Ben Zolno is a storyteller currently in Wellington, New Zealand, developing two feature-length films – a ONCE-style musical and an eco-comedy horror – both of which take place in the world’s most beautiful landscapes. It was a curious road that got him here…
When eight-year-old Ben told his Jewish grandmother he wanted to be a movie star – clearly the best path to becoming the President of the United States – she told him, “Don’t be an actor. Too many actors, not enough roles. You’ll never get a job.”
After a good sob, Ben shot his chest up high, shouting, “Well, then I’ll just make my own movies and then I get to be in them!”
But after he took his film and performance career from his home-town Chicago improv scene to New York City in late 2001, witnessing the events at the World Trade Center first hand suddenly made the idea of entertaining for the sake of distraction no longer acceptable; besides, from this point on, willful ignorance wouldn’t look good on any decent presidential candidate’s resume, and running as a Republican was not an option. With a new sense of purpose, he worked to learn about the world around him and share a new vision of change through his storytelling – screenwriting, segment producing for television (CBS and MTV), and documentary filmmaking with greats like Brenda Trent and Albert Maysles.
During his research as one of the founding producers of VideoJug America, which went on to become the internet’s most popular educational video website, Ben learned of the world’s imminent energy crisis, and once again his perspective completely changed. What was the point of keeping the Hollywood/Washington dream alive, if there wouldn’t be enough oil to fuel Air Force One? He shifted his focus toward preparing the world for the great transition, working with heroic organizations to help them hone their stories in a way most likely to get the policy changes we need to thrive.
Since moving to Northern California, Ben has served as Senior Media Producer for the Post Carbon Institute, resident filmmaker at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, a fundraising filmmaker for the UNHCR, and made several independent projects about Permaculture, habitat restoration, and environmental, ecological and energy policy for Gold Ridge RCD, Sotoyome RCD, Transition US, and Transition Sebastopol. He continued his work as a segment producer for two television talk shows.
In 2010, he took the social media lead for the game-changing Prop 16 victory in CA, repeated the fun with Big Oil’s Prop 23, and used silliness to help create serious policy change — helping inspire plastic-bag bans in cities, counties, states and countries around the world with Plastic State of Mind. Further work was instrumental in getting California’s plastic bag ban, and teaching kids in eight countries about the realities of their food system.
Still, as he watched some of his best buddies become movie stars, the idea of being a feature film maker still ate at him. New Zealand, with its gorgeous landscapes, need for environmental preservation, and #8-wire mentality to filmmaking, called him.
While not currently a movie star, nor current President of the United States, Ben is still living the dream – using entertainment to help make the world a better place, and working to make his grandma and his eight-year-old inner child proud.
e-mail: Ben at New Message Media dot com
Social Media Specialist
Amy is a budding online activist and a social media maven. Amy has used her enthusiasm for the online world to promote green energy and fight political injustice, starting with the One Million Strong Against Prop 16 with One Millionth the Budget of PG&E campaign, taking on the persona of the official Twitter page and parody page to defeat the Goliath. Prop 23 and Plastic State of Mind were fun too. Amy is also a graphic artist and singer/songwriter with a brand new EP out now.
e-mail: Amy at New Message Media dot com