The Jumper Maybach Story
Texas-born Ben Workman was pushed to the breaking point after a lifetime of discrimination and bullying. Until one day, something magical happened:
Ben experienced an awakening that would change his life in a profound way. Enter Jumper Maybach, clown personae and abstract painter, alter ego of Ben Workman. Through his newfound freedom of expression, Jumper uses art to spread his message of universal love and acceptance.This is the inspiring story of how one man finds the courage to fight for equality in the face of overwhelming adversity and, along the way, discovers his true identity.
The Jumper Maybach Story is the autobiographical tale of Ben Workman. The film chronicles the years of bullying and intolerance endured by Ben while growing up in the conservative state of Texas. As his story unfolds, Ben takes the viewer on a journey through space and time; illustrating how a lifetime of pain and suffering serves as fertile ground for enlightenment and peace. Ben’s journey begins in the 1960’s in Corpus Christi, Texas. Early in his childhood, Ben learns that he is different before he is even old enough to understand why he is tormented and bullied by fellow students. In his teens, he continues to be shunned by his peers in spite of being an active student leader. And soon after, rumors begin swirling around the campus that he is gay. Ben learns quickly that his kindness and academic accomplishments are no shield for hate.
As he reaches adulthood, Ben struggles with the realities of his life: a terrible car accident, the loss of his beloved mother, a failed marriage, and that he is, indeed, gay. He seeks solace in his employment with a federal agency where he is recognized as a valued employee with yearly awards for his performance. Incredibly, his outstanding dedication does not protect him from the hate and fear that await him in the halls of his workplace where equal rights is not apparent. Ben finds himself stalked daily and eventually “outed” by a co-worker. His superiors fail to provide him with a safe workplace choosing rather to participate in the criticism and insults. After exhausting all options and desperate to stop the harassment, Ben proceeds with administrative action and after a long drawn-out process, he prevails. Ben is exhilarated by his victory but alas this proves to be ephemeral. Unfortunately, the culture of the agency appears to remain the same. In 2010, Ben faces an even greater threat posed by supervisors who, through their homophobia and hate, turn Ben’s life into a nightmare in which he finds himself on the brink of an emotional and physical precipice.
From the ashes of a once productive life, the artist Jumper Maybach arises and helps begin the healing process. Jumper, Ben’s clown personae, is born during a time when Ben is literally on his knees in prayer seeking strength and guidance. He finds salvation deep within his soul when he hears a comforting voice guiding him through an open door. Ben enters that door, and artist and humanitarian Jumper Maybach emerges energized and consumed by his mission to end senseless bullying and discrimination through abstract painting. While Jumper’s paintings are an exorcism for all the pain that Ben suffers, they offer spiritual and emotional healing for all victims of persecution by revealing how to turn darkness and despair into light and comfort. The documentary features interviews with Ben’s attorney Mary Sinderson; celebrated equal rights activist Reverend Helen Havens; friend and painter/actor Pepe Serna (The Jerk, Scarface, American Me); Ben's life-partner of 21 years David Sanford, and many others involved in Ben's life and the equal rights community. The film also features a behind the scenes look at Ben's "Jumper" work as an abstract painter and the emotions and positive energy that go into each and every painting he creates. Director Alan De Herrera paints a candid portrait of a man split in two halves, trying to become whole again.
I first passed on the Jumper project thinking I wasn't the right choice to tell this story. After all, I'd been only directing nature documentaries for the last 10 years. What did I know about being gay or about being discriminated against? I had lived a pretty carefree life growing up in Southern California. At first I thought this project was only a gay rights issue. But the deeper I delved into Ben Workman's life, I quickly realized it was more a story about survival; fighting for the right to simply be who you are without the fear of retribution or alienation. In that context, Ben's story was no different than the story of my seals and struggles they endure. It's all really the same. That was the inspiration for telling Ben's story. This is a very personal project for me and I'm hoping this film will speak directly to those individuals who still struggle to find acceptance for who they really are. I also think Ben is a very brave guy telling his story of pain and suffering on camera. But what's most inspiring is that he was able to turn his life around and find his real purpose in life; to promote peace and understanding though his art. Perhaps this film will help continue the conversation about equal rights.
Alan De Herrera
Director, DP and Editor
Ben’s Personal Story
This documentary is an incredible story about a man named Ben Workman. Although he grew up in a loving family, Ben still endured the trials of being just a little bit different from all the rest. Bullying was a part of daily life for him. As he got older, the teasing and the taunts became rougher and he learned what it meant to be laughed at and shunned. These were hard lessons for a lonely teenager who just wanted to have friends.
Life did not get better. Ben lost the mother he adored in a car accident, endured the trauma of a failed marriage, and came to accept he was gay. Wishing to protect his family from verbal abuse, he kept his orientation a secret as he became a valued employee of the US Department of Veteran Affairs. Ben thought his performance would protect him from hate and discrimination based on his orientation. He was sadly mistaken.
In the darkest moments of his life Ben discovered the clown, Jumper Maybach. He also discovered a God-given talent for painting.
In the darkest moments of his life Ben discovered the clown, Jumper Maybach. He also discovered a God-given talent for painting. With a paintbrush and the smile of a clown, Ben rebuilt his life. His artwork has been exhibited all over the world and in his award winning gallery in Houston, Texas. Ben has now become a strong voice in the community, demanding bullying and harassment be stopped wherever it may be. Jumper, his alter ego, is a driving force for acceptance and understanding everywhere. Many wonderful people are a part of this film. Ben’s attorney, Mary Sinderson, equal rights activist Helen Havens, and painter/actor Pepe Serna all give their insights into the life and times of Jumper Maybach. Dr. David Sanford, Ben’s life partner and soul mate of more than 20 years, shares his feelings of support and devotion for the clown he dearly loves. The Jumper Maybach Story also celebrates the amazing art of Ben, who has been called the new Jackson Pollack. Director Alan De Herrera shows us behind the scenes snapshots of the incredible art, and the energy which has made Jumper Maybach a positive force for social change.