“Ethan Paisley,” his biography reads, “is an American actor, producer and independent filmmaker who has been working on the stage and screen since age 6.”
That’s standard, you’re thinking, except that Ethan Paisley is 16.
He also heads a self-supporting film production company that employs other teen actors and filmmakers, although he is still a junior at Marin School of the Arts in Novato.
As the Petaluma teen describes it, “I love producing, organizing budgets and actors, making movies happen.”
Ethan recalls his earliest theatricals this way. “My parents would put on movies, like ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and I would act them out: get all the costumes, act out all the parts.”
That led him to Cinnabar Theater’s Young Rep and his first of many roles there, Bert in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He was 6.
In fourth grade, he put together a play production of “Coraline,” based on the Neil Gaiman fantasy novella. “I was getting actors together,” he said, “getting a crew together and finding people to help put on the show.”
The following year, he began a humorous YouTube spoof-style series, he said, “playing all the characters and writing the scripts.”
During the three years he crafted the series, “I learned so much about film producing and appreciating the other side of the camera.” The experience instilled time management skills: “having the script in by a specific date, getting the video up at a certain time.”
Eventually, Ethan said, “I got sick of playing 10 different characters. I began to want more serious work.”
And so, as a 14-year-old freshman, he wrote his first feature film, “The Art of Escape,” about teen drug addiction. “I was noticing the drama and sadness in the lives of some old friends,” Ethan said. “I was driven to create this feature.”
He got together a cast of local actors and filmmakers “and we learned how to collaborate. We were inspiring each other and making this awesome film.” The film premiered at the Lark Theater in Marin County, played in film festivals and won several awards.
“What I got out of it,” Ethan said, “is I found what I love to do. Not cinematography, nothing technical. My motto is I do everything but tech.”
That discovery was the impetus for starting a production company, Take18 Entertainment, with a number of other young thespians.
“We produce narrative films using funds from jobs our company offers, or services we offer, such as head shots for actors. We produce event videos, too — plays, weddings, commercials for local businesses, music videos.”
Money from Take18, plus proceeds from a fundraiser at Petaluma’s Phoenix Theater, was enough to create another feature film, he said. “Point 453” is about an untreated bipolar boy struggling to fit into a family that rejects him.
“The film is almost a PSA (Public Service Announcement) about untreated bipolar disorder and how it can cause dysfunction in a family unit,” he said.
Ethan is particularly interested in screening the film at junior high and high schools. To that end, “Point 453” will be screened Jan. 13 at an awareness event in San Rafael.