Ben Kalb ’69

Producer funds UO student film festival

Ben Kalb ’69 credits his move from Los Angeles to Eugene to study at the UO’s School of Journalism and Communication as helping him develop a down to earth attitude. Whether that attitude came in handy years later when he was on the set of an infomercial having a grizzly bear lick his face is another story altogether, but it certainly helped him to make a name for himself as a successful national and international infomercial producer.

“The choices you make when you’re young, you never know how they’re going to turn out,” Kalb said. “But I’m really happy I went to the University of Oregon.

“When you’re down to earth, you can consider all possibilities. If you’re open to things you can grow and expand internally, as opposed to being closed off.”

Now Kalb, who has worked as a producer on television shows and commercials for thirty years, is giving back to his alma mater through the Adrenaline Film Project, a 72-hour workshop and student film festival for aspiring filmmakers at the UO.

“I wanted to donate to the university to pay it back,” Kalb said. “I felt I got a great education there, and I wanted to give back to the school. I didn’t want to donate money for equipment that would be outdated in 1 ½ years, I wanted to create something that people would look forward to participating in on an annual basis.”

The Adrenaline Film Project, under the guidance of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, the School of Journalism and Communication, and the Cinema Studies program, concluded its fifth year in April, with a sold out crowd on hand to see the films created by UO students. Kalb originally funded the first five years of the project, but recently committed to funding the next five years, and every year presents the Kalb Jury Award on the final night to the winning team.

“They’ve got 72 hours to make a film,” said Kalb. “They’re given a genre, a prop, and a line of dialogue. In a lot of cities, these are 48-hour festivals. We do 72 hours because we give the students mentors.”

The mentors, including Jeff Wadlow—who directed Kick Ass 2 and produced Bates Motel, and will direct the upcoming X-Men spinoff X-Force—help the 12 three-person teams, offering advice and approving each stage of the production process. The finished films were shown last year in the Prince Lucien Campbell auditorium on the UO campus, with more than 400 people attending the premier event.

“Twenty years from now, these are people who will be winning Academy Awards,” Kalb said. “They will have the experience they didn’t get in a classroom, and they will get it hands-on.”

Kalb himself knows the industry very well. After graduating from the UO, he worked as a sportswriter in Hawaii, before moving back to Los Angeles to become a magazine editor and eventually a television producer. Now based in Las Vegas, he is one of the top infomercial producers in the industry, and has worked with everyone from Phil Mickelson to, yes, grizzly bears.

“My most entertaining infomercial was for an inflatable air bed,” he said. “We had two grizzly bears on the bed to show how the bed could withstand a lot of weight, plus we had a former Olympic gymnast, Amanda Borden, do a routine on the bed while her husband slept on the other side to show how motionless the bed could remain.”

The bears, Pebbles and Bam Bam, proved to be true divas, and had to be coaxed onto the bed—Bam Bam with donuts and grape jelly, and Pebbles with filet mignon. Bam Bam appreciated Kalb’s work though, and rewarded the producer with a jelly-stained kiss.

Kalb also created and funded the first two years of the UO’s Sports Media Workshop, produced jointly by the journalism school and the Athletic Department. One Athletic Department employee who aided Kalb in organizing the workshop said, “Because of Ben’s inspiration, that first year six student-athletes joined with six journalism students to bring together athletics and academics at a time when this type of collaboration was not happening.”

This year, Kalb funded the On-Camera Television/Film Hosting Workshop, co-hosted by the Athletic Department and the Theater Arts Department.  Kalb flew in on-camera hosting expert Shannon O’Dowd to lead the workshop, which proved to be such a success that another workshop, also funded by Kalb, will be held at the UO in May, 2015.

“It’s not uncommon for a student to say this is the best experience that he or she has had at the UO,” said Kalb. “I take pride that I helped make that happen.”

For more information about the Adrenaline Film Project, click here.