Young Filmmaker Uses C4D and After Effects to Make Award-Winning Movies in His Backyard

April 25, 2011 11:12 pm

Tags: Adobe, After Effects, CINEMA 4D, MAXON

Young Filmmaker Uses C4D and After Effects to Make Award-Winning Movies in His Backyard

In the world of cinema there are big-budget blockbusters, independent art films and now, thanks to filmmakers like Ben Kadie, there are low-budget "backyard" movies as visually stunning as anything Hollywood is producing.

Winner of more than 20 awards for filmmaking excellence, Kadie is a true auteur who combines MAXON's CINEMA 4D, stock footage and the magic of green screen in many of his projects. In all, he has written, directed, edited, produced and acted in more than a half dozen of his own films … all before his 16th birthday. (See his work at his website:

Filmmaker Ben Kadie (behind the camera) shoots his
green screen footage beneath his family's backyard deck.

Kadie's interest in film began early. When he was eight, he started making fun, simple little films with his father on weekends. This whetted his appetite for more ambitious movie making, and by age 11 he had branched out into writing and directing his own films.

Naturally creative, Kadie loves writing and drawing. With filmmaking, he's found an outlet no other medium offers. "With a camera, I can tell stories that I can't otherwise tell," he explains. "I love filmmaking's combination of writing, directing, and visual design."

Though he spends most of his time editing and creating scenes using
MAXON's C4D, directing is Kadie's favorite part of filmmaking.

A longtime fan of action and comedy films, Kadie is particularly fond of Monty Python and the British comedy group's influence is evident in his films. In Perilous Skies, one of his earliest films, whoopee cushions and rubber chickens play an integral and visually engaging role in the story of a World War I fighter pilot.

But Kadie is more than funny. His filmmaking skills are clear in Sparks in the Night, in which he plays a Humphrey Bogart-inspired detective closing in on the notorious jaywalker he's been after for 15 years. Though it was shot in the family's backyard, the film is comprised of scenes on dark, foreboding city streets, as well as the interior of a warehouse. (Watch the Sparks in the Night trailer)

Kadie used C4D to create the moody warehouse scene for the climactic end to Sparks in the Night.

Filming his actors beneath a 9-foot-high deck (the only space big enough to put up a green screen), Kadie created the locations using CINEMA 4D and stock footage. "I use CINEMA 4D in my movies to create worlds I can't film," says Kadie, who started learning C4D in 2009 with MAXON's live online training.

Punctuated with sharp and witty dialogue: "The truth hit me like something hard and massive hitting a smaller, softer thing." And, "This city would keep its filth hidden like a folding chair tied to a giraffe, dipped in gasoline and then lit on fire would keep on burning," Sparks in the Night is an utterly convincing black and white (and red) film noir.

To the monochromatic look of the three-minute film Kadie added red highlights to things like neon signs, exit signs and the writing on a note and a painting. The effect is subtle, elegant and artful with the film's real highlight occurring in its final minute in which Sparks and his archenemies face off in a virtual warehouse.

Inspired by Monthy Python, Kadie daydreams of one day being a director
like his heroes Steven Spielberg, Orson Welles and the Coen Brothers.

Kadie created the virtual set for the climactic scene with CINEMA 4D and After Effects. The set is introduced with a long, slow dolly shot that reveals four actors talking at a table in the distance.

Directing is the best part of filmmaking

Though many aspects of filmmaking are time consuming, editing and special effects make up the bulk of the process. For his recently completed film, Molly and the Masked Storm, for example, Kadie spent a year working about 10 hours a week editing. He sees directing as the most exciting part of filmmaking: "Filming days can be both exhilarating and terrifying," he says. "The key is to keep the story in mind, keep the actors fed and always double check the equipment." (Watch the trailer for Molly and the Masked Storm)

Mack, Kadie's second new film, marks his first use of a digital SLR camera and the creation of his largest C4D model, ever. Retelling the Macbeth story in today's world, Kadie explores the tension between loyalty and ambition.

Kadie spent a year editing and creating visual effects for
Molly and the Masked Storm
, including this dramatic rooftop scene.

Despite the accolades and awards that Kadie has received for his work, actually watching his films on the big screen remains trying and thrilling. "On the one hand, I think I notice every imperfection," he says. "On the other hand, there is nothing better than watching with an audience that laughs in just the right place."

Kadie credits his parents for helping him accomplish his cinematic dreams. His father is a computer engineer and his mother has a background in theater as a costume designer. "They're basically the perfect parents for this," says Kadie. "They're very supportive. My dad takes care of the computer and makes sure the camera batteries are fresh. My mom helps build the sets and keeps the actors fed."

Filmed the summer before he started high school, Molly and the Masked Storm
takes place in a "Victorian world of magic and masquerades," Kadie says.

A sophomore in high school, Kadie hasn't decided whether he'll study film in college. But he does daydream about someday being a big time Hollywood director like his heroes Steven Spielberg, Orson Welles and the Coen Brothers. "Right now," he says, "I'm concentrating on my school work, building my skills and having fun."

To see more of Ben Kadie's work, go to

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Article by Scott Strohmaier

Scott Strohmaier is a writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and son.

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