• Sharing Merritt’s Story

    By TextLess Live More | Posted Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

Greg Olliver, Director at Courageous, CNN’s Branded Content Studio, Takes TLLM Message to Heart

Films video for AT&T's It Can Wait Campaign

“I knew I was going to find some tragic stories,” says Greg Olliver, a director at CNN’s Courageous Studios in New York. “There’s not just a lot. There are tens of thousands, if not more. People being killed by people using their phone while driving. It gave me goosebumps just researching.”

Courageous, the branded content studio for CNN, tapped its director Greg to find a story worth sharing for AT&T’s It Can Wait Campaign. Even researching the subject matter would be tough. Merritt’s story, an 18 year old girl killed by a distracted driver on a country road outside McCrory, Arkansas in July 2013, and TextLess Live More, the student-led national awareness and education campaign founded in her honor, caught the documentary filmmaker’s attention.

“I’m searching for advocacy groups and kept coming across images of the blue bracelets. It was so widespread with so many chapters and kids all over the place, I thought it must be some sort of corporate spin off, but then I read TextLess Live More was started by Merritt’s high school friends.” Greg presented Merritt’s story and TextLess Live More to AT&T for sign off before reaching out. Then he dug in.

Soft-spoken with a hint of a Texas accent, Greg understands edge and doesn’t shy away from it. He grew up in Houston, Texas and got into filmmaking in elementary school after his dad won a VHS camcorder as a door prize. (Old school, Greg is in his forties and remembers rotary phones, as does this writer.) In the nineties, Greg moved to New York to attend The School of Visual Arts and starting making films from rock docs (think Motorhead) to features. “All I’ve ever wanted to do is direct,” he says. “Tell stories that are real and true.”

In 2017, distracted driving killed 3,166 people, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Distracted driving is both. Calling attention to the real and truthful issue that is killing and hurting people everyday on roads, sidewalks, and highways across the United States is a challenge for any director, from the acclaimed Werner Herzog to Errol Morris, both of whom have covered the subject for AT&T’s It Can Wait Campaign.

Distracted driving killed 3,166 people in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, not including crashes or injuries caused by distraction. Since 2010, AT&T has been at the forefront of bringing the world’s eye on this deadly behavior behind-the-wheel with it’s emotionally impactful campaign.

“Why do we feel like we have to read or answer a text immediately? It’s something you have to train yourself not to do while driving – literally, it can wait.” – Greg Olliver, Director at CNN’s Courageous Studios

TextLess Live More’s dual message to combat distracted driving by changing people’s behavior around phone use behind-the-wheel and urging them to “live more” in the present, everyday, and not respond immediately to a ping, bing, or ring while driving, is in sync with the It Can Wait philosophy.

A Message to Live For – Merritt’s Story releasing on Great Big Story and then throughout the fall during back to school on CNN, shows the real and tragic risk associated with distracted driving as well as the inspiring hope for a world where people of all ages can stay present and distracted driving is a thing of the past.

“I’m a father. My hope for my daughter is that she grows up in a world where she has the instant ability to connect with her friends, enjoying all the benefits technology offers, but that’s she’s also appreciative of the world she’s standing in and living in and breathing in.”

He adds, “I’m going to do my best and instill into her that what’s on her phone is not the most important thing in life.”

Greg Olliver, Director with Courageous, CNN’s Branded Content Studio. Greg directed A Message to Live For – Merritt’s Story a video for AT&T’s It Can Wait Campaign. Shot on location in Brooklyn, New York by Hunter Levitan on Sunday, July 22, 2019.