Film creates Hollywood buzz and opportunity
Blaine native Ben Mallahan catapulted into the big time last month on the strength of a 16-minute pilot episode for a new TV show. Called “Gamers,” the show revolves around people immersed in playing video games, often with opponents around the world.
The short developed Hollywood buzz after being shown last month to executives at the largest literary and creative agency in the world, International Creative Management (ICM) in Los Angeles. Mallahan said that “they got excited about it because nothing like this has been done before, a show about gamers by gamers, a huge but incredibly cynical audience that’s very hard to reach.”
Mallahan, 23, was interviewed while back in Blaine last weekend to shoot The Protractor King, a promotional video for the annual state math championships that have been held in Blaine for many years. Mallahan shot his scenes during the competition, edited on the fly and showed the final product during the closing ceremonies.
His website, benmakesmovies.com, has a number of those videos and others from high school and college available for viewing, although Gamers and the trailers for it were taken down recently “so ICM can control its exposure,” he said.
Mallahan wrote the script for his pilot last June just after graduating from Gonzaga University in video production, and shot the footage for $3,000 in three days last October while working for Corner Booth Productions in Spokane. Jared Reilly of Blaine and Gonzaga student Stephanie Gutowski of Portland co-star and, like Mallahan, are gamers themselves. “We all play World of Warcraft,” he said.
Three weeks ago he showed the Gamers pilot for the first time to others at Corner Booth. He designed a website for the pilot called putgamersontv.com, and within a few days had several hundred thousand hits from all over the world.
Los Angeles film director Mark Steiland, in Spokane visiting family, saw it in Mallahan’s office a week later and took a copy back to Los Angeles. When he showed it to ICM executives they had Mallahan on the phone within minutes.
“I was on my way to shoot a video with the gamers cast when I got the call. I had to cancel the shoot so I could go home and pack. It was so weird to be sitting in my office one day making sound dubs for a department of health thing and the next to be walking down Rodeo Drive with my new lawyer,” Mallahan said.
Mallahan graduated from Blaine in 2002 as student body president and one of the most gifted video students teacher Jim Nelson said he has ever had in class.
He was well known for his videos about life at Blaine high school that were shown weekly on the campus closed-circuit system and helped Blaine’s chapter of the Technology Student Association win national awards in video production.
Mallahan said that aside from the awards and recognition he’s received, including a first place in the Spokane Film Festival, having his work available to show when the opportunity came was important.
Gamers is technically a single camera film comedy with no laugh track, a shooting technique more often found in movies than TV shows. “The Office and My Name is Earl are both shot single camera,” said Mallahan.
He’s been signed by ICM as a writer, director and network developer, a break that has come unusually early in his chosen career. Moving to Los Angeles will put Mallahan closer to his work and also to his fiancee Becca Coppin, who lives in Monterey, California.
While still a little giddy about the whole thing, Mallahan is realistic.
“I’ve been really lucky. It’s a great chance but doesn’t mean I’m set,” Mallahan said. “They make money by finding me work and while it’s nice that they think they can do this with me and I’ll be doing what I love, I’ll be pretty busy.”