Filmmaker, Eliza Brownlie is known for the dreamy quality of her visuals and her sincere and emotive storytelling style. With an impressive resume under her belt, that includes commercial work for brands like Dove, Canon cameras, and Top Expert, music videos for Juno nominated artists The Darcys, and a celebrated short film, The After Party (which was backed by several film giants, including Lionsgate Films Executive, Robert Melnick)– Eliza has earned her reputation as one of the finest directors of her time.
We got to sit down with the talented (and sweet) director to discuss her background, current work, and what’s coming next.
What inspired you to get into the film industry?
Eliza: I’ve always been very creative and loved film from an early age. Although, it wasn’t until university that I decided to experiment with filmmaking and start taking it seriously. Other than being an unparalleled form of entertainment, film also allows you to go to places you haven’t been and explore such a wide range of experiences and emotions. In this way, films connect us to a deeper sense of empathy and humanity. I think it’s the most magical visual medium we have.
Your short film, The After Party, recently ran on the international festival circuit (congrats!). What was that experience like?
Eliza: Aw, thank you. It’s been so much fun! Film festivals are a great opportunity to get to meet other people in the international film scene, and they also provide an important platform for showcasing new work. So getting accepted into several festivals was really exciting! My lead actress, Tarryn Lagana and I flew to New York for the premiere at the Williamsburg Independent Film Festival. The movie premiered to a full theater, which was definitely nerve-wracking, but it was cool to see how people responded to it. The reviews were really positive. The After Party will be screening across North America again soon, dates to be announced.
Poster for The After Party, written and directed by Eliza Brownlie.
Let’s talk about some of your commercial work. Your films for Dove (soap) were so beautifully executed, on top of having a really powerful message. It’s definitely a campaign that so many people can connect to. How did you approach this project and what drew you to the subject matter?
When Dove approached me with the concept, I was immediately hooked. I’m always drawn to commercials that have an authenticity to them and that promote a positive message for women of all ages. In this case, I interviewed several prominent artists and explored their relationship with their bodies and to their work. The goal with the commercials was to emphasize the positivity and self-confidence that emerges through the process of creating. We wanted to highlight how each of the artists turned their perceived ‘imperfection’ into a strength. A big part of my approach was creating a safe and open space in which the subjects felt comfortable and supported sharing their personal stories. Additionally, I wanted the visuals to reflect the joy and confidence that each of them derived from making their art, and how it helps them overcome insecurities. To emphasize this, I used a lot of dynamic camera work, which allowed the performances to breathe and the talent to act naturally in their element. The stories were very heartfelt, and I think that their true and beautiful selves really shined through.
Link to commercial: http://www.elizabrownlie.com/#/dove-imperfectionists/
How do you feel about directing television?
I love TV and regularly binge on Netflix/Amazon shows. There’s no doubt, we’re in the golden age of TV with so much high quality content and brilliant storytelling out there. It’s a very exciting time to work in the entertainment industry. I actually directed a drama series not too long ago called This Is It, starring the incredible actress Blu Hunt (who is a lead in X-Men’s The New Mutants film series). I really enjoyed working on that project and I’m in talks to do more TV in the near future.
Eliza on the set of This Is It, directing actress, Blu Hunt.
I’m sure our readers would love to hear about how you got to where you are as a director. Any advice you would give to aspiring filmmakers?
Hard work, an original voice, and perseverance. My father is an aerodynamic engineer and my mother was a school teacher, so I definitely didn’t have film industry nepotism working in my favor. I worked extremely hard all through university, during my BA in Communications and later through film school at UCLA. I shot a lot of projects in order to establish my perspective, connected with other individuals in film, and showed the world what I could do as a director. Eventually, people took notice and the gigs continued to come in. Working in such a demanding industry and artistic medium, you have to sacrifice a lot (sleep, social life, etc). But I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for the world.
As for advice: Go out and live and experience the world. Your filmmaking will suffer if you haven’t lived. Make work that you would want to see and stay true to your perspective. No matter how niche, there will always be an audience for it. Get good at pitching (both visually and verbally). This is what’s going to get you most of your jobs. And finally, don’t compromise your vision and remember to enjoy the process.
A still of model, Breanna Box, from Eliza’s commercial for fashion brand, Top Expert.
Any new projects coming up that audiences can look forward to?
Definitely! I’m working on a new short film and a true crime feature that I’m really excited about (which I can’t give away too much about plot-wise as they are currently in development). I’m also signed on to direct: a comedy project with the hilarious Chris Fairbanks (of HBO’s ‘Crashing’, Amazon’s ‘One Mississippi’, and Comedy Central’s upcoming series ‘Corporate’), which is produced by Avail Comedy, a campaign for luxury department store “Departmento” (showcasing their high-end collection of top menswear brands), commercials for one of the world’s top surf and eyewear brands (Vissla + DBlanc), and a film for renowned gin company, The Spirit Guild (exploring their unique “Farm to Table” distilling process).
Make sure you check out Eliza’s full body of work on her personal site at www.elizabrownlie.com or on Free the Bid: https://www.freethebid.com/directors/eliza-brownlie/ , and keep an eye out for her new films and commercials in the next few months. She has a ton of projects on the way, so you stay tuned for more