#MakingMoves: Eli O’Brien: Behind the Camera
By Aylon Berger
When Eli O’Brien arrived at AU his freshman year, he thought he would pursue a career in politics. It seemed like the obvious move. During his senior year, he won a prestigious US Senate Youth Program scholarship and was well on his way to making a name for himself in Rhode Island political circles. But something didn’t feel right for Eli.
Eli explains, “One day I was sitting down with a friend and I couldn’t stop talking about movies. When the conversation ended, he asked me if I had ever considered pursuing film.” For Eli this was a turning point in his life, and the first time he ever considered filmmaking. “I realized that I liked movies more than most people.”
Up until this point, Eli had been interested in movies, but only considered it a hobby. Throughout high school, he would stay up late into the night watching films. After that conversation, he decided to pursue his passion. Pretty soon, he completed the paperwork to switch his declared major from CLEG to Film.
When Eli went home for winter break, he gathered a group of his friends and wrote, directed, and edited his first short film. Eli’s directorial debut, Blood Orange, was a nine-minute short about a group of teens grieving their friend’s death.
Eli’s experience with Blood Orange, landed him a ticket to attend the 2019 Cannes Film Festival this past summer, as part of the American Pavilion’s prestigious program for film students. At Cannes, Eli built up his Rolodex of show-biz contacts and got to meet other up-and-coming film students from around the world. One night, Eli told a group of other film students about a high school experience he had being the unwitting middleman for a relationship.
“After I finished telling my story, people told me that it would make an interesting screenplay.” So Eli decided to take heed of this advice, and spent the next three months hard at work. The final product, Breakfast at T’s is set to go into production this winter, and Eli is working on recruiting an up-and-coming crew of film students, and studying actors.
“In film there are very few original stories, but an endless amount of ways to tell it.” And while Eli points to Kenneth Lonergan and Martin Scorsese as key artistic influences on him, he explains, “when you sit down and make a film, you have to forget what everyone else has done.”
When describing his process for writing and directing, Eli explains that he “can’t write page 1 until I figure out the ending and what I want to leave with the audience.”
Since he first took up writing and directing, Eli has become a fixture of AU’s underground film community, getting involved in DKE and ATV, AU’s film fraternity and TV station. “Even though filmmaking may not be the face of AU, there are so many cool people here doing incredible work.”
Looking ahead, Eli is eager to begin production on Breakfast at T’s and just finished writing a TV pilot, which is in the process of being pitched in Los Angeles.