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Young director enchants Flickerfest with teenage anxiety film

Sydney film graduate, Madison Novak's film, Ella, which explores teenage anxiety has been shortlisted for Academy Award and BAFTA-accredited short film festival, Flickerfest.

Ella will be in contention for Best Australian Short Film and a coveted spot at the 93rd Academy awards later this year. Produced with fellow SAE graduate, Reggie Grace-Knipe, it addresses the trials and tribulations of anxious high school student Ella and the obstacles she faces as she prepares to speak publicly in class.

“In the film, Ella goes through all the little details that make her anxious, from phone calls to driving, and goes on this journey of how she’ll overcome them,” Madison said.

The Black Dog Institute has reported that 40 per cent of students in Year 12 have had symptoms of anxiety and depression that are higher than the normal level for that age group. Ella explores this theme and reflects Madison’s own life experiences.

“In the past, I’ve had this overwhelming anxiety, presenting in a classroom setting, so that was the main inspiration for the film.

“Even though anxiety is a serious subject, I work best through humour – so the film has a comedic element to it. I felt if the film was too deep, it may make it hard for the audience to connect with the characters,” Madison said.

Producer Reggie echoed Madison’s sentiments, saying he hoped audiences would identify with the characters. “Life is awkward and Ella symbolises many people’s experiences. Madison and I had seen a lot of films that deal with mental illness, so we wanted to take it in a different direction,” Reggie said.

Up-and-coming actress Madelaine Hopkins, who plays the title character, said she was attracted to the project due to its fresh take on mental illness.

“I fell in love with Ella straight away as I’ve dealt with anxiety my whole life, including at high school,” she said.

“The comedic theme that runs through the film is a really genuine way of portraying the reality of anxiety. Humour is a great coping mechanism, as life is never just one thing – it’s both light and dark,” Madelaine said.

With the film up for the Academy-qualifying award for Best Australian Short Film, Madison hasn’t let herself think about Ellabeing selected for the Oscars. “I didn’t even think I’d be recognised to be at a film festival, let alone have a chance to be featured at the Academy awards – that would be amazing.”

Flickerfest is Australia’s leading Academy accredited and BAFTA-recognised competitive Australian and International Short Film Festival with thousands of entries coming from filmmakers across the globe. SAE is a proud partner of Flickerfest, with the festival taking place every year at Bondi Beach, Sydney.

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