On August 1st, 1981 MTV entered the airwaves. In its heyday, it opened the gates for enterprising pop musicians and innovative filmmakers who quickly transformed music videos into a new art form as well as a means to segue into bestselling concerts and other forms of filmmaking.
Although MTV has become a station for everything other than music videos, music video filmmaking is undergoing a revival from up-an-coming indie filmmakers and emerging artists, much in the same spirit of the pioneers of this mode of expression.
To honor this artistic resurgence, I will have a three-part series of interviews with the people who make music videos, one performer and two directors. Thanks to E.M. Watson, Michael Daye, and Jordan St. Martin Reyes for taking the time to correspond with me.
We begin with E.M. Watson, a Georgia based singer and songwriter, whose latest music video “Don’t Be Judgin’ Me” has won awards at local film festivals. You can check out his music with his band Playground Hero here as well as his own solo work here. You can also follow him on Twitter.
How did you become a part of Espeute Productions?
I was close friends with the founder, Daniel Espeut when he started the company in 2005. He and I worked on various film projects as a team until we eventually split off to pursue different endeavors. Daniel continued building the business while I pursued a career in fitness and martial arts. In 2009 I decided to change my career and pursue music full time and attain a Marketing Psychology degree. I built an in-home studio, enrolled in school and taught myself music production at night. Eventually I attained clients that needed my services including Espeuté Productions, where I found that I was the happiest when working on the Espeuté projects. In 2014 Daniel and I decided to join forces to build the Espeuté brand and it allowed me to utilize my marketing psychology degree as well as my musical gifts.
When people pitch video concepts to you, what qualities do you look for?
I consider myself a scenario based song writer. It’s the “moment” that inspires me to write a song. I expect that the music video concept will allow the viewer to feel and see the “moment” as I did when I was inspired to write the song. I strongly feel that a music video should be an enhancer and not a modifier. I see way too many music videos that alternate my perspective of a song because the lyrics and the video are on two different wavelengths. As an avid music lover, I want to be able to connect with the songwriter when I hear their song. I want to be able to relate my own personal experience with the songwriter’s experience and I feel that a good music video should do that.
What were your first impressions when Daniel Espeut presented you with the concept for “Don’t Be Judgin’ Me?”
At first I was a little hesitant because I wasn’t sure if it would work. He and I had never done a one take music video before and the amount of costume changes needed just seemed a little over the top. But he was very confident and I knew he was a talented individual so I trusted his vision. In a strange way I felt that he understood the underlying message of the song more than I did even though I had written it. Sometimes other people will connect more with your song and make you realize a deeper meaning for why you wrote it. I strongly believe that this was just one of those special cases.
Describe the pre-production processes of each of your music videos – Could be the One, Light Me Up, and Don’t Be Judgin Me. What were some of the major similarities between the three as well as the major differences?
For “Don’t Be Judgin’ Me” the pre-production was very long and tedious. Daniel Espeut and I spent a great deal of time getting permits, doing choreography, mapping out the location, putting together the proper team and much more. We wanted to make sure we nailed the concept because we only had 4 hours to do it and in the end there was no refund.
With “Could Be The One” and “Light Me Up” I took a stronger leadership role with the creation of the concepts. I worked a great deal with my brand manager, Daniel Goldberg on developing the concepts for the videos and we had many late night discussions on the style I was looking for. As I stated earlier, I am a scenario based songwriter and I crave simplicity and subtleties with my style of music videos. Though the concepts are different for all three music videos, you will find that they all take the viewer into one particular moment and allow them to see and feel what I am feeling.
What are some of the most exciting aspects of being a performer in the music videos? The biggest challenges?
When you perform in a music video you get the chance to give the viewer and full experience. You have to give more of yourself to the viewer in hopes that they will feel your message. Not only do you have to attempt to re-live certain experiences and portray that on film but you must dive deep into the minds of other performers and try and get them to do the same. It’s like you create a whole new world and you have to make sure everything in that world makes sense. As a performer on stage you are limited with how much you can give to the audience. Maybe with a large budget and countless rehearsals you can attempt to duplicate the effect of a music video but you only get that one chance to do it right.
Would like to give a huge shout out to Justin Daniel, the manager of my band Playground Hero for all of the hard work he puts into our careers. I would also like to thank my band members Davon Watson, Ian Rowland and Wade Stephens for all that they do.