Nabors: "I’m always proud to consider Waynesville where I’m from"

Ben Nabors, movie director/producer in Brooklyn, honors Waynesville roots

By Julianne Kuykendall | Feb 27, 2013
Courtesy of: Ben Nabors LIVING THE DREAM: Ben Nabors, a Waynesville native, is pictured currently as a movie director/producer in Brooklyn, New York. Nabors’ family includes his father and stepmother, Darryl and Diane Nabors, and his grandmother, Elizabeth Nabors.

Writer’s Note: This article is the first in a two-part series which offers a glimpse into the lives of two brothers, both Haywood County natives who are now actively working in the movie industry. This week’s story profiles Ben Nabors, a movie director/producer in New York City. Next week, I will be profiling his brother, Douglas Nabors, who works across the country as a movie producer in Los Angeles.

Ben Nabors, currently a movie director/producer living in the hustle and thriving energy of Brooklyn in New York City, grew up in Waynesville where he had a vivid dream of making movies.

As early as his elementary school days at Junaluska Elementary School, he was simply fascinated by the art of telling stories on the big screen.

That was “Plan A.”

Some cool, crisp winter morning as he jogs in McCarren Park in Brooklyn, he thinks back to the days when he thought he would probably have to settle for Plan B, C, or D. “I knew I wanted to make movies, but it just didn’t seem realistic to me back then,” said Nabors.

However, after he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in literature from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota in 2004, he decided to go with his gut feeling when he took the plunge and simply packed his bags and moved to New York City in pursuit of his childhood dream.

Once saturated in New York City, a place he says encourages entrepreneurship to the ultimate level, the energy pushed him to fully embrace all the city had to offer. “I didn’t have any formal film training, but I just started working and holding myself to the same standard that people making the work I wanted to make held themselves to,” he explained.

“Plan A” worked.

After working in event production for four years then film production for three years, he developed his own production company, {group theory}, which creates documentary films, branded content, narrative short films and original series, two years ago.

This past January at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Nabors’ production company earned breakthrough national attention with “Palimpsest,” a narrative short dramatic film which tells the story of Peter, a successful house tuner in New York City, who meets Ellen while consulting on her apartment and more is revealed about Ellen’s environment than she knows.

Of the more than 8,000 short films submitted to this festival, only 80 were selected for programming, and only seven received Jury awards. Nabors’ production company, {group theory}, received one of those seven awards as Joel Nagle, who played the role of Peter Lucian in the film, was awarded a Special Jury Prize for “Best Performance” in a lead acting role.

“We were just happy to be there and had no expectation to win an award, so my gut reaction when I heard our name was, ‘They can’t be talking about us,’” recalled Nabors, who described that pivotal moment in the crowded awards party as “transformative.”

“Suddenly, we got a lot more attention and several opportunities opened up to us right away,” he added.

One of those opportunities is the upcoming world premiere of “William and the Windmill,” a feature-length documentary that tells the true story of William Kamkwamba, a young innovator from Malawi, Africa who taught himself to generate electricity by building a windmill from found materials and scrap parts. The film illustrates how imagination and ingenuity can inspire a family, a village, and a nation.

The documentary is slated to premier in Austin, Texas at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW Festival) next month.

“This is a big honor and we are very happy to be there,” said Nabors.

Other exciting {group theory} projects include "The Happy Film,” a feature length documentary about graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister and his pursuit of happiness, another feature documentary about the making of the Broadway show “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” and the film “Brooklyn Grange: A Portrait of Urban Farming,” which tells the partnership story of young urban farmers and entrepreneurs in New York City who set out to expand their small business to a massive rooftop in the Brooklyn Navy Yards, creating the largest rooftop farm in the world.

As Nabors looks down the road to future movie-making, he says he feels very fortunate to be living his dream. “I’m very grateful because I love telling stories and I’m thankful for the opportunity to continue making the work we want to make,” he said.

While he thrives on the fast-paced life Brooklyn offers him, he craves the time he gets to trade jogging in McCarren Park to jogging in the clean mountain air around the loop at Lake Junaluska when he visits his father, Clyde dentist Darryl Nabors, stepmother Diane Nabors and his grandmother, Elizabeth Nabors, back in Haywood County.

“A lot of places don’t feel like they have a unique personality, but when I’m in Western North Carolina, I feel like there is a way of life to hold onto and I really appreciate the pace of life and the emphasis Waynesville maintains for its history,” said Nabors during a phone interview from Brooklyn, noting that much of his writing is inspired by the mountains of North Carolina.

“I’m always proud to consider Waynesville where I’m from,” he added. To contact Nabors, email him at ben@grouptheory.co or visit his website at www.grouptheory.co.

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