Ben Winston – the man behind One Direction’s Jewish factor!
August 28, 2013
Producer Ben Winston, son of renowned scientist Lord Robert Winston, tells Francine Wolfisz about working with One Direction, the release of their new film This Is Us – and why Harry Styles insists on tweeting in Yiddish…
Tell me about the red-carpet premiere of This Is Us in Leicester Square.
It was wonderful! Thousands of people came down to Leicester Square to get a look at the boys on the red carpet. Then again, I’m never surprised these days because wherever we’ve gone, from Mexico to Japan, America and Australia, thousands of people turn up to see them.
For the last two years, you have produced and directed all their music videos and have really got to know them. What is your impression of them?
One of the best things about One Direction is they have stayed grounded and genuine. Whenever they can, they go home to see their families. They are very close friends off stage and on it and support each other. They are always mucking around. There’s an anarchic feel about them which makes my job far more fun.I can’t get many artists to do some of the things I get these boys to do!
How did you start working with them?
I directed JLS: Eyes Wide Open and at the premiere of the film, One Direction was there as they have the same management. I instantly got on really well with them. We had a great rapport and made each other laugh. The boys are very loyal. They have stuck with the same people since the beginning and I’ve been fortunate to be the guy that makes their films and music videos. It’s been great working with them.
Ben Winston with One Direction at the VMAs in New York
Does your film really get under the skin of who One Direction are?
It really does. They come across as five of the nicest, sweetest guys you could meet and that is genuine. I look at them like they are my five little brothers. It’s fantastic to see how big they have become and how they have coped with it – as well as their families. Louis’ mum says he’s only been home five days in three years since The X Factor. That’s an incredibly hard thing for a mum to cope with. We think about our Jewish mums and how much they cry their eyes out when we leave to go on our gap years. These boys went to an audition and never came home. Although their parents burst with pride, there is a huge strangeness in that the son in the bedroom upstairs has been replaced with a cardboard cut-out and posters of them. That is something we wanted to delve into in the movie. It’s a strange existence.
The band’s latest music video, Best Song Ever won an MTV Video Music Award at the weekend. The video sees the boys dressing up and adopting alter egos. Did you have fun making it and who was your favourite transformation?
I loved making it. We shot the video in an old shul in Miami, which is now a museum space called The Temple. My favourite transformation was Niall as the studio executive. I would have said Zayn was great as the girl, but I found him a bit freaky really. I enjoy working with all sorts of artists, but I really don’t think you would get Adele or Coldplay doing that kind of video. They are a band that will go full-throttle with my ideas and that’s why I love working with them.
On Twitter, Harry loves sending out tweets featuring Yiddish and Hebrew phrases and Marvin from JLS loves calling you a “mensch”. I have to ask, is this your doing? Have you Jewishified all the boy bands?!
(Laughs) It absolutely is! I’ve had them all round for a Friday night meal. And every Friday, without question, I will get a Shabbat Shalom text from Marvin! As for Harry, he loves the Jewish community and wearing a Magen David. He always has it round his neck and had it on show at the recent Teen Choice Awards. All the boys love Judaism. They are fascinated by it and they enjoy the family atmosphere. Over the years they have become part of our family really and are interested in what we do. I had to laugh because the other night on the red carpet, a reporter asked Harry why he was a bit late arriving that night. He said, “Yeah, because our manager is a nudnik!” They’ve definitely embraced a Jewish way of life, that’s for sure.
What do your family and friends think of you working with One Direction?
I have four gorgeous nieces, but unfortunately none are old enough to appreciate it! My mum and dad were at the premiere last week and really enjoyed it. They were shocked we had brought the capital city to a standstill for our movie – and the boys are huge fans of my father. They were so excited to meet him.
Ben with his wife Meredith and Simon Cowell at the London premiere of This Is Us
Actually my dad started off as a theatre director. When he was in his late teens he won an award at the Edinburgh Festival. He was very talented in the arts, but felt he wanted to do something more worthwhile with his life and that’s when he decided to go into medicine. But he’s always had a real creative flair and an interest in the arts. As a child, I always went to the theatre. Arts and culture was a big part of my background. Dad has done a lot of wonderful television programmes as well and I got the bug from seeing him making Human Bodies, Child of Our Time and Making Babies. Both my parents are just phenomenal – you couldn’t find more supportive people.
You founded your company, Fulwell 73 in 2006 with three friends from Bnei Akiva – Leo Pearlman and brothers Gabe and Ben Turner. Since then you have worked with Robbie Williams, Justin Bieber, Kevin Spacey, David Beckham and Gary Barlow. What’s next in the pipeline for you all?
Gabe is about to direct his first feature film, Leo is working on a few projects, Ben has a brilliant animation that he has written and I’ll be working on the next One Direction music video. It’s just so happened that I’ve fallen into more pop and mainstream things, but I love that. It’s exciting. I don’t know where else I could have made a video for 75 million people to view! That’s mad, but also very wonderful.
This Is Us (PG) is released in cinemas on Thursday.
Watch the trailer for One Direction: This Is Us! below