We Direct Music Videos (but I don't yet)

Tonight I went to a town hall hosted by WDMV where I learned quite a bit about the music video business. Before I get into the details some history.

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The 90’s were the golden era. MTV told labels they’d distribute for free so labels threw money at directors to make insane things. There’s more to be said here but the main idea is labels had money and so directors got paid well.

Then the digital revolution happened with Napster and streaming services. Profits plummeted and budgets tightened.

Today the process has a few problems with transparency, wasting time, and taking advantage of people for free work. The current process is the label has commissioners who will send out briefs to agents, reps, and directors with a budget and brief.

The director then prepares a treatment which could take a few hours to a week. At this time you could be the only director or competing against 10 others. Once you submit your treatment if you don’t win the bid, it is likely you get ghosted.

We did break into smaller groups to discuss the guidelines WMDV hopes to implement by Labor Day (9/2) this year. They’ve gotten about 1600 pledges so far including big names like Spike Jonze and Hiro Murai. These are inspired by the commercial and advertising industry which has its own organization called AIPC. These are guidelines so no one is being forced to follow them. If things remain broken or get worse perhaps in the future directors will unionize for now this is something they hope to work with (not against) the labels on.

My group was particularly interesting because we had someone on the label / production side and a very experienced director. I mostly shut up and listened.

Some highlights:

– One director mentioned in his 15 years he’s done 60+ music video treatments and 6 of those videos were made, so he makes most of his money on commercial work
– Of those 60, there’s countless that just never got made at all so all the directors in the pitching process were probably ghosted
– Maybe 7 or 8 out of the 50+ people there said they make a majority of their income via music video directing
– 90 of the top 100 videos on YouTube are music videos, there’s money in this now
– The label might make you sign an NDA without knowing the artist, send you the song, which is password protected and they know its you, and you get to listen to it maybe 4 times
– The label does not have to sign an NDA and its unclear if you still own your idea if its submitted although the label guy did encourage us to keep a bank of ideas and recycle them if they don’t get picked up
– This particular comissioner said once he gets a treatment he reads the whole thing and sends it to legal then it goes through 8-12 other people in various departments for approvals and notes which takes about 1.5 days.
– Many musical artists now bring in their own director / videographer / team that they’ve grown up with or know personally

I haven’t directed a music video yet though and learning all this tonight hasn’t changed my opinion. I still want to do them. If WDMV is successful the process will improve and get better. And I’ve had some loose convos with small labels or individuals (probably easiest route to do my first) about ideas, but so far nothing’s gotten done. Tonight felt like a good step towards that direction connecting with more experienced directors and people.

Also some folks from Arri were in attendance and after a brief chat with one I am going to visit their Brooklyn HQ to mess around with some cameras and lenses. I figure a career in directing / video it is important to build relationships in all areas.

That’s it for now, planning to continue writing and documenting more as I learn and grow.



12:51am

Shit sucks sometimes but it is pretty cool to be alive in NYC right now, seems like everyone I meet is pouring their hearts and souls into music, photography, or a new business idea, and it’s special to see how careers grow and friends help each other along the way.

I am frustrated with myself because I still get caught up in the trap of can’t wait til I’m “successful” and forgetting to enjoy right now and the whole journey of figuring it out with my friends. I have it pretty damn good (shoutout central AC set to 69 degrees) but there are still bad days, we’re making ambitious and sometimes dumb mistakes and it can be very overwhelming like this run on sentence with no end in sight but it’s usually alright after a chat with your homies which I also forget or often feel like I may be a burden to. It feels insane to type that out but yo that’s how it fucking feels sometimes.

A friend diagnosed me as an insecure overachiever a few years ago but I don’t really feel that way especially because well I do another bad thing where I compare the hell out of myself to everyone else and man I’ve read those articles and books. Growth mindset this, habits that, the shit never gets fixed though probably because it’s never really something that turns off. I just gotta get better at responding to them or letting them go. Gotta update my operating system so ya boy stops buggin out.

And yeah there have been some successful moments but I still struggle with wanting more. I want to learn to want what I have right now. When I was on a couch I wanted a bed and then I got a bed in a shared room which made me want my own room, which I got but it was outside (yurt in SF lol) so then I wanted a room inside but it had no natural light and I wanted a room with light and in NYC which I got but then I wanted my own place which I now have but you know what some days its still not enough because it would be nice to live in lower Manhattan. But it all feels like I can lose it now in a second too. The wanting mentality bleeds into other parts of my life too however perhaps it can push me to do things I really want to do.

I remember one summer in college I was on break but taking summer school and I sat in on a practice with Stepboys that Green was having. They were a person short or something but it doesn’t matter, it required me standing in and I started to learn the choreography. At some point they asked if I’d be down to perform this choreo at World or Dance (or maybe it was another festival). I wasn’t in the crew or anything and I wasn’t probably going to be in it but it was a shot at maybe going in that direction.

I said I probably couldn’t do it because of school and I needed  time to study. I thought I was making the responsible choice even though my gut was like “brooooooo brooooooooooo, do that shit. “ I don’t even remember what class I needed to study for. Aint that some shit. I was so worried about the future and getting a job as an accountant I thought I couldn’t dance too. I shut myself out before even considering how it could be done. And now I’m neither a good dancer or an accountant (hallelujah for the latter tho). Then I found out there’s bboy dentists, doctors, lawyers and even hedge fund managers. 

I don’t make decisions like this anymore but it does creep up as my “default” occasionally. Through work and career I’ve figured out how to think slightly better which is a huge improvement. Ask more questions and get some data and just being more honest with myself and how to spend my time. 

I don’t even know where the hell I’m taking this but I needed to get it out. At the end of the day all we got is each other right? It would be a shame to not make it as interesting and fun as possible. I will now end this by saying I hope to write and express this more abstractly through films and videos versus in the future vs just pouring my heart out into the void of the internet.

Thanks for reading

Are you an artist?

Went to a gallery space near the office today and met two people working on their installation. One of them asked me “Are you an artist too?” and I deflected “ehh not really, but I do take photos and make videos.”

They replied, “Yeah of course you are.”

I’m not sure why I did that. I hate that I did and it’s frustrating that I’m not more confident in myself still.

Bible > Pinterest

So many great lines in here. Some of my favorites:

  • The Bible is better than Pinterest

  • There’s a little bit of Lamborghini in everything I do

  • You can’t calculate love

City Quitters

I’ve thought about this often but the reality of it probably isn’t for me. At least not anytime soon.

Nice to think about though

Tools

Things I like using more and more (no particular order)

  • Text

  • Phone calls

  • E-mail

  • Writing on paper

Everything else seems too complex and bloated.

I felt that

via brainpickings

In a letter from the spring of 1870, shortly after his thirtieth birthday, Tchaikovsky writes:

I am sitting at the open window (at four a.m.) and breathing the lovely air of a spring morning… Life is still good, [and] it is worth living on a May morning… I assert that life is beautiful in spite of everything! This “everything” includes the following items: 1. Illness; I am getting much too stout, and my nerves are all to pieces. 2. The Conservatoire oppresses me to extinction; I am more and more convinced that I am absolutely unfitted to teach the theory of music. 3. My pecuniary situation is very bad. 4. I am very doubtful if Undine will be performed. I have heard that they are likely to throw me over.

In a word, there are many thorns, but the roses are there too.

Ok it's a real book now

So the prototype from my last post got enough attention that I decided to try and make it a real book. It took me less than 24 hours thanks to Amazon. 

Here it is.

Also one more thing, at the time of writing this it's currently ranked #23 on Amazon's best selling parody books list. Can we get it to #1?

 

Kanye's Book

Kanye started tweeting again and he is writing a book in real time so I decided to help start designing it. 

Time Control

In this downtime I’m doing some planning. How do you structure your week? How do I do work, contribute to society, and still have time to wild out with my friends? Go see family? Go on dates? Eat? Workout? It's a problem that everyone seems to have a different answer for. So I thought it was time to review where I'm at and where I want to be.

I feel like I am often chasing time because my days are too open but I would like to have more control and consistency. I have a budget for money, why not time? I could probably just cut out a lot of things but then I have a big blob of time and my focus is still easily scattered. 

It takes me a lot of mental power to decide if a work opportunity is good or not and I'm hoping this will help me filter things more clearly.

And when I do have free time to socialize, how long can I afford to go out for? I'm past the age where I can stay out until 3am and it doesn't matter.  And I don't have enough money for it to not matter. I'm in the middle. 

So what do I do? Aside from planning my next year using OKRs I thought about what I could do at the daily/weekly level. 

Here's what I came up with. I started on paper because it's still the best. I asked myself, "What's an ideal workday?" Then I needed to understand what is work. I think planning to the minute will make me go insane so I created bundles for morning, work, and evening. I left gaps to keep it flexible and account for commutes or random events.

Saturday is completely free so that I can go to smack city with my friends on Friday night and/or that evening if I so choose to. And I have all morning Saturday and Sunday to recover. Because life after all is about balance. 

Here are what the bundles include:

  • Morning Routine: Write, pushups, stretch, get ready, breakfast, check socials
  • Evening Routine: Dinner, review day, catch up with a friend, read etc (aside from dinner these interchangeable, not a checklist)
  • Work: Writing, shooting, editing, publishing (I realized all the small things associated with these tasks are the things I forget which is why I should double how long things take me)
  • Break: Walking, photos, dance, getting a bite, etc

I'll track how this works for the new year and post any iterations. Let me know if you have any thoughts, tips, or feedback. 

Just Incredible Drone Footage

I came across this video on Facebook thanks to Musa (Vimeo linked above since SS doesn't play nice with FB). Some of the shots I could figure out but a few seemed impossible so I did some more digging. Summarizing it in a few bullet points here feels like it doesn't give it justice but oh well.

How'd they do it?

  • Custom rig with a deconstructed GoPro and very small drone build - 95g
  • ReelSteady AE plugin $399
  • Flying forward (then they reversed it) 

Read more about it in detail here.

Trust the Process

Thanks for being patient. If anyone was actually out there waiting for my next blog post.

I listened to Kanye West - Last Call on repeat this week. It helped me refocus, so naturally I tweeted about it. Surprisingly it resonated with a lot of people. It's not viral status but those are some good numbers. So I thought maybe I'd elaborate more on this and how I've resolved some internal conflict. Hope it helps or at least gets you listening to some Kanye.

There are many exceptional lines in this song but my favorite part right now is this

Last year shoppin my demo, I was tryin' to shine
Every motherfucker told me that I couldn't rhyme
Now I could let these dream killers kill my self-esteem
Or use my arrogance as the steam to power my dreams
I use it as my gas, so they say that I'm gassed
But without it I'd be last, so I ought to laugh

I've never been outwardly confident or shown the bravado and conviction like Kanye. I tend to stay quiet which funny enough has been mistaken for confidence a few times. Another outcome is I waffle to avoid awkward disagreement which sucks because I lie to two people, myself and the other person.

So part 1 of this piece is me understanding that some level of confidence and conviction in yourself is valuable. The next part is I've questioned myself several times this week. 

What am I doing? Can I be more than one thing? Do I have a right to do this? Will society accept that? I haven't touched my cameras all week am I still a photographer? Was I ever one? My script bombed, am I writer? Am I even funny? I've made zero films, am I a filmmaker? Can I be a performer too?

I came across 2 videos that helped me understand how to approach this sudden internal attack much more productively. 

Halfway in Keegan shares an anecdote from grad school. 

I said to my professor, "Oh I want to be in Hamlet really bad and I want to play Horatio." 

My professor says to me, "Why Horatio?"

I'm like, "Well he's his best friend, I feel like that's who I am. I'm the best friend guy, I'm the good time guy that everybody likes"

And he goes but, "Why couldn't you play Hamlet?"

And I go "I don't know".

"But why? Why are you? Why are you not? You're getting the same training all these other actors are. You're handsome."

"What? No I'm the funny guy shut up."

"No no you're handsome and you're vibrant and you could play the lead in a play especially the most important play in Western civilization, you could play Hamlet."

I wanted to punch him. Stop fucking with my mythos. I want to know. I don't want to push beyond my comfort zone. I want to stay here. I'm Horatio. I'm the fifth lead in the play.

"I don't think you're the fifth lead in the play. I think you can play Hamlet."

He wouldn't shut up kept on talking about, "Why can't you play Hamlet? Why can't you play Hamlet?"

And you know that's another story I had just made up in my mind I'm never gonna be as good as these other people and so that it's okay that I don't get the lead and now it's fine it's fine if I don't get the lead.

This resonated deeply with me. Maybe its because I was also raised Catholic and indoctrinated with the idea that I should think badly of myself to stay humble. The meek shall inherit the earth and all that.

YouTube's algorithm then delivered another video which just took things to another level. I think Vince and Keegan would have an interesting conversation. Honestly the whole thing is worth watching but here are a few of my favorite lines below.

I think that's a great thing for anyone out there, you know allowing yourself to say, I'm curious about this and then you have to kind of give yourself permission and figure it out. 

To me even it's less about the results, although we all like results. It's more you know having the courage to listen to that whisper why am I curious to explore this. I'm looking all around for someone to give me permission to explore something and then you say no I'm just gonna start building it and doing it and you always come on the other side of that realizing you had so much more control or power or value then you felt at the time.

So any sort of getting out there and storytelling or putting something together I think is valuable you know you're you're learning and experimenting and playing around and more time spent on that I think ultimately leads to you know, more say in your existence and more confidence in resolving your existence.

I've been throwing this phrase around a lot but it sounds like Vince is essentially saying "trust the process". I've got to accept where I am now so I can work towards where I want to be. And funny enough the act of writing this blog post feels like I've freed myself from this creative paralysis slump. 

EDIT: Came across this in my timeline a few minutes after sharing and honestly could not be better timing.

The End of An Era

I've wondered what my first blog post should be. I think its appropriate to start off with a summary of the last 4.5 professional years.

When I applied to Everlane in 2013 I didn't know much about the company except for what I'd seen on tumblr and the site, but I knew that I did need to stand out amongst a potential sea of candidates. 

I actually documented the experience of applying on my now defunct blog: rnwn.wordpress.com

For my very last day I thought it would only make sense to update the page. Here's what I made in 2013 and then updated in 2017.