Pittsburgh has long been a visually aesthetic city. The gothic architecture, iconic city skyline, the 446 bridges, the gone but not forgotten Three Rivers stadium and now the beautiful PNC Park and Heinz Field all attract fans and sight seers far and wide to marvel at the view from Mt. Washington of the Pittsburgh city scape. They say a picture is worth 1000 words, but what about a song with a dope video to match it? Director Dan Meyers and I both share an affinity for visual direction for music and shwarmas. Dan has developed and shot some of the freshest videos in Pittsburgh for Boaz, B-Brixx, Divine Seven, Varsity Squad and more.
A-Jaxx: You’ve made quite a name for yourself over the past few months, business must be pretty good.
Dan Meyers: Business is better. The reality is that its a ton of work for relatively not that much money. I also want to say that without Josh Franzos working so closely with me as a Cinematographer and so much more, there’s no way I’d be in the position I am today. Don’t be surprised if you see a cohesive branding similar to Motion Family that starts popping up on our videos soon.
In my opinion, 99% of videos today are super simple. It seems that the visual art aspect of it is gone. What’s your main beef with videos today?
I wouldn’t say I have a beef with videos today. I love that both nationally and locally artists are shooting videos at record numbers and that there is a genuine excitement when talented musicians release visuals to accompany their music. I think we all see that technology has greatly lowered the barriers to entry for making a clear and decent looking video. With that said, I would like to see artists and directors concentrating on making a few great videos instead of the more is better approach where quality is sacrificed for quantity.
Still photo from Kellee Maize's "Something Sacred" music video shot by Dan Meyers
I asked Beckham this question, but do you think the days of the Little X, Hype Williams, you know big budget Benny Boom type videos are gone?
I don’t. I actually think there going to be back bigger then ever. As record labels and artists continue to find new ways to monetize digital content, I see a trend emerging where big budget videos are becoming a profit center as opposed to the pre youtube days where a video was nothing more then an advertising expense with little to no revenue coming back. There was some great videos in the last year but a lot of them get lost amidst the influx of low budget content.
Do you have be a fan of the artist to shoot a video for
No. But if you want to be consistent and be able to remain excited to put in the long hours it takes to complete a music video, particularly in post-production, I’d highly recommend being a fan of the music you are working with. By the time you’re done editing a video, you’ve heard the song 100′s of times. I can’t lie, there’s been videos I was editing that the song was driving me so crazy, I could only work on it in brief increments. In regards to the expansion of my business, I would say more then being motivated by financial gains, I’m excited about being able to be more selective with the caliber of artists we work with and being able to approach artists that I’m a fan of with a product that will excite them to work with us.
How do you feel about the scene in Pittsburgh now, there is a lot going on but not everything is glued together cohesively, yet.
I’m a huge fan of Pittsburgh hip-hop. When I was in high school it was people like Strict Flow, the Deadly Scribes, Lone Catalysts etc. and then groups such as Scorchin’ Hot and then The GOV that have been exciting to listen to and that I would take great pride in listening to and playing for people out of town. Right now, I see a lot of great talent, but not a lot of great business being done. Outside of Rostrum and people like Quentin Cuff and Will Kalson, I don’t see the leadership and vision thats necessary to take talent to the world. I mean that as no disrespect to anybody out there and hope that people show and prove in the coming months and years.
In regards to the cohesion of Pittsburgh, we’re basically talking about competing entities uniting which would be abnormal for any industry or locale. Everybody wants to be the man, and I can’t blame them. I do think people are attracted to unity and cohesive units and thats part of the excitement of a group like The 58‘s coming together and bringing diverse talent under one brand with great production.
In my humble opinion, the cohesion that we need really starts with the fans and the “scene” and people supporting local talent and realizing that there’s music being made locally that is better then what the national media attempts to force feed us. In the street scene, people like Gucci Mane and Shawty Lo come in to town and make insane amounts of money and take it right back to Atlanta where they spread it around amongst the producers, DJ’s, studios, video directors, etc back home. It would be nice if that money stayed in Pittsburgh and people were as excited to see local artists as they were these national ones.
Now that is some real rap. I was just talking about that specific instance with DJ Drastik the other day. I wanna know who your favourite artists are in the city?
There’s no way I could list everybody and this question will surely have somebody hating me, but I’m not gonna duck you Jaxx. Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, Boaz, B Brixx, S Money, The 58′s and Commonwealth Family. There’s other people that I listen to and am a fan of but these are the people that to me, have consistently put out quality material over a substantial period of time. My favorite Pittsburgh album of all time is the Scorchin Hot – Street Politics Double CD.
Of the videos you’ve shot, what one if your favourite? And of all the videos you haven’t shot, who has been your favourite in Pittsburgh?
I have two favorite videos for two very different reasons. First would have to be the B-Brixx – I’m Good video. That was my first time ever in Miami but its a place thats been featured in so many music videos and movies so I was super excited for that one from the moment we started planning it. The whole trip was just a blast. We met up at 3:30 in the morning at a GetGo in Pittsburgh and the tempeture was 22 degreees. By lunchtime we were on South Beach with Brixx and 20 of his closest friends and it was 80 degrees. That video was nothing more then Josh Franzos and myself running around with Brixx and Matt Holtzman putting everything together.
In lieu of a complicated story line, I just felt that the real story was Brixx and the people he cares about celebrating life and the song “Im Good” fit that perfectly. When we got home we had so much great footage that I felt would go to waste. One night at about 2:30 in the morning it got real loud and cloudy in my apartment and I just started cutting excess footage to some new music that I was really feeling at the time. I woke up the next day and remembered vaguely what I had done and went to go watch it. I thought it was cool. A lot of people didn’t get it and were trying to say I shouldn’t use other artists music. I felt that it only enhanced things and created a memory that I hope everybody involved in will be watching 50 years from now showing their grand kids. If I had to do it again I’d have made it slightly shorter and the Steelers would’ve won the Super Bowl.
The 2nd video is one that a lot of you might not have seen but its called Jezebel by an artist named Dev. The reasons this is my other favorite are that the song really had a message about the perils of street life and had a message that I hope young people grasped about the realities of how such a lifestyle often ends up. Also it was my first time really working with young “actors”. I say actors but they were all just kids from the neighborhood of Lincoln. There was all types of kids around and we were just grabbing people on the fly and saying you look good for the role. They all gave such a great performance and gave the video a realistic vibe that I think Hollywood would be hard pressed to match. It really inspired me and as you see me starting to do more movies and acting based projects, you can count on me using authentic Pittsburgh characters from all walks of life that Central Casting could never pull off. I felt like a poor-man’s David Simon (creator of the Wire) who utilized a lot of kids from the streets of Baltimore who had no acting experience in making the Wire. I really hope to be in a position where I can provide creative outlets and paying jobs for Pittsburghers who never would have been exposed to such opportunities.
My favorite video I didn’t do is Wiz Khalifa - Mesmorized directed by Bill Paladino. Unreal song, great vibe, beautiful coloration, perfect pacing.
Tell us an absolute horror story you’ve had while shooting.
I can’t say I’ve ever had something terrible happen in doing a video (knocks on wood). All of my clients have been satisfied with the whole process and I’m friends now with just about everybody I’ve ever worked with. That’s not to say theres not a lot of headaches and musicians are generally not the most prompt or on-time people in the world. On that note, I know a lot of aspiring artists come on your site, so if I had one piece of advise for them as they do videos with any director, it would be to be on time, buy the people working hard on your video some drinks and food, and show appreciation for the hard work and time that your director is putting in for you. You’d be surprised how these little things will go a long way towards getting a better finnished product. Morale is important.
Keep it funky. You wanted to rap at one point…What was the defining moment that moved you to say, I wanna shoot music videos?
I can’t say I ever wanted to rap as a career and never have even released a song to the public. To this day I continue to record songs on garage band and I find it to be a great outlet, almost like a diary. When we were kids we’d ride around smoking blunts and freestyling in the car or having cyphers at parties. We didn’t do it because we wanted to be rappers, its just what we did.
I’m not entirely sure what made me say I want to start shooting music videos. I know that I always wanted to be involved in enterainment but I always saw myself as being on the business end of things. As I started to realize how hard that is, I looked around and the people that I really saw making a living in the entertainment world were the ones who provided a service. Producers, engineers, web site designers, etc. I guess I just decided videos were gonna be the service I provided. At this point though, I can genuinely say this is the love and passion of my life and I can’t imagine ever doing anything else. When I think back to rushing home after school to watch Rap City when I was 9 years old and just how long I’ve been a fan of music and music videos, it all makes sense to me. I don’t exactly know how it happenned, but I know that it was meant to.
I’m still vexed over them killing Rap City…So what are your top 5 videos of all time?
Wu-Tang Clan – Triumph. Ghetto Boys – My Minds Playing Tricks on Me. Bone – Crossraods. Ciara – Ride and everything that Syndrome has ever done.
That Ciara video is a personal favourite of mine too and I’m sure for the same reasons…A lot of cats in Pittsburgh have talent but are lacking in teams and business savvy, some of not fault of their own. What do you recommend for them?
Wow, I guess were thinking on the same page Jaxx. I touched on this a lot in the previous answers, but I have one last piece of advice, READ!
When you shoot, do you normally map everything out as far as the visuals or do you collaborate with the artist to arrive at a mutual point?
Every process is different. A lot of the times the lyrics of the song wrote the video so even if I’m the one typing up the treatment and the shot list, it was the artist who came up with the video when they made the actual song. There’s been videos where I’ve gotten a song and came up with the entire concept on my own and theres been the opposite, where the artist had pretty much had everything they wanted mapped out. A great video is going to be a collaboration between the artist and the director all the way through. I even look forward to working with artists and producers before the song is even made and creating cohesive art that incorporates all the different talents that goes into a finnished song and music video.
Lets switch gears. NBA Playoffs – who do you think is gonna take it all?
The Lakers. Until Kobe’s physical skills are dimminished (and I see him having a couple more good years), I don’t see anybody else in the league having the mental toughness to dethrone the Kobe Bryant led Lakers.
Tell us 3 things about you that aren’t related to your job.
To be real there isn’t any element of my life at this point that isn’t related to my “job”. At this point, being a visual artist is who I am and every element of my life serves to enhance my journey and inspire me to make better products and reach a broader audience. With that said:
1) Loyalty and principle takes precedence over everything
2) I’ve experienced things that have taught me that money will never equal happiness, but not having it will make you miserable.
Boaz returns with the first visual “Some Things Never Change” off his forthcoming mixtape entitled The Transition. The video was directed by @DanMeyers, Produced by K Salaam & Beatnick, and Mixed by @idlabsmusic. Follow @Boaz412 on Twitter.