Five Minutes With Houstonian Shawn Welling, Multiple Award-Winning Director

by Bob Valleau on January 18, 2021 in Entertainment, Film, Living Texas, Houston,

Shawn Welling is a former dancer/choreographer whose work has been seen on NFL/NHL Championship half-time shows, Cirque du Soleil, Broadway and MTV. 

Today, this committed family man is the founder of Houston-based Welling Films, and a multiple award-winning director, with over 90 awards to his name.

Welling’s Narco Sub will be in a limited theatre run as early as Feb 15 and streaming domestic and internationally the following month.

Houston-based Shawn Welling with his daughter on the set of one of his film projects. Photo Ray Kuglar

How did your interest in filmmaking begin?

After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, I started collaborating with two guys a year behind me, Robert and Greg. We’d encourage each other to finish and that was the key to finishing a short film every week. We then would show it to each other and at times collaborate. I think that the most important decision is surrounding yourself with a creative support group.

What was the last project you filmed? 

Last year our big project was Narco Sub with Lee Majors, Tom Sizemore and Robert LaSardo. This film has many Houston talents including our lead Bond/Ethan Hunt-type hero Tom Vera.

The sets and location include two real submarines we shot in, including a 300-foot long (it displaces more than 2,000 tons!) Russian sub, the B-39. There’s a torture scene in Narco Sub that Tom Sizemore says ranks among the top five he’s ever done, no stuntman.

Director Shawn Welling shooting scenes from the soon to be released film Narco Sub. Photo Ray Kuglar

What kind of film projects do you prefer? 

Tough question. The most difficult is a feature. To hold the attention of a packed screening on opening night requires a lot of departure from what you personally want and what will carry a story forward for an audience. That said, there are some films you make for yourself, and that is okay.

I think looking back at The Messenger: 360 days of Bolivar, it was my most risky. Yet, it paid off. We filmed on Bolivar Peninsula for a year until Hurricane Ike hit. The four men we documented were the off the grid sort with fascinating reflections of life, God, nature and friends.

What are most of your impressive list of accomplishments and awards for?

The majority of the accolades are for film—over 90 accredited IMDB festival awards. I am very proud of the over 15 best actor awards that have spawned from films I have directed. There’s nothing better than seeing actors in your film accomplish that level of recognition. 

To name one, there’s the one I received at the Avalon theatre in Los Angeles from World of Dance, the prestigious “industry award.”  The awards are great. They reflect that we are finishing a strong product. But I think the simple moment of watching in theatre the final product and seeing a laugh, smile or tear are the best and final gratitudes.

Some of the Narco Sub crew at work. Photo Ray Kuglar

What was your first filmmaking project? 

House of Dreams was my first. I really was incredibly excited but of course nervous at the premier. The docu-drama packed a full theatre at AMC. Watching the film come out of a projector onto the silver screen was truly wonderful.

Was there ever another life choice you wanted to pursue? 

I love computer technology and ended up being a system engineer for many years out of college, meanwhile learning dancing on the side. Once I moved to Houston, I opened a dance studio and shifted my focus. I really never thought about film directing. I thought it was far out of reach for me or even possible. 

What is one fun fact most people would not know about you? 

I love sitcoms in this order: Seinfeld, Cheers, Frasier and l Love Lucy. I watch one or two episodes before going to bed at night.  

What would you say to someone who wants to do what you do? 

There is only one bad film. A film that does not get made. Finish your film and get it watched. Then move on to the next project. Never settle to wait on the perfect opportunity. The perfect opportunity is now. That’s a quote I use at the start of each of my film seminars. 

What do you like to do in your free time?

Bike ride, hike, CrossFit, yoga, wilderness stuff.

What are your future projects?

We are in post production for Monstrous: Interview with a Killer. This film is a sci-fi doc drama about the most dangerous killers in the world. We are scripting Narco Sub 2 and should be into production by March 2021. There are a myriad of other projects such as  If I Can Ride and Robot Kills that are on opposite sides of the spectrum.

Cover photo Ray Kuglar

Bob Valleau is a freelance writer living in McKinney, Texas.