Ella Negri spent two years working after high school to prepare for a move from Michigan to Los Angeles. She knew that she wanted to work in movies, and she believed that moving to Hollywood was the first step. “I went through discernment in high school and looked at other options, but my whole life I knew there wasn’t any plan B for me. Movies is where I was supposed to be.” Ella had everything set up for the move, but her LA apartment and every back-up fell through right before she was supposed to leave. “I didn’t feel like I could stay at home anymore, and JPCatholic got put on my radar, so I went with that.” Since she never visited the campus or met the students, ger only expectation was that it would be hot in California.
At JPCatholic, Ella is an actress and a screenwriter. “I’ve always been a dramatic little priss, and acting has been my dream job and goal since I was about five.” Since she was eleven, screenwriting has allowed for the vivid visuals in her mind to come to life. “I love that screenwriters are, in a way, the furthest behind the camera and actresses are the closest in front, and I’m lucky enough to love both.” While the challenges of screenwriting may repel some, Ella embraces them. “I love the challenge of building the foundation of a brand new story, the script, and picking over it, destroying it, reworking it, and clinging to stupid, irrelevant moments until it feels like my eyeballs are bleeding.”
Besides screenwriting and acting, Ella has also been working on directing so she can be more involved in getting the vision of her script onto the screen and not have to “watch all my favorite parts die before my eyes”. She continued, “While I don’t think I’ll switch my majors, there is something powerful about being able to bring something from the page to the screen in a more inclusive way than just the acting. I’ll certainly dabble in it whenever I get the chance, just so long as no one expects me to operate the camera.” She is also developing a personal project, short films for Directing I class, and helping on a classmate’s Acting Practicum. “I am working through pre-production on a teaser trailer for a spec [speculative] TV show that dramatically recreates peoples’ dreams in an attempt to show others the feelings that the dreamer experienced. It’s just a fun, little, personal project because I have some crazy dreams.”
After a year at the university, Ella has realized that being a Catholic filmmaker isn’t what she thought it was. “When I was younger, I envisioned myself strutting down the Walk of Fame, giving an interview where I talked about God, and people nodded and asked for a rosary right then and there. The older I got, and the more crappy Christian films I watched, the more I realized that people just don’t work that way… ‘Lead by example,’ is a cliché we’ve all grown up with, but things are cliché for a reason.” She wants to make good, true, and beautiful films, but she cares more about the people she is working with than the film itself. “I love movies, but I’m also madly in love with the people who make them… We all learn from each other, especially in the intimacy of a set, and if I can pray for them and be an example of Christianity to everyone, from the director to the lowliest grip, then I’ll have considered myself to have done my best. But, it all starts with me.”
She said that at school she has learned a lot about herself and what is means to be an example. The acting exercises where she gets to search her heart has allowed her to recognize her limits, be honest about her failures, and work on not allowing pride to get in her way. She says that one must allow themselves to be impacted by God before they can impact others. “I struggle with that daily, but the sooner I’m able to learn that truth more fully and integrate it into my life, the sooner God will be able to use me as more of a RED [camera], rather than an iPhone camera in the clarity of the picture I show to others.”
Upon learning about the technical side of film, Ella also discovered that movies aren’t only made in Hollywood. A film can be made anywhere with the right equipment and crew. “Throughout my first year here, I’ve come to recognize that the fame, fortune, and status doesn’t appeal to me anymore. It’s the people and the process that I’ve always loved, and that’s all that remains.” After her first year at JPCatholic, she now has expectations, unlike when she first arrived. “I’m going to learn more and better things than I ever dreamed of. I’m going to come out of this with lifelong friends. My life is going in a direction that I can’t always apprehend, and the weather is never going to cool down as much as I want it to.