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Filmmaker Fridays: Elaine Madsen

By June 2, 2016September 16th, 2016Filmmaker Fridays, News

Meet producer and filmmaker Elaine Madsen. Elaine spent her career as a writer, an editor, and is an Emmy winning producer. Elaine directed the documentary I KNOW A WOMAN LIKE THAT, which recently became available on Digital HD and DVD. We asked Elaine a few questions about her career and experience directing this documentary. 


1. You spent your career as an established writer and producer. Tell us how and why you wanted to direct I KNOW A WOMAN LIKE THAT? Where did the idea come from?

The idea emerged during a conversation with my daughter (Virginia Madsen) as I described to her a deeply meaningful relationship I had with a long-time friend and mentor who had passed away. I said I hoped that someday she would know a “woman like that”. And Virginia responded by saying “I do know a woman like that, Mom.  It’s you”..  We spoke then and several times subsequently about the qualities that makes a woman memorable, especially in the upper decades of our lives. Virginia nagged me that it was time for me to “get back behind the camera” and direct again. The idea of defining the qualities of a woman “like that” led to discussions about women we knew and branched out to find more of them.  

2. What would you say are the major differences from acting as a producer versus a director?

As a small film producer/director of documentaries, you have to be able to do everything, I mean EVERYTHING, on your own, define your story, research the elements of it, talk people into participating, create a budget, find the money, secure permission for all the locations, find the crew, shoot the story, pay the crew, secure, locate and pay all the post-productions services and then, beg, borrow and hunt through hell and high water to find a distributor. Doors to one’s audience are all labeled “DISTRIBUTOR’ in capital letters. Working with a producer involves all those same elements. In the case of “I Know a Woman Like That,” Virginia was the producer. And she found just the right distributor for us. And she was there for every on of the steps cited above they all had to be fulfilled. As director I was on the scene day by day, doing those kinds of battles, but she was “out there” finding ways to get things done. I wasn’t alone out there. Virginia was a strong producer. She ran interference in so many ways. She did find some money, but she paid for a lot of things out of her own pocket, she never gave up and never let me give up.  

3. The documentary features many inspirational women from all aspects of life. How did you figure out which women you were going to feature in your documentary? 

A few of  the women were friends, others were referred to us by someone we were interviewing or we saw a story in print or on media and pursued that person and sometimes just dared to step up to the person of interest and dare to ask them. One of things that was really important to us was that most of the women would not be public figures. We wanted the audience for our film to be able to recognize and identify with the lives we were going to share. 

4. There are many themes and morals that one can learn from this documentary. What do you want people to take away from this film?

That OLD is not a four letter word.  Virginia’s quote “IF you’re lucky, you GET to be old”. So, if you’re lucky, you are either already there, or on your way there — it is a time to try things you’ve never done. As one of women Suzanne Adams said “There’s only so much life left you have to lose, so go ahead and try”.   

5. What is one advice you would give to an aspiring women who is looking to find their purpose in life?

What around you, around your own life, do you see that needs changing?  Be CURIOUS. Step outside your usual interests. See what changes could make a difference.  Then, BE that change in some small way. Maybe once upon a time, you were at the head of the parade, now might be the time to look for others who can lead whatever parade you were in or want to get into and mentor that person or persons. There are so many needs in this world.  Pick one, and within the boundaries of the life you have, and we must be honest. Age does enforce boundaries of time, energy, and strength.  Yet, within those boundaries, begin with one step, one day at a time.  Age takes time to acquire, and along the way you have acquired skills, resourcefulness, imagination and creativity.  Now is a time when you can put all those things to work in a way differently than you have ever done before. Engage.



Virgil Films

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