TALKING PICTURES with Ben Goldstein







MON. 9/25 @ 7:30 PM  TUES 9/26  @ 1 PM



Q&A with director

Ben Goldstein at the Royal

after 7:30PM screening.-9/25/17

Q&A with Ben Goldstein &

Huntington Library Curator

Sue Hodson at Playhouse 7

after 1 PM screening 9/26/17

Jack London, child laborer, pirate, sailor and prospector,rises from poverty to become the highest paid, most popular and most controversial author in the world.   London’s character, love life, writings and personal philosophy are elucidated through interviews with leading  scholars, his own photographs and vintage film clips. From the Klondike to The Far East to the South Seas, his adventures, romances and political views make headlines worldwide. Narrated by Barry Chiate; Music by James Behr; A FILMUS, INC. PRODUCTION.




Tell me about yourself. 

Even before I began making my documentary film, Jack London: American Original, I had begun turning London’s life story into a series of plays. I originally began writing plays in the late 60’s and had been successful in getting several produced. I was the co-author and lyricist of Caviar, the first rock and roll ballet, which was produced at the Delacorte Theatre by Joseph Papp and then on Broadway at the Ante Theatre. My musical satire, Looice, was one of the two first children’s plays produced at the Eugene O’Neill Conference. It went on to run in repertory for ten years at “The First All Children’s Theatre” and was the first children’s play to be put on by Joseph Papp at the Anspacher Theatre. My children’s musical The Adventures of Guess Again, also ran at the Anspacher. Many of the songs from The Adventures of Guess Againran for many years on “Sesame Street”. When I graduated from NYU film school, I began making films for Sesame Street.

So, before I was a filmmaker, I was a playwright. The first two plays of my Jack London Trilogy, First Loves and Jack London: Sex, Love and Revolution were given workshop productions by Marvell Repertory Company. In 2013, Sex, Love and Revolution was performed at the New York Fringe Festival. I have just finished the third play in the trilogy, An Evening with Jack and Charmian London, and will be presenting a staged reading soon. Stay tuned!

Here is a short bio – in another form if you prefer.

Writer/Producer/Director – Jack London: American Original –a feature length documentary on the life of Jack London. Playwright, trilogy of plays on the life of Jack London. First Loves and Jack London, Sex, Love and Revolution  produced by Marvell Repertory and Jack London, Sex, Love and Revolution produced by Filmus, Inc. at the Fringe Festival. Librettist/lyricist, The Storyteller, produced by Marvell Repertory’s Reading Series. Librettist/lyricist/director, The Secret of Our Souls:  A Kabalistic Love Story,  performed at the Minetta Lane Theatre.  Co-author/lyricist,  Caviar,  performed at the Delacorte Theatre and on Broadway at the Ante Theatre.   Author of the award winning plays, Guess Again and Looice,  performed at The Public Theatre and The First All-Children’s Theatre. Lyricist/producer/director of more than 20 songs and films for Sesame Street. His children’s songs have sold millions of copies. His short children’s films have appeared at the Museum of Modern Art and on television around the world.


Tell me why we should care about Jack London at this time?

The period between 1890 and 1916 closely parallels our times. The issues of the day were financial panics, exploitation by the robber barons, unemployment, child labor, homelessness, racism, immigration, the labor union movement and Socialism versus Capitalism. In the early 1900’s Jack London was not only the most popular writer in the world he was the spearhead for much of the political and social dialogue on these matters.

My goal in creating this work is to celebrate the work of an artist, writer, photographer and political figure whose star has dimmed over the years.  He is not a perfect figure, and I present him warts and all. But his achievements so far outweigh his deficiencies that I feel his place in literature and history needs to be reevaluated. Besides bridging the gulf between romantic and modern literature, he helped foster significant social legislation.  His passionate lifestyle and work made him the template for such writers as Ernest Hemingway, Robert E. Howard, Eugene O’Neill, Jack Kerouac and numerous others.

Today most people remember Jack London as the author of “Call of the Wild” (which is still being reprinted in almost every language in the world). But Jack London’s work is far greater than just one book. Several of his short stories including “The White Silence,” and to “To Light A Fire” are among the best ever written, and his novels, “Martin Eden,” and “The Sea Wolf” still hold their place as formidable literary achievements. His social writings, such as “War of the Classes” and “The Iron Heel,” present stirring ideas and concepts that are still relevant today. While he is considered a juvenile writer here in America, he is considered a serious political and social critic throughout Europe and Russia. Part of the reason for his diminished status was due to his Socialism and the repression of his works during the 1950’s in America. Another reason is that although many of the heroes in London’s stories are non-white, several of his novels exhibit blatant racism and follow the tenets of Social Darwinism. These works reflect the bigotry of his times and views that are anathema to us today.  London often changed his position with regard to race and race relations, sometimes denying he supported the “brotherhood of man” and other times espousing it. Towards the end of his life he was trying to encourage a better understanding between races.

Until recently Jack’s photographs have been totally ignored. It is my intention to give these works a chance to be seen for the great social and artistic record they are.

I use interviews with London scholars to elucidate Jack’s character, lifestyle, love life and personal philosophy, and show how they reflected and conflicted with the political, and social mores of his times.

Jack London is the template for the “modern hero,” who rebels against the hypocrisy of society and through his own hard work helps change it for the better.  His is an inspiring tale of a child laborer and eighth grade dropout who, through his own efforts, becomes the highest paid, most popular and most controversial author of his day.

His refrain, “I’d rather be ashes than dust,” sums up his passion for life.


How did the film go in New York?

A rough cut of the film was screened at the New York City Independent film festival and I had several offers for distribution. No one at that time wanted to release the film theatrically so I decided to release the film to schools and Libraries through Kanopy Streaming. It has as a result been used at dozens of colleges throughout the USA.  The film subsequently has had only two private screenings in New York, one at NYU’s Tamiment Library and one at the Dramatist’s Guild. As a result of the screening at the Dramatists Guild, the distributor, “Jeeters and Deuters” asked me if they could set up a theatrical release at the Laemmle Theaters in California and I agreed. It has never had a theatrical release in New York

Who is today’s “Jack London?” 

Jack London was the rock star of his day. He was extremely charismatic and in many ways was a combination of a Bernie Sanders on the political/social side mixed with the looks and appeal of a Leonardo DiCaprio.  He like DiCaprio was also an environmentalist. There is no single individual today in the political or literary world that holds the sway Jack London had in his day.

Orson Welles is known for film but loved the live theater more. You’ve had forays in both areas so … theater or film … which is better? 

I love them both. My work originally grew out of a love for poetry and storytelling. The poetry developed into songs and the songs developed into shows and films. Many of my films are based on songs or have strong musical backgrounds. My documentary work originally began with my children’s films and environmental concerns and developed into longer form storytelling. I love a good story, whether in theater or on film.

What’s your ultimate goals for the film… artistic and commercial? 

My goal in making the film was to tell a great story that had never before been truthfully or adequately told before. Jack’s London’s desire to live to the fullest and fight for justice has always been very inspiring to me. I hope the film will inspire others to feel some of that passion and use it to fight for social, political and environmental justice. As Jack would say “the game is worth the candle.” Commercially, who knows? It would be terrific if it is commercially successful but I have always been more involved with telling a great story that is inspirational regardless of the numbers it reaches rather than one that is designed to make money.