In her latest series, director Peyton Wilson is asking the big questions. What gives our lives meaning? What drives us to keep going?
Peyton, newly signed to the Bullitt roster, gets intimate with subjects living radically different existences — a prison inmate in Oregon, victims of acid attacks in India — to probe the depths of universal humanity. Accompanied by the subject’s voiceover, Peyton’s lens pans across faces, hands, clothing; the camera quickly sketches out a nuanced portrait of their physical reality while in voiceover, each individual reveals their interior.
The two films debuted on the UpWorthy platform last week, and “The Acid Survivor” was selected as SHOOTOnline’s Top Spot of the Week.
We spoke to Peyton about listening with compassion, working alongside DP Tami Reiker on a skeleton crew, and watching the Free The Bid movement grow from its earliest days.
What was the initial impetus behind the “On Meaning” series – what led you to exploring these ideas on film?
I find that often what documentary directors’ focus on (in terms of their subjects) is part of what creates their DNA, and is, in a way, who they are and what they’re curious about. For me, I think a lot about why we are all here and what our purpose is. I have a big belief in going for passion and love, which brought me to wondering how you find meaning and purpose in life if you’re incarcerated, or a survivor of abuse, such as the acid survivors in India. So, I thought…well, why not go speak with these people and explore this question?
What was the journey from the series’ conception to the shoot?
With such a universally resonant core theme, how did you come across your specific subjects? How did you make the final decisions on who would be focused on?
Since the emotional content of these films is so intimate and potentially sensitive to discuss, how did you cultivate a rapport with your featured subjects?
Where was each film shot? What unique hurdles did filming in an American prison and in India pose?
How long did you shoot, for each of the films? Was the structure of each determined before shooting, or did the vision for each evolve based on the experience while filming?
What has the experience of filming these taught you?
What do you hope that viewers take away from watching these two films?
Since we last interviewed you (last year, in conjunction with work for Free The Bid’s supporters HP), what notable projects have you been working on?
What’s next for you? Having recently signed with Bullitt, what projects should we look out for from you?
Yes! I’ve just signed with Bullitt and I’m so happy. For me, they’re the dream company. Luke Ricci and Allison Amon are a kick ass EP duo, and the company is involved with so many things, from branded content to entertainment including AGBO (their film and TV development company). I’ve always imagined, but never thought one company could encompass every single area of the industry. And of course to have the Russo Brothers at the helm is pretty special.
Right after I landed at Bullitt, they got my On Meaning docu series launched on UpWorthy (which was another dream of mine). We’re currently bidding on several projects, and I’m writing on a music video, which is a first for me.
You were part of the initial group included on Free The Bid’s director database when the site was launched in September 2016. Have you observed any changes in the advertising industry as a whole since the inception of Free The Bid? What about within your own career?
I grabbed coffee with Alma 24 hours after she launched Free The Bid, and I’ll never forget it. She was overwhelmed by the response: she hadn’t slept in days, as she was a one woman team launching the site and responding to the thousands of requests. The reaction she got from our community was stunning. I just recall feeling that not only was she a genius and trailblazer, but that this was going to grow into something phenomenal within our industry. And now here we are, nearly three years later, and look at how Free The Bid has taken us by storm! I think all of us women directors have been given opportunities that I 100% know we wouldn’t have gotten without Free The Bid.
Free The Bid has recently expanded to add profiles for women colorists to our database. Have you had the chance to work with women in below the line production roles, and has diverse gender representation on crews had an effect on the work you have created?
So, guess what? I’ve never worked with a female colorist! Amazing. So, quite frankly, again, thanks to Free The Bid, I’d love to do that on my next project. Beyond that, I feel like most of my jobs are pretty diverse, and I’ll continue to push for that. I can always do better. We all can.
Director: Peyton Wilson
Director of Photography: Tami Reiker
Editor: Jessica Congdon
Producer (India, The Acid Survivor): Sejal Deshpande
Line Producer (The Acid Survivor): Maeliosa Tiernan
Music (The Acid Survivor): Fall On Your Sword
Music (The Inmate): Eric Holland