Imagining Rachel

Exploring the life of environmental superhero and fellow Pittsburgher Rachel Carson leads storyteller Elise Robertson to an even murkier exploration of her own life, as she asks--Is art selfish? Who’s a hero, really? Why even try?

  • Elise Robertson
    Darling, Darling, Wendy, Donner Pass, King of the Bingo Game, The Sensible Thing, The Sex Negotiators
  • Elise Robertson
    King of the Bingo Game, The Sensible Thing, Forger
  • Elise Robertson
    Darling, Darling, Wendy, Donner Pass, King of the Bingo Game, The Sensible Thing, The Sex Negotiators
  • Elise Robertson
    Key Cast
    The Power, Ratched, This Is Us, American Sniper, America Vandal, NCIS, and many more
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Feature, Other
  • Genres:
    Storytelling, drama, comedy, solo perfomance
  • Runtime:
    2 hours 13 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 27, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    800 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    iphone 11 w Filmic Pro/ zoom
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Elise Robertson

Elise Robertson grew up just a few miles from Rachel Carson (60 years later), in the hills north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and developed a similar love for nature exploring the same woods and streams. She graduated from Northwestern University's theatre department with a minor in fine art and began her entertainment career as a painter and puppet fabricator on Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, fostering a love for creative art direction that is a signature of her work. As an actor, Elise has 25 years of experience on stage and screen, and has appeared in over 100 films, television shows and commercials, including a recurring role in upcoming Amazon series The Power. Directing credits include Cine-Golden Eagle winner King of the Bingo Game and dramatic scenes from Invisible Man for the American Masters documentary on Ralph Ellison, both for PBS. She also directed the feature-length dark thriller Donner Pass and the short Darling, Darling, Wendy which won best short at numerous festivals this past year, including the Grand Remi at Worldfest Houston. She loves a good story, and believes that the worlds we imagine have the power to transform the one we live in. A mother of two girls, she hopes to create content that is inclusive, inspiring, and female-positive.

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Director Statement

For children at play, the barrier between real and imagined worlds is as permeable as the surface of water.

I embarked on my Rachel Carson project before the pandemic struck. My plan was to write a biographical screenplay, to become an indie film. But when the world closed down, I found myself turning inward. Suddenly I couldn’t separate my own remembered experiences from my ponderings about Rachel Carson. I imagined what it would be like if we’d met as kids, then adolescents, then adults. What would we learn from each other? What would we teach?

As I wrote short bits of these imagined interactions to share with my storytelling group on zoom, I began to play with that little zoom frame like a kid might play with a cardboard box. It’s a house, a boat, a jeep, a desk! Using greenscreen, multiple windows, & objects laying around the house, everything became possible.

I wove a new story. I started performing it as a one-woman show via zoom, but soon realized that I couldn't resist taking it a little further. Filmed in my office with only myself as the entire cast and crew, it's an experiment in digital storytelling, and a gentle reminder from my inner child that storytelling doesn't need to be complicated. It can be as refreshingly simple as diving into a pond on a summer's day.