Director Ella Ezeike’s Creative Journey, Profound Portfolio, and Filmmaking Muses

Visual poet Ella Ezeike met Lady Eleanor fireside to discuss her creative journey, profound portfolio, and filmmaking muses. Escape the frigid April gloom and curl up with this enchanting exploration of the art of visual storytelling. 

Director Ella Ezeike’s Creative Journey, Profound Portfolio, and Filmmaking Muses

April 23, 2024

Visual poet Ella Ezeike met Lady Eleanor fireside to discuss her creative journey, profound portfolio, and filmmaking muses. Escape the frigid April gloom and curl up with this enchanting exploration of the art of visual storytelling. 

Bring us back to the very beginning, darling. When did you first know you were destined to be a director?

I made my first short film because I needed an outlet to express the frustration and pain I was feeling at that time. I didn’t make “Bluebird” with the intention of becoming a director. 

I just put it online, and then someone asked to screen it. Seeing the reaction of the crowd just really moved me. It made me feel like my work made an impact in some way. After that first screening I was like, maybe I should explore this further

What artistic experiences inspire your work? 

I was always making videos. I used to make videos for friends, smaller brands, and YouTubers. I even had my own YouTube. I would film my travels. I constantly had a camera in my hand, and I was constantly making mini content pieces. That was always a talent that I was exercising. I knew directing was a profession, but I didn't understand how to go about it, or how to get there. I just thought, this is something that people do, and it's not really my world. When I made my first short film, I was like, Oh, my God, like, there's a whole other world here that I haven't even known about.

Tell me the story of the film you made after your first short film, when you realized you were interested in film. 

I had conversations with a few of my friends about our relationships with our fathers, and how convoluted and difficult and tense those relationships could be. There was a lot of frustration at work with us. Then, I thought about what it feels like for our fathers in that dynamic. A lot of them are immigrants. They came to America, or they came to the UK, and a lot of their journey was about focusing on providing for the family, and not really dealing with emotions and being at home. I thought of making “Words We Don't Say,” to humanize our fathers, but not alienate the experience of their daughters. 

I didn't have much money to do it. I went through funding, and I didn't get the funding. And so I met this guy at a party. His name's Akinola Davies. He's a director as well. After a few meetings, I told him about the funding. He said, how much do you need? I said, I don’t know, 3K? He was like, I’ll give you 5. I was like, What? He said, I don’t want you to go through all these institutions to make this film. I’ll give you this money. I just want EP credit. Have at it. I had a sold out screening at Everyman cinema. That’s when I was like, okay, I’m a director now. 

So, what then drew you to the realm of advertising? 

I see so many commercials now. And, there's a certain script that a lot of these commercials follow. I feel like commercial work is losing its heart a little bit. It's losing its storytelling. I feel like I have a lot to give to that space. I'm really good with people. I know what resonates with people. And I know how to create a feeling within my work. Feeling and storytelling is what is needed in advertising. 

Is there a particular theme you find yourself returning to across different projects?

I wouldn't say I'm drawn to a specific theme. I just love people. And I love authentic storytelling. I love being able to communicate with people through the lens of directing. Making a piece that resonates with people. I think filmmaking is such a powerful art form. It just has a way of connecting with people and also, connecting with yourself. A lot of my favorite pieces of work have made me truly reflect. That level of introspection, and that level of community that filmmaking brings is so cool and important. 

What was one project that changed your perception of visual storytelling?

I remember seeing Interstellar by myself in the cinema when it just came out. I've always loved films, but I thought about that film for weeks. The components that Christopher Nolan used. All the parts were just perfect to me. I remember thinking, this must have been such an incredible process to be a part of. That also furthered my desire to learn more about filmmaking. Music as well, because the score was freaking incredible. It opened my brain on a different level.

Tell me about the wildest obstacle you've faced on set. How did you resolve this conundrum?

On the Highsnobiety, Zalando job that I did, we were going to be shooting in an hour when one of the team members came up to me, and said, We don't have film. I was like, What do you mean, we don't have film? We're about to start shooting. We were shooting the project on film, and somehow some way the film got delivered to the set, and someone rejected the film. 

We had an hour. The shoot day was only half a day. All our cameras were film cameras. So I was thinking, we have about five hours to get finished up. How are we gonna get film? After talking with my team, I called one of my producers who worked with me on my previous personal projects. She lived a five minute walk from the location and so she was like, I have two rolls of film in my fridge. I'm gonna Uber to you now and bring the film to you. And so, thankfully, we got the film we needed and we shot. I had my producer hat on. 

Why have you chosen to shoot on film in your previous projects? How does shooting on film inform your craft? 

I chose to shoot in film because I wanted to challenge myself to be intentional and precise. Film also provides this quality of imagery that feels timeless and immersive. I like to play a lot with surrealism and memories within my work and shooting on film emphasizes the reflective state I want my audience to experience. 

What do you see as the most important quality in a director?

That's a good question, but I also feel like it's a tricky question. Important qualities in a director can differ because you can utilize so many different strengths and talents. But what's important for me as a director, is to be able to create a sense of harmony within the process of making things. Also, making my collaborators feel like they're a part of something good. Making films is so hard. The worst thing in the world is when you have a director who doesn't make their team feel good. It's important to communicate, make sure everyone's happy. Make sure you're getting the best out of people. Because, if you get the best out of people, it makes the process of filmmaking a bit easier. 

Do you encounter any misconceptions about you or your work? Dismantle them for us.

I get frustrated that people call me a narrative director. Because I've made narrative pieces of work, because that was the most accessible way for me to make stuff. But I'm into literally everything. 

Also, a lot of my work stems from the Black lens. And that's important to me, because I'm a Black woman. But it's not monolithic. I'm not just interested in making work that is focused on Black art. I want to explore so many different themes and so many different perspectives, and so many different ways of storytelling. I would just like not to be labeled and boxed, and to be given the opportunity to try different things out.

What excites you most about joining Eleanor’s roster?

Eleanor is very targeted with the kind of work that they want to make. And the kind of directors they're bringing on. For me, when I met Sophie, the founder, I just felt like she was no bullshit. And I love personality types like that. Because you know what you're getting from them. There's no smoke and mirrors. I feel like I'll be looked after here. I feel like my work is understood here. 

Surprise our audience! What’s one fun fact readers would be delighted to know about you?

I think I have stellar music taste! It's so eclectic and wide. If I'm not writing or reading or out, I love curating playlists and sharing it with whomever and whoever. The gift of sharing playlists and music is one of my favorite things to do. It's a bit nerdy, and I can be a bit pretentious when I'm like, you know, like, searching for music. But yeah, that's my thing.


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