My school newspaper did an
alumni issue, and I interviewed brothers Chris and Mike Bender. Chris is half of the powerhouse
production company BenderSpink, which has produced such movies as “American
Pie, ” “The Butterfly Effect” and the Oscar-nominated “A
History of Violence. ” Mike is a screenwriter, most notably for the MTV Movie Awards and
“Not Another Teen Movie. ” I spoke with Chris
So Chris, what was your favorite memory of
My friends that I am still really close to, closer than
most people I currently know. We have annual ski trips, things like that. The whole high-school
experience with those kids ended up becoming the major inspiration for “American
When did you get interested in
When I was younger, my brother and I used to get my
dad’s video camera and use it to make movies and edit them with two VCRs. We were also
growing up in Jersey and not doing much except going to the local movie theater in Morristown.
When I graduated Bucknell and realized that banking or other jobs like my
parents were doing weren’t for me, I wrote a letter expressing my interest in the
industry to 30 or 40 production companies and studios; I got those contacts from my brother who was
taking classes at NYU. The only decent response I got was from Newline Cinema, so my first
experience was interning with them and Universal in New York City in
You meet lots of celebrities, do you have any
I still get star struck because there’s always
going to be someone you haven’t met whose work you admire. What’s nice when you
work in this industry is that you can sit down and talk about work and what they do, it’s
not just what movie they’ve made. I worked on “Monster-in-Law, ” which
featured two megastars. Meeting Jane Fonda the first time made me realize that I’m still
a kid from New Jersey sitting down with Jane Fonda, but it became a creative conversation and
settled into normalcy very quickly.
would you give to people interested in your field?
The nice thing
about the film business is that unlike a lot of others where you need to go to law school or
medical school, you don’t necessarily need to go to film school, you just have to make
your way in.
When I look back on what got me here, it’s really been
perseverance, hard work and taking every opportunity available, including
You should get in wherever you can, and just by being there, you
will start to see how things work. If you are a hard worker and can gain the trust of a producer or
director, they will hire you and take you on, and then you can get more focused on choosing a
career in this business.
Turning to Mike now, what
was your favorite memory of our school?
It was certainly the
opportunity to do sketches and things for school - that’s what got me excited about
writing and comedy. I definitely owe that to Pingry, and I don’t know that any other
school did that ... every week we had 15 minutes in an all-school assembly to do comedy sketches.
Sometimes we got censored, but we had a lot of freedom and that was really
When did you get interested in the movie
industry and screenwriting?
Ever since high school, I have been
writing short stories and have gotten a lot of criticism, but I realized I enjoyed writing and
re-writing to try to improve. At Middlebury College, I took a lot of creative writing classes and
majored in English. I wanted to focus on classics; I read a lot and did tons of creative writing. I
started working for Life magazine and thought I would do publishing and then realized I wanted to
do film when I got to Newline for an internship. Basically, I wanted to study
Did you ever act or direct or anything
else in theater or film?
There are still so many things that I want to
do, but I’m very content being a
You meet lots of celebrities too. Do you
have any favorites?
I’ve worked with Tom Cruise, Will
Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Jack Black, pretty much everybody has come through the MTV Awards at some
point. Once you move out here, you see enough of those people and their real lives to realize
they’re just as boring as the rest of us, if not more dysfunctional. Unless I met someone
I really admire, not so much actors, but maybe a director like Mike Nichols, someone I really
respect, then I would get nervous.
Any advice to
people interested in your field?
Honestly, I would say it’s
easy: whatever you feel creatively passionate about, especially writing, just do that. I think the
best thing to do is to write not so much what you know (that’s what people always tell
you to do), but rather what you love. The type of movies or books you enjoy, that’s what
you should try to emulate.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.