U.S. Marine Corps' "Dear Papa" (spec)

Isaiah Taylor

Tilted Panda Productions

1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
About a year and a half ago I directed a music video for the extremely underrated Novelle Vega.

2) How did you get into directing? 
I started screenwriting in high school after I picked up a rough draft of Jurassic Park. I had always loved films but had never realized the process behind their creation. I wrote scripts for years because I could never afford the technical equipment. I did film school and got behind the camera as much as possible but kept screenwriting. I finally got accepted into the Beverly Hills film festival for a script I had written and it wasn’t until then that my mentor said, “try 3 pages instead of 90. See what you get.” So I took random products and brands, found a rhythm in short storytelling and started creating spec commercials with my cellphone. After the tiniest bit of success—and I do mean tiny—I bought a camera, co-founded a production company and got to work.

3) What is your most recent project? 
A Samsung spec commercial centered around a boxer that trains to the rhythm given to him by his wireless headphones.

4) What is the best part of being a director? 
This may sound lame but being able to afford the time to listen to other people on set. In most set positions your mind is wrapped around specific objectives within your department and stopping for anything but coffee is out of the picture. And although directing is a heap of stress on its own you at least have the luxury of stopping for fresh air every once in awhile. With that time I like to grab the most wound up person on set and have them vent. Sometimes this adjustment to someones day will flow through the entire crew and make its way back to me in a positive way.

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 
Getting notes back on your first cut is like tiny paper cuts to the heart. I always respect constructive criticism but there are those times when you’ve made a certain edit to your project that transcends deep within you—like when you watch that moment you get the feels—but somehow that didn’t land with the client or audience. But you have to respect the intuition of others. And although this is the worst part of being a director, it could also be the way we became better and stronger versions of ourselves.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 
I’ve always had a passion for storytelling and right now it feels as if branded content is my desired median as far as career focus. I have a TV pilot in the works and a few scripts floating around that I hope to bring to life but for now, commercial content has been a jubilation. I have love for all genre’s but sci-fi/comedy and westerns really hit home for me.

7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
I have a few mentors, both in film and business. There’s the talented Tony Richmond who gave me pointers on my visual style as well as taught me that “watching bad movies was just as important as watching the good ones.” But one of the most resonating pieces of advice from another mentor was this, “opportunity doesn’t come knocking. You knock and opportunity answers.” This statement has pushed me through a lot of tough scenarios.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 
I’ve loved everything PT Anderson—yeah even Punch, Drunk, Love. There’s a certain energy that he encapsulates in his stories that shakes the viewer and screams—this is humanity, this is what we’re capable of. I’ve also got love for an indie director named Shane Carruth for not only his visual style but his passion for just doing it. Primer caught my attention but Upstream Color stole my heart.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 
Favorite movie is No Country For Old Men. There’s endless layers of interpretation for every scene, frame and conversation and I feel that I frequent those various interpretations every time I put it on. And if I don’t feel like paying attention to every scene, it still boils down to a cat & mouse shooter with an old southern backdrop. Favorite show—The Office (American version). The storytelling and humor in the office got me through some tough times. My favorite piece of branded content is an Adidas spec commercial floating around out there called “Break Free.” It’s charming and to me, it defines the exact elements needed to tell a bigger story than what’s shown.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I bounced around southern California for most of my life. Writing, shooting photography and failing just about every course in college until I found my way to a film school in LA. During this time I wrote constantly and studied the language between directing, cinematography and editing. Of course landing the ideal job fresh out of college in one of the most competitive industries on the planet was close to impossible so I worked all the odd jobs on set. You name it, I did it—for about 6 months until I was able to upgrade my camera and hustle some decent equipment. I started my company by doing headshots, that took an unexpected turn to boudoir photography, then social media brand content, dabbled in music videos and then finally became a turn-key production house for commercial content—which has been the end game.

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