Ela Gorkay

19 year old student film-maker based in Oxford, UK. Focused on directing narrative shorts, her experimental style encompasses all aspects of creative direction from cinematography, sound design and soundtrack composing, screenwriting and production.

Her keen interest in creative writing and photography have equipped her with the knowledge to convey moving imagery with aesthetic profiles, focusing on low level lighting to convey the emotions of the protagonists within her narratives.

Recently her trailer for the film, 'The Birthday,' and her super-short 'The box,' won the official selection and finalist award at World Impact Film Festival in Ontario. 'The Birthday Trailer,' was also selected and appears on the Cannes Film Awards Youtube channel. Previously, her photographic series 'Waiting,' was a finalist at Theta Short film Festival.

In the aim of making a craft significant to her vision, she composed 'Mika's Theme,' for the trailer of her film 'Desiderium.' Recently, she composed the soundtrack 'Jamie on a walk,' which appears in her short film 'The Birthday,' a narrative experimental short conveying the complexity of a young boy's search for reconciliation following the death of his mother.

Your project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?  
The short film ‘The Birthday,’ explores the journey of Jamie whose late mother’s unexpected passing is further complicated upon discovering her last voicemail. Searching for reconciliation, the narrative expresses the psychology of the protagonist as he struggles to cope on the date of his mother’s birthday.   The film explores the depth of grief and the complexity of guilt that takes shape because of Jamie's unresolved altercations with his mother, ultimately leading him down a path of denial, anger, and turmoil. To compensate for is wrongdoing in his past relationship with his mother, Jamie celebrates her birthday through lighting a candle upon a cake. Although the cake is not shown within the trailer, the repetitive visuals within the film itself, signify and reflect the neurotic and cyclical thoughts of Jamie, whose sense of reality slowly begins to hinder as he begins to realise that closure is inevitable.

The Birthday Poster png

What are your ambitions with your project?
My ambitions for the project were to investigate the experiences of grief, alongside the loneliness that accompanies it. The project was really my way of demonstrating this feeling through moving imagery, through the absence of detailed dialogue to get the point across further.

Tell us something about your shooting?
What pleasantly surprised you?   Throughout shooting the film, it became clear to me that following the script religiously did more harm than good; allowing the main actor to experiment and improvise had a greater benefit to producing a film with a more natural feel.

For what group of spectators is your film targeted?
The film itself, was directed towards those who have had loss in their lives; attempting to bring comfort to the commentator through expressing the often-complex feelings that arise from losing someone close to us.

Why should distributors buy your film?
I believe that films are supposed to express the innate simple things in life. My film, ‘The Birthday,’ does just that. Experimental in its visual aspect as well as it’s sound design, the implicit narrative allows the audience to form their own judgement, even though the theme of grief is a simple and natural part of human life.

How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?
My work primarily focuses on the impact of high contrast, dark and heavily graded moving imagery, and how sound can be used as a vehicle to further the impact of this. In ‘The Birthday,’ the impact of this becomes clear; sound plays a huge part, used precisely to evoke the same emotions of grief that the main protagonist Jamie experiences, onto the audience. The lack of narration and heavy focus on cinematography was my way of attempting to recreate Jamie’s mental state.

Why did you decided to become a filmmaker?
I became interested in photography around the age of 12, which also began during my phase of writing short stories. Later, at the age of 16, I combined my interests to produce short films. Since then, I have become invested in cinema, not just through directing and producing but writing as well.

Who is your role model?
My biggest role model of all time is my grandfather. Although I never met him, the stories of his life and work ethic and focus on family life have been talked about since his passing. For me, he symbolises what hard work can achieve and what it means to invest energy into the right causes.

Which movies are your favourites? Why?
As a filmmaker, it is difficult to decide which films hold the most impact as each film I’ve watched, whether deemed good or bad has had an impact on me; what I enjoy and dislike and the most controversial question: what makes a film good? In terms of the question, the most impactful has been Krzysztof kieślowski ‘Blue,’ as it showcases emotions of the main protagonist through lighting, which outlines the importance of Mise-en-Scene in cinema. This film was a big influence for me, especially for my film ‘The Birthday.’

Where do you look for inspiration for your films?
In terms of inspiration, everyday life, and the experiences it brings. I always keep a small notebook with me, writing down any ideas, big or small that come to me throughout the day. Another inspiration is the experiences and stories of others, whether through in person, through films in themselves or books.

Which topics interest you the most?
Psychology, literature, and music have always been a big interest of mine, which is why many of my films include themes of the latter, such as a strong psychological focus on the characters, layered with soundtracks and the influences of poetry through dialogue.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
The greatest achievement of my career has been having the freedom to write, direct and produce my own films. It is an honour to have the freedom to make art that is not shaped or confined to a specific mould.

What do you consider most important about filming?
The most important aspect of filmmaking for me is to be able to produce work that is true to a vision, that serves a purpose in itself; tells a story that sticks, but more importantly creates a strong reaction within an audience, regardless of whether the reaction is positive or negative, I believe if a film can make someone feel things, then a filmmaker has succeeded in what they do.  

Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?
The best type of filmmaking in my opinion is accidental, which is why as a director I aim to work interdependently as opposed to independently; allowing the actor to follow direction without hindering their unique acting style, allowing them to verge off script to achieve a more fluid experimental product. In terms of techniques, I tend to use a mixture of static shots with movement within the frames coupled with tracking shots following the subject to reinforce this.  

How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?
Current filmmaking today has a heavy focus on world issues, which I believe to be a monumental stepping stone in the industry, as it brings said issues to light. I believe it’s important for us as filmmakers to really question the impact of our narratives on the wider audience, and how films can be used to enforce social justice or reform.

What can disappoint you in a movie?
A disappointing movie for me, is one that lacks a motivation for it’s release and doesn’t have a specific moral or lesson to teach the audience. All movies have purpose, but a disappointing movie to me, is when I leave the viewing feeling like I haven’t learnt anything.

Who supports you in your film career?
As a student filmmaker, I am supported by my institution, where I am currently studying Film and Television as an undergraduate. I also work freelance as a filmmaker on my own private projects, through the support of my friends and family.

What are the reactions to your film? (opinion of spectators, film critics, friends and family)
I’ve had positive views from friends and family, as well as some of the judges from the film festivals I have attended, who have mentioned that ‘The Birthday,’ has an aesthetic filmic look which models well using light and shadow. I have also had some critics mention that the storyline was not explicit enough and lacked narration.

Have you already visited any of the prestigious film festivals?
I have had the honour of attending several film festivals over the course of the past months. Most recently, I won best short film and best cinematography at the Paris Awards Film Festival. I also recently had the honour of winning Best Student Director at the Sydney World Film Festival. In October, I got officially selected for Budapest Movie Awards, which I am hoping to attend in the coming months.

What are your future plans in filmmaking carrier?
For the future, I aim to continue making films, but also branch out towards sound design and composing, which I had some experience of previously, in my older film projects. I also want to meet as many like-minded filmmakers as possible to share ideas, work with and make meaningful movies with.                      

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