Ethan Paisley has stories to tell. The 17-year-old writer, director, and producer of Indelible, a teen-produced short film about PTSD in war vets, was recently screened at the prestigious Mill Valley Film Festival 2017. The production was fully executed by high students who successfully cast Netflix actors Dorian Lockett (Coach Patrick, 13 Reasons Why) and Jackie Dallas (Jen, Stranger Things) in leading roles.
The film made the official selection at the LA Film Awards, where he won ‘Best Young Filmmaker’, among other acclaimed film competitions worldwide, such as the Crystal Palace and Genesis International Film Festivals.
He wants to inspire teens to follow their dreams. According to IMDB, he’s already off to an incredible start! He’s truly one to watch! We had the amazing opportunity to interview Ethan. Check out his interview below.
Indelible is a short film about a war veteran affected by PTSD who uses time travel to transport back to the war front to overcome his trauma. I was inspired to write the film after reading Tribe by (the amazing) Sebastian Junger. His novel compares the community aspect of war with the isolated atmosphere fostered by materialism in the USA, and how this affects American war veterans. This profound contrast spoke to me on a very human level that I wanted to express through a narrative story. And so I did! Also, Mill Valley Film Festival was a really cool experience, and I’m super honored to have been involved.
The film’s production was entirely operated by high school students. Tell us more.
I can’t even verbally express how gifted and generous the team of young people involved with this project happen to be. I began writing the story with a close friend, Claire Lasater, who was familiar with PTSD on a personal level. We formed a production team in partnership with my company, Take18 Entertainment, which initiated the crew-hiring process. In typical Take18 fashion, our crew only consisted of teenagers. This was my first time working with Bryson Silvestri, a wickedly talented 17-year-old cinematographer, who did a fantastic job of capitalizing on my vision with his own unique style. The additional notable crew consisted of Hannah Andrus (1st AD), Dylan Dixon (Editor), and Zach Bellin (Composer).
You cast professional actors Dorian Lockett (“Coach Patrick” and “13 Reasons Why”) and Jackie Dallas (“Jen” and “Stranger Things”) in lead roles. Tell us more.
Dorian Lockett and Jackie Dallas are some of the most hard-working and talented actors I know that are situated in the San Francisco Bay Area. Their performances on networks like Netflix, CBS, and HBO caught my attention long ago so I knew I wanted to work with them. I had met both previously at different Bay Area events and used Facebook messenger to reach out and request audition tapes. After auditioning, they were pretty much locked to the film. And trust me, social media works like magic for casting indie projects like this!
You recently won “BEST YOUNG FILMMAKER” at the LA Film Awards, including a few others. Has the film exceeded your expectations?
Knowing your creative work has the power to touch the hearts of audiences all over the world means everything as an artist. Beyond Indelible’s multiple awards, what’s most inspiring is when programmers or fans have written us to commend our portrayal of PTSD or use of diverse casting to tell the story. These elements have helped the film become that much more relatable, and thus, that much more successful.
Is there a particular reason why you decided to become a filmmaker?
I started as an actor and model at age six. A couple independent film productions later, I became really inclined to work taking place behind-the-scenes. At 11, I started a self-headed YouTube series that taught me filmmaking from the angle of a producer. Around 13, I began to capitalize on my interest by taking on production internships, creating my first short films and feature films, as well as building my audience through social media. It’s been such a fun journey and I can’t wait for what’s next!
Tell us you chose to tell a story about PTSD.
Again, Tribe was a novel that really struck a personal fiber with me. The idea that America’s expectations of success are more emotional tolling on war vets than the violence of war itself spoke to the stress of my life. The original idea with EDRIC (protagonist) suffering from PTSD is that the PTSD came as a result of being isolated from the community at war. His struggle thus presented in the wake of his isolation living in the states. This concept suggests something larger than being a victim of mental illness. It suggests we are all humans searching for connection in an isolated society influenced by materialism and achievement.
You love to inspire others to make films. Is there anything in particular that you do, such as give talks or hold workshops?
What I really strive to inspire young filmmakers to do is create films that can yield social progress both within the film industry and throughout the world. No matter whether I’m a writer, producer, or director on board of a production, it is my policy that the crew be 50/50, female/male and that at least one of the lead roles is female. Additionally, I’m adamant about joining films with a social message that can be expressed artistically. As 21st century filmmakers, we are the next generation of Hollywood, and we have no choice but to do the next right thing. I’ve spoken on this at various conferences including TEDx and Variety Digital Hollywood.
Thus far, what has been the best experience working in the industry?
The industry has presented it’s up’s and down’s, but generally speaking, I have had an incredible journey so far. I’m in love with filmmaking and filmmakers. I really enjoyed directing Point 453 and traveling to Cannes for its premiere screening this year. I got to learn all about the sales and distribution process and met tons of wonderful people in Cannes – seriously, the best time of my life. Currently, I’m working on a bunch of different stuff and loving every moment!
Do you have any upcoming projects that we haven’t mentioned?
My slate consists of a few commercials, three short films, and a new feature film at the moment. The feature film script is about human trafficking in San Francisco and just got optioned by an LA-based production company! I’m working with an incredible team to put it together, including Indrani (director) and GK Reid (producer) from Bravo’s Double Exposure. We are all having a blast! I’m going to the Sundance Film Festival 2018 with another producer to network the project at a couple premieres and filmmaker parties. I’m super excited!!!
Complete this sentence, if I had an opportunity to do anything I want, I would do ___________.
If I had an opportunity to do anything I want, I would do a movie starring Meryl Streep shot by Reed Morano, directed by Ava Duvernary, and produced by myself. I have a dream script in the back of my head and there’s no way I’m not gonna make it. And Meryl has to be in it. I’m going to tweet Ava and Reed and make it happen. In all seriousness, I want to connect parts of the world using new media and be an example of change. Change takes action, and what better way to take action than by using the most popular tools of our time? Lights, camera, (humanitarian) action. Get ready world, cuz I have more coming.
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