Things Heard & Seen — Who is the Woman in the Photograph?

The Ghost From Netflix’s Latest Horror Discusses her Burgeoning Acting Career

*NOTE: This article contains mild spoilers for Things Heard & Seen*

A new horror movie starring Oscar-nominated Amanda Seyfried dropped on Netflix this week, a haunt filmed on location in New York’s Hudson Valley.

“I’ll say that I’m really excited to be in a film where the Hudson Valley is like another character,” said Elliot Frances Flynn when I asked her about her experience on the set of Things Heard & Seen. “I’ve been in a handful of films shot in the area, and grew up here and live here, so I’m excited to see the scenery be so integral to the story.”

Flynn had connected with me over Instagram, and I realized we had crossed paths before; we had both worked on the set of Confession, an indie film shot in Syracuse, right before the COVID-19 Pandemic halted the small pocket of film industry in Upstate and Central New York.

Despite the turbulence of last year, Flynn has seen a lot of her work come to fruition recently.

“I’m a New York-based actor. I started acting in commercials and television when I was a kid, but I always really wanted to be in movies. I made my film debut last month in an indie called Shoplifters of the World. Now that my work is starting to be released, I feel like I’m at the start of something. I’m excited to have something on Netflix; that feels like a milestone.”

Her role in Things Heard & Seen was a unique experience however since she was playing the ghost that haunted the house. The human shape of this specter is only visible to the audience in the form of a mysterious old photograph, which meant Flynn had literally one shot to portray the restless spirit of Ella Smit.

“A role like this feels really minimal when you’re on set, which makes for a physically breezy day. Besides wearing authentic — therefore not-so-comfortable — period garb. I had to be buttoned up the back and helped up and down the stairs. I love costumes and think that they might be the most transformative part of getting into character — an authentic dress like that, the way it’s made, you have no choice but to throw your shoulders back and stand tall.”

The directors of the film, wife and husband duo Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, known for American Splendor (2003) kept Flynn in the dark about most of the plot.

“Because of the nature of the role, and the desire for the film to be kept under wraps as much as possible, my knowledge of the plot was very minimal. Shari Springer Berman, who directed me, told us the bare minimum. Watching the film, I’ll yelp, and scream, and gasp when the rest of the audience does. I’ll be just as spooked as you are!”

Being submerged into this role, Flynn felt a sense of commiseration for Ella Smit.

“Being the creepy portrait is also a lot of fun, and something I hadn’t envisioned for myself…But my character, Ella Smit, is someone I really feel for. Her life wasn’t easy; she lived at the beck and call of her husband, who wasn’t a kind man.

A lot of discussions about this movie are going to circle around spousal abuse and misogyny. We’ll be talking 1800s, when my character was alive, to the 1970s, where the main action takes place, and the current day, because the film was made now, and you, the audience, are watching the film. What kind of strides have women made? Have men made strides in supporting their wives, even, at its most base, viewing them as people, independent from them? Abuse is still abuse. I know I’m going to be doing a lot of reading, and talking with my friends, and family, even on Twitter, like, what have you all taken away from this? What are you thinking about?”

After just a day, Things Heard & Seen is now on Netflix’s Top 10. I’m always down for a horror movie, and I’m excited to check out Elliot’s most recent work, along with her feature film debut, comedy-drama Shoplifters of the World in which she plays a character named “Punk Paul”.

While she wasn’t always drawn to horror films specifically, Flynn noted that her first acting role in the genre has made a large impact on her.

“This is my first horror. I’ve always been very squeamish and anxious at horror films, but this film had enough to pull me in — it’s not all gore, and jump scares and sheer terror, things like that. This film is, at its core, a relationship drama, really. The horror is spousal abuse and misogyny, and toxic masculinity, and that’s definitely something that piques my interest as an actor and storyteller.

I’d love to be in another horror that really says something, and puts women and women’s issues at the focus. Generally, that thematically is what I’m drawn to. I want to keep telling original stories that say something new, even when working with classic tropes, like ‘our new house is haunted’ — storytelling is the most effective way to influence someone, change someone’s mind, touch someone. I plan on doing that for as long as I possibly can.”

Maria is an independent filmmaker, animator, writer, and intersectional feminist from Syracuse NY ✰mariaswrittenwork.tumblr.com✰

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