The Winnipeg Film Group is extremely pleased to present Ben Williams with a Lifetime Honorary Membership
Since moving to Winnipeg in 2014, Ben has tirelessly and successfully advocated for new and emerging voices in the Canadian film community. Through his work as the Winnipeg Film Group’s Production Centre Director from 2014-2020, Ben helped to initiate and grow a large, vibrant, and inclusive community of artists who were all linked by their interest in film and visual arts, and of course, by his patented and infectious “Benergy” that he radiated through to everyone he crossed paths with.
Under Ben’s impassioned direction, the collaborative filmmaking challenge – The 48 Hour Film Contest – grew to become a marquee event at the annual Gimli Film Festival (as well as local screenings at the MET), launching the careers of dozens of new filmmakers in Winnipeg. The event gave a platform to many artists who didn’t know they were artists or didn’t have the self confidence to consider themselves so. One of Ben’s greatest strengths is his boundless belief in the inherent creativity of everyone and the supreme confidence he inspires in them. We can see the tremendous impact of his work on this event this weekend, with the incredible programs of films that have come out of this new evolution of The 48 Hour Film Contest, Ben’s legacy project, The 48 Film Festival, now nationwide.
As the only Black senior staff member in the WFG’s history, Ben made enormous inroads into creating opportunities for BIPOC filmmakers in the city. Whether it was offering a safe space for filmmakers to drop in, giving an enthusiastic bit of feedback on a film, or being instrumental in the formation and support of the Indigenous Filmmakers Collective and the establishment and ongoing success of the Afro Prairie Film Festival – the only Afro-centric film festival in the Prairies – Ben committed his vision and skill towards building up a community of filmmakers that he always knew was there but that just didn’t have the opportunities they needed to flourish previously.
Ben’s legacy at the Film Group is one of laughter, empathy, warm-heartedness, inclusivity, and collaboration. Those who were lucky enough to work with him and have been touched by his exuberant personality have undoubtedly learned a great deal from him on how to treat the filmmakers, members, and newcomers that come through the organization daily.
The Winnipeg Film Group’s development over the last 7 years is tied directly to the incredible work Ben contributed during his time at the organization. For that, we are eternally grateful. We hope that this Lifetime Honorary Membership to the Winnipeg Film Group can be but a small gesture of our appreciation for Ben and all of his incredible and inspiring work.
Ben Williams (Bendrix) is the Founder and Executive Director for the The 48 Film Festival, the first Canada-wide time-based film challenge. For six years he worked for the Winnipeg Film Group (WFG) as one of the artistic, development and operational leaders as Production Centre Director – became the WFG’s first Black senior staff member in its 48 year history. He is one of the founding members of the Indigenous Filmmakers Collective and the Afro Prairie Film Festival, central Canada’s first Afro-centric film festival. He currently serves as Treasurer for the Afro Prairie Board of Directors and as an officer for the On Screen Manitoba (OSM) board of directors – also serving as the Vice-Chair for OSM’s Membership and Programs Committees. Ben has a BA with Magna Cum Laude (and national scholars honours) in Graphic Design from Central State University in Ohio with a minor focus in fine art – in addition he studied digital filmmaking at the New York Film Academy in Manhattan. Prior to Canada, he worked for over 15 years in digital media studios in NYC, Chicago and Shanghai and has freelanced as a video editor in the U.S. and Canada. Most notably, he worked for JWT/New York in the broadcast and entertainment division and for Wieden+Kennedy in Shanghai on an award-winning and groundbreaking Nike campaign featuring NBA superstar, the late, Kobe Bryant. Ben is among the first generation of vLog, Youtube and Podcast pioneers to emerge in the mid-2000s.