Think documentary-making is reserved only for the old and wise? Think again. A 16-year-old Ethan Paisley has debuted at the Festival de Cannes 2017 with his feature film Point 453, and there is much more to his story and flourishing career. 

The young and bright 

We often see lists of successful young entrepreneurs and creatives. Forbes 30 under 30 and WelkerMedia #Under25 Award to name a few. The outstanding young people that make such lists are, no doubt, striking. But, let’s face it – making it big at 27 doesn’t impress the savvy audience as much as it used to. Now, being only 16 and having your film screened at the Marché du Film in Cannes is on a whole new level!

WelkerMedia asked Ethan Paisley, the rising star of documentaries, a few questions about his works and inspirations. Here’s what the talented film-maker shared with us.

The makings of a talent 

These days so many teenagers are lost in career choices, not feeling they belong to any field. Luckily, this was not the case with Ethan. Ever since his childhood, Ethan was immersed in the artistic environment, which led him to discovering his true calling so early on in life:

“I grew up on stage of a local theater where I played in various roles such as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet and Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors. I fell in love with acting and started auditioning for independent films shooting in my area after being referred to an audition by a theater director. These experiences on set as a child inspired a YouTube channel I started at 12, which accumulated half a million views and 5,000 subscribers in under a year. YouTube taught me how to develop and market content through social media, inspiring my filmmaking endeavors in high school.

I eventually found my passion was for the art of producing projects and leading a film from start to finish.

The niche market with great potential 

Film industry is cold and extremely difficult to get into. There is however a niche that seems to be under occupied. The niche of youth produced media. After all, if underage instagram models can make a living out of their pages, why not try and create teen produced content in the film industry?

Ethan grasped this opportunity, this fresh perspective on film-making and it worked:

“I started a teen-run production company, Take18 Entertainment, in 2016 after finishing my first feature film, The Art of Escape. The feature demonstrated the power of collaboration among young artists and I wanted to develop that by creating a foundation where projects of a similar nature could take place. Since starting in 2016, the company has put out 2 features, 15 shorts, 4 commercials, and continues to offer video services to the San Francisco community.”

The vision of young artists is what will inform future generations, and we need to be highlighting teen ideas in mainstream media to make societal progress.

“In fact, I had the chance to attend and screen my film in Cannes because I found a sales agent who believed in my message that teen work can be influential and function as a profitable market. There are several platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, AwesomenessTV and more that accumulate profit comparable to mainstream film and TV by streaming teen-generated content. My film, Point 453, was picked up by 4 VOD channels for this reason. I am hoping that my film, like other youth produced media, can attract profit by intriguing audiences with it’s fresh perspective on storytelling and in that, the social issue concerning awareness of mental illness.”

Point 453 and other points of importance 

Let’s now take a closer look at Ethan’s film Point 453:

“My film, Point 453, recently screened at the Marché du Film in Cannes. The film is about an untreated bipolar boy who grows up in a neglectful household and finds solace and connection with his abusive father at the titular location, Point 453.”

The story was inspired by my life growing up in a family affected by addiction and other mental illness, which I found to be a relevant subject that audiences have formed a connection with by watching the movie.

“The script started as a simple love story about anxiety, loss, and broken hearts. To further structure the early script, I found I could give depth by incorporating factors of mental health. It’s safe to say at least 70% of the Point 453 team had a relationship with mental illness and agreed that it was a conversation that was not happening.”

Ethan is currently working on adapting a short film he made about sex trafficking, Playing The Game, into a feature production with director Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri and producer Eric J. Adams:

“A member from the Point 453 and I grew a personal relationship off-set, where we talked about depression, anxiety, and PTSD. She came out to me as a victim of sex trafficking. Her story inspired me to create a short titled Playing The Game about child sex trafficking in the Bay Area, the goal of the film being to start a conversation about the issue.”

Documentaries are made to move people, to give voice to the voiceless and expose issues that need more attention. Ethan’s films have no shortage of important and profound topics. Since making both films, Ethan have become an activist for mental health awareness. Ethan have spoken at 5 high schools around the Bay Area, 3 mental health awareness conventions, and spoke in the TedxSonoma County on social media’s impact on sex trafficking.

What’s next?

What do you do now that you are absolutely intrigued with Ethan and his works? Here are a few ideas suggested by the film-maker himself:

“You can next catch Point 453 at the Au Contraire Film Festival in Montréal this October. After attending the festival, I will be speaking at the Variety Digital Hollywood Conference in October and TEDxSonoma County conference in November.

In the meantime, I’m developing a feature about sex trafficking in America based off my short film, Playing The Game. The film will be told from the perspective of the pimp and has the mission of shining a different light on victimhood, displaying how victims themselves abuse others to cope with their issues. I’m very excited to be working with director Indrani, producer Eric J. Adams, and a team of wonderful teen writers who are creating the script. Lately I’ve been also obsessed with Sofia Coppola and I’m inspired by the the simplistic style of her films. I would love to talk to her about production design and directing at some point.

I am also busy working on a feature film with James Franco’s company based off a book by Betsy Franco, The Art of Love, as well as a short film about a girl who bakes her way into college. It is a very busy and exciting time!”

Be sure to follow Ethan’s new works, as well as catch up with his previous projects. And spread the word!


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