Lyn Elliot Films
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I Was a Teenage Girl, Apparently, co-directed with Nina Frenkel (5:54; 2015)

A woman finds the diary she kept as a teenager, and then goes back in time to try to talk some sense into her younger self.

A collaboration with artist and friend Nina Frenkel! We joined forces to create this film, working form a script that I wrote. Nina designed the characters and world, and she created all of the artwork. I took on editing and sound design. We had other excellent collaborators as well: Travis Fowler was the lead animator. Vanessa Severo performed the narration. Margrit Eichler composed the music.

After Nina and I decided to make a film together, I came up with the idea for the story. My initial idea was about a woman in her thirties being visited by her teenage self. When I shared it with Nina, she pointed out that there was no story yet. I went back to the drawing (writing) board, and tried reversing the roles--having the woman visit her teenage self instead, and that worked a lot better. The story was also informed by my own recent discovery of my teenage diary, and feeling somewhat appalled and embarrassed by what I read. Upon time and reflection, these feelings gave way to empathy. The tone of the film comes out of this range of emotional responses.

Selected screenings: Dawson City International Short Film Festival; Arizona International Film Festival; Athens International Film and Video Festival
Lyn Elliot Films
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A Good Match (13:00; 2013)

Ann doesn't miss her ex-boyfriend, but she does miss...his mom. Ann decides to give the friendship another try.

I wanted to make a movie that was not about a romantic relationship, but rather about a relationship that is usually regarded as peripheral to the romance—the one between a woman and her boyfriend’s mother. This relationship often becomes a casualty of the romantic breakup, but I wondered what would happen if the ex-girlfriend and the mom tried to keep it going. The idea for this film started out as a memoir-essay. I spent several months in 2010 writing, or rather rewriting, the same ten pages, to no avail—it seemed boring, pointless, etc. About a year and a half later, I returned to the idea, and saw a way that I could write a script based on the material by picking out the best elements of the essay attempt and combining it with a story that was totally fictional. Hooray! (A good reminder that no writing is ever wasted—some writing turns out to be practice for other writing.) A Good Match is my first film made in Kansas City, and I got to work with wonderful artists--Nancy Marcy, Liz Clark Golson, and Michael McIntire play the leads; Katy McRoberts did the art direction, and Whitney Manney designed the costumes. I imported Richie Sherman and Joe Mayo from PA to DP and record sound, respectively. See the links page for more info!

Selected Screenings: 2014-2015 LUNAFEST tour, Kansas City FilmFest, Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival, Citizen Jane Film Festival, Arizona International Film Festival

Lyn Elliot Films
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Another Dress, Another Button (2:45; 2011) Click here to watch the film.

A stop-motion animation about spare buttons and the people who save them.

My first stop-motion animation! I’ve had this accumulation of spare buttons for years, and I’ve had the vague idea of making an essay-type movie about them for years as well, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that I realized that stop-motion was the way to do it. I wanted to give these forever-waiting buttons, isolated in their careful little bags, some active time in the world. The audio is excerpts from interviews I did with three women about how they deal with spare buttons, both practically and emotionally. The look and approach of the film is inspired by Ron McAdow’s 1974 genius stop-motion short Hank the Cave Peanut. That movie is a brilliant example of animation creating complex inner lives for faceless objects (peanuts), and it also creates appealing sets out of quotidian objects, two things I was aiming for in this film. Joe Mayo was the director of photography, and he and I co-designed the animation, but the Pong sequence was totally Joe’s idea.

Awards: Black Maria Film and Video Festival; James River Shorts; Humboldt Film Festival; Kansas City FilmFest

Selected screenings: Maryland Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, 2012 Black Maria Film and Video Festival Tour
Lyn Elliot Films
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Maybe Pittsburgh (26:00; 2009) Click here to watch the film.

A woman tries to save her marriage with a romantic weekend trip to Pittsburgh. Reality intrudes.

This is my "longest short" to date. I wanted to try to make a film with a more sustained narrative, and more depth of character and emotion. It builds on and expands the style I used in Know What You Mean, with both real-time scenes and interior-life-of-the-character scenes. Making this film really pushed me as a writer, director, and producer. I feel I achieved a fair amount of what I had set out to do, but I also now have a nice long list of writerly, directerly, and producerly things that I want to learn how to do better. Emily Rossell and Nathan Holt play the lead roles. Richie Sherman was the director of photography. Joe Mayo created the sound design. Score by Margrit Eichler. See the links page for more about these talented artists and their top-notch work.

Screenings: Big Muddy Film Festival, Crossroads Film Festival, Miami Short Film Festival
Lyn Elliot Films
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Fish, but No Cigar, co-directed with Tara White (4:00; 2007) Click here to watch the film.

An animated movie about a woman with bigger fish to fry. Literally.

This movie was made in collaboration with Tara White, who I met when she was a student at Penn State. Tara told me that she liked my writing, and would be interested in collaborating on a short animation. I love animation, but have no aptitude for it, so the idea of writing for an animation and helping to make it sounded great. I wrote a couple of short scripts and showed them to Tara, but she wasn't too interested--she pointed out that what I had written so far could easily be live action, and she wanted us to make something that could only be animation. Fair enough. I looked at Tara's sketchbooks to see what kinds of things she liked to draw, and I saw some nice-looking fish. So I came up with the short story about having bigger fish to fry that turned into the narration for this film. Then Tara moved in, and my house turned into a round-the-clock animation studio for a couple of months, powered by malted milk balls and salami. Another lesson in the value of teaming up with someone with a strong visual imagination. I firmly believe that 1+1 here equaled 3, or at least >2.

Awards: Chlotrudis Film Festival, Short Short Story Film Festival, James River Film Festival

Selected Screenings: South by Southwest Film Festival, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Dawson City International Film Festival, Kansas City Filmmakers Jubilee

Lyn Elliot Films
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Mild People in Aggressive T-Shirts (3:00; 2006) Click here to watch the film.

Hostile bravado meets everyday life.

I first noticed this phenomenon while walking around Las Vegas. The mellowest-looking tourist guys wore the most confrontational T-shirts. Behavior-wise, though, they seemed perfectly willing to go along to get along. They waited patiently for walk signals, they excused themselves when they brushed past me, etc. Which made perfect sense, of course--daily life consists of many tiny but necessary social interactions, and it would get pretty tiring to always be hostile. OK, so then why the shirts? Three minutes of contemplation.

Selected Screenings: Antimatter Underground Film Festival, Atlanta Underground Film Festival, New York Underground Film Festival, Portland Documentary and Experimental Film Festival
Lyn Elliot Films
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The Boy in the Air (2:00; 2005) Click here to watch the film.

An enigmatic advertisement inspires a letter. The corporation writes back.

I really did see this ad in my local paper, and I really did write to the company, and they really did write me back. The letter in the film is partially excerpted from the actual company letter, and partly fabricated by me. This movie was SIMPLE and CHEAP--I used a scanner, an audio recorder, Photoshop (to remove the name of the company; otherwise, the ad is real), and Final Cut Pro. I am a big fan of the simple and cheap approach to film production. It's very satisfying to succeed in making something good out of almost nothing.

Awards: Ann Arbor Film Festival, Humboldt Film Festival, Milwaukee Underground Film Festival

Selected Screenings: Dallas Video Festival, Rooftop Films, IFC Center, BAM Cinematek, Crossroads Film Festival
Lyn Elliot Films
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Know What You Mean (5:30; 2005) Click here to watch the film.

A woman struggles to understand her date.

I collected mixed metaphors and malapropisms for about a year, with a vague idea of making an essay film at some point. When I sat down to write it, the movie turned into a narrative piece that combined two different approaches I had taken before, but in separate films: real-time action, and visual representations of a character's thought process. This film also marks my first collaboration with cinematographer, filmmaker, and Penn State professor Richie Sherman. Compare this film visually with Once, which I shot myself. Focus problems--gone! Lighting--much improved! Camera movement--no longer AWOL! Collaboration with Richie and other visual artist-type filmmmakers (I consider myself more writerly-type, with visual aspirations) in recent years has given my work a serious boost. Check out the Richie Sherman-related links on the Links page.

Awards: Magnolia Independent Film Festival, James River Film Festival, Trenton Film Festival

Selected Screenings: Athens International Film and Video Festival, Arizona International Film Festival, Starz Denver Film Festival, Cucalorus Film Festival, River's Edge Film Festival
Lyn Elliot Films
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Lost and Found (13:00; 2004)

A crushed-out office worker finds solace at the lost and found.

I was interested in a character who steals things from people and turns them in to the lost and found, in order to give those people the thrill of being reunited with their stuff. Can someone whose mind works in this way find connection with the people around her? Martha Elliot and Christian Breecher star. Sarah Dunham, director of photography, brings out the surrealism of the office environs. Awesome score by Margrit Eichler. The last film I finished as a 16mm print.
Lyn Elliot Films
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Counter Culture (60:00; 2003)

The film can be seen here:
password is counterculturemovie

A documentary about card counting, a legal method of winning at casino blackjack. The film follows a team of card counters who are trying to win $150,000 in a single weekend in Atlantic City. Members of the team demonstrate the elaborate strategy, high skill, and outrageous ruses that they use to challenge the casinos. As the story of the weekend unfolds, the film reveals the unique subculture of card counting, the people involved in it, and those who have left it behind.

This film was my University of Iowa M.F.A. thesis film. I had never made a documentary, and I wanted to give it a try while I still had the resources and support of school. There wasn't much out there about card counting at the time, and I knew some professional players, present and past, who graciously agreed to be in the movie. Making this film was a serious education in direct cinema technique and long-form editing, though I haven't done either since. Karen Rodriguez was the intrepid director of photography. There's a link to her current work with Magpie Productions on the Links page.

Read the story of how I came to the topic, and how I made the film, here:
Counter Culture M.F.A. Thesis

Screenings: Newport Beach Film Festival, Denver Underground Film Festival, Philadelphia Video Festival
Lyn Elliot Films
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Once (4:00; 2000) Click here to watch the film.

A woman fantasizes about what she can get away with and still remain on the right side of social approbation. Existential slapstick.

This film began embryonic life at a Labor Day cookout in 1996 in Iowa City. I was treated rudely YET AGAIN by a particular rude person, who then nonchalantly settled down with his beer. I complained to a friend, and she advised kicking this guy over in his lawn chair. There was no way I was going to do it, but I was pretty ticked, so I thought about it for a while. Could it be possible to behave that way, avenging everyday poor behavior? Maybe just once? The style was inspired by two short films I saw a couple of years later, Jane Campion’s Passionless Moments and Chel White’s Dirt. My sister Martha, a deadpan slapstick genius, came out to Iowa City to star, and we ran around town all weekend, shooting with a trusty hand-cranked Bolex.

Awards: Black Maria Film and Video Festival, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Humboldt Film Festival, Louisville Film and Video Festival

Selected Screenings: Cucalorus Film Festival, Olympia Film Festival, Ohio Independent Film Festival, Thaw Festival of Film, Video, and Digital Media, Independent Exposure
Lyn Elliot Films
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P.S.A. (:30; 2000) Click here to watch the film.

A very short video, in the form of a public service announcement, about what NOT to donate to the food bank.

I volunteered at a food bank in Iowa City for a while, and as I sorted and shelved donations each week, I noticed that there was a small but steady influx of expired food, given by I guess well-meaning people (possible reasoning: “I don’t want to eat sugar packaged during the Johnson administration, but maybe a hungry person would”…??) I made a seven-minute video about a food bank volunteer who creates a Museum of Expired Food, and soon after I made a 30-second P.S.A. from the same footage. The P.S.A., this film, was much better.

Screenings: Short Attention Span Film and Video Festival tour
Lyn Elliot Films
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Cat Fight (4:30; 1998) Click here to watch the film.

A woman accidentally pulls off the tail of her boyfriend's cat. The relationship is endangered.

My first 16mm synchronous sound film! The idea for this film came from the convergence of two things. The first was that I had access to a cat with a detached tail (long story--it involves a kitty injury, an amputation, and a taxidermist), which seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime prop opportunity. The second thing was that I was going through a phase where I was for some reason accidentally breaking a lot of my housemate's stuff. I fixed or replaced everything I broke, but still, it was getting ridiculous. The script proceeded from there.

Screenings: Austin Film Festival, WorldFest Flagstaff
Lyn Elliot Films
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Cars Will Make You Free (2:30; 1997) Click here to watch the film.

A documentary of sorts about car culture and its discontents.

I made this film in Film Production I at the University of Iowa. The 16mm cameras we used, the Bolex and the Arri-S, didn’t allow for synchronous sound recording, so I had to come up with a film without dialogue. I was thinking a lot about cars at that time, because I was writing a dissertation about American road movies and road novels. The “freedom of the open road” mythology of novels and films seemed at serious odds with the reality of cars…so much responsibility and so many rules! I wanted a simple and playful way to get this idea across, one that would invite the audience to re-view what they see and experience every day. I sometimes think of this movie as the two-and-a-half minute version of my dissertation. (Side note: these days, my dissertation lives a quiet reclusive life in the University of Iowa library, while Cars Will Make You Free lives an exciting public life on the World Wide Web! Siblings can be so different.)

Awards: Ann Arbor Film Festival, Iowa Independent Film and Video Festival

Selected Screenings: MadCat Women's International Film Festival, Pomona Film Festival, Bicycle Film Festival