In Session: Elisheva Novella

ALBANY – While Elisheva Novella started working in the film industry as an actress, it didn’t take them long to explore other talents, and explore them with finesse! In 2022, they released Time Skipping to international acclaim, all while continuing to act, always adding irons to the fire. Once again ramping up for more projects, the filmmaker is using their unique life experiences to continue to help inform their craft. It’s a craft that definitely stands out, to say the very least!

I had a chance to speak with Elisheva this past week. What follows is our conversation.

Lucas Garrett: Elisheva, thank you for taking time out of your afternoon to sit down and talk.

Elisheva Novella: Thank you for having me.

LG: Tell us a bit about yourself.

EN: I’m a writer, director, and actress. I started out acting, and over the pandemic I really developed my interest in sharing stories and the amalgamation of that turned out to be Time Skipping, which was my directorial debut. It’s been interesting seeing that come to life. It’s helped me to make a name for myself as a storyteller.

LG: I had the pleasure of watching that last week and let me tell you: that was some weird cinema you made! I love it.

EN; Thank you!

LG: I watched it twice. The first time, I was like “What the hell is going on here?” I think the way you wrote and directed it, a lot of people can take away a lot of different things from it. Was that your intent when you made the film?

EN: I think when I wrote it, it was coming from a very genuine place, which is what I think writing should be, ideally. I think writing something that comes from the heart – comes intuitively – you can create a story that becomes more universal.

For those that haven’t seen it, it’s about an old woman at her husband’s funeral who dances home and creates a mess, and looks at her life and finds herself in this ecstatic joy. I wrote it at a time when I was feeling that sense of entrapment. It was based on a poem I wrote in 2020 with the same name. it was something that came up when I was feeling down about my past.

I’m neurodivergent and growing up, I found myself feeling co-dependent in my relationships; unable to allow myself to exist authentically, and not feeling like I was capable of full independence. An ability to be myself without being taken care of. When this came up at that point, I felt very at a loss. It was a dream of the future of maybe one day having this moment of true freedom. I think it’s something that a lot of people feel in various, different forms. That’s one thing about a story that is universal: you can tell a very specific story, but it’s that ability to pinpoint an emotion… it’s been very interesting to talk to people and see that it goes well beyond whatever I was in when I wrote it. It’s something more than that.

LG: Do you feel writing, producing, directing, and releasing it has made you feel better than you did at the time of creation?

EN: When I wrote the poem, it had that more natural effect of expressing oneself on a page. Whether or not it makes you feel better, it allows you to process what is on your mind and pinpoint it a little more.

When I decided to make it a film, I was more excited to visualize this story I created. It’s kind of funny… you get into; you get into creativity from a very natural, intuitive place – although film is not the most naturally intuitive art. You have to find places you can express in new, original ways. But as you’re doing it, it’s very planned out: you’re a director; you’re creating schedules. You’re very much in a different seat than if you’re sitting in your room writing poems; writing stories; painting. It’s been a new way of understanding. It’s been a very new experience, I think.

LG: You and I are not your “typical” person – whatever the hell that means! Do you find that gets in the way of what you’re trying to do with your art, or that it informs your art? Both?

EN: I have both autism and ADHD. I think that it’s both a blessing and a curse in how I think. It’s definitely informed the way I look at the world. It’s given me a unique perspective that is integral to the stories I write. That shift of perspective.

I think if I could have gone the more standard route…. Hahaha. Go to a four-year college; get a job; make life easier, I might’ve done that. But it never seemed like it was possible, for me. Maybe I could have if I forced myself through it. When we don’t fit the mold we see, for us, finding a sense of belonging comes from figuring out a different path than something we’ve seen before. We have to become our own role models.

LG: One of the things that I love about this job is that I meet so many interesting people. I’ve heard in the past given my situation – I have a neuromuscular disease called Pompe – that i inspire people. When it gets down to it, I’m starting to understand what they mean when they say that. I’m inspired by you and the conversation we’re having. Even though I may not know what you’re going through, I understand what it’s like to not be in a cookie-cutter mold. I believe the very best art comes from people that are not “typical.”

EN: I think that’s some of the beauty of connection: you find those places that you can understand others. I know that I am also very privileged in a lot of ways. I’m neurodivergent and I think that has brought up some struggles, but I mask very easily. It’s something that I think opens me up but I’m very touched and inspired by people who just are able to work with whatever came their way and twist it and always make it into something beautiful.

LG: When we have whatever it is that we may have, it is a lot easier to see inspiration in people that may have something outside of the norm. I think what you’re doing is very inspiring. I don’t think about dealing with what I have, I just do. I can’t speak for you, but I have the feeling you do the same thing.

EN: Right. I think that’s the thing about pain as a whole.  I like to be pretty open about the things I’ve been through: I was in an abusive relationship; I’ve been assaulted; I have gone through a number of experiences that made life difficult at certain points. I think the reaction to that wasn’t so much needing to prove anything about it, but it’s just that it happened. Once you’re dealing with something, you have to keep going to become the best version of yourself, as most of us hope to be, usually! Work with what you’ve got.

LG: What were some of your favorite movies that you like to watch when you were growing up?

EN: When I was in my preteens, I was starting to get into more of these experimental films. I’m very inspired by Daisies by Věra Chytilová. It was a huge inspiration for the aesthetic of this film. These women … just living and being so carefree and in this way that I thought was unique in a way that we still don’t see a lot in film. It was done in a very fun and playful way.

I enjoy dark comedy. I love Heathers, which was written by Daniel Waters and directed by Michael Lehmann. It takes a concept and twists it and says something meaningful but makes it fun.

LG: Have you seen Banshees of Inisherin?

EN: Yes! It’s a good example of how it could’ve just been a very straightforward film; kinda dead. But it took what it wanted to say and told it in a way that was entertaining. That’s something that we can forget about in storytelling, that whatever we’re trying to say – no matter how deep or intense it is – that we can always find a way to draw in the audience so that they want to learn about it.

LG: Are you working on anything right now?

EN: I’m directing a project this summer with Ryan Palmer. It’s more of a comedy than Time Skipping. I think that’s more of the direction I’m going in. [With Time Skipping] I definitely intended to be comedic, but it’s funny in the sense of what I find amusing. Some people see it, some people don’t.

LG: Tell us a bit about the new project.

EN: It’s going to be another film. Where I’m at creatively, is that I want to keep writing and directing. I’m exploring that part of myself creatively. Letting it happen naturally and sort of seeing how that unfolds – I think that’s a very big part of finding oneself as a director that I maybe didn’t have a chance to do before writing this internationally-award-winning film. Hahaha. I didn’t go to film school, I just dug in and hoped for the best.

LG: Congratulations on your awards!

EN: Hahaha. Thank you, it’s exciting. I’m doing a little more acting – that’s how I started. In the process, I’ve had more chances to act on camera. It’s been an exciting way to tie in where I started with what I’m doing now.

LG: I really like your work a lot in Ridicule.

EN: Thank you!

LG: Then, your name came up again and I thought, “I have to interview her.”

EN: Thank you. I was also in The Monkey recently. Spencer Sherry directed that Stephen King adaptation. I was in a music video for Nada y Nada. I’ve been doing some commercial work. I have some stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day, yet, but it’ll slowly surface over time.

LG: Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your day! I enjoyed our conversation!

EN: Thank you so much for having me!

LG: Have a good day! Stay in touch, I want to stay up-to-date with your projects, and support you if I can! Have a great day.

EN: Thank you so much. Talk to you later.

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