We got a chance to catch up with the acclaimed director and get the insider scoop on her latest work and love of film. Eliza Brownlie is a visionary filmmaker who grew up in Vancouver, Canada. She is known for her film and commercial work, which epitomizes a distinctive and cinematic vision. Eliza possesses a sharp eye, knack for original storytelling, and a dreamy, one of a kind sensibility, making her one of the most exciting and in-demand filmmakers working in Hollywood today.
Eliza earned her BA in Communications from Simon Fraser University, where she began taking film theory and history courses as electives. A lifelong cinephile, writer, and photography enthusiast; Eliza felt compelled to experiment with directing. Within her first few minutes on set, she knew she had found home. Her debut music video for The Darcy’s appeared on Nylon Magazine, Noisey, and IMVDb’s top 5 weekly video’s. Eliza also graduated from film school at UCLA where she finished with honours, and later carried on to pursue filmmaking as a career in Los Angeles. Since then, she has worked on music videos, short films, and commercials for world-renowned clients such as VICE, Dove Soap, Top Expert, Canon, and Arts & Crafts Records. Her short surrealist horror film, The After Party, screened at festivals across North America to critical acclaim (including The Williamsburg Independent Film Festival in NYC and the Sacramento Horror Film Festival).
Pro Media Mag : Who or what inspired you to get into the entertainment industry?
Eliza Brownlie : Since as far back as I can remember I’ve always loved art, film, and culture. There has always been a very strong urge within me to create powerful images and tell interesting stories. I recall watching Kubrick’s The Shining as a kid and being completely blown away by the imagery. It’s a masterpiece in tone and technique, and opened me up to how visceral film can be– made me want to explore more cinema. I used to make my mom take me to the VHS rental store every weekend. I couldn’t get enough. I think I realized from a young age that film is one the most powerful and universal visual mediums we have, and I knew that I wanted to be apart of that. It’s something that came very naturally to me.
Pro Media Mag : Tell us about your recent projects?
Eliza Brownlie : I recently wrote and directed a short film called The After Party, featuring a star-studded cast: Tarryn Lagana, Daniel Van Thomas, Rhys Raiskin, Kaitlyn Raymond, Brenda Davies, and Ciprian Cosma. The After Party is a dark, stylish surrealist horror film about an aspiring starlet who attends the Hollywood hills party of her dreams. Over the course of the night the party quickly progresses into a nightmare as the sinister nature of its beautiful and illustrious guests is revealed. As the film comes to a gripping and surprising finale, we’re left wondering whether our heroine will ever be able to leave…
What emerges is a chilling and insightful critique of the youth, beauty, and wealth obsessed culture that permeates Hollywood. The After Party addresses how this impacts young women and distorts people’s sense of reality and humanity. This project was a big undertaking with a massive crew, requiring a lot of focus, blood, sweat, and tears. However, I had a lot of fun making it, and everyone was really proud of the end result.
Not too long ago, I also directed commercials for the popular jewelry brand, Cast + Combed (sold at urban Outfitters), and luxury fashion line, Top Expert. I’ve always loved fashion and creating artful, stylish visuals as a director, so getting to work on projects within that world is always very thrilling to me.
Most notably, I was brought on to direct several commercial films for Dove as part of their Self-Esteem project. Shooting this campaign was a really cool experience because I got to interview several prominent female artists about their personal journeys to self-acceptance and body confidence.
Finally, I had the opportunity to work on Canon’s Female Hero campaign. The commercial promoted Canon’s new DSLR camera line and showcased groundbreaking women photographers who shoot digital.
Pro Media Mag : The After Party was a very successful project that garnered a lot of attention. Can you tell our readers a bit about that?
Eliza Brownlie : The After Party was funded on the global crowdfunding platform, Indiegogo, where it became featured as a “trending project” within its first week online. There was a lot of buzz around the project and myself as a director, and several distinguished Hollywood execs took notice and signed on as Executive Producers – including an executive at Lionsgate Films and an executive at NBC Universal.
Pro Media Mag : What’s the biggest achievement in your career so far?
Eliza Brownlie : The biggest achievement in my career so far has been having my film (The After Party) selected into major festivals, and also getting to direct commercials for Dove soap that promote a positive body image and are empowering to women. Representing women authentically and showcasing their strength and complexity, is something that is very close to my heart as a filmmaker.
Pro Media Mag : You are also part of ‘Free the Bid’ women director’s network. Tell us more about that?
Eliza Brownlie : Free the Bid is a global network and initiative dedicated to promoting extraordinary female Directors and advocating on behalf of women for equal opportunities to bid on commercial jobs in the advertising industry. It’s ran by a group of brilliant and talented women, with pledges from the world’s most notable brands and production companies. Getting accepted into this network was a huge honor, and I’m so grateful that something like this exists. It’s important for so many reasons. Unfortunately, the gender parity in the film industry is still pretty bleak. If you look at the statistics of the top-grossing films of the past few years, just 7% were directed by women. Advertising, by extension, is also a predominantly male-dominated industry. This leads to a lack of diverse storytelling and cultural misrepresentations of women and other gender/racial identities.
Visibility is important. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. I wish networks like Free The Bid existed when I was growing up. There were only a handful of women directors that were discussed in conversations around movies at the time, and girls just weren’t as encouraged to pursue film or given as many opportunities as their male counterparts. Inequality in the industry is still rife, but networks like Free the Bid are working diligently to change this by backing exceptional and unique directors who happen to be women.
Pro Media Mag : You seem like a very focused and determined person, given your impressive track record. Do you have any goals you’re focused on right now?
Eliza Brownlie : Yes, I want to direct another short film in the next year and direct a feature film soon. I’ve been working extremely hard towards these goals, writing every day and taking meetings with major production companies. I’m excited to say that the hard work (and strong directing resume) is paying off. I’m currently attached to direct a feature inspired by an incredible true crime story.
Pro Media Mag : Are you working on any new projects?
Eliza Brownlie :
There’s a lot of new and future projects that I’m excited to be working on. As I mentioned, I’m working on several short films and a true crime feature (which I can’t say too much about as they are currently in development). I also recently wrapped on a commercial for this beautiful lingerie brand, Angie Bauer. More future projects within the film and commercial realm include: a campaign for luxury department store “Departmento,” commercials for one of the world’s top surf and eyewear brands (Vissla + DBlanc), a commercial for renowned gin company, The Spirit Guild, and a comedy project starring Chris Fairbanks (of HBO’s ‘Crashing’, Amazon’s ‘One Mississippi’, and Comedy Centrals upcoming series ‘Corporate’), which is produced by Avail Comedy. Additionally, I’ve been pitching on a lot of music videos through Atlantic Records– so expect to see a fun video for a big pop star coming out soon!