I’m Ella Greenwood, a 19-year-old filmmaker, mental health advocate and CEO of Broken Flames Productions.
I grew up in London, England and started acting at a young age. I absolutely loved anything to do with film and so knew that I wanted to work in the industry, though I had my heart set on only doing this as an actor for so long. I signed with an agent at a young age, spent years auditioning then when I turned 18, I decided that I wanted to tell my own stories and to create my own work.
I now run Broken Flames Productions, which is focusing on a slate of mental health-based projects. This is because I really struggled with my mental health as a young teen, and so I’m passionate about raising awareness of mental health, and de-stigmatising it. I spend a lot of my time producing, and running the company, and I also write and direct. I’m an ambassador for teen mental health charity stem4.
When I decided that I wanted to start filmmaking, I knew that I wanted to do a short film about something that I had experience with and that I would hope would be an important story to tell, so made my first short film Faulty Roots about a teenage girl with depression. When working on this short, I created my company Broken Flames, so that I could continue to make more projects and to build a business and platform for my work. I wrote, directed and produced Faulty Roots, so by creating Broken Flames, I also thought that it would seem more professional, and not just a single passion project for me. The positive reactions received from the short, and the joy that I felt opening up about my experience with mental health and really trying to improve the representation of it in the media, led to me making the decision to build a slate of mental health-based projects and to focus my time on this.
”Growing up, I didn’t really see many characters on screen, if not any, who had a mental illness or who struggled with their mental health”
Growing up, I didn’t really see many characters on screen, if not any, who had a mental illness or who struggled with their mental health. It also wasn’t a thing that was talked about anywhere around me, and so I had no idea what I was going through when I started struggling. It then took an even longer time to reach out for support once I had realised, largely due to the stigma attached to mental illness, which is hugely influenced by the media. I thought that if I could bring a more normal representation of mental health to the film industry and to share my experiences and promote a more positive representation in the media, then this could really help people, and to at least make them realise that they’re not alone in what they’re going through.
Faulty Roots is now being developed into a feature film, in partnership with Social Impact Agency TerraMedia, and Broken Flames has also produced Self-Charm, starring BAFTA Nominee Bukky Bakray, the animation Dreary Days, the Dramedy Smudged Smile with Netflix star Mia Mckenna-Bruce and we will soon start shooting our upcoming film Why Wouldn’t I Be? I want to make sure that female filmmakers and young creatives are really promoted and supported at Broken Flames. Our work has been featured by the likes of Yahoo, Deadline, Variety, Huffington Post, BBC, Thrive Global, and Digital Journal.
There are quite a lot of ways that the industry works that I really don’t agree with. There is so much change needed, and it can often feel like I’m not even a part of the industry. I want Broken Flames to encourage getting people into the industry, who don’t have those connections already in place, or a wealthy background to support them. I want to make sure that all of our crews are made up by at least a majority of female filmmakers. I also want to make sure that mental health is never used only for entertainment purposes with negative stereotypes attached.
”There are quite a lot of ways that the industry works that I really don’t agree with”
I have learned that there are some things that you should definitely place more importance on than others. For example, I didn’t go to film school to be a filmmaker, or business school to be the Director of a company, but I’m doing so anyway. A lot of people, and this is something that is often said more by women than men, feel like they have to be extremely qualified before even attempting to go for their dreams. The things that I have been complemented on the most are my tenacity, passion and energy, and I do believe that these are the things that have got me where I am today. I have faced a huge amount of rejection, and it will probably always be the case that I will face more rejections than successes, but those smaller amounts of successes have so much more important than the rejections, and so being able to focus on them instead and to just keep going, is what is most crucial.