Ellen Boener Q & A

Jeremy Railton speaks to Ellen Boener.

JEREMY: Ellen I am so happy to have someone as highly qualified as you working at EDC to herd the cats and keep us all in line. As you are a director I hope you will not get bored managing the office. What were your motives for accepting the job?

ELLEN: I could never be bored while I’m learning about the industry I love. And as far as cats go, you’re the happiest ones I ever had the pleasure to herd. I cannot wait to learn about the inner workings of EDC. Understanding the business end of entertainment is crucial to being a successful artist. This company is working on a scale I never dreamed I would be. I mean the scale of production and spectacle as well as international scope. As someone who grew up around the world, global thinking is a part of who I am but I have struggled to make it a part of my life as a director. Theme Park and Concert Design are totally new territory for me. Working for EDC exposes me to whole new facets of live performance and design. I’m just excited to be apart of this company and contribute however I can.

JEREMY: Where were you born?

ELLEN: I was born in the U.S. Naval Hospital of Yokosuka, Japan. My father served in the military for over 20 years. My sister, mother, and I traveled around the world with him. I have yet to return to Japan and it is my dearest ambition to go back one day as an adult. The fun thing about being born across the dateline from the United States is that I get a year older the day before my legal birthday.

JEREMY: Did you get support from your parents when you said you wanted to go into the creative arts as a profession?

ELLEN: My parents have been incredibly supportive. And it’s lucky they are, not just for my sake; my older sister, Kathy, also works in the entertainment industry. She is a stage and production manager working in NYC. My parents raised two fiercely independent and resilient young women. Kathy and I like to joke that they regret it now since we have run off to the opposite ends of the United States. My mother always told me to do what I loved and the money would follow. Wishful thinking for the mother of an artist. The critical lesson she and my father also passed on was to work hard and work well, whatever the field. They have their concerns about the stability of an arts career but rather than discourage me, they taught me to work harder and roll with the punches. They gave me the tools to succeed how I wanted rather than forcing me to succeed in their way.

JEREMY: What was your education? How has it helped you and has it proved useful to move your career forward? The reason I asked because I studied Fine Art and became a scenic designer.

ELLEN: I graduated from Florida State University with majors in Theatre, Creative Writing, and International Affairs. The thing about arts education is that no amount of training outweighs practical experience. Putting together a production and creating something for yourself is how you hone your skills, even while in school. Florida State was a great environment for me because I was forced to balance academics with practice. There was a vibrant community of independent “bootstrap” theatre that trained me think outside the box even when the box was all I had to work with. I plan to return to graduate school for directing but that is a few years off.

JEREMY: I noticed many directing credits on your CV can you tell us how you got your first directing job?

ELLEN: As a young director, my age can be a huge barrier. Many theatre directors can’t make directing their primary career until their thirties, if ever. Knowing this, I chose to take matters into my own hands. Rather than waiting for someone to hire me, I hired myself. Along side another young director, Liam Collier, I pulled together what few resources we had (including my car, our belongings, and our personal savings) and wrote, produced, performed, marketed, and directed our first professional production. It was an immersive, interactive theatre piece written for three audience members. Car Play, as the name implies, took place entirely in and around my 2004 Chevy Impala. The audience was literally strapped in for the ride as we drove and performed on the streets of Berkeley and Oakland. We sold out our run and added additional performances. We even made a few extra bucks by the closing night. Here’s our blurb in the SF Chronicle!

JEREMY: In a moment of sheer ambition and limitless dreams what sort of a credit would make you so happy? Also describe the fantasy project?

ELLEN: I would love to write a story that brought the world together. I can’t be more specific because I have no clue what kind of story could do that. I would love to share a moment with the world and for that moment we see something new in each other, across language, across culture. Maybe a book? Maybe film? Maybe a sculpture? I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.

JEREMY: Are you strategizing your career or are you letting the path unfold?

ELLEN: I like to say that my only five-year goal is to be financially stable enough to adopt a dog so I wouldn’t say I have a strict game plan. That’s not to say that I don’t have goals. I am driven to a fault. I am determined to become a working director and a pillar of the entertainment community. However, I also acknowledge that that the only factor of my life I have total control over is myself. My strategy is to apply myself as best I can to any opportunity that avails itself. Even if it is just one step towards my goal I am still moving in the right direction. There are many paths to success and I prefer to explore them practically.

JEREMY: Share with us any of your favorite jobs please. Tell us what made you like it so much. When I am often asked this question my answer is that they are all my favorites while I am giving my all, its only after I review the job after completion I always see ways that I could have done better!!

ELLEN: I am proud of all of my projects individually and for different reasons. My desire to create comes from authentic curiosity. I look at each project as an experiment where I can test new theories and learn something about the directing process. Car Play was an exercise in working within my means and jumping into professional directing. It was exciting to be in front of the audience again and in the wilderness of professional theatre. I love working in intimate settings where you can really feel the electricity between the actors and the audience, like on my productions of The Chairs by Eugene Ionesco or my original show, An Evening With, that I built in my one-bedroom apartment for 13 audience members. I was also extremely proud of an immersive production that I built alongside 11 actors and overtook an entire building, called THE911. That was the first piece of its scale to be performed at Florida State University and the response was tremendous. We had people breaking into the performance because we sold out so quickly. Regardless of how audiences react to my shows, it’s really the technicians and actors that make me feel good about a production. Hearing an actor or stage manager say they can’t wait to work with me again is the greatest compliment I have ever received.

JEREMY: Is there anything that you would like your new family at EDC to know about you?

ELLEN: At this moment I have only been in Los Angeles for 25 days. I got my first email from the EDC on my seventh day in the city. By the end of next week I was in the office. EDC became my home before I had a chance to feel homesick. I will never stop being grateful for this incredible opportunity. I want to learn as much as I can about design and production while I am here. Any chance to shadow design or creative work would be make my day.

JEREMY: Welcome to EDC you are pioneering a position that we have not offered before so we will need all of your writing, organization and directing skills to keep us all on time and in line!!