Suri Ellerton

Suri Ellerton founded Same Name Productions with fellow producer Sarah Ben Yair in 2014. At Same Name, she is actively involved in all projects on the Same Name slate, from earliest creation and development through post production. Prior to founding Same Name, she was an industry professional working internationally on major film and television productions such as “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” directed by and starring Natalie Portman and “Dig,”an NBCUniversal production starring Jason Isaacs and Anne Heche. She holds a BA in Theater Arts and Psychology from Brandeis University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She is also currently a member of BFI Network x BAFTA Crew.

Tara Karajica talks to Suri Ellerton about her thoughts on the short form, women in film today, what she is up to next and more importantly the Oscar, BAFTA and BIFA-qualified short film, “Ganef,” directed by Mark Rosenblatt and starring “Downton Abbey”’s Sophie McShera, that she produced. “Ganef” is the story of a little girl, spooked by a dark tale from her mother’s wartime past, who starts to believe her adored cleaner is a thief. Inspired by stories from the aftermath of Rosenblatt’s own family’s Holocaust survival, “Ganef” explores, through the tiniest of domestic details, the subtle and complicated impact of trauma on the next generation.




How did you get into filmmaking and what inspires you?

Suri Ellerton: I have been interested in storytelling for as long as I can remember.  That love came from my grandmother who used to tell me tales of pirates and feminist princesses and adventurers who travelled around the world, while I lay in her lap, her stroking my hair.  As a child, I had a passion for theater, producing plays for my family.  I was always the producer, director, and lead actor, of course, designating the roles of villain (etc.) to my little siblings!  At University, I studied Theater and Psychology, but while there, I joined the school’s filmmaking club, where I realized that film was my real calling.  I probably should have realized this before as I was the kid who watched hours and hours of DVD extras, for example when the Lord of the Rings trilogy was released on DVD, I laid in bed watching the film first with the director’s commentary, then with producers commentary, etc.  I loved learning about the incredible effort and detail that went into creating this magical world that felt so easy and seamless.  I continue to be inspired by the great films that are released each year and by my colleagues around me.  It’s exciting to watch the evolution of film, particularly as our industry focuses more and more on the power film has to influence society for the better.

Can you talk about the short film Ganef that you produced?

S.E.: The script for Ganef came to me via the writer-director Mark Rosenblatt, who I’ve known both personally and professionally for a number of years.  He’s a good friend and when he presented me the script, my first thought was: “Oh I don’t know if I want to do this,” as I tend to steer away from anything to do with the Holocaust as my grandmother is a survivor and I find the subject matter too close to home.  But when I read the script, I couldn’t help but feel my grandmother come alive on the page through the character of Mrs. Hirth.  It was such an honest description of post-war trauma and I knew I wanted to do it for her.  She’s the same grandmother, by the way, who was the storyteller.  I imagine she coped with a lot of her pain through her art as a painter, and through her imaginative stories.  I’m incredibly happy that I decided to push past my nerves on this one to produce Ganef.  First of all, the film has come so far. We’re so proud to be Oscar-qualified and we’re holding our breaths for the shortlist!  Also, aside from working with a fantastic cast and crew who I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet, Mark is a wonderful partner, and I think he was incredibly intelligent in his decision-making, and created a beautiful and nuanced film.

How do you see the short form today?

S.E.: I think the short form is very underrated unfortunately.  It is often seen as a calling card for larger work, when in fact, it is an incredibly difficult art form to achieve and should be celebrated on its own terms.  To tell a story that has a beginning, middle, and end, and makes you feel something in such a short timeframe is a real accomplishment.  All of that said, I do think that the world is starting to move towards the short form.  With the advent of social media like YouTube and TikTok, people are more comfortable with watching short stories on screen, and we’re starting to see distributors, such as some major streamers, make a place for short films on their platforms, which is exciting.

What is your opinion on women in film today?

S.E.: I think it’s an amazing time to be a woman in film.  Finally, finally, there is media attention on the discrepancies between opportunities and pay for women versus men in this industry, and there is incentive to make a change.  Having a female director, or female lead actors, or female HODs, are considered valuable today in a way that is unprecedented – as is giving opportunities to people from underrepresented backgrounds, which is an incredible thing.

Who is your favorite female filmmaker and what is your favorite film by a female filmmaker?

S.E.: Oh gosh, can I give you a list?  There are so many wonderful female filmmakers! I have a long list of favorites, but if pressed, at this moment, I’m really inspired by Andrea Arnold and also the writing-directing team of Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini.  Their films are subtle and humanistic at their core. They allow the audience to enter a very intimate space with people who have very real world struggles. As for a favorite film by a female filmmaker, I loved Lulu Wang’s The Farewell.  It was funny and heartbreaking at the same time.  Films that can make me laugh at one moment and cry at the next are always going to find a high place on my favorites list.

What are your next projects?

S.E.: I am currently in development on a short film which is a kind of romantic fantasy film that centers around mental health.  And, my company, Same Name Productions, is developing a number of features and television series in various genres.  One of our newest projects is called The Girl from Nowhere, based on an incredible memoir by Eliska Tanzer, and is about a young Slovakian girl from an impoverished Romani ghetto, whose mother sends her aboard a ship to the UK for a better life, but finds herself caught in the web of a human trafficking ring.  Her resilience, optimism, and even sense of humor and imagination throughout her ordeal is incredibly inspiring, and the story has a lot of important socially relevant themes such as racism, sexual abuse, and refugees and immigration.



Photo credits: Courtesy of Suri Ellerton.

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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