How Self-Taught Filmmaker Grabbed Elon Musks Attention

Posted by Sean Higgins on Nov 17, 2016
Sean Higgins
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Joe Sill is a friend of mine who I met in highschool. We were in the same film program called FilmEd, which brought public schools in Orange County together through film production. Joe is a self taught VFX artist, who first learned through screen recordings.

When an idea comes to mind, it’s almost like a bug bite, you just can’t stop the itch. For Los Angeles based filmmaker, director, and visual effects artist (VFX) Joe Sill, the itch is constant. Sill’s career was jumpstarted by his viral spec commercial “Tesla – Modern Spaceship”, which he directed and produced. This commercial garnered the attention of Tesla Motors and Elon Musk, Business Insider, USA Today, AdWeek, AdAge, as well as numerous other brands and advertising agencies.



Joe has since directed commercial and branded content for multiple brands, including Lego, Google, Vimeo, Hyundai, and EA Games. His short film “Captions” for Google Glass that was recognized by Google and the Glass Team; a commercial for EA Games’ “Dragon Age: Inquisition” which currently has over 12 million YouTube views; and, a branded content short film for Hyundai that aired on TNT.  Narratively, Joe’s science fiction short film, “Expo” went viral online and was recognized at the Los Angeles Film Festival, as a Vimeo Staff Pick, a Short of the Week pick, among others.

In addition, Joe’s music video work has garnered critical attention for its imaginative visual effects, which have showcased Joe’s technical ability to bring his creative visions to life.  Joe’s surrealist music video “Take Flight” for 2015 YouTube Music Awards, with Lindsey Stirling, has already received over 11 million YouTube views.  He has worked with Lindsey on several other well-received music videos, and has had their work featured on MTVu, Yahoo!, among others.

We got to talk to Joe about his experience and how screen recording played a critical role in his career.


Perspective is a very valuable thing. It’s really your telescope into the world, how you see yourself and others, and it’s how you learn.

I am a filmmaker. Quite literally, I have to see the world through a lens. I create for a screen, whether it’s a laptop or a theatre canvas. That’s my palette.

I do a lot of my own visual effects, which is an advantage when you want to give your viewers a new perspective. I learned how to create visual effects through watching tutorials online that helped very literally show me how to do something. I would watch these guys record their screens and follow their mouses on the screen through a program and I would copycat until I understood how to use the program by myself.

Through this little 13” laptop screen, I was able to learn from somebody completely across the world that I’d never met. And, through repetition and constant focus on what he or she was doing on the other side of the screen recording, I got better at that particular side of my craft. It was literally a tunnel into this pro’s mind, this screen recording, because I was able to “visually” learn from his movements, see the program how he saw it, and learn as an apprentice would from his blacksmith how to use it.

I think that we as people learn how to DO something not by reading how it’s done. We have to observe and repeat — essentially adopt another’s perspective — in order to get better at something. We learn from the viewpoint of someone who’s already had the experience, and is willing to show us how it’s done.

To see more of Joe’s work you can stay connected with the link’s below. In addition, here are a few more video’s by Joe.

Website / Vimeo / Twitter / The Hundreds feature: Joe Sill

Tags: Get More Out of ilos, Online Video