In the old movie, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium,” a group of American tourists undertake an 18-day, 9-country, whirlwind tour of Europe. Imagine that’s the kind of work schedule you kept. For travel filmmaker and photographer, Taylor O’Sullivan, it often is.
Taylor recently spent a week in Uganda documenting a village mural painting project. The project was sponsored by Action in Africa, a non-profit community center whose mission is to Educate, Inspire, and Empower people in Uganda by focusing on education and community development. The mural was the result of Action in Africa teaming up with Artolution and Chime for Change with the intention of igniting positive social change through collaborative art-making.
Asked how the Action in Africa project came about, responds Taylor: “My professional focus lately has been to make more content that MATTERS. Create videos and photos that tell important stories that impact the greater world around us." You can see Taylor’s video of the Action in Africa project (as well as her other videos and stunning photos), on her site, TaosFilm.
From the high temps in Uganda, Taylor then jetted to sub-zero Berlin while toting a 70-pound backpack stocked with all of the equipment she’d need. Berlin is the starting point for a new documentary project about the world population. Says Taylor, “We’ll be filming in Europe, Asia and Africa -- seven countries in 12 days. I’m producing…it’s going to be a wild ride!”
Taylor’s “day job,” if you can call it that, might be anything from a corporate client video stateside to the MTV European Music Awards in Bilbao, Spain. Her latest endeavor? Starring in videos from Tastemade. Because of her extensive travel experience and photography, Tastemade/Travel asked Taylor to host a travel video series for Tastemade. The first, 15-minute Hotel Workout, demonstrates how Taylor keeps fit on the road. The video has already been viewed almost a half-million times on Facebook! Taylor’s newest video for Tastemade, “What’s in My Carry-on, Packing Essentials I Never Travel Without” shows packing tips for road trips (she’s got a lot of experience).
And how did Taylor connect with Tastemade? “I reached out to them and sent them a few videos I shot on a trip to the Arctic Circle last year. We connected and I pitched them some ideas for an upcoming trip in the Middle East. They signed me on to host -- even though I’d done some hosting in the past, most of my work now is done behind the lens.”
Behind the lens, for Taylor, is a lot of work. Not only does she shoot and film, she produces, edits, writes and does sound. But this array of talents is serving her well. Instead of a client hiring an agency who in turn may hire someone to perform each of these tasks, Taylor sells herself as a one-stop shop.
How did Taylor get her start in filmmaking?
“As a horrific singer,” she says. A high school guidance counselor assigned her to choir. Knowing her limitations, she asked for any other elective. Video Production, it was. Taylor said she felt a “spark” being around the cameras, the green screen, the editing software. “I fell in love with it, the writing, scoring, editing, shooting -- I loved all of it. I worked hard in school but started taking film classes at the local college while I was still in high school.”
The next stop was film school at Chapman University in Orange County, CA. “It was a beautiful foundation for me––a great opportunity to surround myself with highly-talented people. And I enjoyed all aspects of the process. But one of my professors called me aside one day and said that if I wanted to be successful, I should really focus on only one aspect.”
“But I followed my gut and ignored her advice,” counters Taylor. “Cut to seven or eight years later, the industry has changed, and video is best way to market anything. Now, ironically, the work I do, a multi-hyphenate job, is more in demand than ever. I tell people: I’m mediocre at everybody’s job; I’m not the best editor or sound designer but it brings me joy and personal fulfillment. Versatility is what clients want these days. By streamlining the process, I can help keep my client’s costs down.”
“It’s sort of miraculous…I believe I’ve found what I was called to do on this planet. I’ve followed my gut and for me, work never becomes stale; every day as a freelancer is a new adventure. I become a mini-expert at whatever I’m covering: yoga, safaris, social justice, tech, Cornea surgery. I learn and regurgitate in video form. I love learning…it never gets old. I insert myself into a microcosm of the universe with a duration of one day or one year.”
"I began my career covering social-justice, documentary and underserved populations in Asia and Africa. I then shifted to other projects that might have paid well and were more glamorous but didn’t have as much meaning. I want to work on projects that set my soul on fire and impact the world on a greater scale. I want to be able to affect people’s live and I wanted to get back to that with my work.”
How do you make the passion-client connections?
“I’m a big believer in the Power of Manifestation – what you want to bring into the universe – in an effort to change. I told everyone I met that I was missing telling/showing stories and a couple of months later, a friend in Kenya who runs an orphanage, SAWA, in Nairobi, called saying: ‘We’re a tiny organization but we need a video – could you come?’ And then the woman from Action in Africa in Uganda called just few days later. It was all very serendipitous.”
What’s the right balance?
“It’s taken me years to find the balance, but in the past year or two, I have found a healthy balance: clients that pay the bills; projects I find that fuel the fire and passion. Either might not fulfill me totally but my bread and butter clients allow me to work for passion clients -- those with less money but more meaning.”
Adds Taylor, “These passion projects feel good – they are how I give back. I’m a big believer in Loving what you do and doing what you love. Fortunately, I’m living and working that life!”
Taylor is also a big Packbands fan – she has sent us images of her using Packbands to hold her gear when she’s traveling (she says, “They’ve changed my packing life”) and when she’s on location to secure her gear to a tripod, a boat mast or atop a 20-foot pole to shoot a 360-degree view. Taylor’s told us she “never leaves without them” and has thanked us for “making something that makes my life so awesome.” We’re happy to help!