If you discovered twenty one pilots by stumbling upon the “Guns for Hands” music video like I did, you have Mark C. Eshleman to thank.
Since “Guns for Hands” and “Car Radio”—both directed by Eshleman— were released earlier this year, they have racked up nearly five million views combined on YouTube alone. As creative director and behind the scenes head honcho, Eshleman is a cornerstone of the band’s development that deserves recognition in the forefront. I had the opportunity to discuss with him his film company (Reel Bear Media), his dream project with Paramore, his dedicated fans, and more. An insightful adult with a goofball child heart, he breaks the ice by joking about hygiene on the road; in the same conversation, he dives deep into drawing inspiration from turmoil. Film is his breath, vision is his voice, and with his body of work, he speaks volumes.
Taryn Nobil: You’ve been touring pretty much nonstop. How do you like tour life?
Mark C. Eshleman: My body is starting to wear down… but I wouldn’t change it. I can put up with the sickness and being gross. I take showers—that’s all that matters. This is the first time we’ve done big shows as a headliner across the U.S., and I’ve been with Tyler (Joseph) and Josh (Dun) (a.k.a. twenty one pilots) since 2010. To be able to come back through these markets that we played last year—shows for a hundred or two hundred people—and to now do ones for over a thousand, some even two thousand, is really rewarding. It’s not just another tour for us.
TN: Has there been one favorite place you’ve been?
MCE: Ohio (where the band originated) is always great. But some other shows are insanely energetic and we’re like, “Where do these people come from?” And Florida is always great. Cincinnati was probably my favorite because my family lives just north of the city, so they were able to come out for the second of two nights.
TN: How did your relationship with the band develop?
MCE: Back in the summer of 2010, I had just gotten out of an art school and I was living around the Middletown area with my parents. I was ready to graduate and start working with the first opportunity I had. A friend of mine in a band was working with a new T-shirt company in Columbus. I did some networking, talked to the company, and said, “Hey, I can show you some video stuff…” So they had me come up for an event that summer at a place called Bernie’s in Columbus. You can stuff about a hundred or so people in the basement there. So I went to this show excited to video, and the first band to go on was called twenty one pilots. They were a local band, and this T-shirt company endorsed them. I met Tyler that night and did this video. We started talking more and did another video that fall. Tyler is fired up about video content… So we kind of tag teamed, and in the next couple months we did the “Jar of Hearts” video that he covered at Newport (Music Hall, in Columbus). He loved it and said, “Hey, we have an extra room in my house, want to move in?” And for some reason, I said yes—didn’t even think twice about it! I lived with Tyler and about three other dudes in this two-story house in the basement. I still live there. We continue to work together and I do their video content, and…here we are.
TN: How did you develop your passion?
MCE: I’m pretty sure I wanted to do this before I knew how to talk or function, or even knew what a movie was. Video production was always really comforting. I would watch movies like Am American Tail: Fievel Goes West and all these cartoons. I got lost in them and memorized all of the dialogue. Then, I started watching live-action movies and classics like The Princess Bride and other movies from that era. I grew up on Terminator and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. For some reason, I was completely attached to it. Instead of going out and playing basketball or video games, I would watch a lot of movies. It’s not like I’d play with a movie in the background. I would sit there and actually watch a movie. That was my favorite thing to do. That turned into me starting to play with video cameras and realizing that I really like doing it. I took a class in seventh grade that involved basic forms of video work. My teacher said I was good at it, so I just kept doing it. Luckily, I taught myself how to find inspiration, which is anything to do with art; inspiration is the backbone of it. If you know what inspires you—what moves you and what motivates you—cling onto that as hard as you can and you’re guaranteed to make good art. Same thing goes for Tyler and Josh when they’re writing. It goes for Monet, and even Miley Cyrus’s songwriters. They get inspired too! (Laughs.) I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’m happy to be inspiring and to be doing something that’s so rewarding.
TN: What’s your biggest source of inspiration?