Netflix's 'The Irishman' - Have You Seen Jimmy?

Taylor Washington

Pan Up Productions

1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 

Just about three years ago I made some really fun social spots for Southwest Airlines’ "Wanna Get Away" campaign. Had the honor of collaborating with some great creatives at GSD&M and still love the spots we made, especially the one involving an eyebrow waxing!

2) How did you get into directing? 

When I was growing up my parents had a camcorder. Held together by tape I would use it to write, film and direct my friends in some really terrible parodies of popular movies. In high school I made my first original short film, and a teacher convinced me to enter it into a film festival. It got accepted. That’s when I decided pursue filmmaking. After graduating from UT Austin, I got non-professional work directing/writing short films and music videos. I figured since I didn’t have any connections my best shot was to create as much as I could and hone my skills. After a while I started getting paying jobs as a gaffer and cinematographer while still directing non-professionally. My work in music videos began involving bigger clients/sponsors, which transitioned into a new commercial reel and, eventually, led to agency work and directing commercials!

3) What is your most recent project? 

I most recently was DoP on some super fun Helzberg Diamond spots back in Austin, TX with my good friends over at Banter and am currently in pre-production brewing up some new spots via Pan Up Productions in NY!

4) What is the best part of being a director? 

Collaborations. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with so many talented amazing people over the years. I truly cherish those memories and relationships from all those productions, from the low budget indies up to the top dollar commercials! Also, I just truly love the art of storytelling … in all its different forms and formats.

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 

For me it’s a tie between the great concepts and ideas that never get made and when a project you hold dear reaches its completion. Both are quite sad in their own right … but in both cases, you have to let go and move on.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre--comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 

My focus has definitely been on commercials and branded content. I just really love the process, fast pace and problem solving that goes into commercial production. Getting to work with great teams you meet along the way is an added bonus! That being said, I am currently writing a feature! I feel like I’ve already been gravitating this way for a while, but I’d love to focus more on Comedic and Dramatic genres. Both are so fun to explore as a director. Basically, I want to do it all! Like I said, I love the art of storytelling in all forms. So while I see myself focusing on commercials/branded content, I also enjoy working on features and documentaries as both a director, cinematographer and producer.

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? 

My mother and father. Though not technically work mentors, they are usually my first test audience or advice seekers on anything I do. They’ve taught me so many life lessons I apply toward Filmmaking everyday. I would also credit my high school video tech teacher. Sam Zaborwski, or Mr. Z as his students call him. Z challenged me to make my first film and to later submit it to festivals. He was the first person outside my circle to really believe in and encourage me to chase my dream.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 

Kubrick. I admire his mastery of ‘cinema’, crafting and creating these beautiful cinematic moments and amazing works as whole.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 

Favorite movie - 2001: A Space Odyssey

Favorite television/online program - Cowboy Bebop

Commercial - Anything CANADA puts out, their work is insane.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 

I got my start in Austin, TX, working on any project I could, often without pay – just for the experience and networking opportunities. At first, job offers were in the lighting department. Gaffing turned out to be a good thing because understanding and appreciating the art of set lighting is a huge advantage for a director and cinematographer. I slowly transitioned into working as a cinematographer, which I still do today. I got my start in directing doing non-professional music videos and short films in between jobs. Eventually, I built a portfolio along with some specs and started reaching out for agency work. Four years ago I moved from Texas to New York, and it was the best decision of my career. Some of the jobs I’ve had the opportunity to direct while in New York include promotional videos for Netflix’s The Irishman and The Umbrella Academy.

11) How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?

It definitely put a halt on things, and canceled a bunch of great projects I was looking forward to. I know a lot of filmmakers, myself included, who are missing a traditional festival circuit this year. However I’m also thankful for the time to reflect and focus in on where I want to concentrate my time and energy. So I’ve used the time to write and do post and pre-production on a few projects. Now that work’s picking back up, it’s been a nice refresher working with smaller crews where everyone pitches in and possibly wears two hats. It really reminds me of the fond memories from my early indie projects!

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