Monday, September 27, 2010

Ben Lyons from E! Part 1

Hey everyone

A couple weeks ago, during the fantastic TIFF event in Toronto, I was fortunate enough to meet up with E!News Now reporter Ben Lyons from LA. He is honestly one of the nicest people I've ever interviewed and he's hilarious. So, on a Monday morning (September 13), over pancakes (that were seriously the size of his face) and crepes, we had a great interview. He gave insight into how he got into the industry, his TIFF experiences, and he also gave some great advice.

Check out his bio on the E! website:

1. How did you get started in this industry?

I got started in this industry working for an independent hip hop label in New York. My cousin grew up with a guy named Dru-Ha who runs Duck Down Records out of New York and I’m a big hip hop fan growing up in the city. And I’d always wanted to work in the music business. So I ended up working for him for a little while and producing music videos for some of his artists and interned at his record label and did all this weird hip hop stuff. This was like the year 2000, 2001 or so. And then from that, I just made a little hosting reel since I was on these music video sets and I was with all these artists. So i made a little hosting reel and we were trying to give our videos to MTV at the time. And I showed them my hosting reel just for some advice and said “Hey I’m thinking of maybe being on camera and doing interviews” and they gave me a job. I had never been on TV before and my first assignment was to go to LA and interview Jack Black, Will Smith and Angelina Jolie and I was like woah. So I learned kind of on the job. And then from there I worked at MSN BC and NBC in New York and then moved to LA about 5 years ago and got really lucky and found a home with E! But I never really thought I was actually going to be on TV, it just sort of happened. And I ran with it and learned while I was doing it, which I think is the best way to learn about whatever it is you’re doing, to learn on the job.

2. So growing up, did you ever think you’d end up here?

Well my father is in the business, he’s a film critic; that’s essentially the same thing that I’m doing now. So I grew up around the entertainment industry and I’ve always been conscious of movies, and TV shows and music and all these things, and pop culture. So I knew I’d be in the business somehow, I didn’t know I’d be doing this. And I don’t think I’ll be doing this forever but I’m doing it right now and loving it.

3. Did you go to school for this type of career path?

I was an English major in college. I always figured if you can read and write then you can do whatever. But I did 2 years at the University of Michigan and then bounced and wanted to just pursue my dreams. This is my 5th time here at the Toronto International Film Festival for E! and I get to interview so many different and interesting people. A lot of them I’ve crossed paths with many times over the years. And it’s still surreal and fun and it feels like the first day on the job.

4. What is your favourite part about being a journalist?

I remember when I was 12 or 13 years old, I saw the movie Saving Private Ryan. And the next day my dad was playing in a charity softball game and Ed Burns was there, who is in Saving Private Ryan. And I was 12 and I remember I saw the movie on Friday night and Saturday morning I sat in the dugout and talked with him about the movie for 2 hours; the whole game we were just talking about the movie. And I was like wow that is so cool: to be able to see a film and then just sit down with the creative people behind the movie and ask them whatever I want about anything. That’s what I really enjoy, just meeting so many new, interesting, talented people. Not just the people in front of the camera, not just the stars themselves, but there’s so many interesting people who work in this business in other capacities. Producers, writers, costume designers, and special effects people, I get to cross paths with a lot of them. So the thing I love about it is just being able to meet new people. Like meeting you right now - I have a cool new friend from Vancouver. That’s the coolest thing for me, is being able to get to meet all these interesting people.

5. You’ve been a film critic for quite some time, what would you say is your favourite movie of all time?

There’s a difference between my favourite movie and what’s the best movie of all time. And for me personally, the movie that means a lot to me is Good Will Hunting. It’s the first DVD I ever bought. I used to dress up with my friends in tracksuits and talk with Boston accents and go to the batting cages. Yeah that movie, it won Matt and Ben the Academy Award, won Robert Williams the Academy Award. It’s a film that’s funny, it’s a romantic film, it’s about friendship, it’s about maximizing your potential. It’s a lot of things we can all relate to and I think about that movie often. That’s probably my favourite movie if I had to pick just one.

6. How did you get involved with E!

I wish I had a better story, it’s kind of just a Hollywood story. My agent set me up for a meeting. I went in a met with them. This was December 2005. You know on E! where they have those talking head shows, where it’ll be like “101 Sexy Bikini Models” so I did a bunch of those here and there. I did some of their Oscar coverage in 2006. And then the Daily 10 started in March of 2006 and they gave me slot every Friday to review whatever new movies came out. And then from there I started doing interviews and slowly but surely I just started doing more stuff with them. And then finally, in like October of ’06, they offered me my first deal there so it took like 8 months, almost like 10 months, of just being around, hanging around and doing stuff. Comic-Con in 2006 I did a bunch of interviews, and that was when they were like Wow we really want to work with you. So that was great. But yeah it took a while, just kind of hanging out and being around and meeting as many people in the company. It’s a big company, there’s like 1000 people in our LA office and another thousand people around the world. So you kind of have to graciate yourself to everybody there. But that’s how I do it.

Part 2 of the interview will be up soon!

Check out a couple of these videos of Ben from E!


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