When filmmaker Jennifer Merchant moved from Amsterdam to Hollywood at age nineteen, she brought her European sensibility with her to the American film industry. Her work carries a unique touch of creative genius and artistic realism; properly visualizing today’s multi-cultural social dynamics and her generation’s well-known theme of self-discovery. These are two essential components that speak to the millennial generation, says Jennifer, who is on the rise with her films as she is one of the few millennial filmmakers who incorporates European sensibilities into her movies, where the pacing remains calm and the characters are linked to objects of fine craftsmanship. Most of the golden-age films had European roots in both story and style, and this is exactly what the young director aims to bring back into today’s main-stream cinema.
Merchant graduated from the world-renowned Stella Adler Academy where she studied the craft of acting, after winning a scholarship. This is where she learned the importance of place and character and got introduced to the great works of many well-respected playwrights including Anton Chekhov.
As such, her latest motion picture of 15 minutes, entitled ‘Néla’ is a Chekhovian inspired tale. ‘Néla’ will have the same humanity and depth as Jennifer Merchant’s previous film ‘Ebru’ (the first coming of age short film that starred a headscarf-wearing teenager) creating a multi-cultural atmosphere with European elements, once again.
Merchant has always been a great advocate of employing as many realistic elements in her work as possible; the use of objects as a through-line is a recurring element in Jennifer Merchant’s films. From a broken shoe in ‘Ebru’ to a Dutch bicycle in ‘Néla’; her appreciation for craftsmanship is continuous and it is one of Jennifer’s most treasured assets when it comes to crafting stories.
Her ability to create some of the most mesmerizing story-lines taken right from life and translating them into equally stunning visuals is what sets Merchant apart from other filmmakers her age. Her work method is equally impressive as it is unflinching and bold. During the shooting of ‘Néla’, Jennifer decided to experiment with her filmmaking style and improvised each outdoor scene on the spot, as soon as she found an intriguing location during her daily location-scout with her actress. One of those scenes turned out to become a perfect representation of the movie’s theme.
It is the sequence where the main character does an act of kindness as she returns a lost package. When she arrives at the house, an arguing couple can be heard. They serve as a contrast to what Néla is all about and it shows the irony of how people can easily forget the value of life and get lost in arguing over the most frivolous things – not knowing that there could be someone, walking outside their house… who doesn’t even know if she is going to live…
With these two magnificent art-works in her pocket, Jennifer is on her way to craft her next masterpiece; her first feature film for which she is already consulting with a European history adviser. While making sure she keeps learning and growing as an artist, this visionary millennial filmmaker is on the rise as she captivates and enthrals audiences. We just have to wait and see where she goes next.
‘Néla’ is now available to stream on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/212671291.