What are you so passionate about that you would sacrifice almost anything to attain it? Do you have a dream that has dominated your thoughts since you were a child? For some people, the answer to those questions is the arts: becoming a musician, dancer, writer, actor, or producer. They face tough odds, however, and as they become older and transition into the realities of adulthood, those same people let go of their dreams to focus on easier, more stable careers. Ben Stranahan, however, is one of the few who has gritted it out, and his persistence has taken him into the heart of one of the world’s most difficult industries to break into: Hollywood and the movie industry.
Ben is a partner/producer at Tip-Top Productions, one of the most in-demand movie production companies. “At Tip-Top, I am blessed to work with my best friends and a lot of other talented people,” Ben says. “I am also fortunate to have worked with Imogen Poots, Bill Paxton, Clancy Brown, and recently Christina Ricci on a film called Monstrous. It’s about a traumatized woman who flees her abusive ex-husband with her young son, only to find a bigger, more terrifying monster to deal with. It’s going to be a wild and exciting ride that will emotionally impact the audience.”
Ben is working with some of the most talented actors in Hollywood, but his own start in show business was a little less glamorous. “Like a lot of people, I started acting when I was in middle school. I refuse to show you the pictures,” he laughs. “I will say, however, that whenever I walked out onto the stage and told a story through another character’s point of view, it really did click for me. There was this energy everywhere, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Acting was a blast, and I knew I had found what I was meant to do.”
While Ben wasn’t yet ready for fame and fortune, he was ready to learn more about acting and musicianship. In high school, he got into theatre and joined a band. “I spent long hours at the keyboard and at the drums, improvising, playing increasingly harder pieces, and learning how to play with other band members,” Ben states. “I also decided to try my hand at making some short films. Being behind the camera was a whole new world for me. I could see its potential and wanted to learn more about it.”
Once high school was done, Ben packed his bags and went to Boston’s Berklee College of Music Summer Program. “I really wanted to take my abilities to the next level, and the teachers there knew their stuff. They pushed me to become even better, and I owe a lot to them for that.”
When Ben was accepted to Los Angeles’ prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts and began attending classes, he was in heaven. “I was surrounded by people who took acting and producing as seriously as I did, and each day was an adventure. I was challenged everyday to improve my abilities, and the other students I worked with in productions were great, too. There were a lot of light-hearted moments, including when I took a stage combat course and learned how to ‘fight.’ That was exciting.”
After graduating, Ben began building his career as an actor, producer, and musician. Success came in 2016 when he produced the movie Mean Dreams, which starred Bill Paxton, Sophie Nélisse, Josh Wiggins, and Colm Feore. Ben says that one of his proudest moments was watching it premiere in 2016 at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes and as a Special Presentation at TIFF. “Then it went on to be sold in over fifty countries and to be released theatrically in over ten countries. That was beyond amazing and very satisfying.”
One of his favorite movies to produce was Population Zero. “That was a magical experience,” says Ben. “It was a psychological thriller and really took the genre in a different direction. Critics around the world liked it. I also enjoyed producing Calibre, another thriller, which was released on Netflix in 2018. That ended up being nominated for four BAFTAs, and it won for one: Best Actor for Jack Lowden. The night we won was incredible.”
Ben has also found success as a TV producer with The Midnight Anthology, starring Clancy Brown. Its pilot premiered at the New York Television Festival in 2015 and went on to win the Artistic Achievement and Best Director awards at the festival. Ben and The Midnight Anthology team are developing the remaining episodes of the series.
Ben does not take his success for granted despite how far he has risen. “This is Hollywood, after all,” he cautions. “Hard work will always be valued, of course, but you can’t take yourself too seriously. I may have produced some great movies, but it’s the next one that matters. I will always put 100% of myself into the next movie so that my audiences and the people I work with will never be disappointed.”