June 27th, 2014

Here at The Mill, every day is an opportunity to work with amazing directors, artists, musicians and an endless list of top creative minds. But it's not every day that we get to work with those that are nearest and dearest to us -- our own children. Ben Smith, creative director at The Mill studio in New York, got the opportunity to do just that when directing an oh-so-cute yet informative film for his kids’ school.

The Explorers Academy Preschool is a part of the NY City Explorers Group (NYCEG), a Brooklyn-based collective of four family-focused companies whose mission is to improve the quality of life and inspire their children, family, community and planet. The school wanted to create a film showcasing the program’s main features, its location, and most importantly, convey the vibe of the environment: relaxed, friendly and like another family.

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Since Ben's kids, Sadie (5) and Sonny (3), have attended the school for a number of years, he was the man for the job. Ben and his Mill crew came up with some fun ideas to make the kids a part of the process, in addition to the stars of the film.

Working with children can be wonderful – and frustrating – because you never really get what you expect. Some of the ideas were a beautiful success, like the time-lapse of the kids coloring a large school logo that connected well with the school’s motto: "It takes a village. So we built one."

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Other ideas were more fun in theory. A GoPro camera was attached to a helmet for the kids to wear, and voila, a kid’s eye-view. Which could be an amazing perspective to incorporate into the film, but in practice, most of the footage was a bit too crazy to use.

The kids were featured prominently throughout the film, playing, learning, reading, using their imaginations, and discovering how the world works. The crew was on set for two days interviewing the kids and following their daily routine. Everything was natural and relaxed. Nothing pre-rehearsed.

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The result is a beautifully shot film that demonstrates the close-knit loving environment through the adorable children, families and staff.


Director: Ben Smith
Director of Photography: Adam Carboni
Producer: Tia Perkins
Color: Mikey Rossiter
Editor: Alex Trierweiler
B-Camera Operator: Michael Girandola