About the DIRECTOR
What do you get when you take a University of Michigan undergraduate, place her in Germany long enough to learn the language and develop an outstanding professional background in international theatre, film production, journalism and global affairs, send her back stateside to cement those experiences, academically, with a Masters of International Media & Communications from Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs and a degree in Directing/Cinematography from the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan and then top it all off with “reel” experience in the film industry of NYC and upstate NY?
-- A dynamic, well-informed and educated producer, writer & director by the name of Heidi Elizabeth aka "Eli" Philipsen-Meissner.
Elizabeth ('Eli' in Danish) Meissner is a director with 25 years of professional experience in international theater, film, television and communications, who has directed both for stage and film, projects ranging from Christopher Durang's Naomi in the Living Room for the Reactors Studio at the English Theatre Berlin to her current independent feature film, DARCY.
Having studied film and theater as an undergrad at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she studied and trained extensively under Professor Kate Mendeloff (Shakespeare, American Classics, Greek Theater) and Janet Shier (Brecht), Heidi Elizabeth moved to Berlin in her early twenties, where she first apprenticed under director Hans-Joachim Frank at Theater 89.
Founded in 1989 after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Theater 89 aimed to produce new independent theater works in the spirit of Bertholt Brecht, providing fresh, politically unfettered ground for artists from surrounding theatrical megaliths the likes of the Berliner Ensemble, the Maxim Gorki Theater, the Deutsches Theater, and the Volksbuehne.
That experience led H.E. to Friends of Italian Opera - now known as The English Theatre Berlin - where she joined the ReActors Studio and had her directorial debut, directing Christopher Durang's Naomi in the Living Room.
Her first 16mm short film would soon follow when -- upon writing a short play about a miserable young, American woman living in Berlin in the 90's, who uses the video camera to keep up pleasant appearances for her family in the States, entitled Angel Inside -- her boyfriend, now husband and co-producer, Niko Meissner, suggested it might work brilliantly as a film.
Angel Inside went on to win Best First Film at the Calgary $100 Independent Film Festival, prompting both Philipsen & Meissner to keep pursuing their joint dream of making movies.
In 2000, H.E. returned Stateside to pursue her Masters in International Media & Communications at Columbia University's School of International Media & Communications, by day, whereas, by night, she studied scene study extensively for two years under Mary Boyer at the Terry Schreiber Studios.
While at Columbia, she fulfilled a lifetime dream of interning for German Director Wim Wenders in Berlin at his international film production company, Road Movies, GmbH (now Neue Road Movies) during the summer of 2001.
But it wasn't until moving back to Michigan in 2004, to refresh her Midwestern roots while her now husband, Niko Meissner, pursued his M.B.A. in Renewable Energy & Sustainable Enterprise at the Erb Institute within the Ross School of Business, that Heidi Elizabeth found her true voice as both a theater and film director.
Looking for a place to continue her acting craft, H.E. took several Acting/Directing/Movement workshops at Emmy Award-winning Actor Jeff Daniel's Purple Rose Theater under Artistic Director Guy Sanville - and even understudied in his production of Honus & Me.
But she took her Midwestern mentor seriously when Mr. Sanville said to one of his class groups, "Go out and make theater" by literally going out and starting the Personae Ensemble -- an independent theater ensemble made up of local area theater actors and directors, focused on challenging and modern works.
And right out of the gate, she took on directing the 'gritty stuff' -- like William Mastrosimone's "Extremities" and Anne Nelson's "The Guys."
And then she found out about the Motion Picture Institute of Michigan in Troy, Michigan.
Set on gaining real, hands-on training and experience in film development, production and post-production, H.E. majored in Directing & Cinematography in 2006. A year later, her thesis film A Fork in the Road, which she wrote, produced and directed, won Best Screenplay at the Motion Picture Institute Film Festival and went on to enjoy a good exhibition run at several other film festivals, nation-wide - including the Manhattan Film Festival, the New Filmmakers Film Festival and the Reel Women International Film Festival.
Several short films later - including the Edgar Allan Poe period piece with a feminist twist, "Her Telling Heart," which won many awards during its film fest tenure, Heidi Elizabeth is excited to present her feature film directorial debut, "Darcy" (formerly "This is Nowhere"), about a teenager trying to pursue her dreams amid all the obstacles one could imagine for a poor girl living with her parents in a motel on the wrong side of the tracks.
"Hopefully," she says, "this is just the first of many."
Heidi holds a B.A. in the Independent Concentration of Film, Theater and German Literature from the University of Michigan, a Goethe Institute Fluency Certificate for her German proficiency as acquired during studies at the University of Freiburg, an MIA in International Communications with a focus on the European Union from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, a Certificate of Completion from the Motion Picture Institute in Directing and Cinematography, a Certificate of Completion from UCLA's Professional Online Screenwriting Program and multiple years of Advanced Scene Study and Acting Technique from the likes of Stella Adler Studios and Terry Schreiber Studios.
She is a member of the Producers Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, AEA, the Alliance of Women Directors, the Motion Picture Institute’s Directors Alumni Club, New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT), Upstate New York Women in Film & Television (UPWIFT) - which she founded in 2013, Chicago Women in Film & Television, and University of Michigan and Columbia University Alumni Groups, and is featured on THE DIRECTOR'S LIST, a centralized hub for finding women directors and their work.