Mark Pellington (Col ’84) is thankful for his education at UVA. “It gave me a firm foundation in writing and persuasion,” says the 53-year-old filmmaker now living in Los Angeles, who attended UVA on a lacrosse scholarship and majored in rhetoric and communications. “There are a lot of people in this business who don’t know how to communicate, how to argue or how to express their ideas.”
Pellington has worked in the music video, film and TV industries. He’s directed music videos for U2, Pearl Jam, Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson, among others. His film credits include Going All the Way (1997), Arlington Road (1999) and The Mothman Prophecies (2002).
Pellington currently serves as an executive producer of NBC’s mystery-thriller series Blindspot, which stars Jaimie Alexander as Jane Doe, an amnesiac with tattoos covering her body. Each tattoo is a clue to her identity.
“Working with Mark was such an exhilarating thrill, a highlight of my career. His passion, artistry and technical mastery left me breathless almost every day,” said Martin Gero, the show’s creator. “He’s one of only a few people working today who have established a style all their own.”
Pellington’s career began in 1983, interning for MTV during the channel’s early days. “MTV was my Ph.D. program,” he says. “Using media as a political weapon was an early part of my work.” His next job was as a production assistant in a recording studio editing room. “I developed my own instincts about images and graphics. I started producing and, within in a year, honed my visual instincts that way. Four years later, I came to understand I was a filmmaker,” he says.
Pellington’s most famous videos are U2’s “One” and Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.” Music videos opened doors in Hollywood; the next logical challenge for Pellington was directing a movie.
“It’s hard to get movies made. They’re hard to get financed,” he says. “I’m resolutely firm about the kind of movies I want to do—maybe too resolute.” Still, for Pellington, the medium becomes less important than the desire to tell the story. And technology has evolved to the point where people can tell stories in economical ways.
“Turn the page and you’re 53 and stepping into new worlds. I make more art on my phone than anything,” he says. “I love music, I love ideas, I love abstraction. If [my career] ended now, I’d feel proud, but there are still a few stories I’d like to tell.”