16 Feb Meet ETHAN PAISLEY: Hollywood’s Next It Boy
At 5’7” with his messy strawberry blonde hair, slightly blemished complexion, and undeniable amount of poise, a 17-year-old Ethan Paisley reads as something along the lines of a child sitcom actor – only young Ethan is succeeding in the entertainment business for a completely different reason.
Unlike most upcoming Hollywood stars his age, Paisley is collecting international acclaim for films and media campaigns he’s led about tough topics ranging from PTSD in war vets to the sex and labor trafficking of children. Ethan fearlessly made splashes in the global marketplace as a 13-year-old with a feature film about teen drug addiction, winning him distribution at the Singapore World Film Festival. He then used a microaudience from past works to augment a multimedia company that has since produced over 30 hours of commercial content for clients including Sotheby’s and SpikeTV. Out of this came funding for his 20+ narrative films, which have surfaced across 30 festivals and 10 VODS in over 25 countries. Paisley has since received global sales representation as well as recognition at events ranging from the Cannes Film Festival to Variety’s Digital Hollywood Conference. Did we mention he’s 17?
While most may assume this is the formula of two parents working in Hollywood, Paisley’s situation is quite the opposite. In fact, neither of his parents come from an entertainment background: he brings his success back to his basic status as a millennial. “I call myself a product of the 21st century. Having a computer and smartphone at my immediate disposal as a toddler is probably what pushed me into filmmaking. It’s true when they say it’s the easiest time ever to make your movie. I mean, what’s holding you back?”
This mindset is what inspired a young Paisley to chase the world of film and media. He began with a self-led YouTube series at 11 years old. “Every week for maybe 2 or 3 years, I put out lots of obnoxious comedy videos inspired by early YouTubers. It forced me to practice different aspects of the filmmaking process, but above all, I learned how to market myself to an audience.” His savvy tools set transformed him into a social media wizard, allowing him to network his way onto nearby sets. “Looking back, I feel so creepy,” Paisley squeals and covers his eyes, embarrassed. “I literally harassed producers into letting me intern, PA, whatever via Facebook DM.” His skills paid off as a high school student, granting him internships at top tier production companies including Elysium Bandini Studios, co-founded by James Franco.
His fiery, no-nonsense charisma on social media helped Ethan gain a full filmmaking education before he even knew how to drive. “At 13 I said screw it and made a feature about something I cared about, with young collaborators I trusted. The experience allowed me to join my media skills with my natural love for storytelling, and I realized I loved producing. Now I eat, sleep, and
breathe it.” Finding his life’s passion set his career into motion, but finding the right stories to tell shifted gears in a whole different way.
When Ethan finished directing his latest feature film, Point 453 he organized a premiere at 32Ten Studios (home of the original star wars set). After a series of positive reviews, he was introduced to a sales agent at Adler & Associates Entertainment [US] for possible representation. “The idea totally phased me,” Paisley said “…then I met with the reps who told me my film fit a popular market. Point 453 was made by young people for young people. They said young YouTubers and Vine stars had sales representation for the same market, and told me my content was similarly profitable.” This idea elevated his film to mainstream status, kicked off by a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Point 453 is now playing in 4 VODs around the globe.
Ethan told us seeking out a market has changed his perspective of storytelling, and now he has a whole slew of projects to release in 2018. “I do a million things at once, I swear. I have two shorts in the festival circuit and a new one in post called Wilted , about the struggles of new motherhood. That just got into the Cannes Short Film Corner and will be screening at Hong Kong FILMART next month…” he says under his breath, blushing.“Then I’m directing a movie in April and reviewing a couple feature documentary pitches for later this year.” We had to badger him about working with director Indrani on his current #SecretProject – you may know her from Bravo’s 2010 series, Double Exposure . “Well it’s not really a secret anymore.” He bluntly jokes, “We just did a press release for Playing the Game (the title of the film) at Sundance. It’s a feature about sex trafficking, but really, it looks at the power of female relationships among adversity. We have a great team coming together. Indrani’s been an amazing mentor to me. But I literally can’t say anything more until later.”
What is most striking about Ethan is his awe-inspiring energy level. He radiates passion for what he does. With that in mind, we asked where he sees himself in 10 years. “The future scares me, who knows. I wanna do a lot of things: I want to produce a movie with Reed Morano, get Meryl Streep involved. I want to start my own VOD channel, like Netflix only it’s philanthropic. I also really want to travel the world, and spend lots of time working to rehabilitate trafficked children in India, Nicaragua, wherever I can go.” We asked if he ever sees himself doing something apart from film, such as humanitarian work. “What inspires me most about life is one’s ability to reinvent and evolve as a person. I want to try acting again if the chance allows it, maybe even be the creative director of my own fashion line. I’m a huge fashion fan, actually. My last name is a famous print, so maybe that will come together one day.”
Whether it’s new media or haute couture, we will be anxiously awaiting the next step Paisley takes in his booming career.