Family & Companions
Director-producer Mark Pellington made a name for himself as one of MTV's hottest video directors in the mid-1990s, prior to helming a series of highly-stylized feature films. Working with the music network nearly from its early 1980s inception, Pellington helped establish their hyperkinetic visual aesthetic with his key work on series of promotional shorts and interstitials. He went on to helm music videos for dozens of popular rock acts, including INXS, U2 and Pearl Jam, providing the latter group with the award-winning video for their hit single "Jeremy" in 1992. He began his career as a feature film director with the nostalgic 1950s-era drama, "Going All the Way" (1997), starring Jeremy Davies and Ben Affleck. Pellington moved on to more mainstream studio fare with his next features, the psychological thriller, "Arlington Road" (1999) and the supernatural mystery, "The Mothman Prophecies" (2002). Following the mixed reactions to both films and the sudden death of his wife in 2004, he returned with smaller, more personal projects, such as "Henry Poole is Here" (2008) and "I Melt with You" (2011). Although not one of feature film's more prolific or high-profile directors, Pellington's dedication to the material and his distinctive style of filmmaking were never in dispute.
Mark Pellington was born on March 17, 1962 in Baltimore, MD to parents Micki and Bill Pellington, an All-Pro linebacker for the NFL's Baltimore Colts. Growing up in Timonium, MD - where his father owned the Iron Horse restaurant, a favorite among fellow Colts players - he attended the St. Paul's School for Boys in nearby Brooklandville. Upon graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in rhetoric, Pellington, who had done a bit of deejaying in college, found himself working at the burgeoning Music Television (MTV) cable channel in 1983. During his tenure, he made several short promotional pieces, eventually moving on to directing music videos for such groups as Information Society and PM Dawn, where his kinetic editing style and liberal use of vibrant colors reflected the aesthetic of the channel and the attitudes of its young demographic in the late-1980s.
Moving across the Atlantic, Pellington co-created and oversaw the 13-part music magazine series "Buzz" (Channel, 1990), a co-production between MTV and U.K. production company, Initial Film and Television. Pellington returned home to find his once indestructible father laid low by Alzheimer's disease. As he returned to his work as a video and television commercial director, he also began to compile a deeply personal video diary about his father's declining health that he hoped to one day assemble into a feature film. Among his many music video efforts of the time was a collaboration with influential grunge band, Pearl Jam, for who he directed the video for their smash hit "Jeremy" in 1992. Described by one critic as an "Afterschool Special from hell," the unsettling video enjoyed heavy rotation on MTV that year, going on to win several top awards. That year also found the in-demand director helming a video for pop rock giants U2 for their affecting ballad "One." And although Pellington's vision was deemed too experimental to be a hit on the network, it was used extensively as a video backdrop during U2's massively successful world-wide "Zoo TV" tour in support of their Achtung Baby album.
Pellington's personal account of his father's battle with Alzheimer's was eventually seen as a 30-minuted short film, entitled "Father's Daze" (1993), shortly before Bill succumbed to the disease the following year. Putting the visual design skills he had honed at MTV to effective use, he created and directed the Emmy-nominated opening credits sequence for the acclaimed crime-drama, "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99). Pellington went on to direct the five-part anthology "The United States of Poetry" (PBS, 1995), a tour across America guided by such noted poets and songwriters as Allen Ginsberg, Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed. After making a small appearance in his friend Cameron Crowe's romantic drama "Jerry Maguire" (1996), Pellington made his own debut as a feature film director with the indie drama, "Going All the Way" (1997). Based on screenwriter Dan Wakefield's 1970 best-selling novel, it chronicled the friendship of two young men (Jeremy Davies and Ben Affleck) when they return to their small town after serving in the Korean War. Shown only in limited release, the colorful, stylized film was categorized as an "MTV-movie" by several critics - a characterization the director found both obtuse and misleading.
With his next feature, Pellington set out to prove he could construct an intelligent, well-paced commercial thriller. A pre-9/11 examination of paranoia and homegrown terrorism, "Arlington Road" (1999) follows a single father and terrorism expert (Jeff Bridges) as he grows increasingly convinced that his new suburban neighbors (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack) are hatching a deadly plot against the government. Although visually and thematically provocative, "Arlington Road" failed to win over a majority of critics or theatergoers. Pellington moved even further into genre territory with his next film, the supernatural mystery "The Mothman Prophecies" (2002). Based on an urban legend and a real-life small town disaster in 1960s West Virginia, it told the story of a reporter (Richard Gere) who becomes convinced that his deceased wife (Debra Messing) was visited by the paranormal figure known as the Mothman, a precursor to death and tragedy. Praised for his atmospheric direction, Pellington's film received mixed reviews overall, while going on to become a modest success at the box office.
Returning to television, Pellington directed several episodes of the police procedural "Cold Case" (CBS, 2003-2010) over the course of its first few seasons. The director's life was shaken to its core in 2004 with the tragic death of his wife, costume designer Jennifer Barrett-Pellington, due to complications from a ruptured colon. Left to raise his young daughter alone, Pellington struggled to move forward. He kept himself occupied with the occasional episode of "Cold Case" and lending a hand directing the South American segment of the rockumentary, "U2 3D" (2007), amongst other endeavors. With his next feature film effort, "Henry Poole is Here" (2008), Pellington channeled his grief into the story of a terminally-ill man (Luke Wilson) whose self-imposed solitude is interrupted by a neighbor (Adriana Barraza) who claims that a water stain on the side of his tract home is the image of Jesus Christ. A heartfelt drama about the power of belief, it received mixed notices during its limited release. Pellington went on to produce and direct "I Melt with You" (2011), a bleak ensemble drama starring Jeremy Piven, Rob Lowe, Thomas Jane and Christian McKay as four friends who reunite on vacation at Big Sur only to descend into a drug- and alcohol-fueled oblivion of self-loathing and regret.
By Bryce Coleman
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Directed an experimental music video for U2's "One"
Created the multi-screen rapid fire media background images for U2's blockbuster "Zoo TV" tour
Helmed the 30-minute short film "Father's Daze"; based the short on his own father's battle with Alzheimer's Disease
Created the title sequence for the NBC series "Homicide: Life on the Street"
Won an MTV Video Music Award for directing the Pearl Jam hit "Jeremy"
Directed the landmark miniseries "The United States of Poetry" (PBS)
Made acting debut with a minor role in Cameron Crowe's "Jerry Maguire"; also acted as consultant for the bachelor party film within the film
Feature directorial debut, "Going All the Way"
Directed an episode of "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC)
Directed the long form music video for Jon Bon Jovi's "Destination Anywhere"
Helmed second feature, the provocative thriller "Arlington Road"
Directed the supernatural-themed drama "The Mothman Prophecies"
Produced the CBS series "Cold Case"; also directed several episodes
Helmed the feature film "Henry Poole Is Here"
Directed Thomas Jane, Rob Lowe and Jeremy Piven in the drama feature "I Melt with You"; also executive produced