Elena Rossini is the writer, producer, cinematographer and director on a new feature-length film, The Illusionists, a documentary about consumer society, the commodification of the body, and the marketing of unattainable beauty ideals around the world. The film was financed in the summer of 2011 through a crowdfunding campaign and was selected in July 2011 by indieWIRE as “Project of the Day”, and also won the title of “Project of the Week.”

The film is completed, but Elena has hit a roadblock, and is asking for our help to spread the word through the launch of a new social media campaign: #AdoptTheIllusionists – whose aim is to get the documentary on the radar of influential film people, who could help with festivals and distribution.

Being a filmmaker is not an easy task, Elena shares her story with us…


By Elena Rossini – The life of an indie filmmaker is very similar to that of a marathon runner: you have to befriend pain and sacrifice, learn to withstand humiliation, and build up resilience. Low moments are plentiful. The highs, albeit often fleeting, can be sublime and intoxicating. You live for those highs. In the six years of work on my feature-length documentary The Illusionists, I can count the highs on one hand.

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” – Mandela

I knew that once you complete a film, you’re only 50% done (as opposed to 90%); Applying to festivals and the question of distribution take up a lot of time and effort. Still, I could not anticipate just how anticlimactic the future would be.

As I waited for answers from film festivals, I had a long conference call with an experienced film producer. I was seeking advice regarding distribution strategies. Basically, the producer told me that my film “was a gem” but no good festival would accept it, because I didn’t have the right connections. I needed a well-known producer, production company and/or grants from prominent foundations. Otherwise, The Illusionists would have no chance of getting into any reputable festivals.


Most shocking of all: according to this producer, the fact I did it all on my own – producing, writing, directing, cinematography and editing – was not an asset, but a liability. It showed that “I could not work with people.” Never mind the long list of collaborators that had been helping out. According to her, festivals disliked seeing just one name attached to a project.

Friends and colleagues who have seen the film have only one criticism: the voice-over narration (done by a former BBC announcer), as it sounded a little too didactic. Could I change that? Well, yes, that had been at the top of my to-do list for months. I want to get a male celebrity to narrate the film.

And sure enough, rejection letters from prestigious American film festivals have started rolling in. At the same time, I have been getting extremely positive feedback from people working in TV, complementing me on the film’s content and style… which is fantastic, but without film festivals or distributors, the impact the film may have is limited.

That’s the great catch-22 of this project: to get a wide distribution deal, you need to be screening at a prestigious festival. To get into a good festival, it helps to have a celebrity narrator. To have a celebrity narrator, you can’t be a total “nobody” – you need at the very least to have a well-known producer attached to the project. And for a well-known producer to be interested in being involved, well, you need something that truly makes your movie stand out. Like a celebrity narrator. See the conundrum?

How you can help

It only takes one person to believe in this film to turn it all around.

The Illusionists is very much a “square peg through a round hole” sort of project. It’s a bit of a misfit and a rebel, but its intentions are pure and noble: to jumpstart a discussion about corporate hypocrisy, toxic media messages and how they’re affecting our self-esteem. After watching it, I promise you won’t see media and advertising the same way again.

We’re not asking for money, but for your support by joining the social media campaign: #AdoptTheIllusionists. If you are game, click on over to The Illusionists website to learn more about how you can help.