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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: May 27, 2015

8-year-old Ellie Foss made a movie about the tooth fairy (with some help from her mom, Portland actor/director Anna Gravél)

Written by: Dennis Perkins
Local actor Bill McDonough, right, as the Tooth Fairy in “TF 1138,” directed by 8-year-old Ellie Foss, left, based on a story of Ellie’s own imagining.

Local actor Bill McDonough, right, as the Tooth Fairy in “TF 1138,” directed by 8-year-old Ellie Foss, left, based on a story of Ellie’s own imagining.

It used to be that looking for the next generation of filmmakers meant looking to film schools. Now, with every kid growing up with a decent movie camera in their phone, finding the next great director might mean looking at grade schools. Especially if the director’s mom is a director herself.

Ellie Foss is 8, and her mom, local actress, director and producer Anna Gravél of Portland-based Through the Door Productions, is lending her expertise (and that of her filmmaker and actor friends) to bringing Ellie’s first film (working title “TF 1138” – the “TF” stands for Tooth Fairy) to the screen. Ellie was nice enough to talk to me about the experience of making her first movie.

So, Ellie, what’s your movie about?

Ellie: It’s about when I lost my tooth and put it under my pillow, but the Tooth Fairy left five dollars but didn’t take the tooth.

Anna: The movie’s based on a conversation about that, where Ellie imagined that the Tooth Fairy was startled by the parents and so didn’t take the tooth – in the movie, he forgets his orientation that parents can’t see him. We were chatting in front of some friends and I was teasing that she got the Tooth Fairy fired. We started speculating how it would go once he went back to headquarters, and my friend Jody McColman said, if you’re not going to write this into a script, I will.

112950_762435-indieSo you still have the tooth. If you put it under your pillow again, do you think the Tooth Fairy would give you another five dollars?

Ellie: I don’t know. I’m not the Tooth Fairy.

Fair enough. So even though you directed the movie, did you ever think of playing the lead role yourself? (The girl in the movie is played by 6-year-old Colbi Gannett.)

Ellie: I did because it was about me. But I get a little bit of stage fright. It’s better if it’s, like, a school concert and all my friends are there, but this would just be me.

So instead you directed the movie. What was that like?

Ellie: It was kind of tiring because I had to get up at six in the morning. I thought it would be really easy, but it’s really tiring.

Anna: I fear that I might have killed her dreams. She might just be a gymnast after this.

Ellie: It’s kind of sad because I’m not used to it.

Anna: But you did get pretty confident by the end. It was actually quite touching and overwhelming. (Local actor Bill McDonough, currently seen to great effect in Derek Kimball’s Maine-made feature “Neptune”) plays the Tooth Fairy (in a tutu and button-down shirt), and we had this incredible cast of people all coming together to make this movie for Ellie. She was shy at first, but by the end, she was telling everyone what to do.

Local actor Bill McDonough as the Tooth Fairy in a sceen from “TF 1138,” directed by 8-year-old Ellie Foss. Courtesy photo

Local actor Bill McDonough as the Tooth Fairy in a sceen from “TF 1138,” directed by 8-year-old Ellie Foss. Courtesy photo

So how can people see your movie when it’s done?

Ellie: We’re editing it now. We’re going to try and get it on a DVD and show it to my class.

Anna: Also, we’re planning on submitting it to film festivals, and maybe the Nickelodeon. And Ellie’s a huge fan of Ellen (Degeneres), so we’re thinking of sending it down to her, too.

So, Ellie, is there anything I haven’t asked that you want to talk about?

Ellie: Nope.

Anna: For me, it’s a fun thing – I’m an actor and have a film company, and it’s really neat to have Ellie there with me. And everyone on the film insisted on behaving like Ellie was the most important director on the planet. And the fact that she wanted to do this was so wonderful.

Keep an eye on Through The Door’s website for details on when and where to see “TF 1138.”

COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

“DAMNATIONLAND” UPDATE:

Portland filmmaker George Dalphin (check out his work at manlikemachines.wix.com/movies), is planning his contribution to this year’s Maine-made horror anthology film, and he could use your help to complete his short horror movie “Neurophreak.” For the details and to contribute, check out his Kickstarter campaign atkickstarter.com/projects/manlikemachines/neurophreak-a-sci-fi-horror-short-for-damnationlan. And, as ever, look for “Damnationland” right around Halloween.

FRONTIER, Brunswick | explorefrontier.com

Beginning Tuesday: “The Salt of the Earth.” From acclaimed German director Wim Wenders (“The American Friend,” “Paris, Texas”) comes this visually stunning documentary about legendary photographer Sebastião Salgado, who’s traveled the world for the last 40 years capturing images of the rapidly changing environment.

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