Editor Ben Kaplan shows off the world of wrestling in VICE TV’s ‘Dark Side of the Ring’
Ben Kaplan remembers the exact moment when he realized he wanted to pursue a career as a film editor. At the time, he knew he wanted to make movies and television shows, but was unsure what field to pursue. That was until he was sitting with a television editor in the edit suite and was shown the creative freedom an editor has on a show.
He saw how easy it was to change the feel of a scene by swapping in and out a music cue, how a sentence can be switched around to add drama, or how one look could change the intent of a scene. Instantly, Kaplan’s mindset shifted, realizing that the ultimate job of an editor is a storyteller.
“I love the freedom that editing gives me. Like any job of course you have deadlines, but with editing there’s an incredible amount of freedom that comes out of being able to create something from nothing, and not only that but knowing that there are an infinite number of ways to shape a story,” says Kaplan. “Editing is like being a chef; someone can hand you a bin of raw ingredients and you’re allowed to create whatever you like out of that bin. I find the entire job fascinating, exciting, and creatively inspiring day in and day out.”
Kaplan is an industry leading editor, nominated at the Canadian Cinema Editors Awards three times since 2018. His work has been seen and appreciated by millions on acclaimed outlets such as CNN, History Channel, Discovery+, VICE, and the Emmy award-winning media company’s television channel VICELAND (now VICE TV).
Kaplan was working at VICE when it first launched its television channel, VICELAND. At the time, he was just wrapping up his work on their series Tattoo Age, which profiled some of America’s most iconic tattoo artists. He was tasked with editing the series finale, which was a one hour retrospective into the life and work of Ed Hardy.
Because of the talent he was able to show on that series, he was asked to be a part of a new series highlighting the intimacies of the professional wrestling world. His work on VICELAND’s Dark Side of the Ring was an instant success, becoming the network’s highest rated series to date when it first aired, and the viewership continued to rise with each passing week.
“I’ve always been an avid fan of any and all true crime docs. Whenever Netflix has a new true crime series, I always binge it within the first few days of airing, so the opportunity to work on a true crime docu-series felt like a perfect fit. Wrestling was a genre that always interested me because it’s a world of smoke and mirrors where you never know what’s fact or fiction. It was incredible to listen to stories straight from the horses’ mouth and really get into the nitty gritty of what went down behind closed doors,” says Kaplan.
Dark Side of the Ring is a true-crime docu-series that profiles and explores the dark underbelly of wrestling. Kaplan was responsible for editing two episodes of the first season, and one of his episodes (‘The Last of the Von Erichs’) was nominated in 2020 by the Canadian Cinema Editors for ‘Best Editing in a Docu-series’. The show still has critical acclaim, spawning multiple spin offs and even garnering attention from WWE star turned famed actor ‘The Rock’ on Twitter.
“Like any show I work on I’m always grateful to simply be a part of such an enthusiastic team, so being able to relish in its success is just icing on the cake. What was crazy for me when it came to Dark Side of the Ring was not only the fan reactions, but the celebrity reactions as well. I remember when the series first premiered, we all hopped on Twitter and saw that The Rock was tweeting about the show. Nothing quite says ‘that was a hit’ like when The Rock starts talking about your show on Twitter,” Kaplan recalls.
Coming on in a show’s first season is always of interest for an editor, as they are responsible for a unique tone and style to a series. Kaplan was ready for that creative challenge, diving into endless hours of wrestling archive, bold interview subjects, and stylistic recreation footage. By spending so much time and detail going through the footage, Kaplan was able to deeply enhance the story, finding great wrestling nuggets that their interview subjects dropped. He seamlessly wove those anecdotes into the overall story, instantly engaging audiences all over the world.
“A project like Dark Side of the Ring was such an archive heavy show, and I find shows that are able to really dive into the texture of old footage so enjoyable. I love being able to source hours of raw footage and having the freedom to take a modern approach with old visuals. Everything shot nowadays is very clean, that it’s such a refresher to be able to dig into a series that takes you back in time and really throws you in a hole of nostalgia,” he says.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to see Kaplan’s enthralling work on Dark Side of the Ring, you can catch up on VICE TV, or Crave in Canada.
Photo by Brendan McNeill