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Adam William Wilson: “We’re About to Live Through an Explosive Time of Optimism and Self-Expression”


Having recently signed for Someplace Nice, the director tells LBB about getting scammed while working on a video for The Weeknd, how sculpting set the tone for his career in film, and why there’s just no beating vanilla ice cream

Adam William Wilson: “We’re About to Live Through an Explosive Time of Optimism and Self-Expression”

When does a filmmaker become, well, a filmmaker? For Canadian-born Adam William Wilson, the journey began in art school as he chased a passion for ‘conceptualising and creating objects’. It was only the fact that many of his friends were enrolled in the film program that drew Adam over to the moving image and the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, Adam draws on his artistic skills and background as a production designer in his role behind the camera as a director. Having worked with clients such as Sony, One Plus, The Weeknd and - most recently - Häagen-Dazs, Adam has recently signed with the boutique production company Someplace Nice. 

To pick back through his creative journey so far, and reflect on potential future projects with Someplace Nice, LBB spoke with Adam… 

Q> Hello, Adam! Let’s start at the beginning - when did you first realize that you were going to work in film and production? 

Adam William Wilson> Hi! I was around 20, nearing the end of my post secondary education. Most of my friends were in the film program at art school, so you are constantly helping your friends create projects. I was in the sculpture/installation program, so naturally they came to me to take care of the art side of things. Like so many people in the art department, I just fell into it. But I loved it. Making art as a young person is often a solo game, so what drew me to film production was the collaboration. It wasn't until much later that I realized my visual art education would inform my work as a director. 

Q> And congratulations on signing for Someplace Nice! That must be a nice place to be. What kind of projects are you looking forward to being involved with? 

Adam> Thank you, I'm thrilled to be a part of the team. All I really want to do is make good work. I think it’s an exciting time to be making anything. There are so many brave creatives out there inspiring one and other to push the boundaries of creativity. It’s an explosive time of optimism and self-expression, so I couldn't be happier to have the opportunity to help to tell some of those stories. 

Q> I’ve read that you have ‘a commitment to making spaces feel like they were found as-is’. What does that mean exactly? 

Adam> I think when you are watching content, you can sometimes feel like you’re on a set. If that happens, you’ve lost the opportunity to further connect the audience to the character’s experience. Audiences mostly know that in sci-fi films, for example, the action is shot on a stage - but when it’s done right, when it’s naturally flawed, they don't think about it. It's like the characters just walked into a world that was already there. I love shooting in nature for this reason - it’s so perfectly flawed and all of those flaws are what make it feel real and connected. 

Above: On his recent work for Häagen-Dazs, Adam sought to elicit our memories of ‘warm summer days and nights spent outdoors with friends’.

Q> Your recent ads for Häagen-Dazs on your reel totally capture that crisp feeling of biting into an ice cream bar. Aesthetically, how did you settle on visualizing that feeling?  

Adam> Most of the concept for visualizing that feeling was laid out in the scripts developed by the creative team - creative director Joseph Bonnici, copywriter Nate Houseley, and AD Danny Cullen. For me, it was important to connect the experience to the environment. That’s how memories are made. Those warm summer days and nights spent outdoors with friends are moments that root deep in our memory. That connection to the environment is in our DNA, so for me it plays an important role in visualizing a sensorial experience. That was the starting point - the macro - and once that was established it was all about diving into the micro experience in the body. Those little details of the sensorial experience like goosebumps on skin, reaction in the eyes, the tensing of muscles under skin. We also used a subtle rippling light element over the skin to help guide that experience for the audience. 

Q> And, while we’re on the subject, what’s your favourite ice cream flavour? 

Adam> Vanilla - with real vanilla beans. I live for those little bits of vanilla, like black stars in a creamy night sky. 

Q> Looking back at your career so far, is there a particular project which stands out as especially important in your development? And what makes it so memorable for you?

Adam> My most memorable experience is the spot I made for the Jaguar I-Pace. This was a particularly challenging job because we wanted to make the film feel big, but with a limited budget and schedule we had to shoot everything in the studio. This included all visual effects, which we decided to achieve in camera. We used high powered laser light in combination with moving crystals and some chasing tube lights to give the illusion of movement for the driving shots. For the road shots we had the art department build a miniature road that would rotate on a treadmill at high speeds to simulate the car’s POV. The camera was on a slider with two narrow focused flashlights mounted on the frame to act as the car’s headlight. For the sun shots in the film we built a physical six foot sun element that we mounted to the end of a fisher 23’ crane. This allowed us to move it into position very quickly as well as have it set and rise on command. This was certainly one of the most technically challenging jobs that had a great influence on my development as a creator.

Above: A gallery of images from Adam’s work on a campaign for the Jaguar I-Pace.

Q> If you had to give one piece of advice for a young filmmaker coming into the industry right now, what would it be and why? 

Adam> I was speaking with a young filmmaker recently - he was coming out of high school and going into film school and he wanted to know how to get into the industry. I told him: “You are the industry, so you are already there. Now just focus on telling your stories in the way that you want to tell them.” 

Q> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across over the course of a production - and how did you solve it? 

Adam> I was working as a Production Designer on The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” video a few years ago, and we were tasked with finding a specific high-end Mercedes that needed to be doubled because we were doing stunt driving and process trailer work all night - so you want to double the vehicle to maximize shooting time. We were able to source this very specific car and were all lined up to have the vehicles delivered to set for our night shoot, starting at 4pm Friday (the last Friday before the holidays). We find out at around 2pm that day that the picture car company that was renting us the cars was a fake online company that was trying to scam the production into paying a huge deposit on the cars that they never had in the first place. The next hour was hell on earth. We called and emailed every car rental in LA and eventually a picture car company contact came through with his friend’s Benz who was literally on his way to the airport to get on a plane. He was able to get his tow truck over to his garage and pick up this perfect Matte black Mercedes-AMG GT. The car basically rolled onto set directly onto the tow rig. I'll never be the same. 

Q> These days, work is presented in so many different formats. To what extent do you keep each one in mind when you’re working on a project? 

Adam> I'm aware of the formats and we are sure to be conscious of them, but really I try to just focus on the scene and performance.


Q> Finally, it’s been a tough year or so. How have you been keeping creatively motivated and inspired throughout it all?

Adam> Personally, keeping physically active has been very helpful. You can’t dwell on creativity. You have to let it flow when it’s flowing and find something else to do when it’s not.

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Someplace Nice, Thu, 05 Aug 2021 09:05:00 GMT