collision Film, an Oscars analysis piece was picked up by American Pride Magazine, and the Stockton-born, Houghton-raised 21-year-old was asked to write more regularly for the magazine that promises “all things American”.
While Ben’s continuously improving writing has gained him some recognition across the pond, he remains grounded, preferring to focus on local development in the region.
“I was a film production student, and so I still have a real passion for that, and when I found out the Sunderland Film Festival was looking for reviewers, I thought this was an excellent chance to get involved with something exciting in the region, and now I’m lucky enough to be a part of it.”
Not bad for someone who didn’t study journalism, eh?
Every good story tells of a time when the protagonist suffers one setback or another, and Ben’s came in the form of an unpleasant experience with Newcastle-based listicle website WhatCulture. Having originally accepted Ben’s application and given his article pitches the go-ahead, they soon went back on their word.
“They kept messing around with me, I’d send them stuff, they’d suggest changes which I’d make, then they basically said they were done with me, even after I took their advice on board.
“I’m done with their website, couldn’t care less what they post.”
While his words suggest some bitterness, nothing could be further from the truth, and Ben is simply grateful for the opportunities that have come his way.
“I want to take Collision Film further and make it official, buy a domain name and create a logo, and really build a brand. At the moment it’s mainly blog posts, and not many reviews, but soon I want to expand and have separate sections on the site for all the different things.
“I’d like to do more local things like the Sunderland Film Festival too, but for the website, I want more likes, more followers, and more everything. It’s so exciting.”
While Northern Lights is an arts and entertainment website for the North East, it has not forgotten its roots, and has always been a platform for future success, and Ben Kuwas is fast becoming one of those success stories.