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Student Feature: Danielle Durchslag


We spoke with SVACE alumnus Danielle Durchslag on the occasion of her newly completed experimental film titled Eleanor of Illinois, which will premiere at the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival. It features four-time Tony nominee Judy Kuhn, reciting a text pulled in part from the 1968 film The Lion in Winter, starring Katharine Hepburn. Kuhn’s words are spoken in rhythm with Hepburn’s. The result is a meditation on extreme wealth and family dysfunction and their depiction in film, as well as Durchslag’s own Jewish-American heritage and long-standing personal interest in the two icons.

Asked about how the project came together, Durchslag says, “I sometimes joke that writing and directing this film is the closest I’ll ever come to having a traditional American wedding. The process took about six months — working full time — to plan. It cost way more than I could have expected, was extremely stressful and overwhelming, and culminated in a single day of shooting that had to go perfectly!”

That single day turned out to be a success. “On actual shooting day, a lot of that stress and anxiety fell away,” she remembers. “I honestly just felt overwhelmingly lucky. There’s a particular surreal magic in seeing this thing you’ve envisioned and dreamed about and discussed over and over suddenly come to life.”

Durchslag’s time at SVACE helped to realize her ambitions: “I decided to take the Filmmaking I course with Sal Petrosino to learn the practical aspects of film directing — how to run a set, deal with casting, work with actors, get coverage, approach lighting, etc."

"Despite my background in film theory, I knew next to nothing about the nuts and bolts of film production. That class gave me the tools I needed to make Eleanor with confidence. Even long after leaving his class, I have relied on Sal for film wisdom and counsel. He has been a generous and steadfast advisor to me, for which I’m grateful.”

She also made lasting connections with her classmates, including Laurie Krupp, whom she hired as her production designer for this film. “She did a truly fabulous job,” Durchslag says. “And having a friend and ally on set who had been with me at SVA definitely helped me feel comfortable and supported while directing my film.”

A version of this feature appeared in our spring 2019 issue of SVA ContinuEd, available now by visiting or calling our office. See all of our Film and Video courses here. Follow our updates and stories on our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram pages!

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