Nova Scotia Expat: Making Nova Scotia Film Magic in LA
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Meet ConnectNS network member Ben Proudfoot, a magician turned filmmaker whose LA-based company, Breakwater Studios Ltd., has just released a powerful series of short films featuring some of Nova Scotia’s brilliant master craftspeople.
From the building in Los Angeles where Walt Disney first started his company in 1923, Proudfoot is making Nova Scotia history.
Life's Work: Six Conversations with Makers is a set of 10-minute videos that are intimate, human portraits of craftspeople at the height of their creative powers. The video series is a collaboration between Craft Alliance/Alliance métiers d’arts and the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council, in partnership with Breakwater Studios.
Proudfoot’s story is not of a typical east coast boy. Born and raised in Halifax, the son of a trial lawyer and a sociology professor, he was part of Citadel High School’s first graduating class in 2008 and spent summers in Chester Basin. At the age of 15, he began studying sleight-of-hand magic. Within three years, he had won the Canadian and international championships for legerdemain. At 16, he joined the Magic Castle Junior Program in Los Angeles, travelling from Halifax to meetings several times a year, which he paid for with his earnings from children’s birthday parties.
When his passions shifted to filmmaking, he applied and was accepted to the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles.
In 2011, Proudfoot wrote and directed the short film Dinner with Fred, a WWII story of a chicken scientist in Nova Scotia. Shot on 35mm film, it premiered in Los Angeles in 2011 and went on to win dozens of festival awards worldwide and two Best Director awards for Proudfoot. It also qualified for consideration for the 2012 Academy Awards in the Best Live Action Short Film category.
The following year, he directed ink&paper, a short documentary about two side-by-side shops struggling to survive in modern-day Los Angeles. One is the oldest paper shops in Los Angeles; the other is a printer that uses letterpress technology that goes back 600 years. Ink&paper received international acclaim, with millions of loads worldwide on Vimeo.
In 2012, Proudfoot also founded Breakwater Studios Ltd. in the old Walt Disney building, and in 2013 he released The Ox, another short craftspeople documentary. The Ox attracted even more views than ink&paper had.
We caught up with Ben Proudfoot to ask him what Nova Scotia means to him and what Nova Scotia can offer the film industry.
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Nova Scotia”?
So many. The brooding blue-greys of Mahone Bay right before a storm... my mom's face waiting for me as I descend the escalator at the Halifax International Airport... Lunenburg's kaleidoscopic coastline... the flag flying over the stone public works building downtown... the fiery Cabot Trail in October... shall I go on?
What do you love most about doing what you do professionally?
Creating and enabling people to create something new and beautiful, from scratch, every day. Also when people reach out and tell us that the film has moved them in some way.
What’s the best lesson you ever learned?
First, "A job worth doing is a job worth doing well."
Second, "Don't believe it till the cheque clears."
What do you miss most about Nova Scotia?
Too many things to name but mostly my Mom and Dad, our family dog, Meggy and Sunday afternoons at the Chickenburger.
What’s the greatest asset Nova Scotia can offer your industry?
Creative Nova Scotians. Raise them, and keep them. Attract more.
Ben Proudfoot is a member of the ConnectNS network of proud Nova Scotians, alumni and expats from over 40 countries. Get involved.