To connect with Ellen Gerstein about directing your project
In directing, you have to know what you want, be prepared and be open to what an actor brings. The process is very exciting, anything can happen. The best thing one can do is make sure the script is ready to be shot. I love being able to do my pre-production work. First, I read the script a tremendous amount of times and second, I do script analysis. I thoroughly know the characters through each beat and color; what they think, how they interact, and what is in their head. I know what I want to convey in every scene. I’m constantly moving the story forward. It is also very important to me to have everyone involved so they feel like part of a family and that everyone is essential to the end product. Casting the right actors is of incredible importance. A great casting director is priceless. Casting is a very exciting component of filmmaking. In my international award-winning short film Waiting for Ronald about two developmentally disabled men, I knew if I could not find the right cast, there would be no film. I was interested to see what all actors brought in, so I opened the casting up to both disabled and non-disabled. It was quite an experience.
Getting the cast and crew’s trust is an absolute must. For example, while preparing for Waiting for Ronald I had everyone over to my house and had a pretend birthday party for Ronald.
We had everyone dress in the wardrobe, and then played a game of softball. It was great preparation for the film, bonding had begun! I had the actors Jody Clark (Ronald) and Michael Luckerman (Edgar) spend time together for two weeks before we rehearsed. I asked them to come in with whatever they thought the character was. We were all very prepared when we finally started the shoot. You have to trust the actors. When everything comes together and everyone is working together, it’s the best feeling in the world, very powerful, and touches your heart.
The international award-winning short film, Come Away With Me, that I adapted from the play, A Couple of Horses Asses by David Field. It’s about an interracial couple who were sweethearts in the 60’s. The woman goes to her high school reunion in hopes of re-kindling her romance with the love of her life. I play Anne and was so fortunate to have the very talented Charlie Robinson play Michael.
I was so touched by this heartfelt script that I felt inspired to write Michael and Ann’s high school love song, Come Away With Me Tonight. The song is performed by Hollie Cavanagh, finalist on American Idol, with horns by Luis Eric Gonzalez (Earth, Wind and Fire) and Trombone by Humberto Ruiz (click to watch music video).
The Making of “Come Away With Me” Documentary covers the creative process, the fun filled time we had making the film, recording the original song and interviews with the creative team.
Ellen is a member of the prestigious Women In Film, Alliance of Women Directors, LA Film Team, Film Independent and a lifetime member of The Actor’s Studio.