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netribution > features > interview with ben hopkins > page one
Ben Hopkins trod the path dreamed of by many - graduation film from film school touring thirty festivals worldwide, scoopiing some 14 awards and leading to a near £3m picture deal from Brittish Screen. Simon Magus was hailed then as a great film, yet owing to bad distribution landed on scarce few screens. Defying the convention of following the first picture with something bigger and more expensive, Ben chose to go back to basics with the low-budget sci-fi epic The Nine Lives of Thomas Katz. I missed Ben at Edinburgh, but caught up at Cork, where he was on the International Jury. Labelled by some lesser writers as the 'next Terry Gilliam' I thought I'd buy him a beer and hear his granite chiselled riposte

| by nic wistreich |
| photos by nic wistreich|
| in cork |

What did you do after graduating from the RCA in 1995?
We released National Achievement Day to 30 odd festivals. Our producer raised the money for it, five grand from the Royal College and the other ten grand we raised from various sources.

You must have been very happy with its response at the festivals.
Indeed. I believe it won 14 awards.

What was the key to its success?
Well it was really good! It was a longish one, about 28 minutes and I did something that I'd rarely managed to do which was to establish 4 characters, I was gifted with the amount of time I had. Those characters became quite well known to the audience so the ending was quite emotional for people, its quite a difficult thing to do. You've got to set them up, get the audience rooting for them but it seemed to work in that film.

Did that film give you the opportunity to make The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz?
I did eight shorts all together but it was mainly that one.

Did you have a script for Simon Magus before you had a development budget?
No and it’s a funny thing. One can see that as a direct result British Screen asking me to give them a treatment for a feature film after my Fuji Film scholarship, so I gave them a treatment for Simon Magus. They gave me 5 grand to write it, seemed like a lot of money in those days.

Things seemed to be moving quite quickly for you to be on your second feature already?
Well yeah, I shot Simon Magus in '98 and Katz in '99.

Did Magus make any money? It was a commercial failure but it opens in the States in late November which might change its fortunes considerably, its unlikely but it might.

So that's all going on while Katz is at the festivals and you've probably got another film in the works?
Oh yeah it always pays to be a few steps ahead.

Pitch Tomas Katz to us.
It's a black comedy about the Apocalypse set in London. When you see it on Saturday you'll understand why its quite a difficult film to summarise, a difficult film to describe.


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