First introduce yourself as a filmmaker.
My name is Brian Elliott, and I’ve written, directed, and produced a number of short films over the last 8 years.
What led you to get into filmmaking?
I’ve always, long as I can remember, been interested in two things: art and storytelling. I went through a drawing phase through grade school and a writing phase in middle school, but when I picked up a video camera for the first time in late middle school my fate was sealed. I loved the medium, as I’ve always been more visually oriented than a master wordsmith. I went out and bought a camera and began making movies from that point on, using every class project as an opportunity to make another, and while I still dabble in novel writing, haven’t ever really looked back.
What type of films do you specialize in?
I’ve always enjoyed dramas and/or bittersweet inspirational films that make an audience feel on a deep level. They say to make the films that you would enjoy watching, so if I were to categorize a type of film I specialize in it would be bittersweet dramas. A little strange for a Christian filmmaker perhaps, but I feel like it’s more true to life and relatable than a film that ties up with a happy ending, and it sticks with you longer.
How many short films have you produced?
I’ve produced 18 short narrative films (5 – 50 minutes) as well as roughly 20 commercials and 10 music videos, along with numerous visual effects test sorts of videos.
Tell us about your experience in the 2012 St. Louis Filmmaker’s Showcase.
The 2012 St. Louis Filmmaker’s Showcase was a very interesting experience. It was the first time I’d produced something (that something being my 15 minute short “The Trigger” that I had other film makers tell me “you should put this into festivals, this is exceptional work behind and in front of the camera.” So I went for it. Unfortunately I didn’t walk away with any awards, but it was very interesting seeing all the different films out there, and feeling how the audience responded to Trigger – that being a definite emotional and tense response. I’ll definitely be entering by just released film “Resolve” into the 2013 St. Louis Filmmaker’s Showcase as well as a number of other festivals nationwide.
What led to your interest in doing films about migrant film workers?
My migrant worker films were actually born out of a short term mission trip an hour from where I lived at the time to work with migrant children. I brought my camera to “document our trip for a video for the church” but was so impacted by the people I met that a short term mission trip became long term and I became very invested in the plight of migrant and undocumented workers and so I collected more footage whenever I went up – even let the kids use my camera quite a bit- but interestingly and unfortunately got a lot of backlash from certain members of the church I was attending. So I started producing different videos with the footage to show them what it was we were actually doing, and posting them online to engage with a more global audience.
There came a point several years after that where the church I was attending imploded, and I was able to engage with a new church about migrant workers and ended up leading a mission trip to share Christ with and practically engage with the poverty the migrant workers lived in, and used edited versions of the videos I’d created to help get people prepared for what we were going to do and give them a greater visual that pictures sometimes provide.
What has been the response to your music video “Biblical View of Immigrants and Immigration”?
“Biblical View of Immigrants and Immigration” has actually gone through several versions as I’ve acquired more footage, and eventually enough HD footage to completely update the video, but it was first released in November 2007 in response to the opposition from the church. When it was posted on youtube, thanks to political buzz stirring for the following year’s presidential election, it took on youtube, but I found a largely negative and very hateful response. People accused me of promoting lawbreaking, not being a Christian, even going so far as to accuse me of being an illegal immigrant myself along with a host of names that don’t deserve repeating. I was happy that I’d hit the emotional chord I’d intended when creating the video, as it had been my goal to create some form of response. What was frustrating to me, was in further conversation with the attackers, they missed what I truly believe to this day is God’s heart toward the needy and foreigners. The video, however was well received by some and was shown at a youth conference centering on injustice called “Generation for Justice.”
Which of your films do you feel most passionate about?
Right now the film I’m most passionate about is my latest, “Resolve”. It was able to combine elements of social justice with some really great drama and really exceptional performances from the cast. It was the biggest film, and longest live action film I’ve ever produced (running at 30 minutes) and was such a success not only in terms of the film itself, but in building connections and learning and growing as a film maker. I call it “the impossible film” because I was working with almost no crew (1 person most days) on a shoestring budget for what I was trying to achieve, and it was far more ambitious than anything I’d previously attempted. So, despite being at the “I have seen this film so much I never want to watch it again” phase, I’m incredibly passionate about it and want to see how it fares in the festivals. It’s incredibly exciting to see that it actually really did work and has been very well received by actors, crew, and audiences.
Do you have plans to do any feature films or full length documentaries?
While it’s hard to say exactly what my future plans are, I do definitely intend within the next five years to do a feature with connections I’ve been building. I feel like I’ve been able to develop a lot of good material in the shorts I’ve created and am continuing to script, and they could easily be expanded in feature length screenplays. Immediate plans, however, are not in the works.
What are your filmmaking goals for the future?
I’d really like to get steady work in editing, visual effects, special effects, or event shooting as my “day job” in between directing my own films. I’d also really like to earn a reputation of being a good director to work with – both as talent in front of the camera – and as crew and post production behind the scenes. I try not to look too far ahead and allow for God to lead me where he wants me, but if I did have an ultimate goal I’d love to direct something on the scale of Lord of the Rings or HBO’s Band of Brothers.
Really, I appreciate this opportunity to put myself out there a little more and be sure you check out my youtube: http://www.youtube.com/crebproductions as well as my vimeo https://vimeo.com/crproductions/videos for my content and I look forward to seeing where God leads me and what happens in the future of my film career.