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Independent filmmaking: Collaborative storytelling

If you follow me (or my daughter) on social media or here in the magazine, you know I am parent to a child entertainer. An important part of the journey for most actors — children and adults — is working with independent filmmakers. Many of them (including Ella) had their work showcased at the recent 20th anniversary Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival. 

An important part of the journey for most actors — children and adults — is working with independent filmmakers. A view of actors’ IMDb pages (where you see their TV and film credits) likely reveals films you’ve never heard of. So much storytelling is happening out there!

“I think I love filmmaking because I love to tell a story and there is no more dramatic way than through film,” said Dr. Terry Cronin Jr., who along with Three Boys Productions organized the first Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival in 1999 at the Henegar Center in Melbourne. “There is a lot of work that goes into what you end up seeing on screen. Filmmakers often put weeks of work into just several minutes of screen time.”

Cronin, plenty busy as a surgeon and father, said filmmaking is a passion because he enjoys the collaboration “with so many talented people, whether it is the cast members or crew, it truly takes an army of people to make a movie.”

The MIFF celebrated its 20th anniversary in October. It evolved from a single screening of a handful of locally produced films into a multi-day event at Premiere Theaters Oaks 10, including a Saturday evening red carpet. Films are submitted from around the world.

It was such an honor for Ella’s first film, Hollywood Hurts, to screen at the MIFF. Ella has a supporting role as the younger Justine Renee of Orlando, who wrote the script based on events in her life. She also directed and starred.

“My passion has always been acting, but I realized that directing has afforded an opportunity to show my creativity without limitations,” Renee said.

Raised as a semi-pro ski racer, Renee had a passion for modeling and acting. She graduated with a theatre degree from Suffolk University and is a self-taught filmmaker, having worked on many independent projects.

Having acted for 10 years and directed for five, Renee was able to collaborate with Emmy-nominated producer Beth Wheatley to send a message with Hollywood Hurts.

“I would like to encourage and inspire other survivors to speak up and empower themselves, come to understand that sexual assault is never OK,” Renee said.

Yes, it was amazing to see little Ella’s face on the big screen! And get dressed and enjoy the red-carpet activities. But the true reward is being able to collaborate and be a part of the storytelling.

“Patronizing the filmmaking community helps bring artistic projects to our area and then our area is showcased to the world,” Cronin said.

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