Shapeshifting in the Bay Area

a young woman holding an antique movie camera filming a cemetary

Ellie Vanderlip, Media Studies class of 2016, is currently Workshop Coordinator for Shapeshifters, the Oakland-based microcinema famous for its live film and performance events. Ellie’s job is to make contact with Bay Area filmmakers and organize events wherein they teach the basics of their craft.

Originally from Los Altos, CA, Ellie’s interest in film began in high school, where she took her first few classes. She encountered experimental film while on a field trip to Artists’ Television Access (ATA), a non-profit in the SF’s Mission District, dedicated to supporting underground media and experimental art through screenings and other community events. While at ATA, Ellie met Craig Baldwin, who sparked her interest in the genre.

Baldwin is a well-known wild man in the Bay Area film scene, internationally (in)famous for his politically-charged, high-speed collage films that subvert traditional documentary forms and traditions. Baldwin has also programmed the odd and wonderful work of international film and video makers at Other Cinema, a beloved exhibition series he founded in 1987. “Craig gave us a little presentation and I just instantly was like: OK, yeah, this is so cool. These people are so cool. I need to be involved in this world,” Ellie recalled.

During her sophomore year as a USF Media Studies major, Ellie secured an internship with Baldwin and worked with him on experimental projects. He was an essential figure for her when it came to learning about the small experimental film community in the Bay Area. “He was very informative, constantly spewing out information,” Ellie said.

a young woman sits at a desk in a cluttered studioBefore graduating, Ellie took advantage of her time in college to get started in filmmaking as a profession. “When I was an undergrad, I just took anything, anything that came my way that was film related,” Ellie said. “I don’t even know how some of them got my email.”

Ellie also joined USFtv, eventually becoming Co-Executive Producer. She enjoyed being surrounded by so many creative people her age and learned a lot from her peers. “I already had a base of production skills, so having creative support was important.”

Her time with the Media Studies and Film Department also allowed her to grow as a creator and connect with people in her craft. She appreciated the small classes and sense of community at USF and still is in contact with many college peers and professors. Recently, she guest lectured in the Experimental Cinema class taught by professor Danny Plotnick.

Through Baldwin’s connections Ellie eventually met Gilbert Guerrero and Kathleen Quillian, co-directors of Shapeshifters Cinema. “I had just finished [at USF] and I ran into Gilbert and just straight up asked him, ‘Hey do you need an intern?’” Since then Ellie has been working with the pair and has put on workshops ranging from animation to camera-free filmmaking.

two people working on a 16mm film projector

Post-grad, Ellie also began working at a cafe while freelancing, this gave her the time and ability to focus on projects she was passionate about. “Working at that cafe, people there were super creative,” she said. “It got me inspired. My creative practice solidified.”

In addition to working with Shapeshifters, she is a video editor for Lucid Motors, a car company based in the South Bay. Her time there has helped her learn more about assistant editing in a professional capacity and has given her the opportunity to pad her resume. “I have some decent stuff in my reel now,” she said. “Taking advantage of the fact I’m freshly an editor, but they trust me and they’re gonna give me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise get to work on.”

She hopes to be able to turn towards freelancing full time and focus exclusively on creative projects as an assistant editor. “I’ve found a niche in assistant editing. I found what I wanted to do,” Ellie said.

Ellie is now in her last semester of the graduate film program at San Francisco State, and is excited for what’s to come. Since graduating from USF, she has continued to pursue her creativity, changing and growing with each new opportunity.

Photos courtesy of Ellie Vanderlip

Check out Ellie’s films on Youtube