Ella Bee Glendining directs ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’.
While navigating daily discrimination, a filmmaker who inhabits and loves her unusual body searches the world for another person like her, and explores what it takes to love oneself fiercely despite the pervasiveness of ableism.
Words from Ella below.
From your previous short films to your latest project, ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ you often appear on screen to guide the narrative. What motivates you to take this personal approach, and what do you believe are the strengths and challenges it brings to your projects?
I use myself as a vessel to tell the stories I want to tell because it feels like the most truthful way.
I am passionate about communicating the disabled experience in as authentic a way as possible, but of course there is no one disabled experience, which is why a lot of my short films have been semi-autobiographical, which I’ve now taken one step further with my documentary. I am aware some people will perceive this as self-absorbed, and I have even been accused of arrogance, but I take that as a compliment, far more to do with people finding a disabled person’s self-love and rejection of ableism confronting. I use myself as a vessel to tell the stories I want to tell because it feels like the most truthful way.
Are there any filmmakers, or particular projects, that have helped inspire your method of working?
I’m inspired by many people, films, and experiences. I’m not sure about my “method” exactly… my method is quite specific and involves jumping on a mini trampoline and listening to music. It has something to do with adrenaline and endorphins! I look funny doing it. But in terms of actual people, my main creative inspirations include Jack Thorne, Jane Campion, Anhoni, Langston Hughes, Gaelynn Lea and many more…
What kind of response do you want ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ to have from audiences?
I want audiences to feel both seen and changed. I want this film to make people less ableist and to be a beacon of light to anyone who has ever felt other.
I want audiences to feel both seen and changed.
Among other things, the film focuses on the importance of representation and kinship. What do you think the film industry should be doing to make disability more visible and attitudes less ableist?
I feel like now is not a bad time to get work made as a disabled filmmaker in the industry. People are actually talking about disability, whereas historically we’ve often been left out of ‘diversity’ conversations. I am determined to make the most of any positive discrimination that comes my way, and know that ultimately my work speaks for itself. However, I think it’s fair to say that generally the industry is not welcoming for disabled people, both in terms of physical access and attitudes within the workforce, particularly in entry positions and when you’re just starting out.
I don’t know what the answers are, I just know I am going to use the platform I get from the success of my documentary to keep making work for and with my community.
What are you reading at the moment?
The Future is Disabled: Prophecies, Love Notes and Mourning Songs.
- Janine Marmot
- Director of Photography
- Erland Cooper