Like many industry professionals, esteemed editor, director and producer Stephen Eckelberry once had dreams of becoming a star. He was at an audition in Hollywood, headshots in hand, when he happened to pass by the editing room for the 1981 film Zorro: The Gay Blade. He stood by the door, peering in as he witnessed editing magic happen before his eyes. It wasn’t long after this experience that Eckelberry decided to switch his career goals from in front of the camera to behind the scenes. He went on to edit over thirty television shows and independent films. He was also the post-production supervisor for Sundance/Cannes films Buffalo 66 and This World, Then The Fireworks, both of which he worked alongside art film producer Chris Hanley (Spring Breakers, American Psycho, Virgin Suicides).
Last year, Eckelberry was approached by executive producers of the upcoming historical film 10 Days In A Madhouse – The Nellie Bly Story. The film, set to release on November 20th, follows the true story of Nellie Bly as she feigns mental illness in order to get committed into a women’s insane asylum to report on the atrocious conditions within. Eckelberry was on the fence about joining the project due to scheduling, but once Eckelberry watched lead actress Caroline Barry’s portrayal of Nellie Bly, he was immediately sold, saying “I knew I had to do it.”
The film also coincided with Eckelberry’s personal interests. He previously worked with a human rights organization dedicated to eradicating the use of electroshock therapy, a “cruel and overused tool in mental hospitals.” When he read the script for 10 Days In A Madhouse, Eckelberry was immediately drawn to the subject matter.
The scary thing that he took away from this movie was that “over the last hundred years, very little has changed in mental hospitals, except that the facilities are cleaner and they medicate people with more sophisticated drugs.” He notices that there is much work to be done when it comes to treating mentally sick patients, and he hopes this film will be a means of educating people and spreading awareness on this topic.
Eckelberry was married to the talented Oscar-nominated actress Karen Black (Five Easy Pieces, The Day of the Locust, The Great Gatsby) before he lost her to cancer three years ago. He says that his marriage gave him a unique sensitivity to working on women’s films. “I like strong women. Karen was a strong woman. My mother was a strong woman. I’m not intimidated by them. Seeing some of the things Karen went through in the industry gave me a unique take on what women go through.” This has positioned him well to work on important women’s films such as 10 Days In A Madhouse – The Nellie Bly Story.
He goes on to note that Barry’s acting is “in many respects, as good as Karen’s.” Critics who have had a chance to view the film at Cannes and Bentonville Film Festival are agreeing that Barry is a phenomenal actor who does an outstanding job carrying the film.
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