By: Victoria Stevens
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 08/02/2022- When directors submit their feature films and shorts to film festivals, they are hoping that they will be put in the running for an award. Winning an award can secure distribution, gift a director with a financial prize, and can help increase the reputation of everyone involved in that project. Being able to win an award from these known festivals can be quite difficult because of the number of submissions that are sent in every year. Even when you are nominated, it depends on how big of a viewership that your film has that will ultimately lead you to win that award or not. However, it is not impossible to win multiple awards at these festivals. Writer/director Ellie Foumbi won Best Narrative Feature Audience Award at Tribeca Film Festival and Best Narrative Feature and John Singleton Award for Best First Feature at American Black Film Festival for her film Our Father, The Devil.
“It was so surreal. On the last day of the Tribeca Film Festival, I was sent an email that asked for me to be in attendance at 2pm at a certain building. When I was getting ready for that presentation, my associate producer and editor Roy Clovis called me up and announced that our film won two awards at the ABFF Festival on the same day. It was so gratifying that all of our hard work was getting recognized. It was also very humbling. The audience are the voters that mattered to me the most, and winning the audience award showed me that the film was resonating with viewers,” said Foumbi.
Building a team that you want to collaborate with and who has your vision can be a trial-and-error process. It takes time to figure out who you can trust and who will respect you as you start growing your brand. Once your team is in place, that’s when the opportunities start flowing.
“I met many of my collaborators on other people’s sets. My editor Roy and I met at ABFF a few years ago and we have been working together ever since. As for my DP, Tinx Chan, I met him while I was creating my thesis. We just clicked right away. We had the same sensibility and similar temperaments. Tinx respected me and my vision, and was there to help me grow as a director and not just step over me. That is why I slowly built a community that I could work with so that we could come together to create films that the audience would love,” explained Foumbi.
Having to halt production in 2021 because the European border shut down due to COVID, gave Foumbi a few setbacks she wasn’t planning for. As a result, it affected all of her post production. However, even with these set backs she persevered through and created a film that audience members have come to love.
“Yes, COVID did hold us up a bit but we still got to go and shoot overseas,” said Foumbi. “One of the main challenges we had during our first week of shooting was having to shoot on top of a mountain. I had to make sure that everyone got safely up the mountain and back down. I did not sleep at all that first week because my nerves were so bad. I kept praying to God that there would be no accidents, and that everyone would come back down safely. After that first week, production went smoother. There were a few hiccups along the way due to scheduling and working with a French crew who were used to a different shoot schedule, but it all worked out.”
Inspiration can come from many different facets for a writer. Some writers write from their own experiences while others write from what they observe around them. Foumbi creates her stories from inspiration that comes from outside of herself. (Insert – Photo #1 -Director/Writer Ellie Foumbi)
“Everything that I have written has not been from personal experience. I usually start with an emotion that I associate with a character. With Our Father, The Devil, I wanted to explore shame in the context of when people piece their lives back together like in post war. However, sometimes I use gestures, moments that I catch with strangers on the street, or even a place that I visit. If there is a place that I really get inspired by then I will figure out what I can write in that space and who the characters are. As an actress, I have the ability to tell a lot about a person from the smallest detail so I use that talent and my imagination to come up with different characters. There may be times when I add a small experience I have had in my life to a character, but I believe every writer does that to an extent,” explains Foumbi.
Working on feature films can be more difficult than working on short films. As a director, you have a bigger team to manage, different moving parts to juggle, and bigger possibilities of things to go wrong. As a director, Foumbi suggests that the number one thing to watch out for while on set is negative energy.
“While choosing your collaborators, you need to make sure that you shield yourself from people with negative energy, because it takes one bad apple to bring everyone down on set. I have seen it happen time and time again. Negative people always focus on the problems and never offer solutions. I think having that type of person on a set can be toxic and very dangerous. Being on set is so daunting as it is and there are going to be a lot of problems. So, you need people who will help push the boulder up the mountain, not a negative Nancy. As long as you are with people who are passionate and believe in you then you will be able to jump through the hurdles together,” expressed Foumbi.
Foumbi has a few projects in development which you can follow on her Instagram @ellie.foumbi and Twitter @EllieAnette.
Photo Credit: Ellie Foumbi