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Categories: Features

Samantha Ward explains why Ben is Britain’s new auteur…

Essex born (1972) English director Ben Wheatley is making his mark as an auteur with his somewhat horrific but brilliant British films.

Wheatley started making short viral videos and animations, which became largely successful after being noticed by corporate media companies. Thus he went mainstream with his work, making promotional viral videos. In 2006 Wheatley won a “Lion” award at the  “Cannes advertising festival” for directing the “AMBX” viral, with “The Viral Factory”. Later that year Wheatley got work directing live action scenes on the British TV series Modern Toss aired on Channel 4. He has also taken the helm for numerous comedy shows for the BBC.

After directing various television work, Wheatley went on to make his first feature film Down Terrace in 2009 which he shot within eight days. It is a crime/comedy where Ben is credited as writer, director, editor and executive producer. He has extensive experience across numerous rolls in filmmaking, allowing him to create a well made film on a low budget. Continuing his career in TV and directing a couple of TV movies, Ben shined as a filmmaker with crime/horror Kill List; released theatrically in 2011.This thought-provoking film with a very ambiguous ending got Wheatley a lot of acknowledgement and some critical acclaim. It started to show a certain style in his work, using a lot of dark British humour and British crime as his catalyst. He also has a brilliant British cast who he likes to work with, especially actor Michael Smiley.

kill list

The 2012 release of Sightseers proved Wheatley’s talent, showing all his skills in filmmaking. Written by co-stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, Wheatley’s collaboration with the two could not have been more perfect. It depicts classic British humour with a dark twist, and beautiful backdrops of England that contrast with the gritty story.

Ben managed to capture two humorous and relatable characters that gradually isolate themselves when they go on a killing spree. However the humour is still there even though it’s dark and horrifying, it definitely shows British wit and attitudes throughout.

Sightseers was success with fans and critics, which really put Ben Wheatley on the map as a talented auteur and director. His style became popular with fans of the horror and crime genres alike. He now has many connections among British filmmakers such Edgar Wright who co-produced Sightseers. In 2012, Drafthouse films’, short film anthology ABC’s of Death got Wheatley on board to create a short based on the given letter “U”. He created a classic take on vampires U is for Unearthed set in England using cast he has previously worked with. His short is easily one of the best in the collection, again placing his mark on the horror genre.

Ben’s next big feature came in 2013 and was funded by FilmFour releasing it across all platforms on its premiere day. A Field in England set amid the Civil War in 17th-century England, Ben creates a psychedelic and brutal film shown in black and white. It doesn’t lack the dark humour from his previous work, it is simple yet affective story telling which Ben is very talented in projecting through film. The producers at FilmFour didn’t doubt this as they experimented with the release of the film. It premiered on DVD, TV, on-demand and in cinemas simultaneously giving FilmFour exclusivity and viewers more availability. Being the first homegrown title to premiere in this experimental manner meant that a lot of trust went into Ben’s film to gain the viewing numbers it needed. The film gained critical success with the majority of reviews being positive and stayed popular among his fans.

There are big projects ahead for this auteur; his upcoming film currently in post-production High Rise is yet to be confirmed on the release date but I am sure we can expect the same standard of work. Alongside is wife Amy Jump, co-writer for a lot of Ben’s screenplays, who co-founded the “Mr and Mrs Wheatley” blog in which they post updates on their current projects and cleverly help promote their previous works. Ben seems to know how to use current social media and blogging to help communicate with his audience giving him traction not only personally but with his work as well. Bigger productions are to come from Ben Wheatley as he gains more attention from the big companies and I think his work will always portray great British characters and style.

Posted on May 12, 2014

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