Belinda Woolfson is a comedian and storyteller who lives right here in Portland, Maine. She came to Portland by way of Chicago, where she performed with Second City. She desperately wants to get hired by The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Her campaign to realize this goal, The Ellen Project, will take her across the country to Los Angeles, where she plans to finagle for herself that job. On the way, she is working with filmmaker Ryan Ferguson (not the guy who was wrongfully convicted of murder, in case you are wondering) to make a documentary about other people who are trying to realize their seemingly-crazy dreams. You can support her project here.
I talked with Woolfson about her passion for storytelling and for Ellen, and why she is interested in chronicling dreamers.
So you are staging this elaborate campaign to get hired by Ellen, but also making a documentary about other people who have lofty aspirations. How did this project come about?
I called Ryan, who I had known for a couple of years, out of the blue and told him that I think this crazy campaign has a lot of potential. I thought it would be really awesome to turn it into a documentary film. Even better, I think there is the opportunity to cover this world of people going after their dreams, people who are wholeheartedly chasing down their passions. So it turned into this documentary where we will be driving across the country, and where we will eventually get to LA to Ellen’s studio. On the way, we will be interviewing people who are going after their passions and chasing their dreams in one way or another.
Why is the concept of people following their dreams something that interests you?
While the premise of the documentary is about me getting into a car and driving across the country to Ellen’s show, the meat of the story is about these people wholeheartedly chasing crazy passions of theirs. We are in touch with someone who is climbing the 7 highest peaks in the world, and a whole range of people going after all different types of dreams. It is almost as if these dreams are beyond their power in that they feel compelled to do it from somewhere outside of themselves. Those are the people I am looking to feature.
Where does your passion for Ellen DeGeneres and her talk show come from?
I have always loved talk shows. On a basic level, it is storytelling. There are these people sharing their stories. I have always thought that Ellen was hilarious and I love that she is so effortlessly kind. I guess in the bigger picture, I am drawn to helping people share their stories and using this medium to affect people’s lives. Ellen is the master of doing that. She is really wonderful and I have always looked up to her, especially as a female comedian. So often you need to go blue and tell dirty jokes and go alternative routes with comedy, but she is clean and honest and funny. She doesn’t need any tricks.
And Ellen has been in the American consciousness forever now. I remember watching her on standup shows with my parents in the early 90s. She’s been a comedian for longer than I have been alive.
She’s the best.
How have people responded to your campaign thus far?
With the documentary, I hope to inspire people to let go of whatever fear is holding them back from chasing their passions. I want to share the stories of people who do that, who take a big chance and risk it all, and in doing so inspire other people to do the same. As for responses, there are two extremes. People are either really Gung-ho about it and get excited for me, and then there are people who hear about it and get physically uncomfortable. [Laughs] You can tell that it doesn’t make sense to some people, which is okay! It’s a matter of not letting these reactions deter you.