Justin Baldoni: his journey to find people’s truth
“Inspire people to live better” and “give voice to the voiceless” are some of the messages of the shows and movies of “Wayfarer Entertainment”, founded by Justin Baldoni, a documentary, commercial, music video, and film director.
One of the projects he made is “My Last Days”, an award winning web series, in which he focuses on people who are terminally ill, but choose to live out their final months being an inspiration to others. Another one is “Stories from the Street”, a documentary series that profiles the Los Angeles homeless, giving a voice to those who would have otherwise been silenced and overlooked. Part of the money from the shows or movies was donated to different organizations.
Regarding to his acting career, he is going to be on “Jane the Virgin”, a TV show which will air on October 13th on the CW. It is about a 25 years old virgin girl, who gets artificially inseminated with his character’s sperm.
In a conversation with The Outsider Argentina, Baldoni spoke about his beginnings, his work with the organizations and the upcoming projects of Wayfarer Entertainment.
How and when did you decide to persuade the directing career?
I grew up with a camera in my hand. As long as I can remember I was always playing around with a camera. In fact, when I was 7 or 8, my dad gave me a broken camera and I will go and make all these fake movies with it. I even remember playing with a Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joes in the bathtub, pretending I was making a movie and filming them. I have been a director from heart for long as I can remember. When I was about 23, I directed a music video for a dear friend of mine, who had a song that it was called “Armed” and remember seen the visual in my head when I heard the song, which is something I always did, even as a kid, and I thought: ‘You know what, I’m just gonna make a music video for him’. I got his permission and before I knew it, I’ve done my first video. People really responded to it and made people feel good because it was a hard time in America and around the world and I thought ‘I really can make a difference with my art’. So, that was when I decided to start directing more frequently.
How did you come up with the idea of founding “Wayfarer Entertainment”? What is the company about?
“Wayfarer Entertainment” is about a year and a half older. The word “wayfarer” comes from a Bahai book called “The Seven Valleys” and it’s like the journey of the soul, of the truth seeker. The wayfarer goes through all of these different Valleys on its search to God, for truth, love and meaning. And I thought ‘what an amazing name for the name of the company’, because that’s really what we are, what we are doing, and the company I want to build and create. It’s a company that takes people on that journey to find their truth, and gives them and allows them to become closer to God, even if we are not talking directly about the word ‘God’.
What can you tell us about the award winning web series “My Last Days”?
“My Last Days”, of all the projects I’ve ever done, it’s probably the one I am most passionate, proud of and connected to. It’s been an incredibly journey, travelling the country and the world, telling these stories. The show was started on a quote: ‘I have made death a messenger of joy to thee. Wherefore dost thou grieve? I made the light to shed on thee its splendour. Why dost thou veil thyself therefrom?’ There was that idea of ‘death is really dark in the world; people always assume that death is darkness’. But in here I’m being told that it’s light and it’s supposed to be joyful. I thought ‘It’s possible to create a show that was about death that can make people feel joyful, bring light to their lives and maybe inspire them to live better lives?’
So, the idea of “My Last Days” was created and we have show inspirational amazing people, who don’t have much time left than living amazing and that will hopefully inspiring us to live better.
I was told that it may not work and that nobody will watch it. But lowing behold the power of God is stronger than anything and people watched it, loved it, they’ve cried and got connected to these people. They loved these human beings, like they were their own family. They let them in. These seven people really inspire the world, in such a beautiful way. It was such a journey and an honor giving to call a lot of them family at this point and getting really close to them before they passed away. It was one of the greatest journeys of my life.
And about “Stories From the Street”? How do you select the different stories?
“Stories From the Street” it’s a very interesting show. In our personal life, here in L.A. we have a lot of homeless people and one of the things that always bother me is homelessness, because why should I be living in my house or my apartment and below is somebody on the street who can’t afford to eat and who is begging for money. I thought ‘there’s something really wrong with this’, so in my personal life I try to do my best to make a difference when I see a homeless person around. I don’t give money, I just talk to them, because they are so ignored everywhere they go. The homeless that I know they just want to be acknowledge as human beings. There is a quote that I’ve heard many times: ‘I’m homeless, not hopeless’.
The point of “Stories From the Street” was to create a show that give a voice to the voiceless and create a connection between you and the homeless person, because every homeless person that you walk by and that you ignore, probably has a story. I wanted them to have the chance to tell their stories. So, we literally drive around Hollywood, downtown L.A. or Santa Monica, we look around and I’ll see homeless persons, then I’ll make eye contact with them or I just see them and get a vibe and I’ll just pull the car over and our crew would get out and I’ll go to talk to them and if they’re willing, we tell their story.
You work a lot with organizations too, in which you donate part of the money from the shows or movies. How do you come up with that idea and how do you contact these organizations?
A lot of the organizations are already in place. An example will be with “My Last Days” with Zach Sobiecht, he already had the Zach Sobiecht sarcoma found. What we tried to do is to get people to donate directly to his found. In the case of Christopher Aiff we’ve set up a founder for him, because he needed money to pay off his medical bills before he died, because he didn’t want to be a burden to his family. So we set up a found and we raised money directly for him. We made the same thing for Ryan Woods and his family before he passed away.
For “Stories From the Street”, I have a great relationship with the people from the Union Rescue Mission. So a lot of it is just based on personal contacts and things like that. There’s not a list of places that we go to, it’s something that happens organic.
Are you planning on doing another show or film soon? If yes, what can you tell us about it?
We are going to be releasing the documentary we’ve shot last summer and that it’s being editing as we speak by an Emmy Award winning editor of the show called “The Voice”. We are very exiting about that. We’re also going to be doing a special project with Fusion, which I can’t say too much about it just yet. And we’re doing another project with SoulPancake about kids with cancer, called “Unstoppable” for the Saint Jude’s children hospital. We are very exciting about all those things.
In regard to your acting career for this year, you’re going to be on “Jane the Virgin”, what can you tell us about it?
My acting career is very interesting. I just took a step back in acting and I was so blessed to be on the show called “Jane the Virgin”, which should be airing on October 13th on the CW. “Jane the Virgin” is an incredible show, it has an amazing cast. Jaime Camil, one of the biggest stars of Mexico is on the show. We have incredible guest stars and it’s an amazing play on telenovelas. It’s very silly and funny, but also dramatic, and it’s making fun of itself.
It’s about a 25 years old virgin girl, who gets artificially inseminated with my sperm. So it’s quite complex, but very funny. I couldn’t be more proud. The show creator Jennie Urman it’s brilliant and we have amazing directors. I can’t wait for the world to see it.
Which other projects do you have for this year?
At Wayfarer we are getting ready to produce a lot of different shows and we are jumping into the reality television space. We are hoping to make impact there. We are always looking for shows that we think will inspire to make the world a better place. So look out for Wayfarer Entertainment, because we are coming to your heart soon.