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Building Hollywood Dreams

A cinema studies alumnus helped make a box office blockbuster less than two years after graduating.

August 28, 2017 | Updated: March 17, 2021

Ben Murphy (’15) was an assistant editor on The LEGO Batman Movie. The computer animated 3-D comedy has grossed more than $311 million globally since its release in 2017.

“If you had asked me four years ago, I never would have dreamed I would be working on The LEGO Batman Movie,” Murphy says.

Unlike editors on live-action films, animation editors come in at the beginning of the process to help put together a story reel, complete with temporary music and sound effects.

While he was a student at UT, Murphy was the associate producer on his brother Scott Murphy’s feature film Ain’t It Nowhere—about a group of friends who struggle with growing up and becoming settled. The all-UT cast and crew included students and alumna actress Dale Dickey (Hell or High Water, Leave No Trace, Breaking Bad, True Blood).

At the 2015 Nashville Film Festival, Ain’t it Nowhere placed alongside Sundance Festival winner Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl in the top five audience award winners for narrative films. Murphy’s documentary The Merry Death Collector—about an oddball antiques collector—was also chosen to be screened at the festival.

“Having a film play at a festival is an unbelievable experience, and I encourage all UT students who make films to submit them to festivals,” Murphy says.

In 2016, he was selected for one of only two spots in the American Cinema Editors Internship Program. He met Lego Batman editor John Venzon while he was interning.

A few months and plenty of experience later, Murphy was able to join the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild. Venzon offered him a job with the Warner Animation Group a few days later.

Now also an associate member of the American Cinema Editors and a member of the International Animated Film Society, Murphy credits UT as a key building block in his success.

“These classes are where I grew as a filmmaker—from discussing classic films to understanding screenplay format to classroom critiques about our short films. Paul Harrill, Dr. Maland, Dr. Legg, and Dr. Larsen shaped my entire film education. I can never thank them enough. Their guidance over the years brought me to where I am today,” he says.

Murphy has since joined the production of the upcoming Avatar sequels, directed by James Cameron, working both in Los Angeles and New Zealand, and assistant edited on the movie Smallfoot for Warner Animation Group. He also became a director, editor,
and producer for Jetpack Lab Productions, as well as an assistant editor at Lightstorm Entertainment.

He advises prospective students, “If you want to get into filmmaking, take film classes and sign up for some of the fantastic theatre classes that UT offers.”

The Cinema Studies program offers a major or minor covering the artistic, cultural, and political dimensions of motion pictures. Faculty members have been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and won awards at major film festivals including Sundance.

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