It has been quite some time since we had a proper Fan-of-the-Month here at Daily Duranie. This month though, we have quite the treat! Shari B. Ellis, creator of the video “Sh*t that Duran Duran Fans Say” is with us…and boy has she ever been working hard, but I’ll let her tell that story! We are lucky enough to have someone as creative as Shari in our midst, and hope you find her as interesting as we do!
Daily Duranie – Shari, thanks for being our Fan of the Month for September! We always begin by allowing our FOTM share their fan story. So, how did you discover Duran Duran, and how long have you been a fan or Duranie?
Shari B. Ellis – I was considered a late-blooming Durannie (we can get into how I spell it, lol). I liked their music, and I loved “New Moon on Monday” in particular. But I didn’t really get into them until “View to a Kill” came out in ’85 during high school. There was a moment when I thought Nick Rhodes was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen, and I had to know more!
I started wearing a Nick button everywhere, and that’s how I first met another fan. Another Black girl at school came up to me between classes and asked, “I saw your Nick button. Are you a Durannie?” The words were magical to me. I’d grown up being an awkward, nerdy and lonely Black girl on the south side of Chicago, and it was difficult to fit in. It was the first time in my life I’d been told I belonged somewhere, and it was so powerful to know people who looked like me who shared my interests.
DD – Have you seen the band live? If so, tell us when and where, and how many shows.
SBE – I keep track of my shows on setlist.fm, so I know I’ve seen 32 Duran shows. None outside the country, but I’ve seen them in Chicago, New York, Vegas, San Jose, and LA where I am now.
My favorite concert will always be the first, at Poplar Creek near Chicago in ’87. I had a summer job, so I bought a scalpers ticket and sat third row Nick’s side. I don’t know what came over Simon in Chicago, but during “Election Day,” he took his shirt off and rolled around onstage and everyone lost their minds! By the end, people were rushing the stage, and he was helping them up. It was wild! It was what I needed because I was going through a traumatic time, and that concert literally saved me.
DD – Do you have a favorite member?
SBE – Nick. It’s always been Nick. It started out being an aesthetic thing, but he influenced me artistically and intellectually; I devoured all the artistic references Nick made in interviews and would look them up in the encyclopedia. To this day, my favorite artist is Jean Cocteau because of him and David Sylvian. I even ended up writing about Nick and Duran’s influence on me for my entrance essay for Yale (yes, I got in!).
DD- What is your favorite Duran Duran song and/or video?
SBE – Oh, that’s hard. Can I say album? That’s Big Thing, hands down, the journey that album takes you through, from love, drugs and rock n’ roll, to grief, to love, to redemption, is just mind-blowing. I was hooked from the beginning, buying my copy at Sam Goody so that I could get my ticket to the club concert at Roseland.
My favorite video is “Serious.” Isn’t it everyone’s? It’s such a joyful, gorgeous video.
DD- How did you get started on social media as a fan? Were you on their message boards or anything like that?
SBE – I didn’t have internet access during the days of tiger-list, but I got news from Durannies who were. Fast forward to the 2000s, and I joined MySpace and Facebook and Twitter just to follow favorite musicians. It’s overwhelming though, I’ve never been great at keeping up, which is why I had to get help from my friend!
DD – Have you ever met the band, or anyone in the band?
SBE – Yes, I’ve been very fortunate in that regard, since I’ve always lived in big cities, [I have met them] like at signings or outside smaller concerts. I first met Nick at a Notorious promo party in Chicago when I was 15. I gave him a gift, and when I asked for his autograph, he thanked me by drawing a beautiful picture of me.
The next time, at the time of the ’87 concert, Duran used Chicago as a base for their Midwestern concerts for a week, so word got out where they were staying and when they’d leave for soundcheck. Their tour manager once thought my friends and I were hotel guests and invited us to get into an elevator with the three of them! I’m glad I did that kind of thing when I was a teen because my hotel days are long behind me.
I once used a photo of Simon and me from outside a Neurotic Outsiders concert for a Christmas card, and someone actually thought I’d gotten married! They called me and said, “Isn’t he a little old for you?”
DD – We remember discovering your video, “Sh*t Duran Duran fans say”, and I found it very funny!! Tell us about how that video came about!
SBE – Thank you! I’ve always been fascinated with fandom on a meta level – the bonding, the ways fandom heals us, the hierarchies and unwritten social rules. So, I’d written this play featuring four archetypes of Durannies, and shared with a friend, as a goof. And she said, “you need to make this, don’t let it go to waste.” I’d known Robinne Lee since college because I was still wearing that old Nick button and she’d approached me about it. So, she was on board to do the short. I think I spent all of $50 on wigs making it. And Andy loved it and had his webmaster at the time feature it!
DD – If you haven’t seen it, or it’s been awhile, check out the hilarious (and very truthful!) video short, aptly named “Sh*t Duran Duran Fans Say” below!
It seems to me that you must have a background in film/tv/entertainment…what did you do before your latest project (that I’m about to ask about in the next question!)?
SBE – I’ve worked in animation and VFX for over 20 years, taking a hiatus only go back to school for photography. I’m a production manager in animation now, which means I deal with schedules and keeping down the costs on a show. I’ve always written in one form another, including fanfiction, but didn’t start writing scripts until four years ago.
So, what about this TV show you’re working on called “Fangirl”. Tell us all about it – how did the concept come about, and how did you move the project forward from there? What comes next for you, and what can fellow Duran fans do to help?!?
SBE – Fangirl is about Fran, an anxious, 45-year-old record company executive who discovers she’s inherited the powers of an ancient Muse, and she must now save music from a growing menace with the power to steal creativity. Meanwhile, she juggles her professional and superfandom lives. She’s a fan of UK band Severe Tire Damages – or STD – and her best friends also follow the band and call themselves STeaDies.
Fangirl is my love letter to fandom. I’ve had this idea for over 20 years, but I couldn’t flesh out the narrative until I decided to tie it to my personal and family story, a girl who lost her mother at a young age and was partly raised by her grandmother. Fran’s grandmother is also a Muse and mentors her as she learns to harness her powers.
When I pitched the story, people were having trouble wrapping their heads around the story of a Muse, so they encouraged me to produce a teaser. Luckily, I had a relationship with a Chinese studio, Hong Ying, from a past job, and they were happy to help me out. They did a beautiful job, and I hope to use them once I sell the show.
Duran fans can help by sharing the new teaser! Anything anyone can do to help me show TV executives that this is a story they want to see is greatly appreciated!
Before we get much further, here’s that adorable trailer for Fangirl – do your thing Duranies, and get this spread all over social media!! Share, share, share!!
Have you always been into animation, or are you more of a writer? What is your role on the show from this point?
SBE – I can’t draw to save my life. I’m a writer and producer, and my dream is to be a showrunner. Realistically, as someone who hasn’t written on shows before, I would be paired with a senior showrunner for a year or two, so I’m looking for a seasoned producer who’s interested in shepherding the show with me.
Did you take part in the voice casting and direction of the trailer, or the songs that are sung? It seems like there are so many details that go into doing animation – was the process new to you? How long have you been working on it?
SBE – Yes, and I love the whole process! It took a lot of networking over the past three years to build the team for the teaser, and it took me that long to save the money to make it. The funny thing is I’ve never met most of the people who worked on it in real life: not the designers, or my editor, or even my English penpal who co-wrote “Hit Me with the Highlights” with me.
I was lucky to get my dream cast of Jasika Nicole for Fran and Matt Braunger for Bad Rob by working up the nerve to approach them (though I knew Matt by working on “Agent Carter”). Luckily, Hong Ying is what’s known as a full-service animation studio, so they did everything from additional designs to storyboards to final animation.
Special thanks again to Shari B. Ellis for being so generous with your time! Working on a project like Fangirl looks to be very much a labor of love and soul, and we hope Duranies all over the globe will embrace it and get the word out! Best of luck to you, and we hope that once you’ve sold Fangirl, you’ll come back and share the great news with us!