The junior linebacker has been interested in a film career most of his life, making movies from a young age. He also made 11 tackles in his first start Friday against Rutgers.
The movie was a parody of “Indiana Jones.” Ben Burr-Kirven, playing the lead, starred as “Minnesota Jones,” and he insisted on doing all his own stunts.
It remains the favorite childhood film Carter Burr-Kirven has directed with his little brother.
“Ben, he was always the sporty guy, doing all the stunts — jumping off cliffs and shooting toy guns,” Carter said. “It was my job to make him look cool.”
Ben was 5, maybe 6, when he watched “Star Wars” for the first time with his big brother. From then, his outlook on life was forever shifted.
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Football has long been Ben’s passion. It’s what got him to the University of Washington as an undersized middle linebacker who, in the first start of his collegiate career last week, made a game-high 11 tackles in the Huskies’ 30-14 victory at Rutgers.
Film has been his lifelong pursuit. Lately, he has been hooked on foreign films, but it all goes back to that “Star Wars” day with Carter. After that, they could usually be found filming movies in the backyard, or while they were out camping, or just about everywhere they went together.
“If I’m not playing football, that’s what I want to do,” Ben said. “I just love movies. I don’t know if it’s making movies or being a critic, I just want to be around it.”
Ben and Carter’s first movies were shot in their family’s living room at home in Menlo Park, Calif. They simply used the web camera on their desktop iMac, so the stage and the camera angles never changed.
As they got older, their parents invested in better equipment. They eventually began writing scenes together, then acted them out. Ben would inevitably play the main character, and Carter became adept at shooting and editing.
Films and theater remain a big part of their lives.
This spring, Ben selected UW’s new film program as his major. He says he’s the only football player he knows of with that major at UW. He’s probably one of the few football players you’ll find doing that anywhere.
He has taken a class on the history of horror films (“American Nightmares”), one 300-level film noir class, another on African-American film, and another on the history of film from 1960-90.
He’s not sure where all that will lead him after school, and after football. He would like to work in the film industry somehow, whether it’s making movies or critiquing them.
“I just know that’s the one thing, besides football, that I’m passionate about,” he said. “I want to understand it. I want to learn more about it and then see where it takes me.”
A strong start
The game film from Friday looked pretty good. Burr-Kirven, a 6-foot, 222-pound junior, got his first start for the Huskies in place of preseason All-American Azeem Victor. Burr-Kirven switched over from weakside linebacker when Victor’s backup, sophomore D.J. Beavers, was injured in practice last month. (He’s expected to be out at least a few more weeks.)
Burr-Kirven was “outstanding” against Rutgers, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski said.
“He was a warrior, man. He played really well. Really well,” Kwiatkowski said Tuesday.
Victor, after serving a one-game suspension, will be back this weekend when the No. 7 Huskies play Montana in their home opener. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium. (Victor is back to his usual menacing ways in practice this week, Kwiatkowski said. “He’s been good — flying around, being Azeem.”)
Even with Victor’s return, Burr-Kirven will remain a key part of UW’s defensive plan — so much so that Kwiatkowski said Victor could see time at outside linebacker, particularly in pass-rushing situations.
The Huskies are stacked at inside linebacker. Keishawn Bierria is the leader of the defense, senior Sean Constantine had three tackles against Rutgers, and Kwiatkowski noted how much progress sophomore Brandon Wellington and redshirt freshman Camilo Eifler have made.
Questions remain at outside linebacker, and having Victor as an option there gives the defense more flexibility.
“When you have depth like that with good players, that’s a good problem to have,” Kwiatkowski said.
Hopes of Stanford
Carter Burr-Kirven, now a senior at Stanford, is in the beginning stages of directing the musical “Gaieties” this fall. (The play, one of Stanford’s oldest traditions, is a roast of the Stanford-Cal rivalry, and debuts each week during the week of the Big Game.) Like Ben, Carter also hopes to build a career in the film industry.
Growing up in what was essentially Stanford’s backyard, Ben had hoped to join his brother in Palo Alto. The Cardinal never recruited him. “I was too much of a tweener,” he said.
As a 200-pound senior at Sacred Heart Prep, Ben was a standout running back and linebacker, leading the team to a 13-0 record and a CIF sectional title in 2014. Lauded for his intensity and aptitude, he was the MaxPreps all-Northern California defensive player of the year as a senior.
“I know I don’t think I will ever coach another kid like him,” his high-school coach, Pete Lavorato, told the San Jose Mercury News last year. “He’s the best I’ve ever coached.”