The Hollywood Times Spotlight: Ellen Gerstein, Director and Star–“Come Away with Me”

The Hollywood Times Spotlight: Ellen Gerstein, Director and Star–“Come Away with Me”

Click here for:Interview with Linita Masters of The Hollywood Times

The Hollywood Times Spotlight: Ellen Gerstein, Director and Star–“Come Away with Me” Posted on August 14, 2015 by Valerie Milano

Hollywood Times Spotlightby Linita Masters

Hollywood, CA( The Hollywood Times) 8/13/2015– Sweethearts in the 1960’s, their interracial relationship was pulled apart by intolerance and war. Ann is finally living her life on her terms and now has the courage to attend her high school reunion. She finds Michael, the high school athlete and war veteran , at a VA hospital where she in reunited , after 50 years, with her first and only true love. Their story, is a true love story.

“Come Away with Me” stars Ellen Gerstein (Shamelesss, Southland, The Whole Truth) as Ann Chambers and Charlie Robinson ( Hart of Dixie, Night Court) as Michael Blake. Screening at Hollyshorts festival this short film was also selected for the Diversity in Cannes Short Film Showcase and was winner of the Platinum Remi award at WorldFest Houston. Gerstein’s moving portrayal of Ann is imbued with a genuine sincerity as she searches for ways to reconnect with Michael. Charlie Robinson won the well-deserved WoodHole Film Festival Jury award for “Best Actor in a Narrative Short for his portrayal of Michael Blake. Robinson gives us an array of emotions in an incredibly subtle and authentic performance

Director/Star -Ellen Gerstein and Director of Photography -Polly Morgan
Hollywood Times SpotlightBesides starring in “Come Away with me”, Ms. Gerstein also shows off her impressive directing skills, by creating a discreet and beautifully serene backdrop for us to experience this private moment between Ann and Michael. A park bench on a lush green manicured lawn surrounded by trees, the only sounds are their voices and a train in the distance. Gerstein unselfishly gives cudos to the keen eye of her Director of Photography, Polly Morgan. Not originally being written for an interracial couple Gerstein’s thoughtful selection of fellow Actors Studio veteran and friend Charlie Robinson to portray Michael adds another layer to the characters relationship. Gertsein wore one more hat for “Come Away with Me” as songwriter, writing the lyrics to the films original title song “Come Away with Me Tonight”, which is beautifully performed by American Idol season 11 contestant Hollie Cavanagh. Ellen Gerstein and Charlie Robinson share a wonderful charisma. Together they create, not just one moment, but a myriad of tender little moments which collectively, in 17 minutes, will have you believing in true love.

“Come Away with Me” is screening at Hollyshorts Film Fest, Tuesday August 18, at TCL Chinese Theatre Hollywood, Golden Age Block 12:00pm. Director/Actress Ellen Gerstein

Hollywood Times SpotlightI had the wonderful opportunity to sit down and talk with the talented and funny Ms. Gerstein about her film, directing, acting, and her upcoming projects. Ellen on Directing: “I really enjoyed directing this film because this is the first thing I directed that I was also in. Directing and acting in the film was different from just directing. My character (Anne) has a lot of feeling and transitions and then I’d have to get behind the camera and see how it worked and then I had to get back in it as Ann. I liked it very much and had a very good time with it. I also got the film I wanted. It was the film that I saw in my head and it was great. But to do it again, I’d give myself more time. Just one extra day. We filmed it only two days. I could do it in two days. I did do it in two days. But to enjoy it even more, I would have given myself another day. Polly Morgan who was the DP was incredible and we worked so well together and that was great. Polly used subtle movements. I wanted to show that Michael’s life is there, on the bench , with no movement.. Julie Janata edited it and produced it with me so I had a good team. I don’t like in your face, hitting things with a hammer. I like it coming in subtly and then you take it as you take it. I think the audience should interpret it from where their coming from in their lives, they interpret it how they interpret it. I don’t want to tell them that. I didn’t want to put a Hollywood ending on it. I just wanted to make something that’s real in your heart and unfolds real. Some people like it and some people won’t. People who have seen it, have told me that it touches their heart.” On Ann Chambers: “It wasn’t really written that way as a play. In my head, it wasn’t written or anything. But as my work as an actor I felt I (Ann) got sent away to college and my parents wanted to send me away. And I lived this life that I was supposed to live. A life that was a little bit better echelon. I probably married a couple of guys that were well to do. I just pleased society and my folks. I felt that my family had passed, and it seemed like it was now or never to live the life that I wanted. I now have the courage to go back with hopes of rekindling this romance which is my one true love. When we dance, I feel like I’m in high school again and I feel like he loves me and he looks so calm and so in love. But he can only talk about the trains because that’s all that he knows. He’s confident in that. I think that when he talked about the trains after we dance, I think he was telling me that he loved me. He said it in such a soft way. It was different and I’m thinking that he’s telling me that he loves me. In life Ann is a hero just for doing that. In Life no one knows what’s going to happen and it’s not always the way that you think it will be. And at least Ann did get to see Michael. I think I have a good way of getting to a character. . I felt so close to Ann who had the courage. And the character Ann and I had a similar experience and Ann Chambers gave me courage. I believe that doing what you really want to do is what success is all about. I felt so close to that.”

Charlie Robinson as Michael Blake and Ellen Gerstein as Ann Chambers “Come Away With Me”
Hollywood Times SpotlightOn Michael Blake
: “Michael is Ann’s Hero. He keeps going back to the trains, because he knows those trains. I don’t think anyone sees him. I think people come and say hey Michael and…Blah…blah…blah. Michael was in Vietnam and he has PTSD which nobody knew what that was back then and a lot of them went to mental hospitals and they still didn’t know what it was. So he is in the VA hospital and he also has Alzheimer’s. I think it’s important to put projects out there like that because people are suffering from both of those and I just wanted to show that it’s here in society and put it out there, here is this wonderful war hero and this is what happens. He reads, he’s happy and taken care of but he can never be what he was before. I just wanted to represent that, I can’t comment personally about either one and am not a professional, so I don’t want to make comments, but I wanted to show that as part of society. I just want everyone to be aware.” Singer Hollie CavanaghHollywood Times Spotlight

On writing the title song: “I was walking my dog and I realized that in the 60’s when you went with someone, there were two things: you went steady and wore the man’s ring around your neck and you always had a song. I thought that the song has got to be the third character in the scene. It’s important, and has to be the thread through the film. I write a lot of poetry, and the song just came to me. The tune came to me too, but the challenge was to get the dog home before I forget everything. I forgot the tune but I had the song. And then I called my friend who had done music who gave me a few names. Catherine Gerlich ended up just nailing it and then Hollie Cavanagh, from American Idol, sang the heck out of it. Luis Gonzales. Who plays horns for Earth Wind and Fire, set down the horn tracks. It came together really well and Ralph Guzzo produced it. We tried to get the song to have that sort of vintage sound. I love it!” Actor Charlie RobinsonHollywood Times Spotlight

On Charlie Robinson:-“It was not written interracial. It was written as a one act play and when I read it and I did it with someone at the actor’s studio, I kept thinking I want to make this a movie. Not the fault of the actor who was a terrific actor, but the character was like a poet, a Tennessee Williams type of guy who you would have never seen holding a ball. Where I thought this guy should be like Mr. Football, Mr. Basketball, Mr. Athlete and after 50 years he’s still got that look, sexy! So I thought not interesting enough, not real enough to me and he needs to be an athlete and he needs to look good. Well Charlie and I have known each other for 25 years over at the Actors Studio. So I called Charlie up. I said, “Charlie, I’m going to send you a script and I’m not doing it without you. You’ve never done a character like this before”. He kept coming into my mind. He said ok and he said he loved it He goes “who’ll be directing it? I said,” ME”. He said,” Who plays Ann? “Me. It’s all about Me, Charlie.” I told him to tell me when he can do it because I wasn’t doing it without him. Later he said ‘I’m glad you pushed me because I love this character and he was perfect.’ Charlie didn’t overdue it. We did a little bit of a documentary and they were talking to Charlie and I asked Charlie , why did you take this part and Charlie is a kidder, and we have a good sense of humor , and I said is it true that you took the part because you got to kiss me.

So I had to kiss him a hundred times and I finally had to say Charlie stop already. It did have some laughing and kidding and you can see how we used to laugh a lot together. It sounds funny that on a film like this we had a lot of fun. We could get right back into the mood and there was no problem. We work well together. The rehearsal process was interesting. I have a thing where I look at the script cause of script analysis and character study and I write down everything that’s inside the head of the character. I do it for me and I do it for the other characters. So we met once and read through it. When we met the second time, Charlie told me all about his life and I told him all about my life. And after that it seemed to connect. He understood where I came from and I understood where he came from and that really bonded us. I couldn’t have asked for a better Michael and friend. “ On Acting: “I was born in the Bronx. I thought everyone was born in the Bronx. I was raised in Miami. I went to school in the South and then I went to NY where I was a social worker for 6 years with the welfare department and then I remember quitting that job and going to acting classes. I remember the phone call home, to tell my parents that I was leaving my secure job to take up acting. All I heard was gasping, moaning and crying on the other end. Then I went to Lee Strasberg’s studio and I studied with Lee for many, many years. He had his studio in NY and another in LA. So it was 6 months in New York and six months here (Los Angeles). I’d never been here (Los Angeles) before so I said I’m going to take the 6 months here and I went back and forth. But you gotta settle somewhere and you need to either put your feet down there (New York) or you need to put your feet down here (Los Angeles) I thought “NICE FLOWERS”. So I stayed here.”

On Strasberg: “OMG. He was such a genius. Lee was the moderator when I first started. He was brilliant. He really knew so much, I was so fortunate to study with him for 5 years. He was terrific. Nobody is like him. He was really about the work. He would say “Use your Will” He always said that you have a will, use it. I saw a lot of people come through the actors studio, Harvey Keitel was in the class, Lainie Kazan, Barbara Hershey, Terri Garr. I also studied script analysis with Stella Adler, cause she had the best script analysis class. Stella worked a lot with the imagination, Lee works with personal experience and when you make something personal, it shows, you don’t have to have a line or anything it just shows. I am known for people coming to me with scripts all the time for script analysis, it’s like a road map. I also coach and teach acting.”

On upcoming projects: “When I directed Waiting for Ronald in 2003, I had so much fun. I mixed up the cast from disabled to non-disabled and it worked so beautifully. I mentioned that because I wrote a feature on Waiting for Ronald called Just South of Normal. I also wrote a pilot on that which I think I am going to shoot as a webisode. That will be my next project. People keep asking me, what’s going on with Edgar and Ronnie. I said I have it all written and me going to refine it a little bit then I am going to start shooting some of it. The feature is different, but the webisode is Ronnie and Edgar. It’s them after Waiting for Ronald. This is about two developmentally disabled best friends who move from the institution, where they have been living, to an apartment. The story follows their journey of living a new life. I play the landlady!” Learn more about the film “come Away With Me” at its website: comeawaywithmethemovie.com For more information on Ellen Gerstein go to Ellengerstein.com

Hollyshorts Interview with Russ Pirozek

Hollyshorts Interview with Russ Pirozek

Hollyshorts Interview with Russ Pirozek

Click here for:Hollyshorts Interview

HollyShorts 2015: An Interview With Ellen Gerstein

Ellen Gerstein is a wonderful actress and comedian who has been seen in shows such as Shameless, Southland and The Whole Truth. She’s currently promoting her new short film “Come Away With Me”, which she wrote, directed and stars in alongside Charlie Robinson. The film will premiere at this years HollyShorts film festival, which is an incredible story of love, tragedy and the wonder of what could have been.

Oodon had the pleasure of talking to her about the film, working with Charlie Robinson and writing the titular song. Please enjoy this conversation with the sweet and incredible Ellen Gerstein! Information about the film can be found here.

Ellen beat me to the punch by asking me what we wanted to talk about, something I was personally thrilled by.

Oodon: Well, I’d like to hear you talk, mostly, and have you tell me about this wonderful movie!

Ellen Gerstein: Oh, you saw it!Hollyshorts Interview with Russ Pirozek

So that was it, and we got started, and it was just something really close to my heart. And I’ve had experience with something like this in the sense of having someone who meant a lot to me and we lost touch for so many years and I tried to get back in touch but I couldn’t find the person. I thought about how many other people must have that long lost love, and I thought that Anne was an everyday hero because she had the guts to stop the life that she knew and go back and find her one true love, and just like in life, she found him but it’s not always the way we want it. But I still felt like there was passion between them and I saw sparks from when they were high school lovers. And I realized that back in the sixties when you went steady you wore their ring around your neck, and you always had a song.

So I thought that we had to have a song and that the song has to be like the third character in the movie and that it had to be a sort of through-line, it sort of opens it, and then in the middle, she kind of sings it to them when they dance, and at the end, Holly Cavanagh from American Idol just wails it out, and Luis Eric Gonzalez composed the horns for it and he plays with Earth, Wind and Fire and it was very exciting. It’s on iTunes and it’s called “Come Away With Me Tonight”. It all just kind of came together, and I’m so pleased with it.

” I thought that Anne was an everyday hero because she had the guts to stop the life that she knew and go back and find her one true love”

O: And I saw that you had a writing credit on the song. Did you write it?

EG: I was actually walking my dog, and I thought “Oh my God, they have to have a song! It means so much!” So I wrote the song in my head as we were walking, and I heard the music in my head. But the challenge was getting the dog and myself home before I lost it all. By the time I got home I lost the music but I remembered the words, so I wrote them down, and I was recommended to Catherine Grealish, who wrote the wonderful, wonderful music. I mean, I think she really nailed it.

O: That’s so fantastic. I wanted to ask next about what drew you to the play. You said that you had an experience with a long, lost love. Is that what drew you in?

EG: Yes, definitely. It was so in my heart. To be honest, I was wondering why I never had the heart to find mine. I mean, if Anne can do it and I’m playing Anne- and I think Anne gave me the guts to find mine and I’m not sure if he passed or I just wasn’t successful, but I couldn’t find him. But I’m still trying! [laughs] It’s a never ending search.

O: Absolutely. I also noticed that Michael [Robinson’s character] struggles with Alzheimer’s. Have you had any experiences with that?

EG: I haven’t had any personal experiences with Alzheimer’s or PSTD, but the character went to Vietnam and that’s where he got post-traumatic stress and in the rehab hospital where Anne found him he had Alzheimer’s. And I feel very strongly about those in the military when they go wherever they go and get post-traumatic stress and everyone was denying it, whether that be the government or the doctors. And it’s very, very real and it tears families apart, and so does Alzheimer’s. So I just wanted to put something out there to show what can happen and what does happen and what is now part of society and that we need to deal with it.

 O: I think that’s fantastic and I totally agree. Tell me more about Charlie’s part in all of this since you two worked so well together.“I was actually walking my dog, and I thought ‘Oh my God, they have to have a song! It means so much!”

EG: Charlie and I had been friends for years. But we never worked together, but he just loved the character and I knew he could do this character even though he’s never done anything like this before, because he wasn’t heavy-handed with it. That’s the thin line with a character like this, that it doesn’t go into a caricature. That it’s real, and that sometimes its more, and sometimes you pull it back, and I thought that he did it with such integrity and not at all heavy-handed.

O: I think that’s true. And it was really nice to see Charlie in a role like this, because it’s basically a long conversation. And I feel like that’s harder than most traditional acting roles. It’s tough because you have to be genuine for a really long time and there’s a lot of layers to the film. What was the approach to that, because there were a lot of time where you and Charlie were speaking, but there was another conversation happening at the same time.

EG: Right, exactly! And the dance! I love the dance, because when we were dancing, I feel like Anne was back in high school, dancing with her lover. And I think that Charlie being Michael felt the same way. Because afterwards, when I saw the shot, I saw his eyes and the way he curled up to me and how I curled up to him, I just felt like we were in high school again, and we were lovers.

O: That’s beautiful. And it’s great to see you tackle this type of film, because you did it so well and it really could have not gone well at all.
EG: Oh, thank you! You know, if I didn’t think I could have done it well and done it without being heavy-handed and not trying to put it in your face and show you, I wouldn’t have done it because that would have been a disaster and not have been done with integrity. But I just knew I could do it in a way that people could take it into their hearts, and they would relate to it with Alzheimer’s or PTSD or with long, lost loves or with anything that they’ve lost and wanted to find again. I just knew people could connect if I did it correctly.

O: And I really think you did.

EG: Well thank you!
Hollyshorts Interview with Russ PirozekEG: My pleasure.

Please make sure to check out the website for the film for more information about the film. It’s a fantastic movie and Ellen was an absolute delight to speak to. Make sure to check out her Twitter @ellengerstein for more information about “Come Away With Me”.

Be sure to leave any comments in the section below!

By: Russ Category: Interviews, Movies, News Tags: charlie robinson, come away with me, ellen gerstein, hollyshorts, interviews, movies, news

O: Of course, Ellen! I don’t think I have anything else, but I just wanted to tell you how much I loved the film and thank you for speaking with me.

O: I did! It was terrific.

EG: Oh, thank you! Well, the movie started out as a short play [A Couple of Horses Asses, written by David Fields], and I just wanted to play this part and direct this movie because I felt like I had a feel for this part. And I brought in Charlie [Robinson], who’s wonderful, and we know each other from the Actor’s Studio, so we’ve known each other for many, many years but never worked together. We’d always said hi, ask how the other was doing. So when I read this, Charlie just came to my mind, because I thought he’d be terrific, and he’d never done anything like this. I called him, but he was busy doing film and TV work, so I told him “Just tell me when you can do it, because I’m not going to cast anyone else” and he asked who was playing Anne and I said me, and he asked who was directing, and I said me, and he said okay.

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