Ben’s interest in filmmaking began in the 1990s when he met a Tibetan monk named Lama Ganchen. “He seemed to recognise me and ushered me into his room where he had a laptop and a TV. This was very impressive as not many people had a laptop in those days. He sat me down and told me he had a mission for me. ‘I want you to make positivity into posi-TV.’ he said.”
On his return to the UK he met someone who was looking for teachers for a new charity project in Africa. “I then spent two years in Ethiopia running a film school for 12 street kids. We found them begging at passing cars and housed them, fed them and taught them life skills and film skills. I learned a lot making films with them. My biggest lesson was that by teaching you learn fast.”

He says, “We trained these teenagers to make fundraising films for Non Government Organisations (NGOs) on the first DV cameras (VX1000) and the first computerised edit system. It was the best job I have ever had.”
After he completed the Ethiopian project, he searched for work that was outside the commercial realm of filmmaking. He chanced upon a couple of musicians (Duncan Bridgeman and Jamie Catto) who had just scored a deal with Chris Blackwell (from Island Records) to travel around the world filming their adventures recording a world music album. (All the music was recorded to an Apple Powerbook laptop.) “They had little experience of filmmaking,” he says, “and asked me to mentor them as we travelled to 52 locations around the globe. I was a great fan of ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ (which means ‘life out of balance’), and after being told by the inexperienced directors that my job was to ‘shoot everything that moves’, I decided that I would shoot a digital version around these diverse cultures.”

When they finished filming, the directors realized that Cole had shot many time lapses and interviews on his own. “They had a huge film in the can,” he says. “Since then I have learned to acquire all the skills in filmmaking, from shooting to sound to directing to editing. This is now very common amongst the new generation of filmmakers.”

Cole made a name for himself with 1 Giant Leap. It turned out to be a double Grammy-nominated project. This, and his meeting with the Tibetan monk, has carried Cole a long way. His search for positive projects leads him to “… get involved in any way I can and then influence their concept by being positive about their film. The directors often are very grateful for extra footage of inspiring people and events around their subject. It takes more dedication and effort but pays off in the end.

His obsession with photography led him towards filmmaking. “I have since been asked by many directors to go out and gather footage on my own and would take the opportunity to interview people I meet on the way. When interviewing strangers on a one to one basis there is this great meeting of old souls that takes place. That has influenced the films I shoot.”

On Acting Roles

“I focus on films with a positive message because after many years trying to make a career as an actor, I met casting directors who would ask me what kind of roles I wanted to play. I would answer ‘Any role with a positive message about men and masculinity. I want to show vulnerable men who care about life.’” Cole acknowledges the casting directors would be fascinated with this, then point out they had never had a role with a character like that. The result: he did not get cast in their films. “I had a choice to either carry on faking bad rugged men and stupid selfish souls for the camera, or follow my true path.”

“Finally, I would like to say that we in the film world have to serve a sense of integrity around the films we make, not our fame or personal importance. Let’s all inspire our audiences by taking responsibility for the messages we put behind the movies on those screens, and so continue the journey to make positivity into posi-TV.”

You can see his work here.