From Prancer to Award-Winning Documentarian, Rebecca Harrell Tickell Credits Roger Ebert with Pointing Her Way | Interviews

Harrell Tickell was 18 when she met Ebert. “I remember being so delighted to thank him in person for his words,” she recalls, and adds with a laugh, “He gave me his honest feedback on ‘Eden.’”

This is her diplomatic way of saying he gave the film a thumb’s down. (“A good-hearted film with many virtues, although riveting entertainment value is not one of them,” he wrote in his one-and-a-half-star review.)

At his invitation, she shared his limo. She cherishes her memory of their conversation. “He told me I had the magic,” she said, “but I shouldn’t let the business take away from that. In essence, he said to not let Hollywood ruin me.”  

She didn’t, but she became disillusioned with the unrewarding roles she was offered. “I thought it was all going to be like ‘Prancer,’ with incredible parts that would allow me to explore the craft,” she says. “I ended up cast as a victim or eye candy in horror movies.”

The final straw was “Saint Sinner” (2002), based on a story by horror master Clive Barker. She was cast as Nakir, a succubus. “I went into it full of hope and confidence; ready to take on this demon character,” she says. “I was going to stretch myself, but it was a nightmare. At one point, I was giving birth to a giant squid-like baby on the basement floor of a monastery. I was covered in goo and strapped to a table. I needed to pee, but there were all these puppeteers, and I was not allowed to get up. I knew I needed to do something else.”

She worked for a time in real estate, but after seeing Al Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” in a theater, she found her “something else.” “I just sat there until after the credits rolled, and I thought, ‘This is my calling,” she says. “That’s what I want to do with my life.”

And she did. With the determination and pluck of Jessica in “Prancer,” she is an award-winning documentary producer and director in collaboration with her husband, Joshua Tickell, whom she met in 2005 doing volunteer work. Their first scripted feature, “On Sacred Ground,” is just out in theaters and on demand. starring

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