Ben Carré a Parisian in Hollywood

Los Angeles, California | Film Feature

Documentary, History

Thomas Walsh

1 Campaigns | California, United States

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This campaign raised $24,096 for pre-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

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Ben Carré’s story and the origins of art direction for motion pictures has never been told. When Ben entered the cinema it was a struggling medium of low esteem. When he left, it was the dominant art form of Western civilization. Ben's legacy must finally take its rightful place in history.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

The collective memory of our cinematic origins as well as the stories behind the great silent classics are being lost. Our exceptional team of scholars, knowledge-keepers, and filmmakers will tell Ben's story and the untold tales about the origins of Art Direction for silent-films and the cinema

The Story


What does it feel like to witness a new art form come to life around you, or to create with no blueprint, only your instincts and inspiration?


Premier Motion Picture Art Director Ben Carré was born before film existed but based on his life story it seems like destiny that he came to define it. Quoting filmmaker and historian Kevin Brownlow's seminal book, "The Parade's Gone By"


"Whatever future the cinema may have will be based solidly on its past.

 Time is a human conception -- very much like a motion picture.

 And you cannot enjoy the last reel unless you know what happened in the first."

Based on Ben's 400-Page unpublished memoire, "Reminiscences of My Years as a Motion Picture Art Director," his closet friends, Kevin Brownlow, Mark Morris, and silent-film scholars, knowledge-keepers and filmmakers, will provide memories and context to the telling of his story.

Ben Carré, a Parisian in Hollywood is about a legendary Motion Picture Art Director and Scenic Artist who truly was one of the first painters of dreams for the cinema. Ben’s life and career is a hero’s journey, one that began in Paris in 1883 and continued for 94 years. As a young scenic apprentice in 1900, Ben’s natural ability to draw, paint, and visualize led him to a job painting scenic backdrops and scenery for the theatre and opera in Paris and London.

By 1906 movies had become a new wave of entertainment. It was at Cite Gaumont’s studios in Paris that the Studio’s director of production, Alice Guy-Blache hired Ben to become one of Gaumont’s first generation of art directors and scenic painters for the cinema. In 1912 Ben became part of the vanguard of French film artisans to work at America’s first and rapidly evolving center for motion picture production in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Hollywood beckoned in 1919 and Ben went on to work at Samuel Goldwyn’s new studio in Culver City, California.


For 31-years Ben created imaginative sets for hundreds of movies in Paris, New Jersey, and in Hollywood, where he worked with the leading directors, cameramen, and movie stars on films that are now regarded as classics and treasures of the silent-cinema. In 1937 Ben received an offer from MGM’s Supervising Art Director, Cedric Gibbons, to become the studio’s lead scenic artist. A life-long painter, Ben accepted the position, and a new chapter began allowing Ben to return to his origins as a scenic designer and artist where he could create his art  at will and without interference or delay. For the next 31-years Ben designed and painted backdrops for many of MGM’s most enduring classics. The Wizard of OZ, Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, and North by Northwest to name a few.


In 1964 after 65-years Ben retired from MGM at the age of 82. When he entered the motion picture business it was a struggling medium of low esteem. By the time he left, it was the dominant art form of Western civilization.


Ben Carré was called "The first true artist of American film." He was an artisan whose life is a bridge that connects us to the beginnings of cinema and Art Direction. His untold story places him at the epicenter of every pivotal moment in the history of Silent-films.

To state the obvious, no great film ever resulted from poor research or a bad script, especially a documentary that is dependent on the rapidly diminishing memories and history of its origins. Our knowledge of Ben's journey and the founding of Art Direction for the silent cinema is far too simplistic and poorly documented. The time is now while our remaining senior knowledge-keepers are still with us to debunk the myths surrounding Hollywood's domination of cinema's origins. We intend to give proper recognition to the true pioneers, heros, and the communities where the foundations were laid for the silent cinema and the future motion picture industry that followed.

We are blessed to have a unique and stellar team of filmmakers, scholars, and historians to advise and contribute to the telling of Ben's story. Most importantly we have Ben's written memoirs and two key friends who knew him well and through whom we can channel his voice and experiences. Utilizing excerpts from many of Ben's beautifully restored films, some which were feared lost, we will be able to experience and share the visual mastery of the cinematic achievements and legacy of Ben and his contemporaries.

Ben Carré Tribute Video:

Fundraising and Next Steps:

We are in a race against time. It is critical that we capture our most essential interviews with our key historians and knowledge-keepers while they are still with us. Your donations at any amount, and we hope they will be generous, will go towards this single purpose. From these interviews we will be able to craft a great shooting script and editorial plan for the telling and visualizing of Ben's story. After our Seed&Spark crowdfunding concludes we will be migrating our future fundraising efforts for completing the film over to The Film Collaborative, a non-profit organization where all larger contributions will be tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Airfares, Taxis, Trains, Hotels and Meals for Prodcution Team & Historians

Costs $17,000

Our first step is to go to New York, London, Paris, & Los Angeles,to capture on video interviews with our on-camera historians.

Camera, Audio & Location Services

Costs $5,000

We will need help with covering the cost of our camera and audio rentals and additional labor

Trasnportaion & Shipping Services

Costs $500

Trains, Taxis, and Equipment Shipping

Video assets migration and transcriptions

Costs $1,500

For logging of all video interview assets so we can complete our screenplay and begin our editing process.

About This Team

Thomas A. Walsh: Filmmaker

Thomas is an Emmy Award winning Production Designer whose career spans feature films, IMAX, documentaries, episodic series, and Broadway. Thomas was the initiating partner in the creation of the publications, Designs on Film: A Century of Hollywood Art Direction (Harper Collins) and The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop (Regan Arts). He has lectured and lead charettes about production design nationally and internationally. He founded the ADG Archives’ and initiated its Backdrop Recovery Project and current museum exhibition of historic MGM backdrops. Other passion pursuits include the initiating of the Michelson Cinema Research Library “”, and Art Directors Guild Production Design Initiative for emerging designers. Thomas served as president of the Art Directors Guild from 2001 to 2012.

Mark Morris: Cinematographer & Carré Family Trustee / Co Producer

Mark’s background in the film business began with his first mentor who was his next-door neighbor – one of the first art directors in Hollywood, Ben Carre. He went on to earn an MA degree in Film & TV Production at Loyola-Marymount University; to launch a Hollywood production company where he wrote and produced his first feature film at age 24, the Indie Thriller “Deadly Alliance,” as well as 100’s of hours of broadcast, cable and commercial television. He is an award-winning cinematographer of two-dozen feature films and docu-dramas, and co-producer of three one-hour documentaries (Culver City, The Reel Hollywood; A Man Who Fell From The Sky; Web of Secrecy, YF-23). 

Kevin Brownlow: Ben Carré Consultant / Film Historian

Kevin is a British film historian, television documentary-maker, filmmaker, author, and film editor. He is best known for his work documenting the history of the silent era, having become in the silent film at the age of elven. This interest grew into a career spent documenting and restoring film. Brownlow has rescued many silent films and their history. His initiative in interviewing many largely forgotten, elderly film pioneers in the 1960s and 1970s preserved a legacy of early mass-entertainment cinema. He received an Academy Honorary Award on 13 November 2010. This was the first occasion on which an Academy Honorary Award was given to a film preservationist.

Dr. Richard Koszarski: Fort Lee Consultant / Film Historian

Richard is a film historian and the formerly the chief curator at the American Museum of the Moving Image in New York. He was the founder of Film History: An international Journal, and served as editor-in-chief from 1987 to 2012. He is professor emeritus of English and film at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is currently the chief curator at the Barrymore Film Center in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Author of five books on film history including, Fort Lee the Film Town. Richard is a Barrymore scholar and his collection of materials on the early history of Universal Pictures is held in the Library of Congress.

Marc Wanamaker” Early Hollywood Consultant / Film Historian

Marc is an historical author, writing on early Los Angeles and Hollywood. He is the founder of Bison Archives in 1971, which manages research on the motion picture industry. He helped form and worked with the American Film Institute. He was co-founder of the Los Angeles International Film Exposition and American Cinematheque. Marc consults for motion picture and television productions, museums, libraries and other media and historical societies and institutions worldwide. At last count he was the author of 25 books about Hollywood and Southern California.

Cindy Peters-Murphy: Film Editor

Cindy is an Emmy nominated producer, member of the Producer’s Guild and has been creating content for major networks and brands for over 20 years. A graduate of Emerson College, she was recognized with an Evvy Award for Best Editor for a documentary that she shot called ‘No Name Fame.’ Her early career in Los Angeles was working in the art department on such projects as The Transformers Movie, Dexter and Monk which helped develop a deep appreciation for production design. Cindy has been creating and editing content for The Art Director’s Guild since 2010.

Clara Auclair: Early French Cinema Consultant / Film Historian

Clara a film scholar and preservationist based in Stockholm, Sweden. Clara earned her doctorate from the University of Rochester and Université Paris Cité and is a graduate from the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation. She has been a guest researcher at Cinémathèque Française in Paris and at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, NY. Clara specializes in early film history, labor, and gender studies. She has written about the work of early French set designers like Ben Carré in her dissertation on the history and memory of the French film industry settled in Fort Lee, NJ, in the 1910s. Clara has been a member of the executive committee of Domitor, the international association for early film research, since 2016, and its secretary since 2019.

Karen L. Maness: Scenic Artist Consultant / Scenic Arts Historian

Karen is an Assistant Professor of Practice at The University of Texas at Austin and Associate Director of the Fabrication Studios at Texas Performing Arts. Her research centers on Hollywood motion picture scenic artists and their studio art practices. She is the co-author of The Art of the Hollywood Backdrop, 2016 (ReganArts) and co-curator of the 2022 world premiere Boca Raton Museum of Art exhibition Art of the Hollywood Backdrop: Cinema’s Creative Legacy. Dedicated to preserving painting as a language, Maness teaches painting and visual communication to digital and analog artists through observational painting and Hollywood motion picture scenic art history. In addition, Maness has served as Commissioner of Scenic Design and Technology, Director for the United States Institute of Theatre Technology, US Delegate to OISTAT, and exhibition consultant for The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Museum.

Current Team