Hi! I’m Ellie Van Pelt, a filmmaker with a passion for sarcasm, American history, and really loud music. I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, both of which are outside of Florida, so that’s something that differentiates me from 99.5% of your applicant pool. I’m the oldest of four, with three younger brothers, so I know how to run with the boys. This has been very helpful in my film career thus far. My family has two cats, Toffee and Domino, even though we are all allergic. I am currently a freshman at FSU, so I have finally escaped the sneezing, thank god. I spend a lot of my time writing, playing video games, and attempting to make music.
As an artist, I am a chaotic amalgamation of mediums, influences, and inspirations. Growing up in New Orleans, one of the most artistically and culturally rich cities in this country, sometimes it feels like everyone is an artist. It’s a city full of jazz musicians, world famous chefs, and people painting anything they can get their hands on. Additionally, my family has always been artistically inclined, going back at least to my great great grandfather, who was a conservationist and writer. My grandmother was a Mardi Gras float painter for over 20 years, and my parents are both visual artists in their spare time.
Given this environment, it only seemed natural that I would become an artist. However, it took me years to find a medium I fully connected with. Since my family is so visual arts heavy at first I attempted to draw and paint. My dad gave my brothers and me lessons in his studio, but unfortunately I was never very good. I was also a voracious reader as a kid, so it was an easy jump to be a writer. My developing dedication to the art form led me to hand write a novel in fifth grade because my typing skills were not equal to my enthusiasm. Next, I thought I would be an actor. I approached theater with the idea that I would be on stage, but I found myself better suited to creating stories for performance instead. I wrote and directed plays that I forced my brothers to put on for the rest of the family. Truthfully, I never stopped trying to be a writer, but now I combine that skill with others in my filmmaking.
Much of my artistic exploration was centered around a local arts high school, the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA). I had many friends attend, and my dad had when he was in high school as well. It seemed a given to me that I would attend, but I was unsure what my focus would be. In eighth grade I debated between applying to the writing and drama departments, but ultimately did not feel strongly enough about either discipline to commit. I returned to the website the next year, determined to find something that fit, when I stumbled onto the media arts page. I didn’t know anything about filmmaking, but I thought the program sounded interesting, so I decided to give auditioning a shot. I took a play I had written for my brothers and I, turned it into a screenplay, and shot it one night with some friends. It was a murder mystery about a baron who is poisoned at his own dinner party. I was accepted to the school, which must have been based on potential because the film was terrible, and attended for my last three years of high school.
I realized very quickly that filmmaking was the only art form I could pursue. My exposure to painting meant that just plain writing was never visual enough for me, and neither of those art forms incorporated the live-action element of theater I loved so much. However, filmmaking captures all three of these things, so it was a perfect fit.
In my three years at NOCCA, I gained experience in every aspect of filmmaking, and I found passions in many very different stages of the process. I have written screenplays, directed other people’s stories, assistant-directed spec Bose commercials, visited camera houses, applied bee sting makeup, and been a boom op in a church parking lot. I found a very specific niche in pre-production because I have always been timely, organized, and detail-oriented. In my senior year, I had the opportunity to teach a class on pre-production to both grades below me. The head of the department even came to me for notes on a feature he was in pre-production for. I am also an incredibly passionate screenwriter. Much of my free time is spent developing and writing new stories, and I have built up quite a catalog over the years. It may sound like I want nothing to do with the actual film part of filmmaking, but it’s quite the opposite. Being on set is the most electrifying thing in the world to me, and I will fill any role just to have an excuse to be there. I find this energy carries into editing as well, so I can happily sit alone for eight hours a day whittling down footage into something presentable. All of these passions make me a versatile asset.
I would like to enter the College of Motion Picture Arts because I feel it would be a helpful step in my journey to doing what I love professionally. I do have some experience, but I still have only scratched the surface of what I want to learn. The resources of Florida State’s film school, as well as the support of peers with similar goals and drive, would only help me grow as an artist and a young professional. I believe my admission would be beneficial to both me and my future classmates as I would gain knowledge, resources, and collaborators; they would gain a willing, hard-working, experienced crew member and artist by their side.