Washington’s film career is “Panning Up”
By Shelia Kirven
January 1, 2022
When he has a dream, Taylor Washington is the kind of person who goes out and chases it, not stopping until he finds success. Washington, a Choctaw tribal member, started his life like many kids who wanted to make it in the film production business. He started working with his dad’s old camera and video equipment growing up.
“I was the kid at Blockbuster where they knew me by name and were recommending stuff as it came out. I have always been fascinated with movies,” explained Washington. According to Washington, he always knew he wanted to go into film.
Washington attended the University of Texas at Austin’s Radio-Television-Film program. During his time there, he received scholarships from the Choctaw Nation. With the help provided by the Choctaw Nation, Washington said he was able to purchase editing software and his first camera–– a pivotal moment in starting his career.
Originally from Shoreacres, Texas (just outside of Houston), Washington now lives in Brooklyn, New York, where he is co-founder and co-owner of the production company Pan Up Productions.
He began directing two years after graduation in 2011 when he ended up in New York after a friend advertised looking for a roommate. Washington jumped on the opportunity. He moved to New York with no contacts, paving the way for himself from scratch.
Washington started out working in a lighting department to make a living, later moving on to the camera, where he got to work with actors. From there, he started moving toward directing.
“It was when I started directing a lot of music videos, I realized that working with a lot of managers was very similar to working with agencies, and through them, it fell into brand partnerships with music videos and live events with music. And then it was just really an easy transition into the commercial world,” said Washington.
According to Washington, he also had friends at another agency he started working with, and it skyrocketed from there. “I did a campaign with Southwest Airlines that just took off and I got a lot more work from them and other agencies,” explained Washington. He said it all started with a short film he made called “Putting the Dog to Sleep.”
Washington and two others made the film together and didn’t know what to do with the company but enjoyed working together. They still focus on narratives and music videos, but it has become more focused on commercials. Washington also has an extensive background in music video production and has directed over 50 videos worldwide.
Washington’s full-service content production company also has sites in Austin and Los Angeles and they work heavily in commercials. The company also represents other directors in those cities. Their teams are multi-faceted and work in video, print, digital, experiential, or broadcast, handling every detail of conception, production, and final deliverables. Pan Up has worked with company giants such as Netflix, Apple, Amazon, Ford, Southwest, Samsung and Virgin Atlantic, just to name a few.
Washington says he is most proud of his accomplishments in his work with the film The Irishman by Martin Scorsese. He is also proud of the last music video he directed for Jukebox the Ghost, for their song, “Everybody’s Lonely.” He says the views are well over a million now and that the band was great to work with and it was really fun.
Washington said his goal was, “If we don’t have fun making this, the whole video is going to fail. This should be a good time, and it was. And I’m super happy with how it turned out.”
Washington said the pandemic has made the business ebb and flow for the last couple of years, and for the company he took it very seriously and didn’t want to put any of his people at risk until they had a better understanding of what they were going through. He said it took a while to figure out how to do the work safely.
“I’m proud to say a couple of crew members have said it’s been the safest sets they’ve been on,” said Washington. Future projects include some fun shoots coming up with an agency called AKA that focuses on Broadway plays, and the company is doing a lot of projects with Broadway.
He said they did a shoot for the resurgence of Broadway’s 75-year-old Company, and were able to shoot with Steven Sondheim before he passed away. Sondheim was a famous American composer and lyricist who is said to have been one of the most important figures in 20th-century musical theater.
Another project is a short documentary he produced called Zaida that has been hitting festivals. The documentary is about a Holocaust survivor, the grandfather of one of Washington’s friends. He escaped the Holocaust when he was just 12 years old.
“It just played at Coronado Film Festival and won Best Short Film in Audience Award,” explained Washington.
The film is still playing at festivals, and he says it should be online next year.
Washington’s company is also beginning pre-production for their first feature film called Racquetball.
With his busy schedule, Washington is planning to give back to his tribe. He explained, “It’s not just the scholarship. The tribe has done so much for my family, my grandma, and my Mom’s side of the family who are in Oklahoma.”