This week’s featured member is your recent 1st Place Winner of the Air France Family project! Ariel Elia is a New York-based filmmaker who was originally born in Rio de Janeiro. As a very interesting and talented individual, his interview makes for a very worthwhile read! However before you do, we strongly recommend you check out his fantastic winning submission to Air France.
Now you may continue.
Tell us about yourself, personally and creatively.
Hi! My name is Ariel Elia and I’m 27. I was born in Rio de Janeiro and at the age of 2 moved with my family to Monaco, where I grew up quite a lot (I’m 6’9”). I then went on to study in the US and have been here ever since. I am an observer, I love to watch people and situations, discover new environments and cultures and learn from other people’s experiences and stories. I am also a geek at heart, very much into technology and computers, video games, fantasy worlds and Japanese culture.
What first interested you in film?
When I was 6 I was obsessed with dinosaurs. Around that time Jurassic Park came out and I thought the CGI looked so real I ended up going back probably 8 times to see the movie in the following two weeks. It was the equivalent for me of going to the Zoo. I became fascinated with the fact that cinema is to me a medium that turns dreams into reality.
3. What drew you to the Zooppa community?
My producers, Todd Wiseman Jr and Milos Silber over at Hayden5 are the ones who introduced me to Zooppa and its amazing global community of creative people.
What do you like most about crowdsourced film contests?
I like and appreciate how there are no politics involved in these contests. It is all about the creativity, the material submitted, the work accomplished, and how it fits with the client’s expectations. I also thoroughly enjoyed watching many submissions by fellow creatives, always keeping my eyes open drives my inspiration and pushes me to improve my work.
What do you like to do when you’re not creating video masterpieces?
I love to discover new places, cultures and people as there is always something I can learn from any encounter. I really enjoy traveling as much as I enjoy food and cooking. Engaging with people from different cultures expands my understanding of the world and makes me a better director. My obsession with Japan and its incredibly rich culture will have to culminate in a trip there soon!
It goes without saying that watching movies and TV shows are my favorite things to do. The knowledge and entertainment I get from them is essential to satiate my desire to discover as they take me on journeys from the comfort of my home.
Where is home for you?
While I have lived in a few countries growing up, I see the United States as my home as I identify the most with its culture. As I intend on moving to Los Angeles in the near future, I wouldn’t be calling New York home, but am hoping to find that sentiment once I make the move to L.A.
Where do/did you go to school? How has your education influenced your filmmaking?
After stumbling through two years of economics at Tufts University in Boston, I decided to take a film production summer course at NYU Tisch in 2006. That summer was one major discovery for me and I’ve been working in film ever since. After finishing my Bachelors in film studies, I went on to attend Columbia University for my MFA, where I met the most influential professors that greatly contributed to my education as a filmmaker. While at Columbia I focused more in production, but after producing a few films, I realized my true calling lied in being directly involved in the creative process and I’ve been directing ever since! I owe most of my knowledge to Eric Mendelsohn, who opened my eyes to the world of directing by teaching me how to read visual language. From that moment on I have been building upon those teachings and go back to them every time I direct a film.
What/where do you find inspiration for your films? Share a bit about your creative process.
“Write from what you know” is a famous yet very true saying. In the specific case of this Air France commercial, it tells the story of my father and his friends who, every few years, fly in from their respective homes to get their band back together and reminisce about the good times.
Creatively, I believe that the frame is the most important tool at my disposal to help convey the emotions I wish to transmit to the audience. I therefore tend to prefer visual control over the shots while still making sure they are in sync with the action within the frame and the feeling I wish to express. My favorite filmmakers whose aesthetic I admire the most are Steven Spielberg, Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick.
Which was your favorite Zooppa contest to participate in? Why?
Air France Family would be my first contest, which makes it even more special to me considering the positive outcome. It was such a fun experience making this film with my very talented crew, without which it would not have been possible, and the cast who brought these amazing characters to life and made me believe in the band!
What are you currently working on (job, films)?
I’m directing in the next coming months ‘Toothfairy’, a very ambitious short film in memory of the 1.5 million innocent people who were killed by firing squads throughout Eastern Europe during WWII. It’s tone and story approximates ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘Inglorious Basterds’, with elements of magical realism driving the story that is all told through the perspective of a 10 year old girl. The script is ready to go and I am looking to raise the second half of the financing.
While developing my passion projects, a comedy web series and writing a first feature, I am also still looking to direct more commercials and music videos. Please feel free to reach out as I am eager to direct more!
What are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My childhood dream and ultimate goal is to direct a fantasy sci-fi trilogy in the veins of Star Wars and Lord of The Rings. It is beyond ambitious but believing is the first step!
In the nearer future, I hope to direct my first feature within the next two years, which I am currently in the process of writing myself. More to come soon!
Link us to any work/a portfolio that you would like mentioned.