Many filmmakers make movies with a drone. Filmmaker Vanessa Elliott is making a film starring a drone.
Elliott is a California-based filmmaker, who has worked on projects including projects for Vice Media, the short film “Share” by Pippa Biano, a Netflix documentary in post production called “Mortified Guide”, and has even starred as an actress with Disney. She studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and earned her B.A. in Film & Media. Now, she’s breaking out into the drone world with a film project that stars a drone as the main character. It’s called “The Lone Drone.”
Drone Girl: What’s your film about?
Vanessa Elliott: “The Lone Drone” is set in the not-so-distant future when drones are more common and prevalent in daily life. It follows a drone that lives in a house with a family and helps with household chores. One day it is faced with a morally questionable option from its master. The drone gets confused and ultimately escapes the situation completely. As it gets further away of its human masters, it becomes self-aware. It is taken to a wild western landscape that it has never been to; it only knows the house it lives in and city life. This landscape is detailed, colorful, there are wind storms. It discovers its freedom.
This inventive, desert girl ends up finding it trapped, and she is immediately put off by it because she hasn’t been exposed to drones. As she gets to know it, like a kid playing with a balloon for the first time, she thinks it’s wonderful and is mesmerized by it.
The two mirror each other in that they are both lonely and breaking out of their own limited environments. It’s a story of how they find harmony between human beings and possession.
DG: I know you just got a DJI Mavic — congrats! Will the Mavic play a starring role in the film?
VE: I would like to create a custom drone for the project — I have designs laid out. My plan is to work with someone who can help me build out the drone from scratch.
DG: And then I’m guessing the film will have plenty of drone shots.
VE: Absolutely there will be drone shots in the film. We’ll have multiple drones on set. There will be the “hero” drone. We’ll always have that drone filming for that over-the-shoulder view. Then we’ll have a drone following the “hero” drone, there will pretty much always be at least two drones in the air.
DG: That does seem like it could be technically challenging.
VE: The film will have its challenges certainly. Not to mention, it can be windy in the desert so we may have to pause filming. We’re going to have to have lots of extra batteries. But we’re doing our best to work with producers and think about those things ahead of time.
DG: And how are you funding the project?
VE: I decided to crowdfund for the project on Indiegogo. I’ve been in the campaign for a month and we have another month left. It’s a lot of trial, pushing every day to get the word out, but it’s a great learning experience.
DG: How far along are you right now with the film?
VE: I have my script finalized. We just cast the mother and lead girl. The lead is played by a girl named Xochitl Gomez who is a darling, talented actress who has been in musical theater since she was 5. She can act with an inanimate object perfectly. Her mother will be played by Annette Luna. She brought a lot of spirit to the role.
DG: What made you want to make a film entirely about a drone?
VE: We had used drones a lot at Vice for documentary coverage. I kept hearing more about drones and had watched some videos of people sending hundreds of drones into the sky and lighting them up with LEDs and doing these magnificent drone ballets. I was mesmerized.