Filmmaker Byron Atienza on the Paul McCartney project that changed his life

And what a gig it turned out to be. A secret show at the iconic Abbey Road Studios, in none other than Studio Two, where the Beatles recorded the lion’s share of their work. McCartney would serenade us with songs from the Beatles, Wings and his solo projects, regaling us with tales from his Studio Two days. It was an intimate show for family, close friends and a handful of die-hard fans, something Spotify had never done before. And there I was, directing the whole shebang like a madman—seven cameras, three multimedia formats and a heart full of adrenaline.

But it wasn’t just the gig itself that made it so pivotal in my career. No, it was the people I met along the way. People like Amber Grimes, running artist relations at Spotify, who would go on to become a dear friend and colleague. She was in the room with McCartney’s immediate family, including his wife Nancy, his kids Stella and James, along with some of McCartney’s friends: Liv Tyler, Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp and even J.J. Abrams, who left his “Star Wars” set to come and revel! Through the director’s monitors, I noticed Amber grooving with Johnny, and I knew I had to get a two-shot of them. After the gig, I texted her the screenshot, and she replied that I had just become her best man for her future wedding. Ha!

That directing gig was pivotal in my career, not only because I was working with a luminary like Paul McCartney, but because it led to more work with him down the line.

Fast-forward to a year later, and I get a call from Amber offering me a job to join Capitol Records to help oversee their creative teams. I mean, come on—a Filipino-American music executive is rare air, and there are only a few of us. Now I get to work with a record label that has housed some of the greatest musicians of all time. Am I dreaming?

And that’s not even the best part. I got to work with Paul McCartney again, leading the creative charge on the marketing initiatives for his album “McCartney III.” We ended up winning a Clio Award for the great stuff we were doing on the campaign, and I even creative-directed a music video where we digitally de-aged him to look like he stepped straight out of Beatlemania. But the opportunities didn’t stop there.