Insights from Filmmaker Moji Wilson on Staying Inspired and Crafting Captivating Stories

Moji Wilson, a filmmaker thriving in the vibrant city of Portland, Oregon, is bringing his cinematic dreams to life.

Filmmaker Moji Wilson

The secret to staying inspired, according to Portland-based filmmaker Moji Wilson? Always keep an open mind. Learn more about his essentials for crafting a compelling story, how he beats burnout, and why he uses Musicbed to find the right music for his films.

Musicbed: What sparked your passion for filmmaking/storytelling?

Moji Wilson: I just remember early in my childhood being a very imaginative kid. I would live in my imagination most of the time, and one thing that really sparked that in my head was music. Almost like my life had a theme song 24/7. My personal film score, and every moment was an epic scene in my life story. Music and film go hand-in-hand. I would go as far and say without one you can’t have the other. I made my way into filmmaking shooting music videos because that type of filmmaking was around me and the barrier of entry was much lower. Plus, I could really play with the thing that was inspiring most of my ideas and that was music. That’s always been a great starting point for my creative process and flow.

What keeps you motivated and creatively inspired?

I try to keep a very open mind when it comes to inspiration. If you sit back and ask yourself this question: Where do ideas come from? Very simple but difficult question to really wrap your head around. I find myself finding inspiration in everything. It could be a guy standing underneath a light in an old cafe , and I observe how the light is falling on his face. Even a conversation I have with my mom over breakfast could spark a thought that I’ve been fighting with for a few months. I never know when and where ideas will come, but I tried to stay open, as I possibly could be at all times. A lot of people struggle with burnout… I’m not bragging when I say I haven’t. I’ve come close to something similar to that feeling but what kept me away from burnout and losing inspiration was my ability to pivot quickly. If I’m not having fun with my work I readjust and move on as quickly as I can. That open mindedness has been a huge asset of mine. Keeps me creatively agile and motivated to attack the next project ahead of me.

Moji Wilson filming

What makes a story visually appealing?

When I can feel that the film puts a huge amount of intention and thoughtfulness to each creative decision. Sometimes it’s not the most flamboyant and out there cinematography, most of the time its the simplistic imagery that I’m attracted to. Not just because it’s simple, but because mastering simplicity in any art form and making it effective is the most complex and challenging thing an artist could do. In my humble opinion. Being in the industry you need to learn all these technical ways to break down an image to articulate what you’re looking at and that’s great but there’s an intuitive space inside of us that could never put words on certain things. Sometimes you just feel really connected to an image and the way it’s shot and that should be enough. Words get in the way of why we like things. We feel pressured to articulate why we’re attracted to certain images and styles so we become pretentious in the way we explain our reasoning because words just don’t do.

What role does music play in storytelling?

Like I mentioned before, without music, there would be no storytelling. Storytelling is even a form of music. Take spoken word, or rap as an example. You can rap acapella, and you will still feel the rhythmic energy and flow without any instruments. The only instrument would be your voice. I love everything with a sense of rhythm, no matter what it is. Music is the lifeline to all my creativity. I love a good record that will pull on my emotions, memories , and imagination. The role that music plays in storytelling is a main role. I would watch a film with no dialogue and great music anytime. I don’t know if I could say the same with it the other way around. 

What elements do you think are essential for crafting a compelling story?

The main things that are essential in telling a compelling story is authenticity and something you want to say, like that thing, you feel burning inside you to tell to the world. Put more simply, I would say authenticity and passion. That’s essential to me. Everything else comes right after you figure that out. Other essential elements could be Intention, thoughtfulness and your voice. Not a lot huh? Thats the beautiful thing about storytelling, Anyone could craft a compelling story. You don’t need fancy gear, and a bunch of money. No need to make it complicated. Just hit record and go. As long as you check off intentionality, thoughtfulness, and authenticity, I promise you, it’s going to be compelling to someone no matter what.

What advice would you give other filmmakers/creators who are just starting their careers? 

The advice I would give other filmmakers is to do everything you like to do, then study everything you don’t like to do. Ask yourself why and repeat this process. This will refine your taste over repeated reps and give you clarity on the things you truly want to do. Most importantly, I think if you love something, the good news is that there’s a big group of people out there that will love it the same way, maybe even more. So just create it and stand on your decisions. Last piece of advice I would give to creators starting out is, there’s many ways to do one thing! Especially in art. Embrace the way you approach the filmmaking process, embrace the way you see things. You’ll feel much better about the things you’re making and have a healthy pride about your work. Creating is a marathon, and creating things that are true to you will keep you running much longer than 90% of people around you. 

How do you find the balance between pushing boundaries creatively and delivering what your client wants or audience wants to see?

I look at it like whatever the client wants as a challenge. A creative challenge. This has been so fulfilling once I changed my perspective on client direction and notes. It’s like a fun game. If the client is driving the car,I’d be in the passenger seat, encouraging turns that will take us the most scenic routes on the way to the destination the client initially decided on. You never know, you might take the client down some beautiful roads that will change their whole perspective. Now y’all heading to a new destination. A destination you both are a lot happier with. The destination being the final film. The decisions on which route we take to get there, is my creative input. Put more simply, I find enjoyment with clients’ input by seeing how I could push the idea more and more. There’s times I felt so right about something and the client made a few changes that executed the project’s vision perfectly. Listening to your client or audience is also pushing boundaries creatively. 

What is the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker/creative?

I would say the most challenging aspect of being a filmmaker is lack of resources. A lot of creatives have big ideas and ambition, but most of these ideas fall underneath the bar of our expectations because we don’t have the financial, community, tools, and environmental resources. It makes the journey ten times as challenging. Those who make it far as a filmmaker/creative make the most out of little resources and master the art of simplicity in the early years. The resources come later. Which is unfortunate but the good thing is… making the most out of little is an invaluable skill that you now have. 

Moji Wilson setting up camera outside

What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on? or What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?

I’ve been fortunate to work on some really great projects in the past year or two and I can say those would be my favorite. On the flip-side, they’re not out so I can’t legally talk about them. I would say, stay tuned because I can’t wait for others to see what has been cooking. The things about these projects that made them my favorites was that I worked with some iconic figures and having the chance to see behind the curtains and getting to know them in a different light was a great experience. I got to see that they’re human just like everybody else and in the best way possible. They’ve done incredible things in their life so if they can why can’t I? Seeing behind the curtains was greatly encouraging and inspiring to say the least. 

How do you search for music on Musicbed? What are some tips that you’d give other filmmakers to search on Musicbed?

My search for music on Musicbed looks like me adventuring through different playlist and artist all day. When a song sounds good to me, that’s when the visual part starts to craft itself almost. I never know when I’ll stumble across a record that really pushes me in the direction of inspiration. I use the filters a lot based on genre, and feel that I’m in the mood for. The tips I would give other filmmakers is to dive into all types of genres that maybe you wouldn’t normally listen to. So many different worlds of music going on that might inspire your next project If you’re open to it.

Why do you utilize Musicbed in your work?

Something about music on Musicbed has always felt authentic to me. Real artist, real instrumentation. The music selection never felt like a fast food type of production. Like I said, before music is the lifeline to most of my art, and not only the lifeline but it’s the starting point to most of my projects. Having real authentic and quality music will always set you on a good path to create your best projects.

Explore a curated playlist of Moji’s go-to songs for his films—all available to license only on Musicbed.