London Film School has something of a reputation for developing talent and filmmakers’ creative voices. Often the most formative and remunerative work directors do, particularly early on in their careers, is commercials. One of LFS’s graduates who has been carving out a name for himself as a commercial director, is TJ O’Grady Peyton, graduated from LFS’ MA Filmmaking in 2010. Having worked on big campaigns for Red Bull and Asics, TJ over the last few years has also made his foray into short films as both an actor and a director, most recently with the award-winning ‘Wave’ which he stars in and co-directed with LFS graduate Ben Cleary. We caught up with TJ to find out why the commercial director life is so sweet and how it’s led to his broader career as a filmmaker.
When you went to LFS what were your ambitions? Did you think you'd end up being predominantly a commercial director?
As obvious as it sounds, I just wanted to learn about cinema and how to make films. Everyone in our term wanted to be a director. Early on I was very sceptical about that becoming a reality. I never knew about the profession of directing commercials until a few years after film school. In school, we were always focused on making art not on how to earn a living. Deep down though my ambitions were to direct feature films and those ambitions have not changed.
Your career has really kicked into gear in the last few years - you were up for a Young Director Award (YDA) in Cannes in 2013 and you've been doing some massive campaigns with big talent like Steve Aoki for Asics and you recently got signed to the Ridley Scott Creative Group. Was there a specific moment when things turned around for you?
I guess it's been a collection of moments, but getting shortlisted for a YDA in Cannes was a major turning point. That accolade opened up a lot of doors and from that moment on I was pitching on big jobs. I developed my reel and became a professional working director and started to earn a living while travelling the world making films.
Is there a favourite project you've worked on in recent years?
There’s been a good few. Our short film ‘Wave’ was a really fun project and has had some nice success. I directed a TV episode in Uganda for Red Bull last January which was an unforgettable experience. I also got to direct a doc in the Amazon in Peru this year with Werner Herzog which was wild. I've directed a few campaigns for various brands such as Asics, Volkswagen, BMW and Gatorade over the years. Those jobs gave me the chance to shoot in Australia, Germany, Brazil, and all over America.
You're unusually an actor as well as a director and starred in the award-winning short film ‘Wave’ which you co-directed alongside another LFS graduate, Ben Cleary. How did you decide to get into acting and how does it inform your directing!? How did ‘Wave’ come about?
I started acting to get better at directing and fell in love with the medium, having always wanted to give it a try. My main focus is directing but having acted in a few things now, it's made my understanding of performance and storytelling really evolve. ‘Wave’ came about after Ben and I had a chat about working together. We're friends and wanted to make something to keep busy and within a few weeks, we were into production.
How has commercial work informed what you do as a filmmaker in general?
Directing commercials makes you more professional or at least teaches you how to approach a film and go through the proper channels of production. It helps you gain experience in all the different aspects of filmmaking a director needs to understand. How to prep a job, deal with talent, financiers, crew as well as understand the technical side of things such as camera and post-production. It's a great training ground. Look at the best filmmakers in the world and most of them direct commercials now and a lot of the greats started there. On top of that, it gets you working with unbelievable filmmakers... DOPs, editors, producers, etc etc.
Anything coming up project-wise that you're excited about?
A few things are simmering away. I'm acting in a short next year called ‘The Invisible Boy’ directed by James Fitzgerald. I'm constantly pitching on commercials. Editing a doc and a music video and prepping two short films script that I want to shoot over the next year. I really need to find a feature script, so if any talented LFS writers are out there and want to chat - hit me up!
- Young Director Award, Cannes 2013 and 2015.
- Webby Awards winner 2016. Clio Awards judge 2017.
- IFTA winner for Wave 2018.
- Discovery Award winner Dublin International Film Festival 2018.
- 2010 graduate of the MA Filmmaking programme at London Film School.
- Website: http://tjogradypeyton.com/
- ASICS x Steve Aoki | #IMoveMe work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVPhOwfrW40
- Gaspar Rubicon wakes from a coma speaking a fully formed but unrecognizable language, baffling linguistic experts from around the globe.
- ‘Wave’ trailer: https://vimeo.com/214217381
- Film Festival Nominations and Wins:
WINNER - Best Live Action Film - Irish Film and Television Awards 2017
WINNER - Best Foreign Film - Toronto International Shorts Festival 2018
WINNER - Best Short Film - Cork International Film Festival 2017
WINNER - Best Lead Actor - European Independent Film Awards 2018
WINNER - Best Of Fest - Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2017
WINNER - Best Drama - Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2017
WINNER - Audience Award - Leeds International Film Festival 2017
WINNER - Best Drama - Galway Film Festival 2017
WINNER - Best Cinematography - Galway Film Festival 2017
WINNER - Best Technical Achievement - Flickerfest Film Festival 2018
WINNER - Best Drama - Kerry International Film Festival 2017
WINNER - Best Film - Offline Film Festival 2017
WINNER - Best Film - Richard Harris International Film Festival 2017
WINNER - Audience Award - Cine Gael Montreal 2018
Official Selection - Clermont Ferrand Film Festival 2018
Official Selection - Flickerfest International Film Festival 2018
Official Selection - European Independent Film Festival 2018
Official Selection - Tribeca Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - BFI London Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Aspen Short Film Festival 2018
Official Selection - Melbourne International Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Rio De Janiero Short Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Encounters Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Brest Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Vancouver International Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Helsinki International Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - LA Shorts Film Fest 2017
Official Selection - Leeds International Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Valladollid International Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Savannah International Film Festival
Official Selection - Aesthetica Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Kerry Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Offline Film Festival 2017
Official Selection - Black Nights Festival Tallinn - 2018
Official Selection - Interfilm Berlin - 2018
Official Selection - Dublin International Film Festival - 2018
Official Selection - Global Cinema Boston - 2018
Official Selection - Sonoma International Film Festival 2018
Official Selection - Look & Roll Film Festival Basel 2018