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4 Questions for Local Filmmaker Ben Zuckert


Although he has been turning heads with films shot in the county, Ben Zuckert is no Hollywood transplant. The Westchester native went to Mamaroneck High before becoming a respected director with his 2016 work Larchmont, named for the town in which he was raised. His new film, Noah Wise, stars newcomer Raffaela Meloni and Jessica Jones alum Mat Vairo, who plays a musically inclined young man searching for fulfilling employment. We caught up with Zuckert to talk about his new flick, which premiered locally at The Emelin Theatre in May, as well as what lies ahead.


How did you first get into filmmaking?

I grew up writing songs and making videos and, by the end of college, I realized independent film could combine those different interests. I didn’t study filmmaking in school. I watched and read a lot and taught myself by trial and error.

When I started learning more about various directors I liked, I started seeing a trend of not attending film school, which gave me the idea that maybe it was possible to pursue it in a more independent way.


Film stills from Zuckert’s Noah Wise


Tell me a bit about Larchmont and how it led to Noah Wise.

Larchmont was my first feature, which I shot quickly after graduating. It was inspired by growing up there, how the town looks during the summer, and moving back home. I moved to Brooklyn after releasing it and about a year later started writing Noah Wise.

I was inspired by my neighborhood in Park Slope and the various people I’d met along the way. I also wanted to write less autobiographically and more personally. So, this story is more fictionalized but with emotions a bit closer to home.


“I grew up writing songs and making videos and, by the end of college, I realized independent film could combine those different interests.”


How did you manage to cast the two stars of the film, Mat Vairo and Raffaella Meloni? They seem to have incredible chemistry.

I’m glad you thought so. I worked with a casting director who was able to pitch the project to various actors and agencies, despite my not having a name. Raffaella was a senior in college when I cast her and was still unsigned.

When I heard her demos of her voice, I knew she could carry the film, especially the last performance. Mat had portrayed more dramatic characters in various shows, so I was excited to see him show a more comedic side.


Film stills from Zuckert’s Noah Wise


What lies ahead for you and your films?

[Noah Wise] is playing at two festivals this summer — one in Germany and one in South Africa. In the U.S., it’s currently available online to rent or buy on Amazon. I’m currently writing a new script about a rabbi.

I’ve been thinking more about political and religious ideas, but in a modern way, with characters who have very specific world outlooks and philosophies — but I still have a while to go. 


Noah Wise is available on Amazon for purchase or rental now.

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