We had the pleasure of interviewing rising star Noelle Joy Sorenson on the international acclaim she has received for her debut film, “HeArT,” which has become a hit on the festival circuit.
She was able to take time out from her busy schedule to share with us how female directors are able to thrive in a male-driven industry.
First-time filmmaker, Noelle Joy Sorenson, has earned the title of international award-winning director, as she makes the festival rounds with her debut short film, “HeArT”.
“HeArT, shares the emotional roller coaster of exploring a no holds barred, passionate relationship with an artist.”
To date, the film has been selected 32 times, winning 18 awards, including five for Best Director and a Best Actor award for co-star, Josh Berresford.
Not bad for a directorial debut, and the journey has just begun.
As an actress, singer and dancer, Sorenson has appeared on the radio, in MTV videos, on television and in films. The rarity is that she is a first time female director/filmmaker in a world where about three quarters of the directorial jobs in the entertainment industry are male.
When asked about pursuing her passion, she shares, “I never felt very connected, with my family, school or anything. Filmmaking and connecting with people all over the world based on our mutual love of film makes me feel that maybe there is a place where I belong.”
Breaking into the festival circuit, a new filmmaker is competing with an incredible pool of talented and countless seasoned filmmakers and films.
What were the ingredients that produced this international success and this air of confidence and ease for this first time upstart?
Sorenson says it was an “inside job.” She comments, “I was actually discouraged by a few people I know and respect in the business, and yes, most of them were men. They warned me about acting and being able to execute a good performance if I was directing it myself. I was also told my first film would ‘suck, so don’t even worry about making a good film.’ They weren’t wrong-in general. They were just wrong about me.”
Listening to her talk, it appears her meditation practice and inner-faith is what helped her excel—versus listening to outside influences.
Perhaps the reality is that regardless of gender, we all have to get through those first times of doubt and outside scrutiny. Once we do, things can change. Sorenson says she sees a difference in what people now believe is possible for her.
She found inspiration from director Anne Renton, who recently won an award from The Directors Guild of America for the show “Best Foot Forward,” and is thriving as a working director in mainstream television (“The Rookie,” “MacGyver,” “The Good Doctor”).
Sorenson says that Renton was gracious enough to take a moment to get to know her over Zoom in the early days of the pandemic. At that time, Sorenson identified herself as an actor, not a director.
When they initially connected, Sorenson was under the impression that Renton was a casting director. When Renton clarified that she was a director, speaking briefly about what she was working on, Sorenson’s eyes widened with a new perception about what was possible.
Sorenson comments, “Renton inspired me. I recently asked her about an Instagram post where she was at the Directors Guild of America with Ron Howard. I wanted to know how he supported and inspired her. Renton told me that prior to taking Ron’s advice and making her first feature, she had already directed an award-winning short film starring Jane Lynch. Ron’s encouragement helped her solidify her goal of becoming a filmmaker and making sure that she did not get sidetracked doing other things.
She adds, Renton’s first feature premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and went on to screen at many festivals worldwide. That feature helped Renton get into the ABC Studio Directing Program which began her journey into directing television.
Sorenson said that the festival circuit is such a gift to emerging filmmakers, it’s a platform where you can actually be seen and be given opportunities to work more in the field of her vision.
She also shares that Renton’s invaluable insight for female filmmakers and directors looking to thrive in this industry was reinforcing the idea that the most important thing is to “never give up”!
She told Sorenson, “Keep focusing on and building work to get wherever it is you want to ultimately be.”
Renton shared how she got the opportunity to direct a web series when work was scarce. Low budget, low pay, but she got to create the whole world of the series, to work with wonderful actors and to keep sharpening her skills as a director.
The series went on to become one of “Funny or Die’s” Best of the Web comedy series.
Sorenson says, “HeArT” is a great first film because I surrounded myself with an experienced skeletal crew. Collaboration is key. Each person was invaluable to me, and I let them know it time and again.
Renton also shared, “As a director you have to respect and appreciate your collaborators. At whatever level you are working at, there are collaborators whose contributions are invaluable and they support you as a director in innumerable ways, and, ultimately, make your final work stronger.”
Sorenson is continuing to surround herself with a strong team, work hard, stay focused and will never give up.
While her film, “HeArT” is still thriving on the festival circuit, she is writing a television series, working on her acting skills, and immersing herself in learning as much as she can about the entertainment industry.
“I just want to create with great people from all walks of life who are passionate about creating something together that we can all be proud of. It’s about what we can give together to others. It feels very cyclical. At the end of the day I am trusting that whatever is meant for me will be made available to me as long as I keep taking one step at a time to move forward.”
To learn more, visit @noellesorenson on Instagram: www.noellejoysorenson.com