By Tova Norman
As Carmelle Danneman’s family became more observant when she was growing up, she looked for ways to continue to embrace her love of acting and film — and found writing and directing.
“I kind of wanted to do this to prove to everyone that I could do it, that even as an Orthodox Jew I didn’t have to compromise my faith in order to pursue my passion and make a difference in the world,” she said.
Danneman, a 21-year-old senior graduating from Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women in May, is doing just that.
It is the second film Danneman, a graduate of Greenfield Hebrew Academy and Yeshiva Atlanta (now Atlanta Jewish Academy), has submitted to film festivals. In 2015 her film “Send in the Clowns” won the Audience Choice Award at the Fifty-Four Film Fest in Nashville, Tenn.
Cinequest is an Oscar-nominating festival, which means films that win their category awards can be nominated for Oscars. In fact a few short films from Cinequest have won Academy Awards in recent years.
This year’s festival attracted record audiences topping 105,000.
Danneman’s short film screened three times during the festival as part of the “Mindbenders” shorts series.
The film is about a 9-year-old boy named Jordan who sees puppet strings up to the sky, attached to everyone. His mom doesn’t see the strings. He and his friend talk about the strings and wonder whether anything is attached to them.
At each screening, including one at midnight on a Saturday, the theater was sold out.
Danneman had the opportunity to speak with the audiences afterward.
“They had really awesome questions, and I got really great feedback,” she said.
The festival also gave Danneman the opportunity to meet the other directors. Being a college student was intimidating at first, but Danneman was able to approach the older directors, speak with them and learn from them.
“It was great to meet different directors and see what other people are doing in the industry and how everyone was paving their own path,” she said.
What did they think of her being so young and still in college?
“People were very impressed that I got into this particular festival at such a young age,” she said.
Danneman took all that she learned at the festival back to New York, where she continues to write scripts and work on films. She hopes to work toward a future in the film industry when she graduates in May.
“The ultimate goal of my films is to get messages across to audiences and to inspire them, and I hope that will keep motivating me throughout the rest of my life, and hopefully that will keep me going,” she said.
Although, as the director and producer of her own films, she realizes money will be an important part of continuing to create films, becoming rich and famous does not motivate Danneman.
“If you want it to be meaningful to you, you can’t really be in it for the money,” she said.
She also has an eye toward the future of filmmaking for other women, particularly Orthodox Jewish women.
“I might not be the greatest filmmaker out there and might never win an Academy Award, but hopefully I’m paving the way for another little girl that could someday,” she said.
“The Puppeteer” will be screened at the New Media Film Festival in Los Angeles in June. It will not be available to watch online until it is no longer being shown at film festivals.
Danneman’s award-winning “Send in the Clowns’ is available to watch on her website, www.georgiapeachproductions.com.