10-year-old Ella Grace Helton had a red carpet 2023. Not only did the seasoned actress continue her crossover work behind the camera by writing, directing and editing her second short film “The Muralist” — for which she was honored with a handful of awards at film festivals in Florida and New York — but she became the youngest ever recipient of Film Florida’s Sara Fuller Scholarship. Ella was awarded $1,000, jointly funded by Film Florida and Women in Film and Television Florida (WIFT), on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023 at WIFT’s Jingle Mingle annual fundraiser.

“Seeing how much I liked the directors I worked with, how nice they were, made me feel like I wanted to be a nice director, too,” Ella said of her seven years of acting. “A lot of people underestimate kids, like a lot of people. And I like to prove to those people that we can be serious filmmakers who want to make the world better.”

Ella was presented with her scholarship by Film Florida President Sandy Lighterman, who also is Broward County’s film commissioner. “It was such a special honor to present the Sara Fuller Scholarship to Ella Grace, Film Florida’s youngest recipient of the award,” Sandy said. “I look forward to seeing this young powerhouse grow as a filmmaker. Her future is bright with endless professional possibilities!”

Ella’s tagline “Escape into your art” of her short film “The Muralist” clearly resonated with audiences, given the unprecedented awards the fifth-grader won in categories with other filmmakers of high school age and older. At the film’s premiere on Oct. 7, 2023, Ella was honored with the Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival (MIFF) Independent Spirit Award, accepting amid a packed house at the 25th silver anniversary event at Premiere Theaters Oaks 10 in Melbourne, FL. She also dazzled in a colorful red carpet look she customized to match the artistic theme of her film.

Ella’s 2023 film festival honors include:

  • Independent Spirit Award, Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival
  • 2nd place, Florida Secondary Student Film, Treasure Coast International Film Festival (Ella was considered against all high school entrants)
  • Silver Medal, Best Young Filmmakers, Brooklyn Sci-Fi Film Festival (18 and younger)
  • People’s Choice top most up-voted film, Brooklyn Sci-Fi Film Festival (Special breakout category of films upvoted by festival attendees)
  • Official Selection, Central Florida Cinefest
  • Honorable Mention, Miami Short Film Festival

Ella was awarded an earlier scholarship through her professional membership in WIFT to attend the summer 2023 Filmmaker Workshop, hosted by Satellite Beach-based Jacono Studios. It’s the second year Ella attended the one-week program, geared to inspire young and aspiring filmmakers to unleash their storytelling on screen. “The Muralist” was the second short film Ella wrote, directed and edited within a week’s timeframe. The first was “Wild Thing,” made in summer 2022 when she was 9 years old.

Ella crossed over from in front of the camera to filmmaking behind the lens with an extensive seven-year acting resumé. The SAG-AFTRA actress starred as a series regular in the 2020 ABC sitcom “United We Fall” at the age of 6, and the same year, had her feature film debut opposite Adam Sandler in Netflix’s “Hubie Halloween.” Her performing roots began with musical theater at age 2.5, and she had her Broadway debut at age 5, in the tour of “Waitress.” This summer, she made her debut as Katie Townsend on the hit Netflix series “Sweet Magnolias,” which has been renewed for a fourth season. She also wrapped her first feature film lead role in “Chosen Family.” The romantic comedy — written and directed by and starring Heather Graham — is slated to release in late 2024.

Spending years on sets shadowing directors and learning the jobs of the many crew members led Ella to want to share her own visual storytelling. She got the idea for “The Muralist” when she looked out the window of the cottage at the Filmmaker Workshop.

“We had to stay within a few blocks (for filming), which limited us, but luckily we were in the perfect area for me to make the perfect movie,” Ella said of the Eau Gallie Arts District in Melbourne, Florida. “I’m an artist, so when I looked out the classroom window, I saw the mural of the astronaut across the street. It was calling me. Art makes me happy, so I thought why not make a movie about what makes me happy.”

“I liked that last year that I did fantasy (with “Wild Thing”), because I always live in my own fantasy world. And I said why not make another fantasy world come to life.” “The Muralist” logline: A muralist who creates magical scenes that take him away from the mundane meets a young woman artist, and while they find themselves drawn to each other, will her inability to experience art on the same level as him threaten their future together?

Learn more about Ella Grace Helton, the actress, filmmaker, fine artist, singer and dancer, at EllaGraceHelton.com and EllasArtShop.com. On social media: Instagram, Facebook, X, IMDB, Threads and YouTube. Ella is managed by Kim Matuka at Schuller Talent – Los Angeles New York Kids and represented in Los Angeles by Paradigm Talent Agency (theatrical) and Osbrink Agency (commercial, VO, print). She also is represented in the Southeast region by Atlanta’s East Coast Talent. For interviews, contact Lee Nessel: 321-514-2944, shegetsitwrite@gmail.com. Learn more about the MIFF, a nonprofit that donates 100% of ticket sales to charity (No Limits Academy): melbournefilmfestival.org.

ABOUT FILM FLORIDA: Film Florida is a state-wide not-for-profit entertainment production trade association that serves a leadership role in Florida’s screen production industry by representing all aspects of the business including film commissions, industry, labor, associations and education. Our intention is to unite, inspire and innovate to build a more robust and retentive industry in Florida. The growing membership driven organization provides a network, a platform, and the benefits of playing an active part in solidifying Florida’s position as a major entertainment production destination, positive economic development driver and tourism generator. For more information about Film Florida visit FilmFlorida.org.

ABOUT WIFT FLORIDA: Women in Film & Television Florida (WIFT-FL) works hard to provide educational and networking opportunities for both women and men in the film, television, and digital media industry in the state of Florida. WIFT-FL advocates for parity in the entertainment industry and energizes members by illuminating their achievements, presenting training and professional development programs, awarding scholarships and grants, and providing access to a supportive community of peers.