Ella Bourne is an actress, surfer and all-round creative who is starting to make waves in the entertainment industry.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to Ella about her debut short film, her upcoming role as Helen of Troy, dreams of surfing with Margot Robbie, and much more.
Q: Your debut film ‘Awoke’ recently won ‘Best Environmental Film’ at the California Film Festival. Can you tell us more about the story and the message behind the film?
A: Awoke was created through a connection to the natural environment growing up in Apollo Bay, a small regional town that borders the Otway National Park. I wanted to create a piece with a message of the importance to protect the natural environment at the same time as being an aesthetically awe-inspiring artwork.
We follow a woman through an incredible natural landscape, with the narration somewhat separated to her actions, at the end culminating in the realisation that this is mother earth and the piece is a metaphor for what we as a society are doing to her. Hopefully people still walk away from the film with the warm fuzzy feeling that the earth is beautiful and we are one with it.
Q: How much does ‘Awoke’ mean to you on a personal level, particularly combining your passion for film and surfing?
A: As my first film, I’m so close to and proud of this film as well as being ready to move to the next one taking with me everything I’ve learned from shooting Awoke and tackling a bigger beast next time!
It was an incredible experience being the one who makes all the final decisions on what happens and being the driving force to create a film. Of course, it’s always a collaborative process and the film wouldn’t exist without the amazing team I got to work with. Mark De Koning and Willem Dirk Du Toit who were the DPs on Awoke, created shots I never believed possible and made the film infinitely better than I imagined it ever could’ve been.
I met both Mark and Willem through surfing, both being primarily photographers with immense experience shooting surfers. I knew they both had the skills to shoot film and both have such a deep connection with nature and in particular the ocean, which was really important to me as I knew they would share the vision of what I was trying to create. I really believe it shone through in the final product and highlighted the importance of nature much more deeply than a DP who works primarily in narrative film.
Growing up immersed in nature deeply influenced wanting to create art that reflected its beauty. I think my love of being in the water made me stubborn about adding underwater footage to this film – even if it was hard to tie into the film in a sensical way.
Q: How did you find the challenge of writing, directing and starring in the film? Was there a particular moment in the creative process that you enjoyed the most?
A: I think when you create your own film that you write, direct and perform in you forget that you’re wearing all of those hats simultaneously and are just in the creative zone. We also had an absolute skeleton crew so it never felt like you were actually on set. It felt like a few friends getting creative and getting back to the roots of what making art is about – there for the sake of creating without the logistics of co-ordinating a full cast and crew.
I think I get most excited just before we start shooting and I’m at a location looking at all these amazing potential shots and trying to add a whole extra sequence last minute. I think that’s when I know I’m really in the creative zone! Then I have to put my sensible brain back in and make sure we get all the essential shots before it gets dark or the wind changes and then play. If everyone else is up for it too of course!
When we were filming and Mark or Willem would suggest something that I would have completely missed were some of my favourite moments too. Mark getting in the river to shoot me walking across a fallen log and Willem using his drone that he’d just built and suggesting different shots over the water got me really excited. They were moments I didn’t think would’ve been possible and that wouldn’t have been possible if it were anyone else.
I really loved adding music to it as well – it was amazing to be able to use a song from my childhood friend Lindsay Deppeler, who is just a divine musician. Watching it for the first time with the music really changed the game for me!
Q: A slightly random hypothetical question for you: Which four actors would you like to be part of your ‘dream surf team’, and why?
A: Haha! I love this question – Ok, Margot Robbie for sure, she already surfs, and she’s got great style. Also Chris Hemsworth, Roger Corser and Emma Booth. That’s so funny, they’re all Aussies… I look up to all of them and what they’ve done in their careers. They’re all great human beings as well. And I’m pretty sure they’d all shred in the water.
Q: You are also producing and acting in an upcoming production ‘Women of Troy’. Can you reveal anything about the production and what audiences can expect?
A: This is such a great production to be part of with Eagle’s Nest Theatre. We’ve taken Euripides Greek tragedy and are incorporating dance, music and pyrotechnics. We have an incredible cast and we’re touring three different amphitheatres in Melbourne starting in February.
Our director, Cathrin Blickling, is really nurturing in the rehearsal process and is really helping us generate some heart felt performances. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for live updates and some sneaky BHS from our rehearsals!
Here are all the deets;
Dates & Venues
THUR 21 – SAT 23 FEB 2019
Footscray Community Arts Centre, 45 Moreland St, Footscray VIC 3011
THUR 28 FEB – SAT 2 MARCH 2019
Gus Ryberg Amphitheatre
Emerald Park, Emerald Lake Road, Emerald VIC 3782
THUR 7 – SAT 9 MARCH 2019
Fairfield Park, Fairfield Park Drive, Fairfield VIC 3078
Thursday & Friday 7.30 PM
Saturday 1.30 PM & 7 .30 PM
Duration: Approximately 120 minutes including an interval
Early Bird Special $25 Full/ $20 Concession (offer ends 20/01/2019). Pre Sale Tickets $32 Full/ $26 Concession. Door Sale Tickets $35 Full/ $28 Concession
Q: We’ve seen many different depictions of Helen of Troy over the years, and many actresses taking the part – including Diana Kruger, Sienna Guillory and Bella Dayne. How do you view Helen and what do you want to bring to the character?
A: Wowser, Helen is such complex character! I’ve got some huge shoes to fill which is quite intimidating.
When I think of Helen, I think of a pioneer, I think she was well before her time in terms of making decisions for herself (if you chose to believe that she chose to go to Troy – there are certainly conflicting ideas whether she was kidnapped or whether she absconded). I don’t think it was that black and white, to me it was such a hard decision for her to live with either way she went.
It’s really interesting to explore these decisions as so often throughout history she has been demonised. It’s my job to humanise her and make the audience understand why she could possibly do what she did.
Q: I hear you are back in Australia following whirlwind time in LA. Can you share some your experiences in the US?
A: From December 2017, I spent a year in LA further pursuing my acting career. I had some amazing experiences. I shot two pilots, got to film on location in Mammoth Lakes, worked on some great films with international directors and met the most incredible artistic family at Studio24Seven.
My acting coach, Mark McPherson, introduced to me by my actress friend Alexa Walters. She’s such a talented individual. I felt humbled when she invited me along to Studio24Seven and it opened up so many doors for me. I’ve never felt so confident in myself as an artist. Being under the guidance of Mark is like nothing else – he helps you grow is such a positive way that you look around at your classmates and you are so humbled and proud to be part of such an amazing group of people.
That’s also where I met Hugh Lehane, actor and editor, who cut together my first US reel which helped me sign with my agents in LA. I’m now repped both commercially and theatrically and looking forward to getting back to LA later this year after the tour of Women of Troy.
In non-acting experiences while I was in the US; I also surfed at Malibu a whole lot and did a massive road trip up to Vancouver Island and back down through Yosemite and Nevada. I also went to New York and visited all the major galleries and saw Daniel Radcliffe on Broadway.
Q: How does life compare as a creative in Melbourne to LA?
A: It’s so hard to compare! When you’re in LA, it’s inherently accepted that you’re an artist. I think it’s trickier to make it in Australia as we have a much smaller industry. But the independent scene is very supportive here in Australia, which I find really uplifting.
In LA, there is so much work around and people say it’s competitive but I really think it’s competitive wherever you are and in every industry. I love that in LA your creativity is truly celebrated. You do have to work insanely hard but I think if you’re passionate about your meaning in life you’re going to work that hard toward it regardless of what that passion is and where you are. The weather is definitely far more consistent in LA though… so much more conducive to filming!
Q: Is ‘Awoke’ a signal of the type of projects you want to put out in the future? What kind of projects excite you?
A: I think I will always be drawn to nature as a source of inspiration and I’m pretty sure it will organically weave its way into my creations. The next couple of films I’m lining up to work on focus more on humanity and are more linear storylines. I’m really excited as an actor to get to work on physicalising my characters for these films – Awoke was much more poetic and art house.
I’m really excited to be stepping back into theatre, it’s such a different realm but I really think working in both film and theatre makes a much stronger performer so I’m looking forward to re-igniting that adrenalin of a live show.
Q: What are your hopes and ambitions for 2019? Any other upcoming projects you can share with us?
A: 2019 is already set to be a pretty big year! I’ve got a film lined with Denise Hurley who I co-produced the show #Me4TV with. It’s called Stitched Up and also stars Karlisha Hurley who was a co-host on #Me4TV.
Apart from Women of Troy, I’m also shooting a music video for Melbourne band ‘Mirrors’. I love when artistic mediums crossover.
I’ve got a couple of other films brewing so keep an eye out – I can never be too busy!