About Heidi Elizabeth (aka Eli)
Heidi Elizabeth Philipsen-Meissner first began acting, writing and directing in college while a student at the Residential College of the University of Michigan, focusing academically on an independent concentration liberal arts degree in Film, Theatre & German Literature.
However, it wasn’t until she moved to Berlin, Germany, that she truly began to act, produce and direct on a more professional scale.
Living in Berlin during the hey-days of its reconstruction (1995-2000), as a fluent speaker of German and native English speaker, Heidi was in the right place at the right time for a career in film, threatre, television and print media -- and enjoyed all of the opportunities that continued to come her way:
New York City
She apprenticed at the politically astute and artistically acclaimed Theatre 89 in Berlin – a collaborative, independent theatre combining actors/directors from such theatres as the Maxim Gorki Theatre, the Berliner Ensemble, and the Brecht Theatre, before acting and directing in the ReActors’ Studio at the Friends of Italian Opera – Berlin’s only English-speaking theatre.
When not in theatre, Ms Philipsen-Meissner was involved in a variety of endeavors: speaking to a group of American study-abroad graduate students about "Careers in Germany" at the American Consulate General in Hamburg, acting as one of the first, two co-Managing Editors of the American Academy in Berlin's Literary Journal, "The Berlin Journal," and doing voice-over work at the legendary Grundy Ufa Studios in Babelsberg for American films.
Furthermore, Heidi made her first mark as a journalist abroad, reporting, translating and associate producing for a worldwide audience (over 28 million viewers a week) at the English language office of the internationally broadcast and globally focused television station, Deutsche Welle TV, where she worked on the international news program “The Journal” as well as the cultural and social events program “Germany Today.”
Her first film, Angel Inside, a short shot on 16 mm in Berlin, which she wrote, co-produced, 1st assistant directed and was the lead actress, won the prize of “Best First Film” at the Calgary $100 Independent Film Festival in 2000.
NEW YORK CITY
In 2000, Heidi returned stateside to assist at the American branch office of The American Academy in Berlin and begin her studies in International Media & Communications at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs in New York City – by day. In the evenings, she took Scene Study acting classes at Terry Schreiber Studios in Chelsea and wrote/performed in such Off-off Broadway productions as Angry Jello Bubbles.
Motivated by a desire to "think globally, direct locally," in 2003, Heidi returned to her roots in Michigan and started writing, producing, acting in and directing her own pieces for both film and theater, while working as an understudy and taking classes at Oscar-winning Actor Jeff Daniel’s professional theatre company in Chelsea, Michigan, The Purple Rose Theatre.
Inspired by the Purple Rose Theater's Artistic Director, Guy Sanville, and his encouragement to make things happen in the theater community, Heidi founded her own theater company, The Personae Ensemble, with local Michigan actors; their first play, which Heidi directed, William Mastrosimone's "Extremities," was performed in collaboration with Take Back the Night march at the University of Michigan. Later, in 2006, she produced and directed Anne Nelson's "The Guys" in memory of the fifth year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in NYC (where Heidi was living at the time). She presented a video interview with Ms Nelson, taped in person prior to the event.
She enrolled in film school at the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan, in 2006, and wrote, produced and directed her thesis short, “A FORK IN THE ROAD” for which she received “Best Screenplay” and was nominate for “Best Director” at the MPI Student Film Festival.
“A Fork in the Road” was a part of the official of the Reel Women International Film Festival in Burbank, C.A., on March 8, 2006; the Electric City Film Festival at the G.E. Theatre in Schenectady, N.Y. in the fall of 2008; the New Filmmakers Film Series at the Anthology Film Archives on June 10th, 2009; and a part of the official program at the Manhattan International Film Festival July 21, 2010.
FROM HERE TO THERE AND BACK, AGAIN: UPSTATE, NY & NYC
In 2007, Heidi moved to Schenectady, N.Y., where she continued to work as a freelance writer, producer and director of diverse media (commercials, testimonials, company visual profiles, as well as short films and documentaries), largely in tandem with renown and established Upstate, N.Y. cinematographer, photojournalist and producer, Bob Shenise of Shenise Productions.
Her film HER TELLING HEART, a short, adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Telltale Heart” marked her post-film school premiere and was a project of the official Motion Picture Institute’s Alumni Directors’ Club. It received fiscal sponsorship from New York Women in Film & Television’s Fiscal Sponsorship Program and was shot in upstate, New York in three days on the Red One camera with Patrick Elliot as the film’s Director of Photography.
“Her Telling Heart” went on to screen in multiple film festivals during its film fest tenure, winning Best Performance and Experimental Film at the Park City Film Music Film Festival in 2012 and Best Sound at the ReachOut Film Festival in Kingston, NY. It screened officially at the Salty Horror Film Festival in Salt Lake City, UT, the Hygienic Screening Room in New London, CT, New Collaborations in Detroit, MI, the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI, was an official part of the NYWIFT Summer Shorts Program and kicked off the PBS TV Film series in 2013.
In the spirit of community and industry service, Heidi served and represented Upstate Independents -- Upstate New York's Ultimate Indie Film and Media member organization -- as board member and Programming Chair, fulfilling another passion: bringing dynamic industry professionals together to exchange experiences, trade secrets and talk about the past, present and future of film, media and communications.
She resigned from her Chair in Programming at UI in January of 2013 and held the first, charter meeting for a new chapter of WOMEN IN FILM & TELEVISION, a project under New York Women in Film and Television, called UPWIFT, or Upstate Women in Film & Television, for women professionals in the industry living and working in upstate New York.
Now in its ninth year, UPWIFT is going strong with new leaders, while Heidi serves on its Advisory Board as President Emeritus and Founder. It will be turning 10 on February 28, 2022.
Heidi also continued to freelanced in the upstate & NYC areas and worked as a SAG-AFTRA actress and precision driver on films such as THIRSTY, MARCY, THE OTHER GUYS, PREMIUM RUSH, HOBO HEYSEUS, SALT, TOWER HEIST, Germany's KATIE FFORDE series (shot in the Hudson Valley), and played a Car Rental Clerk opposite Vince Vaugn, Dave Franco and Tom Wilkinson in UNFINISHED BUSINESS; she worked locally in production & producing in such projects as GE Eco Imagination commercial series, Gordon Ramsey's Hell Hotel series, as a field producer for a Rachel Ray Show episode, production coordinator for Van Wormer International/Network Movie Katie Fforde Sunday night German tv series, as well as the Sundance Film Fest indie favorite THE BETTER ANGELS (with Diane Krüger, Jason Clarke and Brit Marling), THE SISTERHOOD OF NIGHT feature, produced by Lydia Pilcher, and Line Producer for MARCY, an indie thriller/drama.
Meanwhile, in 2013, Heidi's mentor from the Motion Picture Institute, Kathryn McDermott, reached out to her to help build an ACTING FOR FILM PRODUCTION program with the school in Troy, MI -- and opportunity, which Heidi could not turn down. Thus, using her practical on-set experience and acting background, Heidi formed a one-year, two-semester program for actors to learn on set and be prepared for "reel" life after graduation.
Also, from 2013 to 2015, Heidi teamed up with local upstate filmmakers, Jon & Tracy Cring, to produce her first feature film, DARCY, which she produced (receiving the esteemed "Produced By" p.g.a. designation from the Producers Guild of America), co-directed and starred in the micro budget indie feature (shot on location in Palenville, NY) with an outstanding ensemble cast of actors. The film premiered at the 2017 Twin Cities International Film Festival before going on to a great, multiple award-winning film festival run, opening to the international film market via Cannes Marche Du Film in 2018, and finally securing online and art house theater distribution via Herflix.
Unfortunately, Covid-19 and the world pandemic lockdown made it difficult to pursue ArtHouse theatrical distribution, as planned, but Heidi hasn't given up hope and plans to move forward ASAP.
In the meantime, please check out the DARCY's official website for more information: www.darcymovie.com -- or watch it on either Herflix, Apple TV, Roku, Android, Chromcast & Vimeo-on-Demand (see below)!
After completing post-production for DARCY and while in Michigan, Heidi decided that what was missing in her professional background was a real education in business. One day, in 2017, while driving from upstate NY to Michigan to visit her home town of Ypsilanti, she passed an Eastern Michigan University MBA Degree billboard sign that read, "What are you waiting for?" It was a sign she couldn't ignore. She decided to apply that evening.
Two weeks later, Heidi joined the new orientation class for graduate MBA students and dug into her new life as a College of Business graduate student, taking Accounting, Statistics, Data Management, Business Leadership, Corporate Finance courses and many more.
FULL CIRCLE / BACK IN BERLIN
In 2018, Heidi moved to Hamburg, Germany while under contract to direct her first international feature film; unfortunately, as it sometimes goes in the indie film industry, that film never happened, but Heidi used the moment of being abroad to reinvent herself and widen the trajectory of her career.
She joined Women in Film & Television, Germany - Hamburg and was immediately inducted as an organization Representative, where her experience and passion for putting together panel discussions and film-related events were put into use to create Transatlantic-themed events in coordination with Film Fest Hamburg.
And Heidi kept on with her graduate studies, even though abroad: Again, by day, she studied -- this time as a graduate MBA student, taking as many of Eastern Michigan University's prerequisite courses online while abroad, and her evenings were spent working on developing her craft as a screenwriter with weekly deadlines and group meetings via Skype as an Advanced Screenwriting Student at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Professional Screenwriting Program within their School of Film, Theater & Television.
Today, she lives in Berlin, Germany, with her husband and two teenage children. Most recently, she graduated from Eastern Michigan University with her MBA in Management, finished penning her first feature-length RomCom, "Kidnapping Love," (designed for international co-pro) and is working on the rewrite for the rom com, Love & Vodka, inspired by the book written by R.J. Fox.
She is a member of Film Netzwerk Berlin, ProQuote Film Germany, the Alliance of Women Directors, The Director List, the Producer's Union, the Producer’s Guild of America (participating in both the Employment & International Committees), Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television & Radio Artists, Actors Equity Association, New York Women in Film & Television, Founder & President Emeritus of Upstate New York Women in Film & Television (UPWIFT), Communications Chair Emeritus of the Electricity Entertainment Board of Schenectady, Programming Chair Emeritus of Upstate Independents, Chicago Women in Film & Television, the University of Michigan Alumni Club and Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs Alumni Club.
Heidi holds a B.A. in Film, Theatre & German Literature from the University of Michigan's Residential College, a Certificate in German Fluency from the Goethe Institute, a Masters in International Media & Communications with a Regional Focus on the European Union from Columbia University's School of International & Public Affairs, a Graduate Training Certificate in Directing, Screenwriting and Cinematography from the Motion Picture Institute, a Certificate of Completion from the Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce’s Spring 2011 Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for her company Personae Entertainment, an Advanced Screenwriting Professional Programs Certificate from the University of California, Los Angeles' School of Film, Theater & Television, and, as of April 2021, a Masters of Business Administration, specializing in Management from Eastern Michigan University's College of Business.