Meet Ben Berkowitz: JFI’s 2018 Filmmaker in Residence

The Jewish Film Institute is pleased to announce that media-maker Ben Berkowitz will be a 2018 Filmmaker in Residence at work on the narrative mini-series Vagrant Viking.

Ben Berkowitz, the Jewish Film Institute’s 2018 Filmmaker in Residence

The Jewish Film Institute is pleased to announce that media-maker Ben Berkowitz will be a 2018 Filmmaker in Residence at work on the narrative mini-series Vagrant Viking. To stay up to date with Ben’s residency and to receive invitations to attend work-in-progress screenings or other residency events, subscribe to our newsletter. For more information about the Jewish Film Institute’s Filmmakers in Residence program, visit our website.

JFI: Tell us a little about yourself and your connection to film and media in the Bay Area

Berkowitz: My goal is to continue to forge the field of social impact filmmaking, where I highlight critical and complicated issues through the magic of spellbinding films. I use creative, eye-catching storytelling to deliver real-world impact.

As the (Co)Founder/CEO of Not A Billionaire, I have formed partnerships with some of the leading brands in television and film, including Discovery Channel, Nokia, Beam Suntory, Dolby, JetBlue, Casper, and more.

My ability to turn a vision into execution is something I have worked very hard at over the years. However it is my heart that ensures that I turn every project into something that moves people’s souls.

Moving to the Bay Area, now almost two years ago, has provided me with wonderful opportunities to work with some of the leaders in tech, business and media who are trying to disrupt and make a better tomorrow.

JFI: What is the project you will be working on during your JFI Filmmaker in Residency tenure?

Berkowitz: During my JFI residency tenure, along with my brother/co-founder Max Berkowitz, my writing partner Christian Harrington and my co-producer Peter Ittinuar (Peter Freuchen’s actual grandson — based in Canada), we will be developing a narrative mini series based on the extraordinary life of explorer, Peter Freuchen. The series will be based primarily off of his autobiography, Vagrant Viking, however we will be taking bits and pieces from his other books as well (he wrote nearly 30 books in his lifetime)!

Peter Freuchen, a Danish explorer and the subject of Berkowitz’s project

JFI: At what stage of production are you in with the project?

Berkowitz: We are in the development and scripting stage. We have written a beautiful first draft of the pilot episode.

JFI: What do you hope to get out of the JFI Filmmaker in Residency program?

Berkowitz: We hope to fully develop the series and outline each episode, pitch to networks and begin production. Ambitious, we know!

JFI: What films/filmmakers have inspired you lately and why?

Berkowitz: Current scripted ‘television’ has been a major influence, and actually the reason we have really focused on developing our project as a mini series. I am obsessed with David Fincher’s Mindhunter, Cary Fukunaga’s 1st Season of True Detective, Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal and American Gods, Handmaid’s Tale, Glow, Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad…there is so much beautiful and distinctive storytelling in television right now, the list is endless. And now you know all I do is binge-watch television. I promise I do work…sometimes. I also must mention that the Hollywood Royal Rob’s (Robert Zemeckis and Rob Reiner) were filmmakers who truly inspired me to be a filmmaker while growing up. Back to the Future and The Princess Bride are films I can, and have watched over-and-over — on a monthly basis. Again, I do work…