Simon Ellis (film director)
|Occupation||film director, screenwriter|
Ellis shot and processed his first black and white photographs aged sixteen, drifting away from charcoal and paintbrushes to the camera as his format of choice. Throughout his subsequent art studies in Coventry, Birmingham and eventually Nottingham, he focused on stills photography. After graduating in Fine Art (specifically Fine art photography) and having worked as a camera operator on fellow students' film projects, Ellis wrote a handful of short scripts and started working as a volunteer at the now-defunct Intermedia Film and Video in Nottingham, providing access to camera and editing facilities. He also freelanced as a storyboard artist and occasional graphic designer, learning his filmmaking craft while working as camera operator or editor on an abundance of commissioned short films within Nottingham's thriving scene.
Ellis' short films have received numerous awards and been presented collectively in retrospective programmes at many film festivals worldwide. His BAFTA and European Academy Award nominated short film Soft won 38 prizes including the International Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and Best Short Film at the BIFAs. He attends many festivals as either filmmaker or juror and has mentored short film directors in both the UK and overseas.
Ellis occasionally directs music videos, television shows and commercials. His films are perhaps best characterised by their diversity in both genre and medium, including drama, comedy, experimental, documentary and animation.
Ellis comes out of a strong tradition of regional British filmmaking. He is a very resourceful filmmaker who had embraced a DIY ethic even before digital technology made that option straightforward. Most importantly, he's an actor's director, and his ability to draw out convincing performances, often from inexperienced young actors and non-professionals, makes his films powerful, whatever the genre (Shots magazine)
Soft, commissioned by Film 4 and UK Film Council's Cinema Extreme scheme won thirty-eight festival prizes including the International Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Best Short Film at the British Independent Film Awards, and both BAFTA and European Film Awards nominations.
I came across a short film recently which blew everything else I had seen that week out of the water. After it was over, there was no question of doing anything other than lying on the sofa with a cushion on my face, whimpering in fear and paranoia. 'Soft' is shocking and violent, and ingeniously, intimately upsetting in a way I can only compare to the controversial scenes in Gaspar Noé's Irréversible. The film reminded me of an essay I read by the late Alexander Walker about Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange: that the film was not merely about violence but about something deeper, darker, more unsayable: a fear of our children, and older people's fear and hatred of the young. (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian)
Over a dozen retrospectives of Ellis' eclectic catalogue have been presented at film festivals in Japan, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Romania, Netherlands and the UK. He continues to attend many festivals as either filmmaker or juror and persists working with the short form despite beginning a career in feature films.
The films Telling Lies and Soft both feature on the Cinema 16 DVD collection, on 'British Short Films' and 'World Short Films', respectively. Alongside short films by Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Guillermo Del Toro, Mike Leigh, Lynne Ramsay and many others, Ellis is the only director to feature twice in the series.
In a major collaboration with UK beatboxing champion and loop pedal artist The Petebox, Ellis directed a video for every track from the album Future Loops for an innovative dual CD/DVD album campaign. Each video is a single-take documentary of the live recordings, initially released virally in chronological album order via YouTube, amassing millions of views. He has also directed two environmental binaural recording documentaries with Swimming.
Ellis' occasional foray into commercials include his multi-narrative, interactive anti-knife crime campaign films Choose a Different Ending and Who Killed Deon, which won over sixty awards, including several golds and the inaugural Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions, plus golds at the Clio Awards, and the British Television Advertising Awards. Ellis was bestowed with the Young Director Award for Best European Web Film for Choose a Different Ending and Who Killed Deon was ranked 'most awarded TV campaign in the world' by Campaign magazine in January 2012.
In these days of violence and shocking gornography, it's hard to be sickened by anything on TV – but when the stabbed guy realises he's dying (if you choose that option), my stomach turned. Great filming, great acting, great work. (Noel Bussey, Campaign)
The success of these campaigns saw Ellis direct further short films in single-take format for both the Scottish Police Federation and the National Police of Ukraine.
- Thousand (1998) (5')
- Telling Lies (2000) (5')
- Doing Really Well (2001) (3')
- Bass Invaders (2001) (5')
- 10 Again (2002) (10')
- What about the Bodies (2002) (7')
- What The (2004) (7')
- A Storm and some Snow (2006) (2')
- Soft (2006) (14')
- Dogging (2009) (103')
- Jam Today (2011) (14')
- Stew & Punch (2013) (17')
- Brass Heaven (2015) (3')
- World War Cup (2016) (7')