One of the brightest spots this January came when I had a chance to sit down with writer, artist and aspiring filmmaker Elizabeth Winters (PHS Class of 2019), in her first studio at her family’s home in California.
Winters is a student at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts (Film/Television Production), Class of 2023, and while on break over the holidays was kitting out in preparation for New York weather with the addition of a blanket sized down coat. Californians moving east may have a lot to learn about weather, but as an artist, Winters has always known that writing is her passion.
Beginning at a very young age, Winters would spend her free time after school writing stories. A lifelong influence has been her inspirational grandmother, Karen Branson, Berkeley author of historical fiction books ‘The Potato Eaters’ and its sequel, ‘Streets of Gold’ about a family in Ireland during the 1840’s potato famine who immigrate to New York City. When Winters was small, her grandmother gave her a huge notepad and encouraged her to write down her thoughts and ideas.
Later, at Piedmont Middle School, Winters took film and art classes and began to realize that visual storytelling was where she wanted to go. Throughout her early education Winters didn’t necessarily think of herself as an artist and sports were not a priority. Rather, she poured herself into academics during the school year and college level seminars in psychology, business and all aspects of filmmaking in the summers.
Describing her artistic intentions for her films, Winters stresses the importance of hope and of her desire to create art that captures the balance between heartache and bliss. She enjoys movies by Pixar such as ‘Inside Out’ and ‘Up’, and older films like ‘Singing In The Rain’ because they combine serious subjects with a degree of optimism. Her films to date have been character driven, using simple stories that allow human emotion and the importance of connection to give the audience something to aspire to. Her grandmother’s work with The Prisoners Literature Project has been an important influence here too; kicking off the idea for the film Winters made for her application to NYU.
In addition to writing and film, Winters is an accomplished portraiture artist. Using colored pencil, Winters creates sensitive interpretive portraits of important people in her life. Citing the influence of Kehinde Wiley, Winters develops distinctive patterned backgrounds surrounding her subjects to tell the story of who the person is. In a film project currently in production, Winters is using the time-consuming and now rare method of hand drawn animation to tell a story about a little girl who is able to forge strength from a place of heartache.
Looking to the future, Winters is not sure where she might be in five years, but she knows she wants to surround herself with positive people who want change, especially artists. Having recently been delighted to see young girls dressed up as Star Wars characters at Disney Land, she recognizes that what you see when you are little, can have a lifelong influence on what you believe you can accomplish. Perhaps this young artist and filmmaker will join the ranks of the exciting female filmmakers who belong on the Red Carpet.
All photos by Katie Korotzer