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Alumni Feature: Ben Ketai, Andover Class of 2000

What was your favorite experience as a Bloomfield Hills Schools student?

All things performing arts. We had the most incredible programs which nurtured a unique stock of smart, fun, creative students you'd be hard-pressed to find at your average public high school. Patricia Clees's forensics class in particular was special to me. Her classroom was a daily sanctuary in the storm of academics. A place where friends and performers could gather without judgment. Some of my fondest high school memories were cultivated in that room. 

What were the most important lessons you learned at Bloomfield Hills Schools?

To be yourself. Or... myself. But yea, in general, how important it is to "be yourself." It was such an eclectic mix of students with such a diverse range of interests and the school provided a myriad of outlets for all of it. It helped me feel comfortable in my own skin at an age when it's very hard to do that. I think that's a special hallmark of BH Schools.    

Were there any classes that you took in BHS that helped inspire you to become a film director and producer?

I'd known I wanted to be a filmmaker since I was a little kid, but Doc Learmont's film & video class was the one that helped me grow and gain the confidence to actually pursue that life. To this day I still marvel at how lucky I was to have that class to help me put the pieces together.

Share a bit about your current venture, creating Startup, how it grew, and how it got picked up by Netflix. 

Startup came about back in 2015 when the execs at Sony Crackle brought me in to try and crack the story of what they hoped would be a thriller exploring the intersection of tech and crime in one of the most dynamic cities in America: Miami. The result was the pilot episode for STARTUP, and we were lucky enough to have the foreign sales team get behind it and quickly greenlight us for a full series order. After a crazy intense six months filming in beautiful Puerto Rico, and another frantic three months of post-production back in LA, the show was finally born. Early screenings were so well received that Amazon swooped in and partnered with Sony to distribute it globally, immediately triggering another two seasons. We completed and aired Season 3 on Crackle in 2018, and after that, the long strange journey came to an end. Or so I thought. Three years, one global pandemic, one political insurrection, and a powerful race revolution later, Netflix saw fit to license the show from Sony and give it a new life on their massive platform. I honestly had nothing to do with that part. In fact, I learned about it when a friend emailed me to congratulate me on the Netflix pickup. As you can imagine, I was over the moon about it. Our show was finding a new audience and it was growing extraordinarily fast. 

Share a bit about yourself - your job, where you live, favorite pastimes.

I bounce around from being a writer to a producer to a director but I generally just consider myself a storyteller. Anything with a good story to tell I want to be involved in. Currently I'm living in Santa Monica with my wonderful wife (who I met at Andover), my two rambunctious kids, and two dogs. When I'm not working there's hardly much time for anything else but family these days, but if the seldom window presents itself I enjoy cooking, going for walks, or watching Detroit sports. 17 years since I've lived there and still can't quit my Pistons or Lions.  

What advice would you give current students or alumni?

To the students I would say, and I know I'll sound like an old fart on this, but... embrace every moment right now. Good and bad. They're such rich, complicated times but there are no other times like them in your life. I had my ups and downs like any high schooler, but looking back I wouldn't trade a second of it for anything. And hang on to the friends that matter. There is no replacement for the people you come up with.


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