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Artist Profile: Producer-Writer-Director Emily Moss Wilson

Emily Moss Wilson premieres her short film "Drink" at the 2014 Dances with Films Festival
Emily Moss Wilson premieres her short film "Drink" at the 2014 Dances with Films FestivalDances with Films (used with permission)

Emily Moss Wilson half-jokingly, half-seriously attributes her youthful good looks to her Lake Charles, Louisiana roots. “I have good Southern genes. I grew up in humidity, so my skin is like a baby's!”

Producer-writer Emily Moss Wilson now wears a director's hat
Producer-writer Emily Moss Wilson now wears a director's hatEmily Moss Wilson (used with permission)

Hollywood loves the young, so it works to her advantage; but don’t let the baby face fool you—she is no lightweight, and has an impressive entertainment resume.

Emily came to Hollywood in 2005 after graduating from TCU in Fort Worth, Tex. “I was a film major, so I made some stuff in college. I was pre-med, then film, then pre-med after that, I just couldn’t decide what I wanted to do, so the arts won out.”

Emily experienced her first pivotal industry role as an assistant coordinator for 20th Century Fox Television in comedy development. “I worked in development for two years, two pilot seasons at 20th, and just learned a ton about story. All day long I was reading scripts, giving coverage of scripts, listening to notes calls from the network, listening to notes calls from the studio—and you can't help but learn when you're doing that. My boss allowed me to give my notes to her, and a lot of time she would pass those notes onto writers, which always made me feel really good on the phone. So I could tell my skills were really developing by just way of reading, and listening, and observing, and consuming as much as I could.”

Emily then moved into Fox Films as a feature production coordinator, where she learned all about film budgets, scheduling, and all the components needed to make a feature film. The education continued when she landed an assistant visual effects coordinator role on the 2009 film X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This led to the role of on-set script coordinator for Garry Marshall on his films Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve.

For good measure, Emily even did a stint in commercial casting, where she would run sessions for major corporations like American Airlines and Toyota. It is clear that the next logical step in Emily’s entertainment career would be director.

“I've been making films since high school, and I've produced a lot of other director's projects. I produced two festival shorts, a comedy, and a drama. One was in 2009, one was in 2011. Both did about 13 film festivals and won some awards. You know, those are great, but I really have been wanting to direct for a while. But you're so busy helping out on other projects, and I'm the kind of person who gives 110 percent; so I really had to make a conscious choice to say no for a little while to the other projects and focus on doing something of mine. So Drink was it!”

Drink is a 23-minute short film that Emily directed and co-wrote with friend and fellow Louisianan Larry Soileau. The movie is a sci-fi cautionary tale, evocative of the original Twilight Zone series. In the 23-minute short, we follow “Alice”, a mother of two boys (“Clint” and “Billy”), who takes her sons and flees in the middle of the night. The trio arrive at an old desert motel, and Alice begins to feel a strange connection to the place. A past tragedy that occurred in that very hotel room unearths desires in Alice that could send her down the path of freedom or insanity. Drink offers an examination of themes of desire, family, motherhood, and the power of truth.

Not only did Drink give Emily the chance to test drive her directing chops, along with her producing partner/husband Greg
(a principal at Paper Crane Productions, which produced Drink), she plans to use the short as part of a pitch for a TV series. A very precise sample, as half-hour television is 22 minutes plus the commercials.

“Essentially, the idea is we want to pitch our own re-imagining of the Twilight Zone. Of course it won't be called the Twilight Zone, it won't be exactly the same. But we have our own secret idea that makes it a little bit different than that—part anthology, like the Twilight Zone, but then like the X-Files, there's a through line of a mythology that kind of keeps reemerging, that kind of keeps it a cohesive piece.”

Lofty ambitions, but nothing that is out of her reach. In this digital media age, where companies like Hulu and Netflix are producing their own original series, the landscape is wide open for this triple threat.

“It's an interesting time to be talking and trying to develop TV. Because if we would have been trying to do this about five years ago, we wouldn't be considering, "Oh, let's talk to Hulu, let's talk to Amazon, let's pitch to this, that, and the other. So honestly I'm not trying to think too much about where it's going to go right now, because I feel like more than ever there are so many options on where it could go.”

That “110 percent” commitment and long-range vision of Emily’s kicks in here, as the short film is not merely a sample piece, but a component of an entire show that the producer-writer-director envisions.

“I'm really concerned about making sure that we have a cohesive series that can last. That has not just one season in it, but multiple seasons, and showing somebody that, because I think that's the mark of a successful show. When you pitch something and you can prove to whomever you are pitching to that this is not just one episode or this is not just one season, but that it has the potential to be an X-Files which was on for 9 seasons, or a Twilight Zone, which was on for 5 seasons.

“So I think as long as we get our ducks in a row in terms of making sure we can show longevity, and show that there are a web of stories and possibilities that can be told, that's my main goal right now.”

Emily’s vision and drive is supported and fueled through her faith in Jesus Christ. “My faith is ever-present. It's a part of everything I do and everything I am. My faith does affect my choices, both in the projects I work on, the people I work with, and the stories I tell.”

This moral undergirding is evident in the powerful and pointed choices made in Drink, along with the consequences for each of the characters. While some filmmakers like to eschew the subjects of cause and effect, truth or falsehood, the believing person understands that it is part and parcel of the human condition, and produces the most compelling stories.

“Our God was, and is, a creative God,” Emily continued, “So I find that being creative, and telling stories, is an extension of my faith.”

While some may view a life of faith as a restriction on building an entertainment career, Emily sees the opposite.

“I don't feel that my faith limits me or hinders me. I simply feel like my faith guides me and helps make decisions easier. I pray a lot. I pray for direction, I pray for wisdom, I pray for God's favor in certain circumstances.”

Relationships are pivotal to entertainment industry success. “Let’s do coffee” or “Let’s do lunch” are mantras in a town where the next connection could lead you to the next gig. Emily considers connection an essential component to her faith walk. “I think building relationships—in life, not just in our careers—is one of the most important things we can do. Connecting with others is what Christ did so well. Loving people, respecting people, wanting what's best for others—I take that with me everywhere I go, into meetings, on set, etc. I enjoy supporting people's dreams and their talents and gifts regardless of their religious affiliation. I know that I'm not ever going to ‘save’ anyone. God will do that. I just have to be my authentic self and do my best to walk in Christ's love.”

As a Christian in the entertainment industry, the currency of the walk and the currency of the work go hand-in-hand. “To me, striving for quality work is a way to be faithful. I want to give God my best. Therefore, of course, the works I produce also have an impact. I've seen that first-hand with responses to our projects—people coming up to us and telling us how much our film made them laugh or how much our film touched them. It's really special. You're never going to be able to appeal to everyone because everyone's taste in terms of what genre or type of story they like is different. But what I hope I can do is try and set the bar of excellence high no matter what the project, so that at least if a particular story isn't someone's ‘cup of tea’ they are still able to say, ‘That was a well-made film.’”