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When viewers can say things like ‘oh my gosh that is me’ about a character in a film then you know the director did a great job.”

Photos taken by Alicia M. Blair Photography and Frankie Stein, courtesy of Ethan Paisley

At 21, Filmmaker Ethan Paisley is Putting ‘The Beauty of Representation’ Onscreen

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Ethan Paisley is a 21-year-old filmmaker determined to bring representation in films and be a driving force for change. He is from California and began his acting career at a young age starting with local theater in the Bay Area. When Ethan entered high school, his passion for filmmaking grew, and he wrote and directed his 2015 feature debut “The Art of Escape” on a budget of just $700. Throughout his career in the entertainment industry, Paisley has gone on to direct the coming of age short “Point 453,” the sci-fi short “Indelible,” “The Art of Escape,” and produced the dramatic short “Wilted.” The young filmmaker’s Take18 Entertainment production company has also earned 30 awards. At age 18, Paisley used his filmmaking skills by becoming a part of the PaperChase Films and became the development producer. 

Ethan Paisley recently spoke on my podcast “100% Real with Ashleigh Ewald Talk Show” about his journey in the entertainment industry and using his experiences to inspire listeners that they are never too young to make an impact. Paisley dives into how students studying film can get closer to their passion for media and film. 

Additionally, Paisley discusses why it is important that the LGBTQ community and people of color are represented in films because “a lot of people in our world experience this great lie that something is wrong with us” and “our whole lives we are trying to become something”.  

He emphasizes throughout the episode that “the beauty of representation teaches us that we really are just the same, just human. That on a human level, gay, straight, white, Asian, we all experience the pressure of needing to fit in and being something we are not.” 

Paisley shares the reason why he believes representation is important in films is because some viewers have that feeling of unworthiness that the world doesn’t understand the daily problems they face. Therefore, representation helps everyone to better understand what it is like to go through certain social issues, even if it is not directly affecting them. 

Ethan Paisley emphasizes that representation on screens doesn’t just elevate people of color or members of the LGBTQ community but helps everyone being able to sympathize and for those that can relate, help them see themselves. “When viewers can say things like ‘oh my gosh that is me’ about a character in a film then you know the director did a great job.”

According to Paisley, his films explore a variety of themes, including: “I’ve made films about trafficking, PTSD, addiction, and shame, featuring characters who find the courage to overcome these societal ills by tapping into their inner strength.” 

The main themes of Ethan Paisley’s work are focusing on 

  • Isolation 
  • Generational trauma
  • Judgment
  • Finding self-love

The filmmaker shares his reason for the chosen themes is due to believing “all issues in this world stem from a lack of acceptance: a lack of accepting each other, the present moment, ourselves. I make films and watch films to learn how to accept what is and move forward with strength and love.” 

Paisley has continued his filmmaking journey and can be seen acting in the 2015 dramatic short “Unspoken,” playing the childhood version of a character named Daniel, who as a grown up, prosecutes the man who abused him as a child. The filmmaker wants people to know the power of storytelling is to show people “it’s OK to go through things, and that we all are human.” 

It is part of why film directors such as Ethan Paisley, especially at such a young age, are able to be a voice for viewers who feel voiceless, to enable them to then empower themselves in being who they are without having to worry about what others will think of them.

To hear more of Ashleigh’s interview with Ethan Paisley, check out her podcast.


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