When she signed on to be a medical clown at Hadassah Hospital in Israel as part of her seminary’s volunteering requirement, Carmelle Danneman didn’t know that her experience would become the subject of an award-winning film that she produced while a sophomore in college. But it shouldn’t have surprised her, considering she has a long history in the theater — as long as a 21-year-old can have, anyway.
As a child actress in Atlanta who performed in school and camp theater productions, Danneman had obvious stage presence. But when Danneman’s family started becoming more observant, she felt uncomfortable with things like Shabbat rehearsals and the immodest costumes. “I had a real passion for the stage, but I didn’t want to compromise my faith,” said Danneman. She got more behind-the-scenes set experience and took several film classes in high school.
Danneman decided to attend Stern College for Women after spending one year studying at a seminary for women in Jerusalem. She majored in media studies and advertising, but worked on film projects in her limited free time. When she saw an online call by the Sundance Film Festival for film entries on economic inequality, she began writing a script for a short narrative film, but quickly veered off topic. “I wanted to make something in memory of my grandmother, who passed away from cancer in 2012, and I realized medical clowning told a powerful story,” explained Danneman, who quickly wrote, cast and produced “Send in the Clowns,” a film about a little girl with cancer who is inspired by a medical clown. “I wanted to show how a positive attitude can make a powerful impact on how you handle a difficult challenge in your life.”
Danneman submitted the film to several film festivals, and it won the Audience Choice Award at the 54 Hour Film Festival in Nashville and the Atlanta ShortsFest. Inspired, Danneman wrote another film, “The Puppeteer,” which was accepted into the Cinequest Film Festival in California. Recognizing her ambition and refusal to comprise her religious beliefs, Yeshiva University chose to honor her as a Point of Light at its annual Chanukah Dinner in December.
Danneman is currently looking for a job in the film industry after she graduates in May.
Shaken not stirred: Danneman has a bartending license, which she got at her mother’s suggestion.