The 6th Annual Ocean City Film Festival begins this week and will host a screening of The Issue With Elvis, the award-winning film by Charlotte Wincott that played at numerous festivals throughout 2021. It’s a film that truly is a family affair. It was written, directed, shot and edited by Wincott. It was produced and stars her husband, as well as featuring their son in a prominent role. It’s a narrative about family, faith, science and mental illness, made during the pandemic and in ways speaks to the pandemic.
Yes, Charlotte Wincott is a filmmaker but becoming one wasn’t her track. She instead got her Bachelor’s of Science from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2009. She got her Ph.D. in neuroscience from New York University in 2015. She conducted addiction research as part of her postdoctoral fellowship at The Rockefeller University. She’s worked as a medical scientist ever since. It wasn’t until her postdoc that she began making films with the aim of telling stories with scientific themes that are both entertaining and educational.
Her husband is Jeff Wincott who has been a working actor since the 1980’s. He’s been in numerous films and TV shows, such as Sons of Anarchy, Blue Bloods and The Wire. Charlotte Wincott wrote this film in part because she wanted to provide her husband with a better role than the ones he was getting. Specifically, her husband was cast in the pilot of a TV show but he got re-cast. This is her first feature, but, of the several short films she had directed prior to this one, her husband has been her leading actor of choice. However, it hasn’t just been her husband. Her son has also been featured in all of her films as well.
In addition to things she wanted to explore in her own life, Wincott said that another inspiration for this film came from her son asking her one day about mushrooms. Wincott has spent time alone in the woods herself and this film reflects that of a scientist alone. She started writing it in the summer of 2020, and really wanted to show the beauty of the woods but how isolating it is. She wanted that beauty and isolation to be a reflection of the academic and scientific world.
Wincott had no crew. She probably couldn’t get one, given that she shot the film over Thanksgiving weekend of 2020. There were two other weekends that were utilized, but the majority of it was done over Thanksgiving. It was just her, her husband and her son. She was her own crew, a crew of one. She had no storyboards and came up with things on the fly. She got through it all using mostly masters or master shots. Her husband was a well trained actor, so he was able to roll with it easily. Wincott said her husband’s only hang-up was learning the technical or scientific jargon. Meanwhile, she said her son was a natural, who at only 10-years-old took to the whole thing quite easily. She said though that sound was the only big pain-in-the-rear that ended up being her biggest struggle. She called sound the “bane of my existence.”
She said there were other tense moments, but she was able to get through it because she was working with her family. She said there were perhaps a tantrum or two, but otherwise it was so much fun for her. She said one of the best moments of the shoot was the scene at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. She said that the scene conveyed the value of God through a child. It also conveyed the value of praying, creating a sense of peace for a person. Wincott talked about how there has been an issue between science and religion where some in the science community don’t see the benefit of religion. She commented on the fact that sometimes scientists can be stubborn. Wincott is more open about letting the two co-exist and using this film to show how science and religion can co-exist, the latter providing hope and lowering anxiety.
Yet, there is another issue in The Issue With Elvis. Wincott talked about the issue of mental illness. She was honest in her conversation about her mother having alcohol use disorder and passing away from it. She wanted to include some kind of mental illness in this film as well. Not necessarily alcoholism, but she wanted to underline the idea of compassion toward those with mental illness. She also talked about the idea of not blaming but embracing. Her message goes toward a greater one of not stigmatizing those with mental illness but trying to provide them with the help they need. This comes through in particular in a scene involving a letter that her son’s character writes.
She shot the film using a Canon camera and edited the film using Final Cut Pro. She says she didn’t mind wearing so many hats because she likes the control in order to best convey her vision through her film.
The Issue With Elvis.
Sunday, March 6 at 3:30 p.m. at Flagship Cinemas.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 28 mins.
For more information, go to https://ocmdfilmfestival.com/.
To learn more, go you can follow the film on Twitter, https://twitter.com/IssuewithElvis.