Between the Pines

Emma Bell

Lighthouse Management + Media

1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?

My first directing project was a short film entitled Scratch. It is a horror/thriller about a repressed 1950’s housewife driven crazy by scratching sounds coming from her walls only she can hear. We shot it in the spring of 2017 and it’s since gone on to have a pretty successful festival run winning many awards including "Best Thriller Short" at the Women in Horror Film Festival.

2) How did you get into directing? 

I have been a working actor for 16 years but a few years ago decided I wanted to branch out and create my own stories. I noticed a lack of female led stories being told in Hollywood and I want to be part of changing that. The producer/main actress from Scratch called me and asked if I wanted to give her friend’s script a shot at being a short film. I leapt at the opportunity. It was an incredible first experience.

3) What is your most recent project? 

My most recent project is a short I shot during the early days of quarantine. I wanted to give myself the challenge of writing, directing, starring in and doing all post. We used only the people and equipment we had available to us. It is entitled Self Love in Quarantine, a quirky rom-com with magical realism and I am very proud of what we could do with so little!

4) What is the best part of being a director? 

The best part of being a director is seeing the story unfold before your eyes. You walk into production with all your notes and intentions but the real magic happens between the six inches of the camera lens. When everything aligns and the collaboration of all departments support the story it fills me with true exhilaration. You can only be so prepared and then you have to let the story spring its own life. The difference in my opinion between a good and great director is the ability to let go and allow for that to happen.

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 

The worst part of being a director is dealing with time. There’s never enough time. Time goes so fast when you are in the moment and you always wish you had more of it to really make sure you got everything you could. Alternatively, time drags on when you are in the early phases of developing a project and you wish you could jump ahead to pre-production. You have to manage everyone else’s time and are responsible for going over their work days or not giving them the time the need to do their job properly. Time management, whether it’s your strong suit or not is a hard one on every set I’ve ever been on as a director or actor.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre--comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 

I would love to work in film and television mostly. Film is my first love as a director because I think you get more creative say, but it can also be the least lucrative and most competitive. In this golden age of television many shows are effectively small films, and they are so easily available to a much broader audience which I love. Networks are also telling some very interesting stories which I know would be fun and challenging to dig into as a director. I love magical realism and fantasy. For me that’s the through line in my work. The genre can change but for the most part the stories I tell will always have some otherworldly element to it. Especially if I’ve been given the chance to write my own project.

7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you? 

I don’t know if I have any real hands on mentor at the moment, I’d actually love to meet more female directors and have them take me under their wing! I have however had many inspiring examples of what can be accomplished with hard work and determination. Alma Har'el is a huge inspiration to me as I met her in her early days of being a music video director. It’s been incredible to watch her career blossom. I’ve also had the privilege of working with legendary directors such as Frank Darabont, Robert Schwartzman, and Liz Allen to name a few. Under their tutelage I learned about leadership, storytelling and maintaining creative standards.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 

I have two directors that I’d say are my current favorites. Alma Har’el and Damien Chazelle. Alma, as I said, has had a prolific career in music videos, documentaries and now indie film. What I love about her work is her incredible imagination. Her documentary Bombay Beach didn’t just highlight the hardships facing youth near the abandoned Salton Sea but added dance and music as a form of expression to allow us into their souls. It is one of my all time favorite documentaries and I think of it often. Her segue into film was seamless and again she was able to get us into the psyche of her characters in creative ways. Damian Chazelle is another director whose imagination seems to be his limit. Whether it be in the harsh and unrelenting world of‘Whiplash or the Technicolor fantasy of La La Land he has a magic that he brings to the screen that puts his audience right in the middle of the world.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?

My all time favorite movie is The Princess Bride followed closely by Edward Scissorhands. There are so many television shows I’ve loved over the years but my favorite series of my adult life would have to be Game of Thrones. My two current favorites television series are Euphoria and Killing Eve. I’d love to shadow on either of those shows!

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 

I grew up in NJ and moved to NYC at 16 to pursue acting. I started in musical theater and had my sights set on Broadway but opportunity had other plans and I ended up following a film and television path. My first real indie film entitled Death in Love directed by Boaz Yakin, premiered at Sundance and brought me to the West Coast at 21 where I’ve been living ever since. My first series regular role was as ‘Amy’ on The Walking Dead and that kind of changed my career in a major way. I starred in indies like the ski thriller Frozen and in major franchises like Final Destination 5, then landed a series regular role on Dallas. After we were canceled is when I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing and directing and a few years later shot Scratch. My latest acting project, an indie entitled The Argument, is my first real comedy where I star alongside Dany Pudi, Dan Fogler, Maggie Q, Cleopatra Coleman and Tyler James Williams. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime and will be on Starz.

Directing wise, my last short that I wrote and directed, Between the Pines, is still in its festival run and has won "Best Short" at both the Chelsea Film Festival and the Female Filmmakers Fuse Festival. Between the Pines was always meant to be made into a longer format piece and I have a working feature length script for it, although would be interested in adapting it into a series as well.

11) How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?

At the end of 2019 I thought 2020 would be the year where everything I’d been working towards would culminate and effectively I’d get everything that I wanted. Instead this year has shown me all the things I am incredibly grateful for. It’s been a time of reflection and self-care, a moment to really take stock of what works for me in my life and what I can purge. Many times I feel this respite has been forced upon me and it can bring up feelings of stagnation but then I remember that in silence we do the most growing and I realize this time could be looked at as a gift. Obviously, there are financial and career stressors that we are all feeling but I’m trying to make this historic year count.

Contact

Contact Manager Scott Wexler, Lighthouse Media via email
Personal website