After spending his teenage years longing to break free of suburbia, the adult Benjamin Richards moved on to diverse locales including Montreal and New York City. Now he is turning his artistic eye on Las Vegas and UNLV.
The video designer job in the creative services department was a newly created position and I actually enjoy the opportunity to build something from scratch. I have done that in the last few jobs I’ve had and I find that rewarding. Also, I enjoy working for institutions with a certain amount of prestige.
What are a few of your duties?
My job is to manage UNLV’s marketing video assets — to facilitate and generate new video content for web and social platforms.
How is UNLV different from other places you have worked?
It’s so young. I’ve always worked for ancient, established institutions. It’s neat to see the flexibility that the school has because of its youth.
Where did you work before arriving at UNLV?
I was the live events video director for the New York Public Libraries (NYPL). My chief responsibility was video production for a live event talk series titled LIVE from the NYPL featuring many famous people. (Actress) Helen Mirren was interesting and one of my favorites. (Author) Elizabeth Gilbert was really interesting. (Director) John Waters is such a character and has such great stories from life. (Boxer) Mike Tyson was a big surprise. He is a big war history buff — ancient wars. Once the moderator got him on the topic he just talked and talked about ancient war history. It was fascinating, the breadth of his knowledge.
How did you get into your field?
I have been doing video since I was a kid and my grandfather gave me his VHS camcorder. I made bizarre little videos. I founded the video club at my high school. I always thought I wanted to make music videos. You could get experimental and avant-garde and still have high production values. Then I left film for a while and eventually got my bachelor of arts in dance from Sacramento State. I aspired to be a professional dancer, but I started studying late and didn’t quite have the physical discipline. The two worlds met when I started doing video for dance. Dance is always going to be a part of my life. I definitely see the world through a lens of movement. It translates into my work. I see the camera as a dancer.
What is the biggest challenge in your field?
The quality of focus on the platforms in which my product is consumed. Now it is mostly consumed on social media. The quality of the audience’s attention span is poor and short. How do you present something in video that will capture somebody’s attention and hold it long enough to deliver a message? Another challenge is needing to produce content that can be consumed with and without sound.
When you are creating something, you want people to give it the attention they would give a good book that has some nuance and artistry to it. It is difficult to find the space today to share content that way.
Where did you grow up?
California – all over. I guess I lived the longest in El Dorado Hills outside Sacramento. It was frustrating at that age — middle school, high school — I was champing at the bit for my freedom and I felt trapped in suburbia.
Tell us something daring you have done.
Living in Montreal was daring. Moving to New York was daring, too. I lived in Montreal for three years. I had to figure out the work visas and everything. Then I moved to New York City with no job and no home.
Finish this sentence, “If I couldn’t work in my current field, I would like to…”
Work in a greenhouse. I love plants, particularly tropical plants. I raise orchids. To make a living I might design wall mounts, hanging orchids, and hanging plants. I discovered the Las Vegas Orchid Society. Hundreds of orchids may be brought into town for a big event and then tossed out afterward. The Las Vegas Orchid Society gets these “rescue” orchids and sells them cheap. I buy them and grow them in my bedroom. Then I can experiment with my designs.