Interview – Ben Milliken

ben-promo-3There is just no telling where life will take you, follow your dreams and the possibilities are endless. Something everyone has probably heard at one point in their lives, Ben Milliken is living proof that, with hard work, dreams do come true. Raised on the shores of Sydney, Australia’s Northern Beaches, a location known for surfing, Milliken’s passions laid in movies. Intially training as an amatuer boxer, Milliken took the fighter’s mentality to creating and since has built a promising career as a professional actor. Taking on various lead roles in film and television series, Milliken looks to expand his horizons with his full-length directorial debut film, Lake Alice. An Independent, new Horror film which provides plenty of tension and a claustrophobic feel, adding to the atmosphere, Lake Alice was shot during a bitter cold winter up in the northern woods of Wisconsin. Now eager to get the film into the public eye, Gas Lamp Entertainment and Milliken’s own Glass Horse Films are set to unleash the film worldwide. Recently we caught up with Milliken to talk his work as an actor, his exploration into directing, the work behind Lake Alice, and more. – You have been involved in film for some time now as an actor. Prior to film, you were actually a boxer as well. First, tell us a little bit about what inspired you to get into film?

Ben Milliken – I basically always just loved movies, that was kind of it. It wasn’t very scholastic if you will, I wasn’t your grade A student, let’s put it that way. I spent more time watching movies, I was fascinated by how movies could create an entirely different world. There were entirely different characters up on the screen that you couldn’t resist in real life, it just fascinated me. Then I got a little older, I decided that this is what I want to do and what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. – Sometimes it takes a little while to follow through with your dreams, but it seems like you eventually got to that point.

Ben Milliken – When I started acting, I was 21 years old. Where I grew up, a small beach town in Australia, it’s not cool to be one of the drama kids (laughs). I never did any of that in school, but it was always something that I gravitated towards.

Imagine Entertainment
Maple Island Films – Understandable. You have acted in quite a few television series and movies as well, and now you look to take to directing. Your full-length directorial debut is a film called Lake Alice. How did the project come about for you?

Ben Milliken – I did spend the majority of my career as an actor, and I still am an actor. It was always my first love, and probably will continue to be so for the rest of my career. Directing was something that was always in the back of my mind, having been on big to small film sets, from independent to studio. I was always the person that was observing, watching how everything was done, I was always right next to the director saying, “What are you doing here, what are you doing there? Why are you doing this, why are you doing that?” It was always something that was in the back of my mind and I really wanted to be able to take something from an idea to a completely finished product.

When you are acting in something, you arrive late and you leave early. A year later, you see the thing and you’ve already moved on by then; it’s great to see it, then you are on to the next thing. When you are directing something, you are with the entire project the entire way and it’s a lot more responsibility, but a lot more fun as well. In regards to Lake Alice, I knew the producer from awhile back. We had met up for lunch one day and he said, “You know, I’m working on this film at the moment if you want to jump on board.” I said, “Great, I’m in, let’s do it.” That was that, we were off to the races, went full speed, and got it done.

Still from Lake Alice
Still from Lake Alice – Very interesting. Lake Alice is within the Horror genre realm. Additionally, you have a very good cast of veteran actors and young actors. What was your experience like working on the film?

Ben Milliken – We shot in the northern woods of Wisconsin in January. Our first day was negative 30 degrees, it was challenging. When you are dealing with lower budget Independent filmmaking, you are always dealing with certain issues – limited time, limited money, limited resources.

Up there (Tomahawk, Wisconsin), during that time, there is only 6 hours of daylight, we really had everything kind of against us delving into this project. I will say that everybody was so good and we had such a great team that we were able to pull it off. My actors always showed up prepared, ready to go, they were part of the team, and really a joy to work with. – That is a positive thing. You did have a good cast of actors to work with, so that is also positive. One thing that stands out with a film like this is obviously the location. Like you said, the conditions that you worked in. You worked on Lake Alice in Wisconsin, which is very beautiful location. Obviously, it plays a very intricate part in the film, yes?

Ben Milliken – Yes, that’s where the film is set. The cabin in which the family owns is on this lake. I don’t want to give away anything, but yes, there’s a big moment that happens on this lake that is an intrical part of the film. We were actually standing on the lake while we were shooting, I’ve never done anything like that before. I didn’t grow up in snow or anything like that, there are people that drive trucks on these lakes when they are frozen over to go ice fishing, it’s fascinating to me. – It is fascinating that is how cold it gets that you can actually drive a truck on it and it freezes that much. The film was set to premiere at Sundance Film Festival, but, unfortunately, due to some technical difficulties, that did not come to be. That in mind, when will the film be premiering, and have you signed on for distribution? 

Ben Milliken – We do have distribution, we are being distributed by Event Films. They have already begun selling territories overseas prior to Sundance. We already had this distribution in place, Sundance was more of an exposure thing. They are continuing to sell territories, it is probably going to be a VOD kind of situation. As far as domestically, I am not sure yet where we are standing, I believe there are some conversations being had, but I have yet to find out.

Lake Alice still
Still from Lake Alice – That will be something exciting to look forward to, for sure. Like we were speaking of, Lake Alice is within the Horror realm. Being your full-length directorial debut, are you a fan of the Horror genre?

Ben Milliken – It’s funny, because I get scared really easily (laughs). I wouldn’t say that I am a Horror guy. Having said that, I didn’t write the script, it was brought with the producer. I saw it and I wasn’t the brain behind this story, yet I think that genre aside, the way I was looking at it was, we are telling a story here and the story is about people. Regardless of any genre, any kind of film, we are always telling a story about people. In order to effectively do that, you have to have people that the audience cares about. Regardless of genres and situations that they were in, I set out to try and execute that as best as possible.

It was actually really fun to work with this kind of stuff. I had to do a lot of research prior to the film to catch up on all of the more recent Horror/Thriller films and stuff like that. I had a couple of nightmares, woke up screaming a couple of times, scared my wife to death (laughs). It was a good experience, it was really fun. – Well it sounds like it was a fantastic learning experience. Could you foresee yourself getting involved in production directing more in the future?

Ben Milliken – Absolutely, I have been involved in production prior to Lake Alice. I have produced a Comedy actually in 2012, it’s a 98 minute Comedy that we shot entirely in 1 single shot. There is not 1 single cut in the entire film. That was pretty fun, it was called Somebody Marry Me, it is written/directed by John Asher, and I produced that one.

Obviously, it took 98 minutes to film, from start to finish. We took about a week in theory. It was a couple of days in rehearsal, 3 days in full rehearsal with the actors and fully running for the entire thing. Then we had one day as a shoot day and we got the film all the way through on the fourth try. – That sounds really compelling. What projects do you have ahead, acting or directing? 

Ben Milliken – I am currently in the process of shooting a film right now as an actor, it’s an Independent film called Emerald Run that stars John Schneider. We were shooting in December for a little bit and I went back in February to finish it up, that’s been a really fun experience.

Aside from that, I’m also in development on my next feature that myself and my company, Glass Horse Films, will be producing. I am not sure if I am going to direct this one, I know I am going to star in this one, but I am not sure if I am going to direct it or just stick to acting and producing. I might have a stab at directing and starring in it and see how we go. It’s pilot season, so auditions are crazy.

Glass Horse Films – Exactly, and it seems like you have a lot going in the new year. As mentioned, you were a boxer, what was that experience like? 

Ben Milliken – It was a lot of fun, I started when I was 11 years old, I fell in love with the sport. I am still actively training as a boxer, I have my own gym where I have my whole setup. To me, it is the best sport on the planet. It’s way more than two guys beating each other up, it’s like a chess match. It’s probably one of the only sports on the planet where it’s literally two people and you don’t have a team to rely on, it’s just yourself. You can’t play at boxing, you can play at every other sport, that’s what really appeals to me about it. – Boxing is a wonderful sport. It seems like in North America, it has lost its popularity, sadly. A lot of people have taken to MMA. There is a lot of finesse that goes into boxing. Like you said, it is not just two people beating each other up, it takes strategy. Do you see boxing heafing back into the spotlight where it deserves to be?

Ben Milliken – I wish it would. You look back when boxing was in its glory days, it was always the best fighting the best. That was just it, boxers they boxed. In order to be the best you had to fight the best. These days, they are trying to drum up these big super fights and they are taking five years for them to happen. It’s more promotional now. MMA will probably go in that direction eventually, it just hasn’t been around as long as boxing.

Boxing is one of the oldest sports out there. The thing is, there are too many promoters, too many championships, too many belts. You only have a select few boxers who are willing to fight the best, if you have all boxers that are willing to fight the best, its their promoters who aren’t allowing their fighters to fight the best, out of fear of losing their star. – It makes a lot of sense, hopefully things will change. Boxing deserves recognition. Did you have any particular boxers that you looked up to growing up?

Ben Milliken – Growing up, it was always Mohammad Ali for sure. I have a few though, my most recent boxer that I really want to see go a lot further is Gennady Golovkin. I think that guy is unstoppable.

Growing up, it was always Mohammad Ali. Ivan Holyfield was pretty incredible considering he was never supposed to be a heavyweight. He stood up there with pure heart alone and became a heavyweight champ, that to me is pretty impressive. Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran, the guys around the ’80s and back when boxing was the best fighting the best, it was not just to make money. – You mentioned some great names there. Pernell Whitaker was a fantastic boxer as well.

Ben Milliken – Of course, Pernell Whitaker was awesome. You can’t ignore Bernard Hopkins either, that guy only just retired now. Besides having one of the most incredible careers in boxing history, he was someone that was incredible. Roy Jones Junior was just an incredible boxer as well. I can rattle off names all day. – Absolutely. My last question for you is pertaining to Horror films. While not a massive Horror fan, do you have any favorites? 

Ben Milliken – I really like a lot of Alfred Hitchcock stuff. I was actually thinking that a lot while we were doing Lake Alice. Psycho (1960) is probably one of my favorite Horror films. It takes awhile for it to start, it’s almost like two separate films where we start somewhere completely different and then midways we meet Norman and from there the rest of the film carries on. He wasn’t afraid to spend so much time developing characters, and that’s something I really appreciate in filmmaking. These days, to watch it now compared to a lot of the ones that are out now, you have to have a lot more patience for it because it is a slower film. That is one of my favorites.

Paramount Pictures
A&E – It is a great film, it has obviously stood the test of time. Even today, they transformed it into something modern with A&E’s Bates Motel.

Ben Milliken – Exactly, that is a great show. I am really excited to see where they go with that.

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