Humans of Lee: John Bentley, Film Major
This week I met up with John Bentley, a sophomore film major, in a quiet corner of an otherwise bustling PCSU. John transferred into Lee this fall, but his life up to this point has been a mixture of educational experiences, traveling adventures and artistic passions.
Born in Texas, John moved to Georgia when he was five. He lived there for 11 years before finally landing in Tennessee.
“We moved around because of my dad’s job. It’s a ministry called Crown Financial Ministries. When he got hired full time we moved to Georgia, and then he eventually became the CEO, and he decided to move the ministry up to Tennessee. We have been living here for four years in November,” he explained.
Through all of these transitions, John experienced almost every type of educational system possible: public school, private school, co-op, and online school. John gives credit for the majority of his education to homeschooling.
“There are perks for homeschooling but I don’t think it was the best thing for me,” John said. He had found his need for society left a bit unfulfilled by his schooling circumstances. “I think I needed to be with people because I'm an introvert. It’s hard for me to actually go out of my way and meet people, and the only way I was doing it was through church.”
John isn't one to simply sit at home.
“I’ve travelled a lot. My dad works for a ministry. He travels around the world for that, and I had the privilege of going with him a lot,” he said. “When I was ten we decided we would take an international trip once a year, so I have been in a lot of places.”
"A lot of places" may be an understatement. John has visited five out the seven continents, spending time in countries like Israel, Brazil, Venezuela, Switzerland, China, Singapore and Bali.
“Africa was my favorite trip because we went to five different countries: South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia,” John said. “We were in Malawi for a month just living in the community and helping the locals learn new and more effective ways of farming. I was able to experience a totally different aspect from what I was used to.”
John wasn’t able to see the usual landmarks of each country that tourists immediately seek out since the trips were ministerial in nature.
“I didn’t really like that; if I were just traveling by myself I feel that I would have a different experience,” he said. “But at the same time, we went to places that regular tourists don’t usually see. In Africa, we got to go into the villages and be in people’s homes. It's just a really different experience from a tour that one would normally take.”
Apart from traveling, John has a serious passion for movies. With a visible twinge of embarrassment, he admitted his biggest accomplishment in life was watching five hundred movies in one year.
“It all started because I realized I needed to watch more movies, and I am so glad I did because now I can talk about all sorts of movies; I would do marathons of directors and genres,” he recalls. “I did it in one year to the day. I started on New Year's Eve and finished at 11 at night on the following December 31st.”
His record of movies watched in one day sits at ten.
"I would never do it again. It was horrible,” John said, laughing.
His love for the movie-making process began through his dad’s ministry, which makes biblical short films for teaching tools. Being on set gave him the experience and opportunity to see the process behind creating movies.
“Soon after that I was just dragged right into it; I just loved it. I wanted to have a camera and start making my own stuff,” he explained. “But for a long time, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to do music or film. Then I saw ‘The Big Lebowski,’ and I just loved everything about it. Even though it’s not the greatest movie ever, it showed me what movies could be.”
John named David Fincher, who is widely known for directing “Fight Club,” and Denis Villeneuve, who most recently directed “Blade Runner 2049,” as the directors who inspire him most.
“Their movies are so perfect but so raw; everything is so meticulous and just the type of movies that I would want to make,” he said.
Before transferring to Lee, John was a film major at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville for a year. But after finding Lee and touring the campus, he didn’t waste any time in applying.
“I love Lee. I have made so many friends almost instantly. I think living in the dorm and being on campus was one of the best decisions I’ve made so far, just because I was not getting that at community college,” he said.
Before we parted ways, John handed out some advice for his fellow Lee students.
“Get connected,” he said. “For me, that’s what has really been the biggest part of Lee. You can go up and talk to anybody and they’re not going to turn you away. If you get involved, you can make strong friendships.”