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The Work That Made Me: Peyton Wilson


Tomorrow director and documentary filmmaker on being inspired by her family business’ adverts and the importance of keeping everything you shoot

The Work That Made Me: Peyton Wilson

Peyton Wilson is a director and documentary filmmaker based in California. She is represented by Tomorrow in the US and O Postive in Europe.

Peyton Wilson tells stories that simply ache to be told. A California native and director for Tomorrow, Wilson has helmed poignant campaigns for Ford, Dove, Buick, HP, and many more. Her recent film for the Nature Conservancy serves as her love letter to Earth, captured in the midst of the worst California wildfires in history. Soulfully narrated by Ewan McGregor, the film – like everything she does – is extremely close to her heart, as she’s served on the Leadership Council for years. Peyton has always punctuated a love for the great outdoors with a focus on writing and documentary filmmaking. When she doesn’t have a camera in her hand, she is riding horses, her favourite pastime since childhood. No matter the project, there’s one common thread at the centre of everything she touches that’s rare in today’s world: heart.

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me…

Straight up no question, the commercials that my dad and uncles were in when I was little.  My dad was the spokesperson for their company ‘Wilsons Suede & Leather’ and they ran these commercials so often that not only did Johnny Carson make fun of them during his talk show, they were featured in one of the first SNL skits. When I’d see my dad on TV (at age three), apparently I’d start to talk to him and when he wouldn’t respond to me, I’d go to the back of the TV looking for him, then cry so much that my mother had to track him down and get him on the phone with me (not easy, this was all pre-cell phones!). Anyway, later on, their ads were studied at various advertising and MBA programs as they made such an impact on our culture back then (as hokey as they were). I grew up hearing about the power of advertising, so maybe our industry is somehow ingrained in my DNA.

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

It was my first job out of college. I was a PA on an Earth, Wind, and Fire music video. It was an all-night shoot in downtown LA and I could. not. believe. this was considered work. I thought the entire process was absolutely fascinating, crazy, and exciting, and knew I had found my industry. 

The creative work (film/album/game/ad/album/book/poem etc) that I keep revisiting…

As an ode to Ringan Ledwidge, I have to call out his spot for Puma: ‘After Hours Athlete’.  His work didn’t feel like advertising. They were all brilliant mini-films. 

My first professional project…

In my 20s I started a production company with Sarah Kerruish, and our first big project was to document a company called General Magic, a Silicon Valley company that thought they were going to be the next Apple. We literally filmed their every move for a few years. They turned out to be one of Silicon Valley’s most famous and epic failures. Twenty years later we still had the footage, and Sarah created the documentary General Magic (now on Showtime) that’s about why failure is so important. Keep everything you ever shoot, you never know if 20 years later it’ll be the star of a feature doc!

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

Oh, I can’t out anybody! Who knows why something goes south. I think (hope) that every project starts with good intentions and sometimes along the way it can fall apart. This can be a frustrating business if there are too many cooks in the kitchen.

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that still makes me jealous…

Perhaps not ‘jealous’ but definitely inspired and wish I could say I had made that. The Tropicana spot ‘Arctic Sun’ came out 12 years ago and I thought it was such a unique, smart, stunning spot. 

The creative project that changed my career…

Hmmm…. Probably my Special K ‘More Than A Number’ spot. It was such a clever concept and was really complicated to pull off, as it was all hidden cameras. We had to create a fake store, a fake jean brand and even fake saleswomen. Pretty much straight-up fake everything - yet it had to feel totally authentic to the real people who thought they were shopping at a new store carrying only jeans.  And I just loved the message.

The work that I’m proudest of…

Without a doubt, my documentary Speed & Angels. I spent three years living on aircraft carriers and navy bases trying to create a film that would put people in the cockpit of a fighter jet. And, along the way found two fighter pilots with incredibly moving heartfelt stories.  That film changed me and really defined the kind of work I love to create. 

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…

So not admitting that here!

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

I’m very involved with The Nature Conservancy, and so we made a brand film that stands up for Gaia. It’s spiritual, emotional, and beautiful, and Ewan McGregor’s voice over gives it so much depth. It’s brought me a lot of joy that TNC uses it a lot to help get their story into the world. Additionally, in the past year I’ve directed two campaigns for Jareds and therefore these spots are constantly launching, they’re simple and about love. There is one that gutted me, in a good way. It’s about a young man named Gabriel and his connection to his father.

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Tomorrow, Tue, 03 May 2022 14:55:00 GMT