Below are a compilation of questions that I have received from artists and friends. I’ll continue to add more to the list. If you have a question, email me. The answer will probably end up posted below.
So why are you focusing on cinema more than music videos?
I have several short films that I want to shoot. Also… Let’s just say that I’m being a little more selective with the type of music and artists that I work with. It is a transitional period…. At this stage in my creative career, I’m looking for opportunities to create, and collaborate, with artists that have music that translates well cinematically. I also seek to work with artists that have a larger fan base.
Also, with independent artists, sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s serious until you start talking business and concepts with them. I have found that many don’t have a lot of resources. Some don’t have a marketing plan in place, yet they still want a really stylish or expensive looking video. So, I want to collaborate with artists that are a bit more together and ready to enhance their visual portfolios.
It’s a tricky situation though… I am often producing great videos for artists that are on a smaller platform. This is a catch 22 sometimes because a great video might help the artist increase their fan base. Or, it could just sit there in cyberspace if they do not have a marketing plan. I have shot a lot of great looking work for artists that don’t really have a strong enough audience to fully market their videos to.
I enjoy the challenges that come with having smaller budgets. However, a great video is somewhat useless, if it’s only being shared with close friends.
Will you still consider working with artists that don’t have the proper resources in place?
Certainly! I would consider it if they are serious and professional. It’s still a business. A lot of variables go into producing solid work. The key is finding artists that are ready. Ready meaning, have well-produced music, an audience to share the video with, and an understanding of the music video process.
What is the most difficult part of the process?
The entire process itself can be complicated depending on the resources that are available. However, I do welcome this challenge. I have always had a good ear for music, but it’s still hard to find independent artists that have marketable music, understand the business, have resources, and that are ready to shoot right now.
It is also hard to find artists that are open-minded about their concepts. It’s rare to meet an artist that is willing to try a new, bold, and fresh approach conceptually. Many want to play it safe. I find this unfortunate and boring. I just want to create unique visuals… the types of visuals that are trapped inside my cerebral cortex without feeling restricted. Cinema provides that freedom. Music videos often do not because there are too many people involved in the creative process. Again… most want to play it safe. I don’t unless I am forced to.
What type of music (genres) do you like working with the most?
I like working with all genres of music. I love being around musicians. I can’t say that I have a favorite genre. My music interests are vast. I enjoy any genre of music that allows me to create a visual concept. I like to tell cinematic stories. I analyze every lyric and shape my visual ideas around them. I’m a sucker for a good story. Inspirational material is nice. However, I love working with music that has a little edge.
What got you into music video directing?
Music. Hip-hop, rock, alternative, and pop culture. Photography. Film. Fashion. Art. Music videos are a combination of these. I have always been a visual person. My mind is always moving and I always have ideas. I appreciate cinema and music, they form the perfect marriage. There is nothing more gratifying than shaping an epic visual for an epic song.
Name some of your influences?
Anyone with imagination and passion.
What type of artists do you enjoy working with the most?
Right now, serious independent artists. I’m a big fan of independent music. I find there to be more variety on the independent market. Many of these artists aren’t’ able to invest as much as a record label. So, while the budgets aren’t large, these artists still need professional looking music videos. So, I try to facilitate these artists by keeping their costs minimal, while providing them with options that fit within their budget.
I have not journeyed into the mainstream market yet because I enjoy shaping visuals for independent artists. For many, a strong visual is often the difference in getting their music heard. While I eventually look forward to creating with mainstream artists, I find the independent marketplace quite fulfilling. You do not need a large budget to produce a good video. You need a skilled and honest director, with great vision. You also need artists that are serious about their work, willing to make it happen at all costs, and understand that they’ll have to be the vehicle to market their video after it has been shot. While we may have to pull a few strings to get there, it’s certainly worth it at the end of the day.
Name a few random things that disappoint and frustrate you about directing music videos?
Here are a few:
- Having a great concept and not being able to execute it due to restrictions in budget or resources.
- Producing a really great video for an artist that no one watches because they lack a marketing plan.
- “Hollyweird” people – folks that have “Hollywood” attitudes. Please keep it professional at all times.
- Slow response time. I am good with communication but very busy. However, I often don’t receive consistent communication from clients. If I don’t hear from you… How can I take you seriously?
- The process. Many variables go into a good video. If one is skipped, forgotten, or handled poorly, it will show.
Name a few random things that inspire you to direct music videos?
Great music, original ideas, passion, and humble artists.
Do you think it’s important to pay your dues?
“Paying your dues” is an overrated term. While I do think it’s important to be well-trained and educated about your craft, it is equally important to study, learn, and do everything in life to the best of your ability. Everyone has a different idea of what “paying your dues” means. I think you can tell those that put in the time, from those that do not, by their body of work. If you can make a quarter look and feel like a dollar bill, you are probably doing something right.
I noticed that you edit, direct, and shoot most of your work. Why?
It’s inexpensive, and in some cases, less time-consuming. I also am able to visualize the edit before I shoot, which gives me an advantage. Also, I’ve always been a hands-on director. I am ridiculously detailed and thorough. Teamwork is great. I welcome a good team if I am ever blessed with one in the future. As of now… I simply don’t have the resources, nor work with artists that have budgets large enough to work with a larger team. Besides, a skilled director should know how to execute every aspect of the process well, and that’s what you get with me.
Why don’t you work for the larger production companies or direct mainstream label videos?
You can’t just show up at NASA and say, “let me fly the next Discovery shuttle to Mars.” The directing side of the industry is a small fraternity. It’s also a business. Of course, I’d love to work with higher-profile clients, and have the support of a great production company, executive producer, agent, or director’s rep in the future. If that opportunity presents itself… look out! I am a creative beast. For now, I just want to shoot great videos and do the best work for the artists that I work with. Lately, I tend to focus on what I can control. There is plenty of opportunity to create within the independent market.
What advice would you give aspiring directors?
1. There is no blueprint to success. No special camera or equipment will make you shine. It’s never about the wand. It’s always about the wizard. You have to have skill to create professional looking videos.
2. Learn EVERYTHING that you can and work with talented artists. More importantly, work with artists that have material that keeps you honest.
3. Take risks.
4. Be selective in the material that you put out. You won’t get many opportunities to make a good impression. Everyone does not deserve your time or skill.
5. Keep creating.
6. Be true to yourself.
7. Do not get frustrated by industry BS.
8. Stay focused and enjoy the ride!
How do you want people to see you?
As a hard-working, detailed, and focused cinematic visual artist. I create because I enjoy telling stories. I have never been the type of guy that would just go out there and shoot a bunch of videos for the sake of shooting videos, or shoot videos just to beef up my reel.
I don’t see directing as a popularity contest. I’d rather be known as the selective artist that gives an insane amount of commitment and effort to produce great visual work.
What are some of your best accomplishments?
1. Becoming an artist member at Pittsburgh Filmmakers several years ago and moving to Los Angeles.
2. Shadowing award-winning directors and editors in Los Angeles, which means being a slave on set. No lie. Go hard or go home.
3. Gaining hands-on production and interoffice experience, while working at major record labels and production companies.
4. Completing the music video, television, and film directing program at the Musicians Institute. I enjoy being a Musicians Institute alumnus. I love being around musicians. The Musicians Institute program was very hands on.
Also, every completed music video is an accomplishment. Awards are subjective, and hard to come by, because you just never know how much the role of politics play in any award-giving situation. So, I don’t place much value on those type of accolades.
While I would love to have an opportunity to execute larger concepts, and work with artists that have a larger audience, I have always been the type of person that finds great accomplishment with doing more with less. If a video I produce only gets watched by 10 viewers (and many have J/K well maybe not ), know that I put everything into producing a good product for those 10 viewers.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Good question. I’d pay anyone top dollar that could tell me the answer to this question. 10 years ago, I envisioned moving to LA and formed a plan to do so, then relocated to LA. I don’t take any moment for granted, and I certainly appreciate every opportunity. It will be interesting to see where the future leads.
Why should someone hire you as their director?
1. I make small ideas look large. That takes skill and experience.
2. I am a visual story-teller. I study the lyrics, and I do my best to bring them to life.
3. I am also very capable of executing well-crafted videos for any genre of music.
4. I work hard to get the job done. I am ridiculously detailed and thorough. Anything short of excellence (keeping resources in mind) is simply not acceptable.
5. I am a professional. If you have passion, I’m your director.
Most importantly, you should hire me because I always smell good. You can literally use me as a tester for any cologne fragrance. I also attract bees and wasps. <— What the!?!? Odd….
I just pray that God continues to use my talents to help inspire others. This prayer started years ago, and continues to be on rewind every day. If I am able to stay focused and accomplish this, good things are destined to happen. I do not ever want to lose sight of this….