Julie McElmurry, Filmmaker
I love interviewing, filming, editing + showing my movies to people!
A woman in my 40s, I’m learning filmmaking by making films and through the Charlotte Unconventional Film School, which I created in the spring of 2017.
I just recently (January, 2020) completed my 7th movie. Special thanks to the Hilton Foundation’s National Catholic Women’s Week which provided me with four grants over the years (2016,2017,2018, 2019) which largely funded most of these movies.
Grateful to my partners. Although I film and edit on my own, I rely on talented people to make these movies what they are. Special thanks to Musican-composer Scott McLaughlin of Charlotte, NC who has worked his magic on the past two movies. And to Bryan Holt, a Charlotte, NC based composer and Ian Scott Holmes, a Scotland based composer who have created evocative, original scores to compliment 300 Years of Good and Energy of Nuns, respectively. Michael Quigley of Charlotte, NC has done a phenomenal job with Audio Post Production work on the last three movies.
I’m learning film making so that my lack of technical skills will not get in the way of the real life stories I am capturing. I am most interested in capturing, preserving and sharing the stories of women.
A Quiet Joy: New Jersey’s Monastery of St. Clare (26 min., March 2020)
My 7th movie, I finally feel I am getting the hang of this. I know that this is technically more sophisticated than anything I’ve done before and I am very proud of this. I appreciate the personal nature of the stories told to me by these sisters and treat each interview with reverence as it is no small thing to capture, preserve and share someone’s life story. This was finished January 2020 and will be viewable in a few months.
Montana’s Monastery: Contemplative by Nature (22 min., March 2019)
Spending a week in Montana in January was unforgettable! The warmth and kindness inside this home contrasted with the blustery winds outside. I was able to eat most meals with the sisters and got to know the two women from Tanzania who had already been Poor Clares for decades before discerning that they were meant to join this monastery.
A Life of Prayer, Cincinnati’s Poor Clare Monastery (16 min., March 2018)
This is my second movie about Poor Clare (Franciscan) nuns. I am grateful to the women of the Monastery of St. Clare in Cincinnati, Ohio for their hospitality and assistance. I filmed this in October, 2017 and January, 2018. At first, I was extremely uncomfortable with the idea of filming them, for example, during their times of contemplative prayer but they had already intentionally made the decision to allow that and therefore were able to ignore me even as I awkwardly, clanked the clunky borrowed tripod on my first day with them, while trying to be discreet. Many people assume that a monastery is a locked up place where others are not welcome but in fact, visitors are welcomed here with open arms. I owe a special thanks to Sister Vickie, who did an awesome job coordinating this. If you’ve watched Such a Free Life and 300 Years of Good, you will enjoy a special cameo appearance by Sister Nancy from the monastery in South Carolina, who appears in both of those films as well.
Such a Free Life (19 min., August 2017)
I am so happy that the women of this monastery have trusted me to tell a little piece of their story, from my perspective as an outsider. Such a Free Life: A Glimpse at South Carolina’s Franciscan Monastery. When they saw it, they told me they felt I had “captured their spirit” which is probably the biggest affirmation I could receive as a filmmaker.
The title, “Such a Free Life” comes from a description by the Abbess, describing their life. As outsiders, we make a lot of assumptions about what life must be like on the other side of the wall of a monastery. Maybe we picture some dark, dank, foreboding place full of dour figures. Take a look at their depictions in fiction and you see traits thrust on the characters which have nothing to do with reality.
When you see this, you may be surprised to hear about a regular visitor who met one of the women when his bus hit her car years ago, or you may be surprised to see someone taking out the recycling and then you realize it is the Abbess herself. The women, who follow a tradition begun 800 years ago by St. Clare of Assisi, have had a monastery in Upstate South Carolina since the 1950s and South Carolina will always be their home.
300 Years of Good (30 min., 2017)
300 Years of Good refers to the collective 300 years given by the 9 women religious featured in the movie to the people of North and South Carolina.
For this movie, I traveled all over NC and SC interviewing women about their work. Sr. Ann has been a foster mother to 80 kids, Sr. Nancy gives a humorous lesson on keeping orchids alive (no ice cubes, people!), Sr. Mary tells the story of her recent reunion with orphan kids she took care of in Raleigh… they’re in their 70s now!
Put aside your assumptions about who Sisters are and get motivated to do some good by their varied stories including life with homeless people in Charleston, deciding to become a nun at age 50something and bringing Valentines to drug addicts on the outskirts of a town in South Carolina.
Energy of Nuns (30 min., 2016)
This is the second movie I made. I spent Feb. 2016 in FL, PA and HI interviewing lots of women. Enjoy their stories about death, life and service to others, especially to the poor.
Anna’s Place (30 min., 2016)
This is the 1st movie I made. It is about the interesting people who hang out at Anna’s Place in Chester, PA, finding community, camaraderie, computers, crocheting and laughter.
Media Coverage of our Work
Click here to listen to an interview about Energy of Nuns for the SisterStory Blog
Article about my work in the 2/15/2018 Catholic NewsHerald: http://www.catholicnewsherald.com/news/95-news/entertainment/2744-st-gabriel-parishioner-produces-documentaries-about-women-religious