Chrystene Ells grew up on a cattle ranch in rural Alberta before moving to San Francisco in 1986, where she spent two decades working as a traditional special effects artist, fabricating creatures, models, and puppets for The Nightmare Before Christmas and dozens of other films and commercials, as well as for live theatre productions. A film and stage director, performer and puppeteer, Chrystene co-founded r.a.t. co., a theatre ensemble for at risk youth, and Bindlestiff Studio, a black box theatre in San Francisco still going strong almost 30 years later, now the world’s only Filipino American Performing Arts centre.
Chrystene moved to Saskatchewan in 2006 to pursue an MFA in Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Regina, earning the Governor General’s Gold Medal (Academic) for her thesis project, the feature film Sisu – the death of Tom Sukanen.
Chrystene lives in Regina, where she works as an Artist in Residence focusing on therapeutic arts intervention with marginalized communities, including seniors and Deaf youth, and collaborates with other members of the Regina arts scene to dream up and implement festivals and interdisciplinary community arts projects, such as Regina’s biannual International Puppet Underground Festival, for which she serves as Artistic Director (next one is June 2017!), and is a co-Artistic Director of The Caligari Project (fall 2016), celebrating the art of German Expressionism through 25+ arts events from Sept.-Dec. 2016.
Chrystene has been honoured with the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Innovation in the Arts, and the Regina Mayor’s Arts and Business Award for Leadership in the Arts. She regularly makes films, builds puppets, directs, animates, paints, sculpts, and draws, and is exceedingly proud and grateful to be working in the arts in Saskatchewan.
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