Emilie McDonald: Award-winning film director, Writer, & Producer

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Emilie McDonald is an award-winning film director, writer, and producer. Emilie’s shorts include Muck (Best Narrative Short, IndieMemphis; BAMcinemaFest), Crossing the River (Best Ensemble Cast, NYC Downtown Short Film Festival; Best Short, NUHO Online Film Festival), Other People’s Houses (2011), and My Elena (2010). Her debut feature Queen Anne's Lace will be released in 2018. She’s currently developing several features including Punch City (IFP No Borders participant), Buckle My Soul (semifinalist TAA, Creative Capital; participant Indie Film Clinic); and Florescent Mesa. Emilie worked in development at Milk & Honey Films and is a member of Film Fatales NYC.

What do I do best?

What I do best is to put myself into someone else’s shoes and attempt to understand what they are going through. This can be through writing from the point of view of a character, making a film about a character who is different from myself, or simply speaking with someone and hearing about their life experience, or imagining it when I see people around my daily walks or rides in NYC.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Empathy. Determination. Steadfastness. Persistence. Hopefulness.

What are my aspirations?

My aspirations on the personal side are to continue to grow as a mother, partner, daughter, sister, niece, friend and community member, and to take my daughter on trips to other countries. On the career side, it is to make a living as a director, screenwriter and filmmaker.

My Biggest Success?

Making the short film “Crossing the River” was an amazing moment. It was inspired by my childhood hero Monroe Gilmour who shared a story from the anti-hate group he runs in the Black Mountains of NC, and by my friend Martha Schreiber and her grandsons, and I felt very passionate about telling the story. I had an amazing producer and friend in Tammy Arnstein and we climbed so many mountains to make this film happen—from raising the funds on Kickstarter to casting and crewing up the film on location in South Carolina, to having a 5-day shoot with a full crew, to ending up with a film I am proud of. Projects like this are never done alone, and having the support of so many people involved meant the world.

My Most Challenging Moment?

When I was 25, I changed the course of my life. It was going in a dark and bleak direction, and I truly believe that the love that I had been given by my family throughout my life gave me the strength to leave a bad situation. It was extremely difficult but the most important decision of my life.

My Motto?

Persistence leads to success.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

I adore the following filmmakers who bring everyday life and untold stories to the screen in compelling ways: Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsey, Mike Leigh, and The Dardenne Brothers.

I am also incredibly inspired by my family—my amazing artist mother who raised 3 kids as a single mom, my sister who is traveling the world, my talented brother, my strong and wonderful aunts, my valedictorian/beauty queen grandmother on my mom’s side, and my self-taught grandfather on my father’s side who always taught me to have a strong will. My daughter and husband fill my heart with joy.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

I adore the mountains of North Carolina where my family congregates once a year – we tube down the river, pick wildflowers, and dance and laugh across the grass. I can’t wait to take my daughter to Mexico and Europe as well.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I love my stainless steel steamer, and my stainless steel frying pan. Many a vegetable have been transformed into something delicious and comforting in them. I love my hair clip when I am writing—it must be firm and strong. And I love to listen to podcasts about the state of our world when I am walking in the mornings, so my phone is good for facilitating that.

My Current Passions?

I am extremely excited about some new film projects my husband and I are embarking on. That first draft of a new project is like the first flush of love when dating someone you adore. It is intoxicating. Since I’ve started making films, the passion has not ebbed.

I also love going into nature or making art with my daughter, and exploring something new.

I enjoy spending time with good friends.

I love making collages.

I love traveling and would like to do more of that.