Production house UNHEARD/OF, which maintains bases of operation in Atlanta and Seattle, has added docu-style director J. Austin Wilson to its roster for commercials and branded content in the U.S.
Born in a small town south of Atlanta and raised by two professional illustrators, Wilson flourished in the arts from a young age. He began painting, before adding photography, music, and filmmaking to his creative toolbelt. Driven by the work of Gus Van Sant and Harmony Korine, directors who blur the line between real-life and fiction, Wilson focused on documentary filmmaking and cinematography at the New York Film Academy before moving to L.A. to attend the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
In describing his style, Wilson said, “Authenticity is the ultimate goal. I try to bring a cinematic approach to a mostly observational style of filmmaking.” Capturing the real and the raw often means working with non-actors, and forging a true connection with those he works with. He said, “I’ve spent my career developing a style that feels unscripted. It’s especially rewarding when I work with musicians and artists. I spend a lot of time with the people I make films with, and often that develops into a natural friendship. And this relationship translates on screen, it helps the audience to experience that sense of authentic affection.”
Wilson jumped into commercial work immediately after USC, frequently collaborating with San Francisco-based ad agency Heat to helm spots for clients including Bank of the West, EA Sports and Fantex. In 2005, he moved to Seattle and began directing short music docs for KEXP, a local college radio station, where he worked with bands like Fleet Foxes, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, and Jonsi. Inspired by his work at KEXP, Wilson directed, shot and edited his first short film Frank Fairfield, which premiered at SXSW 2011.
Since then, Wilson has directed dozens of commercials, including for Home Depot, Facebook, Nissan, and Intel, along with many music videos and documentary shorts. His organic aesthetic has struck a chord with audiences, leading to a Bronze Lion for his Nissan spot “What’s in the Giant Box?” and two American Advertising Awards for his “Visit Seattle” tourism campaign.
The “Visit Seattle” project holds a special place in Wilson’s heart, as he was given creative freedom to represent the city through all of the senses. The film utilizes unexpected perspectives as real people share why they love the area. Achieving the right sound was equally as important as the visuals, an emphasis Wilson fostered through his experience working with musicians. As he describes it, “For me, Seattle is a town that’s not only visually beautiful, but it also offers a constantly evolving audio experience. I was inspired to capture that via the marriage of images with sound design and music.”
Prior to joining UNHEARD/OF, Wilson was repped by production house Society.