The first effort of this rising British filmmaker, "The Young Poisoner's Handbook" (1996) was made in 1994, shown at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival and created a buzz in Great Britain. Benjamin Ross showed promise as a cutting edge writer and director willing to challenge the limits. The feature was drawn from the real-life story of a 14-year old science enthusiast who poisons his entire family, is caught and imprisoned and then released after serving eight years. Soon after his release, he resumes his ways, poisoning his factory co-workers. Ross eschewed the label of black comedy claiming it was "nastier and more aggressive" in Premiere, (February 1996).
Born in London in 1964, Ross received a Super-8 camera when he was about nine years old. Fascinated by the Hammer horror films, he also showed an interest in the macabre. While studying English at Oxford, he spent summers in the USA working in various production capacities on soft-core porn and low-budget horror films (like 1985's "The Toxic Avenger"). His Super-8 faux documentary short "Rent Boy" (1988), about a male prostitute in Picadilly Circus, earned him a scholarship to Columbia University's film program. While at Columbia, he wrote and directed the war comedy short "Three Believers" (1990). After returning to England, he made "My Little Eye" (1992) under the auspices of Channel 4's "Short and Curlies" which subsequently was shown at film festivals in New York and Chicago. Ross eventually met screenwriter Jeff Rawle who was working on his own biopic of Graham Young, the titular poisoner, and they decided to collaborate. The resulting film was screened at festivals to generally good notices but received only a limited theatrical release in the USA.
For his follow-up, Ross was tapped to helm the long-gestating "RKO 281" (HBO, 1999). Originally conceived as a feature film, this behind-the-scenes account of the filming of the 1941 classic "Citizen Kane" found a home on cable. Ross directed with a sure hand and elicited fine performances from a cast that included Liev Schreiber as Orson Welles, John Malkovich as Herman J. Mankiewicz, James Cromwell as William Randolph Hearst and Melanie Griffith as Marion Davies. "RKO 281" received critical acclaim and earned several Emmy nominations, including one for Ross' efforts.
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Given 8 mm film and commences making amateur films (date approximate)
First screen credit as production apprentice on Troma's "The Toxic Avenger"
Made short Super-8 film, the faux documentary "Rent Boy"
Worked as uncredited production assistant on "Billy Bathgate"
While attending Columbia University, directed and scripted the short war comedy "Three Believers"
Wrote and directed short comedy "My Little Eye" for Britain's Channel 4
Filmed "The Young Poisoner's Handbook"; film shown at Sundance in 1995; released in the USA in 1996
Helmed the acclaimed HBO movie "RKO 281", about the making of Orson Welles' 1941 classic "Citizen Kane"; received Emmy nomination