Ellen Tripler - American University - Documentary Winner
From Bethesda, MD, Ellen Tripler did a lot of photography in high school. In college, not only was film one of her majors but she also held a job as a projectionist in three different movie theaters. Afterwards, she went on a trip to Europe and didn’t return for fifteen years. After getting married, having two kids, and embarking on a completely different career, Ellen decided to go back to school and pick up what she was most passionate about— film and photography.
At American University, Ellen was presented with a lot of opportunities and learned from each and every professor and student. American University provided her with a large network in Washington DC and across the country. Her most valuable lesson learned is you have to do what you love and choose a subject you are passionate about and are committed to.
Ellen thinks film school is not for everyone but is a great framework to learn the basics, such as story. And it’s a great place to learn about collaboration and meet like-minded people.
“Dying Green” came out of the combination of Ellen reading the book Grave Matters, A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial and taking a class that required she pitch ideas for a documentary on an environmental or wildlife issue. After pitching “Dying Green”, it was obvious that not many people were aware of the history of funerals and death in America and everyone was immediately hooked. So “Dying Green” became Ellen’s thesis project and the process of making the documentary started.
The film focuses on Billy Campbell’s vision to make natural burials mainstream, in order to conserve land. On the first day of shooting, Ellen received word that somebody in the neighborhood had died. While tragic news for friends and family of the deceased, it was fortunate for filmmakers making a documentary on a specific type of funeral.
Ellen is currently working on smaller projects but is also researching her next feature length documentary.
Check out a clip from “Dying Green.”