Most children go through multitude of phases that revolve around interests. Be it sports or artistic ventures, the wheels seem to continuously change. Sometimes, though, the wheels stop and interests grow into passions. There are many avenues in the athletic arena, for example, but artistic paths are dwindling in number rapidly. In the debate that has been sparked because of this development, much of the focus is centered on interest-based involvement. A larger focus is forgotten about, the focus on these students who benefit health-wise from such activities.
The new short film ELLE, by writer-director Florence Winter Hill, brings that later topic to the forefront. In the film, Elle is an active member of a dance organization who’s funding is getting cut. This devastates her as her aspirations and opportunities are leading down the path to become a professional dancer, but becomes more traumatic when you see the health benefits Elle’s experiencing by being a part of the dance troupe.
For those who have benefited from art programs like dance, this film can spark an internal fire. These programs have so many benefits, but it’s also a passion that we want to share with others, and because of that the topic ends up being a hot-topic issue. What ELLE is able to do, however, it keep the film from becoming too heavy handed. That is exactly why Hill worked tirelessly with her co-writer to convey the story and not the topic.
“I wanted to tell a story of what it is like to go through education, as a passionate young child, and feel the stigmatization the system has for arts—but the heart of the story is Elle’s journey to an epic audition opportunity,” Hill says. “I wanted to show how hard it can be sometimes as a child to do what you love in a world that tells you what you love ‘isn’t going to make you money’ or ‘isn’t a real job.’”
It’s important to point out at this time that Hill is only 19, and ELLE was created by a young crew. The most impactful people in this production are experiencing this disappearance in programs firsthand.
“The story was dear to everybody on set. Everyone who worked on the film had their own story to tell how they went through education wanting to work in film and how hard they found it to keep going. I think we all felt a personal connection to Elle as a character and her story, it felt like it was everyones story,” Hill explains.
They are in the middle of the whirlwind, where the creative industry is becoming a daydream instead of a goal, this story is their own. Hill not only points this out, but along with producers James Lane and Ed McGovern, work to make sure they provide job opportunities for the next generation.
“Elle is my battle cry to children to inspire them to keep going in what they love—no matter what gets in the way,” Hill adds.
Understanding the story behind the crew makes the impact of the film that much stronger. It’s the choices in representation that help it cross generations, as there are many different interpretations of creative choices in the film. The health aspect that is shown revolves around memory loss, and for someone older this is an example of how our literal health can be improved by art. For someone younger, though, this becomes a beautiful metaphor for their present and future lives.
“It is a representation of the creative arts diminishing from classrooms and how we can forget what we love as we grow up. I wanted to explore having something surreal in quite a real world. It is inspired by this amazing Ted Talk by Ken Robinson, and how schools make us forget creativity,” Hill explains.
No matter what the interpretations may be on the audience, the visualization of the memory loss is heartbreaking. As a writer-director myself, I’m fascinated by the construction of powerful images. A lot of the heart is cemented in the script, but the essence can only be brought out through production. To hear Hill describe her choices and thoughtful work is inspiring. It’s another example of how artistic passion runs through our veins.
“I wanted it to feel like a dream. We meticulously planned the process of how Elle would have blending of memory and reality, I wanted it to be beautiful and feel tangible,” Hill says. “I wanted it to feel as if her younger self is calling out to her and telling her not to give up—which often I find we all do in our lives.”
In the end, as Hill mentions before, ELLE becomes a battle cry for young creatives. It’s the push we all need to remind us that our lives are vacant without our passions, and we must find an outlet for them at all costs. It’s a message to everyone to value what programs like these mean to the people who participate in them.
“The arts are so important for our culture and the future of our country, and the future starts in our children's classrooms. We need to make an effort to encourage and appreciate all forms of art, because we need art just as much as we need maths, but they are not treated as equals,” Hill adds.
ELLE has screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival in April, CineYouth Film Festival in May, Cannes Film Festival in May and the London Independent Film Festival in April.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Good Gal Films