Deborah Ellis-Brock – She is the film’s centerpiece character who brought us to Ecuador to discover the many other stories unfolding there now surrounding community, empowerment and change.
For 10+ years, Deborah has worked successfully as a project management and community activist focused on economic development, poverty alleviation and food scarcity for women and poor communities. She spent her early years as a single mother and learned first-hand the struggles that come with lack of access to opportunity to resources. At the age of 37 she was determined to change things for herself and others and returned to university at an all women’s university in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During this time Deborah traveled to Vietnam and Thailand to research the struggles of impoverished communities in other countries and authored several research papers focused on women and social entrepreneurship and economic development.
In 2014, Deborah graduated with Honors with degrees in International Business, Economics and Community Development. Before graduation she obtained a position as South Central Regional Project Director for the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative in Madison, WI. The culmination of these experiences continues to inspire her work toward social entrepreneurship and the empowerment of women and underserved populations. Never did Deborah dream that her journey would take her to the middle of the world in Ecuador.
In 2014 Deborah’s father, Ron Ellis, decided to retire and to move to Cotacachi, Ecuador. He discovered a small finca (farm) that was undeveloped in a small indigenous community called La Calera outside of Cotacachi. Ron purchased the finca as he had a dream that one day this finca would make an impact in not only the indigenous community but also turn into a model for development and sustainability that would inspire others. As a father who knew the struggles his daughter had faced in her life with feeling displaced and disenfranchised he gave to Deborah an ultimate gift of love and invited her to move to Ecuador to develop the finca. He believed in Deborah’s vision to find herself through helping others.
On New Years Eve of 2015 Deborah boarded a plane to Quito, Ecuador leaving all of her possessions behind and took with her a determination and vision for a better life for herself. Deborah woke up on the morning of January 1st in her father’s home in Cotacachi, Ecuador and then walked 45 minutes to the finca in La Calera. There were four small houses on the finca and an undeveloped canvas of opportunity. As Deborah walked through the community she saw women and men in beautiful indigenous clothing working in the fields and caring for many children. Over the next few months she began to talk to the men and women in the community and realized the severe poverty most families were living with. Over and over Deborah heard, “There are no jobs or opportunity”. She became friends with the people of this village that was also becoming her new home. She fell in love with the generous and kind spirit of the people. They alway face their challenges with generosity and an attitude of “muy tranquillo”. Deborah was even invited into homes and given food when these families, she later found out, on other days had no food and struggled to buy school supplies and clothing for their children. The center and heart of these homes were the mothers and sisters who gracefully offered hospitality and care. It is through these experiences Deborah began to heal her heart of loneliness and became inspired to help create change in her new home in Ecuador, thus creating change in her own life and finally begin her healing journey by helping others become empowered to manifest change in their own lives.
And this is where her story within this story begins…
Carmen Cumba – Cotacachi’s Famous Midwife
Carmen is a native to this area in Ecuador. She has dedicated her life to natural health care and working to bridge the gap between modern medicine and organic herbal shamanistic healing and birthing practices. She is considered an inspiration to many in this area and all over the world. Once not respected by modern medicine, she now has a published book on natural medicine and has traveled to Spain and other places to share her knowledge. She has a colorful story and peaceful personality of strength and hope.
Alonzo Ulloa – the Finca Foreman
Melissa Kirkendall is a long time entrepreneur known for her generosity in participating and hosting benefits for humanitarian efforts such as the Texas Food bank, Amnesty International and various shelters for both humans and animals. In her 20’s she was a maverick in the music scene in Fort Worth Texas where she owned and operated several award winning live music venues garnering local, regional and nation attention from publications such as Details Magazine and Maximum Rock and Roll. Both the Star Telegram and Fort Worth weekly honored her multiple times eventually inducting her into the local Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
She has been a filmmaker since 2002 working on a variety of TV and film productions for FOX, ABC, NBC, TOUCHSTONE, LIFETIME and many independent production companies. This is not the first time she has crossed the border for film work as she has successfully worked in Mexico on an indie film and she also managed a crew in Panama for the hit TV show Prison Break. In 2012 she released her 1st feature length documentary on the 1960’s teen garage rock scene called “Teen A Go Go”. It has screened at music and film festivals around the world and was on Netflix for 2 years. Most recently she worked as a producer on an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary as well as a short that was featured in SXSW and a feature comedy that was in the Dallas USA film festival. This will be Melissa’s second feature length documentary to direct and produce with this one having the advantage of many more years of experience and her connections to talented crew to help her make a compelling marketable piece.
Past articles on Melissa’s engagement in TV and Film:
Producer – Viviana Galvis
Viviana was born in Bogotá, Columbia. She has a BA in Audiovisual Media and Film Production from Politécnico Grancolombiano. She also has a MFA degree in Writing and Producing for Television from Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY. In 2016, she was selected as one of the semi-finalist for the WGAE Made in NY Fellowship 2017 with her teleplay “Gillies” based on real events. Viviana has written, directed and produced several short films, and was the line producer for the ESPN documentary “The Two Escobars”. She has worked for shows such as Netflix’s Narcos, Nat Geo’s Facing Escobar and has written in collaboration for numerous other projects, including a sizzle reel produced and directed by Jonathan Frakes. Viviana being a film maker from South America offers a unique perspective to the project that has already proved to be priceless.
Producer Team – Radar Creative, led by Carrie Wright and Nate Low.
Carrie draws from her eleven years of production experience to help Radar keep running smoothly, on deadline, and on budget. Her background includes working within the accounting, art, and production departments for various studios such as FOX, ABC/Disney, Paramount, Annapurna Pictures, Spike TV, Rooster Teeth, and Style Network.
Nate has been in production for ten years and keeps Radar on the cutting edge of creative production services. He is a director, editor, and cinematographer who has traveled the world working on various marketing, advertising, film, and television projects. His unique qualifications and talents behind the camera and in an editing bay offer an efficient, streamlined production by allowing for consitency to see the project through from beginning to end. He has worked with The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Warner Brothers Records and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
They pride themselves on the ability to tell impactful, dynamic stories using today’s most creative production tools. They work with a wide range of formats and camera systems including RED, Canon Cinema EOS, Sony Digital Motion Picture, Arri, and Panasonic Broadcast. Their skills coupled with their shared dedication to create impactful, positive content that is both meaningful and educational make them the perfect addition to this project to ensure success.
Director of photography
On Site Cameraman in Ecuador