Excellent film without the drama

Ben Neeves

With a background in theatre production, sound engineering and audio and visual strategic communications, Ben Neeves is Within International’s multitalented Head of Film.

Ben talks to us about how he came to swap a backstage role in London’s West End for agency life in the Square Mile; the equipment needed for Within International’s film production; what he does to make his subjects feel immediately at ease when filming and what influencers have helped shape his work and career to date.

In a little over two years Ben has gone from backstage, behind the red velvet curtains in London’s West End, to a leading role at Within International.

Since joining the agency in April 2017, he has worked tirelessly and consistently to produce first-class communications for our clients, and in doing so has helped mould the film department in his own personality with our founder, Will Hambling – gaining the attention of colleagues, clients and key stakeholders alike.

Macro image of a Canon camera

We begin the interview by asking about his career back-stage in the West End.

“I’ve got a huge passion for theatre and live performance. Before videography, I was an audio engineer and backline technician. It was a busy environment, had its challenges for sure, but it was so rewarding when everything went smoothly.

“I’ve been very lucky to experience a lot in that space and as I’ve transitioned into film production, I’ve incorporated a lot of that way of working and that approach to the way we produce film. When you combine that with Rux’s ethos of providing a luxury service to our clients, it works brilliantly.”

So, what equipment is at your disposal?

“We’ve invested a lot into our film gear so we can produce the best quality for our clients, whilst also keeping it very minimalistic. I’m always suggesting to the team to keep the gear down to the bare essentials without losing out on quality. With the kind of clients that we work with and the spaces that we often find ourselves in we need to be nimble and light on our feet – and our equipment list reflects that. It benefits us greatly.

“But I think a vital part of the equipment is the sound. I have studied audio engineering and acoustics, and it’s something that remains intrinsic to the film team’s process. The very first thing I did when I joined Within International was request that we invest in our audio – both in the microphones and audio processing – for the simple reason that I believe, when watching film, people’s ears will be offended, much quicker than their eyes will.”

The subject then turned to the precious commodity that is time and preparation.

“Time is precious for crew and client alike. Multiple times I have worked with marketing or communications directors who would be managing a talent – be it a partner or CEO or CFO – someone who might deliver a piece to camera in an interview, or at an event. Regardless of the situation, time is often short, so there are a few moving parts in every production. It’s great that we’ve got constant open communication with our account managers – they give me the full lowdown of what it is that the client wants. It’s a fantastic team effort and I’m really proud of how it’s continuing to develop.”

Ben Neeves directing a shoot
Ben has an instinctive talent for putting clients at ease on a shoot.

Dentist’s chair

Despite his background in theatre, drama has no place in Ben’s composed film environments.

“I did have a client who said to me: ‘Sitting in this chair and talking with you is like going to the dentist.’ There is this perception that getting on camera is this terrifying ordeal that a client has to just get done and out of the way. It’s an interesting challenge to take on and I think we’re making some great strides in this space.

“A client should not have any fear of the cameras. They should be able to walk on to one of our film sets and not feel any concerns or pressures. It’s an environment we strive to create every day and it’s why one of the greatest compliments I get from clients is: ‘Oh my god, I thought that was going to be so much worse, I actually really enjoyed that.’

“It’s like when you walk away from a show in the West End – you think, ‘That was fantastic’. You have no idea of the amount of work that went on behind the scenes to make the production seamless. It’s a skill I greatly admire, and it’s something I strive to incorporate in the world of professional services.”

“People’s ears will be offended much quicker than their eyes will.”

What have been your influences outside of theatre?

“I’ve had some brilliant teachers and great lecturers along the way who have taught me some crucial lessons over my studies. One lecturer, in particular, stands out. When I asked him about the workings of a particular sound desk we were using, he responded with, ‘Read the manual, Ben. You’re going to find yourself in tough situations – bits of kit failing all over, people shouting at you, it’s going to be intense. And I ain’t gunna be there to bail you out, mate, so you better know it inside and out.’ Although not quite as politely delivered as that.

“In terms of film makers, I’ll be here for days. Edgar Wright, who was responsible for many epic productions including Baby Driver, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Shaun of the Dead. The way that he pairs music and camera movements, the way the rhythm and flow of each scene is choreographed, it’s such a dance and I love directors who are able to utilise that skill.

“One lately has been Louis Leterrier who directed Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, which was wonderful. His love of Jim Henson’s universe, his vision of the end product and his ability in camera operation and editing; when directors really engage with the material, it’s magic and it really sings in the final cut.”

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