Marie-Emmanuelle Hartness is a renaissance woman: A writer, director, and producer, she also has acted in films—and even shot them. After Ella , her lyrical short film about love, loss, and art, was completed in 2014 and has been selected for the Cannes International Film Festival, making Hartness a compelling choice for the 2014 10 to Watch list.
In addition to After Ella, Hartness helmed Writer's Block, winner of the 2014 Berlinale Canon Competition. She's also currently producing Michel Negroponte's  latest documentary The Autobiography of Michelle Maren, an IFP Independent Week 2013 selection. Wearing yet another hat, Hartness lectures at Harvard in production and screenwriting for Dr. Susan Steinberg's class.
After Ella is a meditative piece about Hope, a photographer, whose sister Ella recently died and is now sending her text messages from the afterworld. Hartness says, “In the explorations that I do, and interest I have in art, I have a strong desire to explore the human mind, its weaknesses and power. I wanted to explore loss in an organic way, not intellectual—what is actually impressing in [Hope’s] flesh and mind. I was also interested in memory and the way she could keep her sister still alive in her body, imprinted inside her. Through art, she creates an altar and celebration of her sister, and she can detach from this memory and put it in the past. On the healing journey, you can never heal from loss, but you accept it in a way, while keeping the memory of the person.”
In making After Ella, Hartness served as both the director and producer, which she says she found very challenging. Another challenge was finding funding. Hartness notes that the film did have a successful Kickstarter campaign. “There’s not a lot of market for short films, but I think it’s a wonderful form of expression. I had a lot of supporters and help, with some of the crew working for free, so I’ve been lucky,” says Hartness.
Hartness was motivated to make After Ella in black and white because “I really wanted to go to the skin, the organic body, I didn’t want color to be a distraction. Black and white was the perfect tool. You can play with strong contrast. There is a poetry about black and white, a rawness.”
Originally from France, Hartness came to filmmaking through theater. She joined an improvisational theater group at the Conservatoire in Paris when she was eight years old. “I went to theater school and wrote my thesis at the Sorbonne on theater and cinema,” Hartness notes. “I was a film actress for quite a while. Theater is my heart, but film is too. I’ve been writing since I was young. Telling stories, that’s really what is major for me.” Hartness is finishing a script for a feature film and will soon be seeking a producer and putting funding in place. “It’s an intergenerational story whose major theme is cooking. It’s about the life of a chef,” Hartness explains.
See some photos of Marie-Emmanuelle Hartness on The Independent's Facebook page .