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Benh Zeitlin

Biography

Aimed the critically acclaimed indie film Beasts from the Southern Wild. He aimed the brief film The Roots of Electric power in 2006. He experienced a shattered hip after getting back in a vehicle accident on his method to a testing of his film Glory at Ocean. He was raised with a more youthful sister called Eliza. He was a lover of movie director Christopher Nolan.

Quick Facts


Full Name Benh Zeitlin
Date Of Birth October 14, 1982
Place Of Birth New York City, NY
Profession Director
Education Wesleyan University
Nationality American
Parents Steve Zeitlin, Amanda Dargan
Siblings Eliza Zeitlin
Awards Caméra d'Or, Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Director, Bodil Award for Best American Film, Humanitarian Award, Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize - U.S. Dramatic, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture
Nominations Academy Award for Best Director, Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay, Independent Spirit Award for Best Director, Gotham Independent Film Audience Award, Satellite Award for Best Original Score, BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best First Film
Movies Brimstone & Glory, Mediterranea, Beasts of the Southern Wild, 11/4/08, Glory At Sea, Death to the Tinman, Egg
Star Sign Libra

  • Facts
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#Fact
1Named one of 20 young filmmakers "to watch" by the NY Times in a September 2013 article.
2Cousin of Marc Wallace.
3Is at least the fourth successful filmmaker to graduate from Wesleyan University, following in the recent footsteps of Michael Bay, Joss Whedon and Ruben Fleischer.
4As of 2013, has directed one actress to an Academy Award-nominated performance: Quvenzhané Wallis (Best Actress, Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)).
5Influenced by directors as disparate as James Cameron, Emir Kusturica and--especially the craftsman's modest lifestyle of-- John Cassavetes,.
6Won the 2012 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for the Visual Arts.
7Benh and producer friend Ray Tintori from Glory at Sea (2008) worked in film production together one summer in Prague, where they met British cinematographer Ben Richardson.
8Suffered a shattered hip and dislocated pelvis in car accident in March 2008 on the way to Austin, Texas and the screening of his award-winning short film Glory at Sea (2008) at the South by Southwest festival. Benh was uninsured, and fellow filmmakers soon after staged a benefit to raise money to help his medical expenses. Eventually he made a full recovery.
9The name for his Court 13 collective was derived from an all-but-abandoned Wesleyan U. squash court that Benh and artist friends often took over--as an ad hoc filmmaking site, not because of their love of racket sports.
10Benh met his "Beasts" co-writer Lucy Alibar in summer camp when they were teenagers.
11His first feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012), received support from the Sundance Labs, the Kenneth Rainin Foundation as well as an NHK award.
12Helped start the Court 13 independent filmmaking collective in 2004, and moved to New Orleans where he eventually made his first short film, Glory at Sea (2008), after Hurricane Katrina had devastated this Louisiana city.
13He and younger sister and collaborator Eliza Zeitlin raised in Sunnyside section of Queens (NYC) and then in nearby Westchester County suburb of Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.
14His parents Steve Zeitlin and Amanda Dargan are both urban folklorists who founded and run the highly respected nonprofit City Lore organization in NYC.
15Graduate of Hastings-on-Hudson High School and Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT.


Director

Director

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Wendy2017/IIIpre-production
Beasts of the Southern Wild2012
Glory at Sea2008Short
The Origins of Electricity2006Short
Egg2005Short
Brooklyn Independent Vol. 12005Video

Writer

Writer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Wendy2017/IIIpre-production
Beasts of the Southern Wild2012screenplay
Glory at Sea2008Short story / writer
The Origins of Electricity2006Short
Egg2005Short

Composer

Composer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Brimstone & Glory2016Documentary post-production
Mediterranea2015
Beasts of the Southern Wild2012
Glory at Sea2008Short
Death to the Tinman2007Short

Cinematographer

Cinematographer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Boom and Bust: America's Journey on the Erie Canal2015Documentary short
11/4/082010Documentary
The Origins of Electricity2006Short
Egg2005Short

Editor

Editor

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Origins of Electricity2006Short
Brooklyn: Among the Ruins2005Video documentary short
Egg2005Short

Art Department

Art Department

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Seed2009/IIIShort miniature skyscraper construction

Music Department

Music Department

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Death to the Tinman2007Short musician: music box

Producer

Producer

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Brimstone & Glory2016Documentary producer post-production

Sound Department

Sound Department

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Egg2005Short sound effects editor

Soundtrack

Soundtrack

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Beasts of the Southern Wild2012writer: "Momma's Song" - uncredited

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous

TitleYearStatusCharacter
The Year That Trembled2002set production assistant

Thanks

Thanks

TitleYearStatusCharacter
Deer in the Headlight2015very special thanks
The 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards2013TV Special special thanks
Little Birds2011thanks

Self

Self

TitleYearStatusCharacter
D.I.Y.2014Documentary shortHimself
La noche de los Oscar2013TV MovieHimself
The 85th Annual Academy Awards2013TV SpecialHimself - Nominee: Best Adapted Screenplay and Nominee: Best Director
The 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards2013TV SpecialHimself - Nominee
Charlie Rose2013TV SeriesHimself - Guest
The Colbert Report2013TV SeriesHimself - Guest
Last Call with Carson Daly2012-2013TV SeriesHimself
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno2013TV SeriesHimself
Cinema 32013TV SeriesHimself
18th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards2013TV SpecialHimself
56th BFI London Film Festival2012TV Movie documentaryHimself
Super Soul Sunday2012TV SeriesHimself - Guest
CBS This Morning2012TV SeriesHimself - Guest
Sundance Directors Lab2009TV Series documentaryHimself

Won awards

Won awards

YearAwardCeremonyNominationMovieAward shared with
2014BodilBodil AwardsBest American Film (Bedste amerikanske film)Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2013INOCAInternational Online Cinema Awards (INOCA)Best Original ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2013OFTA Film AwardOnline Film & Television AssociationBest Feature DebutBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2013Bradbury AwardScience Fiction and Fantasy Writers of AmericaBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar (writer)
2013TFCA AwardToronto Film Critics Association AwardsBest First FeatureBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2013World Soundtrack AwardWorld Soundtrack AwardsDiscovery of the YearBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2013EDA Female Focus AwardAlliance of Women Film JournalistsBest Woman ScreenwriterBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013EDA AwardAlliance of Women Film JournalistsBest Film Music or ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2013Black ReelBlack Reel AwardsBest Original ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2013Breakthrough AwardGeorgia Film Critics Association (GFCA)Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2013GFCA AwardGeorgia Film Critics Association (GFCA)Best Original ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2013Image AwardImage AwardsOutstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television)Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012FICC AwardJameson CineFest - Miskolc International Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Golden Rock Narrative AwardLittle Rock Film FestivalBest Feature FilmBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Sutherland AwardLondon Film FestivalFirst Feature CompetitionBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012LAFCA AwardLos Angeles Film Critics Association AwardsBest MusicBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2012New Generation AwardLos Angeles Film Critics Association AwardsBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Audience AwardLos Angeles Film FestivalBest Narrative FeatureBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Screenwriting AwardNantucket Film FestivalNew VoicesBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2012Screenwriting AwardNantucket Film FestivalNew Voices in Screenwriting AwardBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar (writer)
2012NBR AwardNational Board of Review, USABest Directorial DebutBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012NYFCO AwardNew York Film Critics, OnlineBest Debut as DirectorBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012OFCC AwardOklahoma Film Critics Circle AwardsBest First FilmBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Directors to WatchPalm Springs International Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012PFCS AwardPhoenix Film Critics Society AwardsBreakthrough Performance Behind the CameraBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Golden PuffinReykjavik International Film FestivalBest FilmBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Humanitarian AwardSatellite Awards
2012Golden Space Needle AwardSeattle International Film FestivalBest DirectorBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Aluminum HorseStockholm Film FestivalBest Directorial DebutBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Grand Jury PrizeSundance Film FestivalDramaticBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012New Horizons CompetitionAbu Dhabi Film FestivalSpecial Jury AwardBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Austin Film Critics AwardAustin Film Critics AssociationBest First FilmBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012ACCAAwards Circuit Community AwardsBest Original ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2012Mumbai Young Critics AwardBombay International Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Silver GatewayBombay International Film FestivalJury Grand PrizeBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Sutherland TrophyBritish Film Institute AwardsBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012FIPRESCI PrizeCannes Film FestivalUn Certain RegardBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Golden CameraCannes Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Prize of the Ecumenical Jury - Special MentionCannes Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Prix Regards JeuneCannes Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012CFCA AwardChicago Film Critics Association AwardsMost Promising FilmmakerBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Russell Smith AwardDallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association AwardsBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Grand Special PrizeDeauville Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Revelations PrizeDeauville Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Best DirectionDurban International Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Special Jury AwardExpresion en Corto International Film FestivalBest Debut FeatureBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Youth Jury AwardGhent International Film FestivalBest FilmBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Gotham Independent Film AwardGotham AwardsBreakthrough DirectorBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Humanitas PrizeHumanitas PrizeSundance Film CategoryBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar (writer)
2012ICP AwardIndiewire Critics' PollBest First FeatureBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2010NHK AwardSundance Film FestivalFor "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (USA).
2008Narrative Short AwardNew Orleans Film FestivalShort FilmsGlory at Sea (2008)
2008Special Jury AwardSidewalk Film FestivalGlory at Sea (2008)
2008SXSW Wolphin AwardSXSW Film FestivalGlory at Sea (2008)
2008Jury PrizeWoodstock Film FestivalBest ShortGlory at Sea (2008)
2008Special Jury PrizeBoston Independent Film FestivalShort FilmsGlory at Sea (2008)
2008Special Jury PrizeCineVegas International Film FestivalShort FilmGlory at Sea (2008)
2005Audience AwardWashington DC Independent Film FestivalBest AnimationEgg (2005)

Nominated awards

Nominated awards

YearAwardCeremonyNominationMovieAward shared with
2013ICS AwardInternational Cinephile Society AwardsBest Original ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2013INOCAInternational Online Cinema Awards (INOCA)Best Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013IOMAItalian Online Movie Awards (IOMA)Best Adapted Screenplay (Miglior sceneggiatura non originale)Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013NCFCA AwardNorth Carolina Film Critics AssociationBest Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013OFCS AwardOnline Film Critics Society AwardsBest Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013USC Scripter AwardUSC Scripter AwardBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar (playwright and screenwriter)
2013World Soundtrack AwardWorld Soundtrack AwardsBest Original Song Written Directly for a FilmBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer (music and lyrics by)
· The Lost Bayou Ramblers (performed by)
2013OscarAcademy Awards, USABest Achievement in DirectingBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2013OscarAcademy Awards, USABest Writing, Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013BAFTA Film AwardBAFTA AwardsBest Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013COFCA AwardCentral Ohio Film Critics AssociationBreakthrough Film ArtistBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2013Chlotrudis AwardChlotrudis AwardsBest DirectorBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2013Chlotrudis AwardChlotrudis AwardsBest Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013CinEuphoriaCinEuphoria AwardsBest Screenplay - International CompetitionBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013GFCA AwardGeorgia Film Critics Association (GFCA)Best DirectorBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2013GFCA AwardGeorgia Film Critics Association (GFCA)Best Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013Gold Derby AwardGold Derby AwardsAdapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2013Gold Derby AwardGold Derby AwardsOriginal ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2013Independent Spirit AwardIndependent Spirit AwardsBest DirectorBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012IFMCA AwardInternational Film Music Critics Award (IFMCA)Breakthrough Film Composer of the Year· Dan Romer
2012IOFCP AwardInternational Online Film Critics' PollBest Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2012SDFCS AwardSan Diego Film Critics Society AwardsBest ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2012Satellite AwardSatellite AwardsBest Original ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2012SLFCA AwardSt. Louis Film Critics Association, USBest Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2012SLFCA AwardSt. Louis Film Critics Association, USBest MusicBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2012Bronze HorseStockholm Film FestivalBest FilmBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Sydney Film PrizeSydney Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012WAFCA AwardWashington DC Area Film Critics Association AwardsBest ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2012Golden EyeZurich Film FestivalBest International Feature FilmBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Black Pearl AwardAbu Dhabi Film FestivalNew Horizons CompetitionBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012ACCAAwards Circuit Community AwardsBest Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2012Golden GatewayBombay International Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Best Directorial DebutCamerimageBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Un Certain Regard AwardCannes Film FestivalBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012CFCA AwardChicago Film Critics Association AwardsBest DirectorBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012CFCA AwardChicago Film Critics Association AwardsBest Original ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2012CFCA AwardChicago Film Critics Association AwardsBest Adapted ScreenplayBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Lucy Alibar
2012DFCS AwardDetroit Film Critic Society, USBreakthrough ArtistBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012Audience AwardGotham AwardsBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Michael Gottwald
· Dan Janvey
· Josh Penn
2012HFCS AwardHouston Film Critics Society AwardsBest Original ScoreBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer

2nd place awards

2nd place awards

YearAwardCeremonyNominationMovieAward shared with
2012ICP AwardIndiewire Critics' PollBest Original Score or SoundtrackBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)· Dan Romer
2012NYFCC AwardNew York Film Critics Circle AwardsBest First FilmBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012SLFCA AwardSt. Louis Film Critics Association, USBest DirectorBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
2012BSFC AwardBoston Society of Film Critics AwardsBest New FilmmakerBeasts of the Southern Wild (2012)


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#Quote
1[re second feature in mid-production, 2013] The new film is about a young girl who gets kidnapped onto a hidden ecosystem where a tribal war is raging over a form of pollen that breaks the relationship between aging and time. It follows a friendship-love story-adventure of her and a joyous, reckless, pleasure-mongering young boy as they swirl in and out of youth and as the ecosystem around them spirals toward destruction. We're working on it all day every day, but as all psychotic adventures go, you know where your destination is but not how long it's going to take to get there.
2[re financial freedom after Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)] I don't know if we'll ever see any money off of the box office, but we won a couple of very generous awards here and overseas, and they have put me above the poverty line for the first time since I got out of college. We also have a development deal on the new film, and that's helped us have offices, which is also a monumental step forward.
3[Feb 2013] I just got back from the Kustendorf Film Festival in the mountains of Serbia and I saw my favorite movie of the year, called Reality (2012) by Matteo Garrone. It's about this guy who runs a fish market whose life starts to collapse when he gets the whir of the idea that he might be able to get on a reality television show. It's a film with faces and actors that you've never seen before. It's got this wild energy that reminds me of an early Milos Forman film.
4I've been reading a lot of Yoruba mythology actually. It's an African literature tradition. Right now I'm into 'The Forest of a Thousand Daemons' by D. O. Fagunwa. It's the most disturbing and thrilling kind of mythological imagery that I've ever read. It definitely gets your mind cooking. Particularly with writing, you always want things that are cutting up the way you think and challenging your brain to wrap itself around some pretty gigantic concepts.
5I'm not against wealth. But when you have a nice place you take a lot fewer risks. You're worried about making the safe choice because if you don't you might lose that house. And I never want to be in that position.
6I've never had a strategy. It's never been about I'm going to make this film, and then another...It was about telling stories about, and living with, the people I want to spend time with.
7The people I really admire, like [John] Cassavetes, live the lives of their movies, and that's how I want to live.
8Preproduction is like this little animal that you're raising, and it's like a tiger, and you raise it until it's way bigger and stronger and faster than you, and you can't control it at all. You just set it loose and then you have to chase it. And so for everybody that worked on 'Beasts,' it was like an athletic event. A safari hunt. With this running beast that you're trying not to be destroyed by...it's always fun. The movies are secondary. The tiger chase comes first.
9[on the origins of making "Beasts"] When I got out of [completing Glory at Sea (2008) ] I was realizing that I wanted to stay [in Louisiana], I was supposed to go back home, my parents were waiting for me back in New York for Thanksgiving and I didn't show up, and I didn't show up for Christmas, time went by and I realized I wanted to stay, and I wanted to figure out what it was that was pulling me, and also make a film celebrating a lot of the people that were in that cast who were holding out and refusing to get pushed off their land, and trying to rebuild, and wanting to celebrate that tenacity and make a film about the hold outs. That's where it started.
10[on directing six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)] She was so focused and poised and just was fierce. She wouldn't do just what I told her to do, she questioned what I was saying. She'd say, 'I don't like this word' and she'd delete it. I allowed her to own the words and understand what they meant.
11[on "Beasts"] We finished the movie two days before Sundance, and we never had time to think about it, basically. There wasn't a month to be like, "What will happen? Will people like this movie?" I was focused on trying to get the movie to a version that I could live with. But it's been an amazing experience to see the film travel this far. It just such was a ragtag little film when we were making it. I don't think anybody ever imagined that the movie would be so big while we were doing it. It's so cool to hear it resonate with people who don't have the same cultural context that we do in Louisiana, never mind in America. It's so crazy.
12There are funny stories about [the making of Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) ] how I went knocking on someone's door and he came out with a shotgun. Even then, that guy showed up at our gas station two days later, and was like, "I'm sorry. I thought you guys were trying to kill me or you're from Witness Protection or something like that. I didn't mean to scare you. You want any red fish?" He'd just caught a bunch. You get real hospitality in Louisiana. I think it'd be much harder in another place because the state is extremely open and a more accepting, hospitable place.


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