NAHS alumnus up for Academy Award
North Augusta High School's alumni now includes at least one member with a keen stake in the Academy Awards. Steven Benjamin, a 2008 graduate, may become a part of on Oscar-winning team.
"I'm a visual-effects artist," he said. "I've loved movies ever since I was a kid. I was very artistic, and I loved technology."
These days, he lives in Santa Monica, Calif., "on the beach," and is working for a company called Eden FX.
"As someone who loves movies, to be working on a movie is a joy in itself, right then and there. I enjoy waking up in the morning and going to my job. I look forward to it every night."
So far, he works in various studios, including three in Santa Monica. "Right now ... wherever the studio's at is where I'll go."
In middle school, he developed a particular interest in computer work and focused on computer-assisted architectural design while in high school. Drafting, math and geometry were major parts of the mix.
Following his North Augusta years, he went on to study computer animation at Full Sail University, in Orlando, Fla., studying computer animation.
About a year later, he wound up with a role in producing visual effects for "Marvel's The Avengers." Following were similar duties with "Prometheus" and "Life of Pi," and all three movies are Oscar nominees for their visual effects.
Benjamin also helped arrange the look of "G.I. Joe: Retaliation," "Skyfall" and the final "Twilight" movie.
"We just finished up a couple of shots for 'NCIS,' the TV show," he said.
Among Benjamin's boosters is Martha Butts, who is now in her second year of retirement after 37 years as a teacher.
She recalled teaching Benjamin, whom she described as a "renaissance scholar," in advanced composition. "He's creative, he's intellectual, and he's passionate about what he loves."
Butts added, "It does not surprise me that he's up for Academy Awards. He's doing what I so admire in young people. He's living his dream."
Retired teacher former teacher Galan Potter, who also had a 37-year classroom career, made similar comments. "First of all, he just had a real knowledge for computers, and you could just see the enthusiasm he had for learning about computers."
She also cited "his personality and his perseverance" as major factors in his favor, along with his dependability and high level of ethics.
"I think he's always known what he wanted to do, and ... he just kept on pushing forward, and he's living the dream for himself," said Potter, who led the school's International Baccalaureate program, in which Benjamin participated.
Butts noted that Benjamin's talent was particularly evident in a book that he produced in her class. "He did a pop-up book about a pirate, and I would show that book every year as what you should do ... It was so awesome, the talent that he displayed in that."
She added, "Living in today's society, it is the exception rather than the rule to find a student like Steven Benjamin ... because he is so polite and well-mannered and respectful. His ethics speak loudly for him."
Getting into the movie business was "very difficult," Benjamin said.
"It's been a lot of hard work just trying to perfect my own skills and everything, to get to the point where I'm at now, where they're usable and good enough for feature films," he said.
He added, "I have been told numerous times, 'No,' and I was just like, 'I don't take 'no' for an answer. I'm going to keep going.'"
Determination, he said, is a huge factor in his favor. "I'm very determined to keep going. You've got to have an artistic eye. To succeed, you've got to be a good problem-solver, but determination will take you a very long way."