Producer & Writer Chris & Mike Bender | Teen Ink

Producer & Writer Chris & Mike Bender MAG

By Darina S., Warren, NJ

     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 first.

So Chris, what was your favorite memory of our school?

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 Pie. ”

When did you get interested in producing?

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 1994.

You meet lots of celebrities, do you have any favorites?

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.

What advice 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 internships.

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 awesome.

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 everything.

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 writer.

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.

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i love this so much!

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