Where does true love live? This is the question that runs through my mind as I sit down with Ella Ezeike.
Bluebird is a short poetic film that delves into the experience of the love and kinship that exists between a group of friends after the end of a romantic relationship. In the woes of heartbreak, our protagonist is shrouded in love by her friends as she attempts to find healing and understanding of a romantic relationship that has gone wrong.
Ella Ezeike; the Nigerian-American photographer and director has just debuted her first short film. Her latest project ‘Bluebird’ is a story about love, heartbreak and friendship. Entirely self-funded, she takes me through her journey to finding her calling as a filmmaker and how love informs the stories she wishes to tell.
Who were some of your inspirations for photography and film growing up?
Growing up, I always loved David La Chapelle’s work and Hype Williams. They were at the centre of pop culture and music and produced amazing imagery that gave a real insight into their subjects. You could feel the rawness of each shot. The colours, choice of lighting and set design were just really thought out and cohesive. Their images just stood the test of time and are still so iconic. I hope to achieve that level of consistency and iconic status with my own work as I progress and develop.
When did you begin your journey into visual storytelling?
I have always been a very creative and visual person from such a young age. I have very vivid memories of making videos of me and my friends in secondary school. I was always lugging a camera around, capturing moments, interviewing people… I even had a YouTube channel where I would document my travels. Telling stories was something that always resonated with me. There was something so comforting about being able to capture moments in real-time and then reflect on the moments as time went on.
At what point did you decide that “Bluebirds’ was a visual story that you needed to tell?
I decided to make Bluebird after a very rough breakup. It affected me on such a deep level and there were moments when I just couldn’t get up most days. But my friends were there to help me and guide me, they were really my support system. As women, we often centre romantic relationships at the core of our lives and romantic relationships are important but there is so much beauty and safety in friendship. I wanted to communicate a narrative with this as the focal point. So I came up with the idea, told my friends – who loved the idea and pitched it to different collaborators. It was essentially a love letter to my friends.
What was your decision making process when deciding when choosing the talent, the settings and the team involved in the film?
Well, there were a lot of hurdles making this because of the pandemic, different schedules… I even have to recast some people. There were moments, I felt discouraged and felt like giving up because I only had my passion and the passion of my collaborators to keep it going. But it was important to me to work with people who really believed in the idea. I thought that was a good foundation because with a project that is entirely self-funded you need people who are passionate otherwise it’s not really going to get its foot off the ground. I emailed and dm’d all the people involved and they were all really up for doing it.
All of my actors had minimal to no acting experience but I just had a feeling that they’d deliver the authenticity I wanted on camera because everyone was really excited to be involved and there was a relatability there for everyone. There was a good vibe between everyone and it was easy for me to be as blunt as possible in order to get what I felt the story needed. It was the same on the post-production side. My cinematographer was also extremely supportive and he was my soundboard through the entire thing so I’m really grateful for his involvement.
You beautifully told a story of the intimacy and healing that comes from female friendships. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with this?
My friends are really the loves of my life. It took a long time for me to feel like I could be vulnerable in female friendships and my friendship group really nurtures that side of me. They have gotten me through the worst of times and I think it’s so important to have friends who are just a stable and loving presence in your life. Not everyone is lucky enough to have that and I’m so happy I do.
What role does spoken wordplay in this film? Why did you choose it as a way to express the protagonist’s emotions?
It was important for me to have a poem in the film because I didn’t want dialogue in the film. I wanted the nuances and emotion to be played through body movement and facial expression. But I also wanted the protagonist’s hardships and vulnerabilities displayed in a way that the audience could really understand and relate to.
This is your first short film and it was handpicked to be previewed this fall before Reggie Yates’s ‘Pirates’ in cinemas all over London. How did that feel?
It felt amazing. It really helped me let go of my imposter syndrome. I was even told by the organisers that he was really pushing for my film to be a part of the lineup as there was only supposed to be one. So it was super affirming and it made me feel like there was space for me to be a creator and tell the stories that mean something to me.
Any hints on your next project?
I’m working on another film about the intricacies of human relationships in a family dynamic. This one is from the heart as well.