Shawn Welling is an American photographer and filmmaker who began his career as a dance choreographer and theatre performer. He is the founder and current sole owner of the Planet Funk Dance Academy in Houston, Texas. Planet Funk is an organization whose dance teams have toured globally.
As a filmmaker, Welling features well-known dancers in documentary, narrative, and web series films. Shawn Welling is winner of over 40 accredited IMDb Film Festival awards including the Houston Press' Best Film in 2009 and Best Director 2011 and the coveted WOD Industry award for Best Film Director, awarded in Los Angeles.
He lives with his wife, Michelle, three dogs, and macaw, in Houston where he owns and operates Welling Films. Best know for his dog short "If I Could Talk" and 5 year web series "The Avengers of eXtreme Illusions".
Welling's career began in dance, before his rise in the indie film world. Soon after, he opened the dance studio Planet Funk Academy in Houston, TX. His career as a dancer saw him performing & choreographing for the NBA World Championship games for the Houston Rockets in 1994 and continued with NFL & NHL half-time shows, Cirque du Soleil (Dralion), Good Morning America, where Diane Sawyer heralded Planet Funk as "legendary."
Welling has also produced a variety of successful master classes for clients such as Disney's "The Lion King" dancers and the cast for the Broadway hit "Oliver!" He has also worked with well-known MTV stars, Wade Robson, Brian Friedman, the I.aM.mE crew, Les Twins, and many more. Welling's still photography work has been used by top dancers and models and was featured on the cover of Adobe Photoshop Users magazine.
As a director, his first film, House of Dreams, won a Gold and a Platinum Remi at the WorldFest International Film Festival. His second film, The Messenger: 360 Days of Bolivar was released at Landmark, AMC, and Angelika theaters to sold out screenings, and was awarded Best Feature Film of 2009 by Houston Press. In 2011, Welling premiered his third feature film, also based on a true story, Project Aether. It earned numerous awards including Houston Film Critic's Society Best Actress, the coveted Young Performers Award, Houston Film Critic's Society director award for Best World Premiere, and Best Director of 2011 by Houston Press.
Welling is working on his latest project -- a web series entering its fifth season -- "AXI: Avengers of Xtreme Illusions" (winner of the Grand Remi for best web series 2012 & 2013), and he is now enjoying the lauded release of his fourth feature, The Legend of DarkHorse County, starring Lee Majors (Six Million Dollar Man), Michael Biehn (The Terminator), and Olivia "Chachi" Gonzales.
In 2015, Welling Films won a studio record 11 awards for its short film, web series, and web site work, including a coveted World of Dance Industry Award. Welling released a short film about the love of his life, his dog, Max. The short, If I Could Talk, quickly became Welling's most successful and awarded work of his career to date, achieving 6 award wins and nomination in its first year on the festival circuit. The film would go viral, garnering over 80 million views on Facebook and YouTube, and spawning a sister film and a sequel, If I Could Bark. In 2015, Welling married the real love of his life, Michelle Simmons, a Houston-based photographer.
Welling entered 2016 with four shorts and two features in production and an ambitious slate of coming features, shorts, and webisodes, including the true-life family feature, The Blimp Trap, the story of two imaginative Texas pre-teens who "caught" the Goodyear Blimp in 1970's Texas. Young actress Isabella Blake-Thomas would be nominated for a Young Artist Award, the "kiddie Oscar," for her turn as Billy in the film and win the Best Young Actress award at Worldfest International Film Festival in Houston.
In 2017, Welling released Strange Bird, an ambitious speculative fiction short film with an epic focus. Star, Preslee Bishop, won a Rising Star acting award for her work on the film, the eighth acting honor for Welling Films, joining over fifty official accolades for Shawn Welling's small independent studio. Welling was also named a filmmaker ambassador for the Chinese/American partnership that has become a signature of the Worldfest International Film Festival.
Welling Films has expanded his successful If I Could series with If I Could Run (2018), a full feature film which won numerous awards such as "Best Feature" and "Best Actress". Afterwards, An American Ghost Tail was produced, starring his canine companion Ranger, Chloe Klitus, and Preslee Bishop. On November 11, 2018, Shawn and Michelle brought their first daughter into the world, Emma Rain. During this time, she made her first movie appearance as the baby version of Evena, an alien-astronaut played by World of Dance's Solo Champion in 2018, Eva Igo. Welling Films joined with DeepWater Productions to create The Last Astronaut, first shown at WorldFest Houston Film Festival 2019.