A chat with Andrew Ellis

Andrew Ellis Narrative Reel

ABOUT Andrew

Andrew creates films that highlight injustice and challenge stereotypes through humanizing, intimate storytelling with award winning cinematography. His documentary Figure Father grapples with the emotional challenges of reentry from prison, while his quirky comedic portrait documentary Eleanor Ambos Interiors flips ageism and gender stereotypes on their head. As Andrew’s films tour the film festival circuit he still values film education, teaching cinematography at New York University and creating a film education program for an NGO in Southern California that works with undocumented immigrants. Andrew’s latest film They Came at Night combines stylized fiction filmmaking with concrete social advocacy strategy for communities devastated by war in Central Africa. Andrew co-founded the art collective Nomadique and is now the full-time Director of Photography for MediaStorm, a digital storytelling agency based in Brooklyn.

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Hello Andrew! Where are you writing from? Where in the world are you?

I’m writing from my home in Brooklyn, NY. I live in a big house with all my friends where we make music and films together.

“They Came at Night” is having a tremendous success, has just won the New Hampshire Film Festival for film of the year, has been seen by over 140k online and over 30.000 people in Africa.

How did you get involved in the production?

I’ve always been interested in participatory filmmaking, and mentoring people in the communities I work in, but I can’t take credit for the film. This project has been a labor of love for Lindsay Branham of Discover the Journey and she brought me to co-write a script and direct the movie. It was an amazing opportunity to tell an honest, exciting, emotional tale that could engage the communities where the film took place. Creating films in marginalized communities to share with an affluent western audience for fundraising purposes has always felt wrong. This was the first time I’d done anything differently.

Do you know of any effect the move has had since it started touring?

It’s had a major impact on the outlook on returning child soldiers within LRA impacted communities. The film’s impact is becoming more significant as defection rates are increasing.

What was the best experience and the hardest challenge in shooting this film?

LANGUAGE was the most challenging because we were shooting the film in Congo where the people speak a mixture of French, Zande, and Lingala. We had to go through an English to french, then French to Zande translation in order to communicate with the actors. It was time consuming and tiresome. However as we became more exhausted we also learned how to communicate better with body language.

Andrew Ellis photo by Sasha Aryutunova

“They Came at Night”

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a doc/fiction hybrid story about the US Prison system. I’ve partnered with a formerly incarcerated activist and am trying to generate greater cultural understanding and empathy for those who’ve been incarcerated.

Tell us something about “Nomadique”, the art collective you’ve co-founded…

Nomadique is a multimedia cooperative committed to facilitating cross cultural communication, self expression, and empowerment. We host artist workshop dinners once a month, and multimedia art exhibitions twice a year. While we’ve developed a community and a brand, it’s really just a way of being that puts community identity above the individual.


Mason Jar Music is also a very cool project, how did you get involved with them?

My now best friend Jon Seale invited me onto a project four years ago. He wanted to film a live recording of an orchestral remix in a cinematic way. I was so into the concept, and we’ve done over fifty videos like that, including a feature, over the last few years. That also, is all about art and community.

If you had to write down a list of 10 up and coming cinematographers, who would they be as of now?

Jon Kasbe, Ben Stamper, Ming Jue Hu, Jacob Blumberg, Hunter Baker, Katrina Sorrentino.

If you could choose to meet someone that inspired you to become a cinematographer, who would it be?

The blinding light that Paul, the apostle on the road to damascus must have been quite a thing to see. I’m curious about what that light looked like and I’d like to know more about that.