From Dabble to Debut: A Filmmaker's Journey in Cinematic Arts

Ben Filler

Fresh out of high school with the uncertainty that comes from endless options, Ben Filler stood firm in his passion: the arts. His grounding was cemented in a love of music and film. 

Years later, Filler wrote his own story which led him to the heart of the cinematic world. 

He enrolled at Oakland Community College, made possible by the Michigan Reconnect Program, which offers free in-district tuition to qualifying Michigan residents. 

With the setting in place and a cast of dedicated instructors, Filler’s education flourished. The experience opened doors to a realm of creativity he had longed to explore.

“It was great to have free tuition and get through my general education classes while also pursuing classes focused on Cinematic Arts including writing, directing and post-production editing,” said Filler. “If you are eligible for the Michigan Reconnect Program, I would highly recommend it.”

“I learned so much from my Cinematic Arts professors, including Jack Cronin. I consider him not only a great professor but a friend,” he added.

Adding to Filler's storyline, he shared OCC Faculty Mary Moon’s Interpersonal Communication class was also life changing. He said the workload in that class was a lot but worth it.

“The skills we learned in this class are applicable in so many situations and settings,” said Filler. “I think that this class would benefit anyone, no matter what their academic pursuits are. With better interpersonal communications, the world would be a better place.” 

The bonds the 38-year-old student formed in his class were strong.

With a camera in hand and a story to tell, Filler, a golf lover, embarked on his most ambitious project: "The Illustrious Clyde Cup"

Set against the backdrop of a high-stakes mini-golf tournament in Detroit’s Lasky Recreation Center, the film captured the essence of competition and camaraderie. It showcases two rival teams pitting Detroit city residents with suburban counterparts.

The film was originally produced for Filler’s Special Projects in Digital Video class at OCC for his thesis film. It also earned him a coveted spot in the 2024 Greater Farmington Film Festival

“There were 63 submissions for the festival with many high-quality professional films. It was an honor and something I’m very proud of,” he said.

His film was filled with moments of levity and resonated with deeper themes of friendship and the human spirit. It is testament to his storytelling prowess. He found it gratifying to see the audience’s reaction to the film.

“There were lots of laughs and smiles,” he said. “People said it made them want to go out and play golf, so I love that it evoked good energy.”

Cronin said Filler’s exceptional passion for filmmaking has been an inspiration not only to him but for his fellow students as well. Cronin’s own short film, Island, was also featured in the festival. The film is a lyrical film postcard from Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. 

“Making films is so much harder than people think, and it’s great to see Ben receive the recognition he deserves for all the hard work he has put in on this project,” said Cronin. 

With an authentic love for filmmaking, combined with a relentless work ethic, Cronin adds that it’s not surprising that the Greater Farmington Film Festival programmed his film.

“The Illustrious Clyde Cup was not an easy film to make, there were a lot of moving parts, but Ben’s commitment to the project, combined with his outstanding aesthetic and storytelling sensibilities, produced a film that is not just about mini golf,” said Cronin. “It’s about comradery and the importance of taking time to enjoy and appreciate the people around you.”

New chapter includes further studies and possibly teaching

Fuller has his eyes set on continuing his Cinematic Arts education, possibly at Wayne State University or the University of Michigan. His OCC experience, including the opportunity to tutor students in the PHO 1800 Fundamentals of Digital Video class, has also sparked an interest in teaching. 

“There’s so much I learned at OCC, and I would love to impart that wisdom for the next generation,” he said. “I also hope future students will take it to heart to not be afraid to ask for help and take it. It can open many doors to your success.”

About OCC  

Offering nearly 100 degrees and certificates, OCC is Michigan’s largest multi-campus community college and one of the top transfer institutions in the state. The College provides academic, career training and enriching experiences, designed to empower students to reach their potential and enhance our community. More than 1 million students have enrolled in the College since it opened in 1965. A seven-person Board of Trustees governs OCC. Board members are elected on a non-partisan, at-large basis, serve as volunteers and are not paid. Mission statement: OCC is committed to empowering our students to succeed and advancing our community. Learn more at


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