Make music videos GRAIN again - with Kiefer Passey
Kiefer Passey is a London based filmmaker, director & video editor. We've known each other for almost a decade now, we met through skateboarding, then music and playing in bands together. He's a super talented dude with a love of all things Lofi and analog in the visual world which I think is a super rare and cool trait for someone in that field to have. Check out this interview and see how he can help your musical projects out with some killer visuals!
Hey dude, thanks so much for doing this. So first off, skating! I have always held skateboarding; the culture of and around it, the mindset & values it gives you and the varied musical influences that it has, as one of the biggest influences on my creative career and life.
Put simply, I don't think I would be where I am today if it weren't for skateboarding, even if I'm not currently skating as much as I used to or would like. I am wondering if you feel the same way?
I definitely would agree, skateboarding is responsible for some of the most important people in my life. It also helped me creatively as I started off by filming skating. You also get exposed to a lot of other sub cultures through skateboarding as they’re so many mad personalities at a skatepark these days. The videos in skateboarding have always been a home for great visuals, and you just can’t beat watching a DVD all filmed on a Sony VX1000, that camera has had the most impact on skateboarding over any other camera. I feel like I know and have met some really interesting people through skating and music is always a big part of the scene.
Is that the reason that you strive towards Lofi/VX/Analog videos for your work? It's definitely one of the factors your work resonates with me so much.
When I was younger I used to say ‘F**k HD!’ haha. I loved shooting on tape and wasn’t drawn to high definition images from the cameras that were available to people at the time. Personally I felt they didn’t look right in terms of quality, they lacked character and sucked for filming skating (at least I believed all this during my angsty teenage years, I probably held myself back from only working camcorders for a long time though). These days there’s a lot of indie filmmakers out there shooting good skating and music videos on more modern cameras and doing it really well, it’s good to see both formats thriving. But I think fisheye in 4:3 for skateboarding will always look better than 16:9 in my opinion. I’ve literally been filming skating on tape since I was about 12 years old and at that time it was the norm to film stuff on mini dv. I ‘borrowed’ my Mums camera indefinitely. After four years or so it became my choice to pursue the aesthetic of tape and push it’s boundaries professionally. For a while it was all I could shoot on because I couldn’t actually afford the modern camera gear I wanted until recently. I’m happy to have managed to get some lofi camera formats in colgate and nike jobs I did last year which was a nice lofi achievement.
It's been really amazing to see your work/career go from strength to strength when you championed a format that was for the most part, considered dead in the early 2010s. Do you think this is because "perfect HD" music videos became boring really fast?
It’s really hard to say really, I think using these formats in music videos, fashion content, documentaries etc give the impression of rawness, nostalgia and reality to the audience watching, perhaps you can connect with your audience more because everything looks a bit more relatable. A lot of artists these days are using heavy influences visually and musically from the 50’s right up to the 2000’s so using these camera formats from the correct time periods helps communicate these influences to their fans in their visuals. Using a Super 8 camera for something in the 60’s or 70’s for example, or a Hi8 camera from the 80’s can really help achieve your vision with the correct make-up, styling and set design, but can be used in other fun ways in contemporary formats. I think that is a large factor to people wanting to experiment with different video formats. Certain tools are better for some jobs and worse for others remember though!
You work as a film-maker and videographer but also as an editor. I know for me, there's definitely things I love about recording that are different from the things I like about mixing. Do you prefer editing over filming or is it equal for you?
That’s funny you ask that, I always wanted to be a professional editor when I first got into the industry. I really enjoy it and love what I can do with editing, but I also really love switching things up by shooting with artists or brands and just being out and about creating things. I get a lot of adrenaline when I’m at shoots and time just flies by. I’ve just invested in a lot of new gear recently so I’m looking forward to the opportunities it opens up for me this year with music videos, fashion and branded jobs.
With everything on the internet and social media being so visually driven, the demand for video content is now bigger than ever but of course, the budgets are lower than ever (at least in music).
o I work with a lot of bands collaboratively now where they are recording stuff in their diy studios and then sending it to me to mix, or I'm recording the drums for their DIY project etc.
o I'm wondering if it crosses over into your industry, do you ever edit videos that bands have shot themselves?
I have been editing all the visuals for Oversize recently who are a brand new band, check them out, they have more stuff in the pipeline to shoot and have sent me some really great footage shot by themselves for their new releases which are out now at: www.oversizeband.com.
I happily take on music video edit-only jobs often but I try my best to do jobs where I’m predominantly directing/shooting and editing.
What're the things you love most about making videos for people?
I actually really love getting to know people through it, meeting up with a complete stranger to shoot a video on the fly is really fun and the whole creative task at hand really breaks the ice. I like hearing about the artists plans with their music and I guess a big part I’ve realised recently is that people who I make videos for will be able to rewatch them for as long as they live, it’s a really cool moment when you show them a shot or final edit and their faces light up. It’s also just a great way to learn about new music and explore new music scenes. I spend far too much time listening to death metal and hardcore so it switches it up for me as I always try to work with different genres of music when I do music vids. I have played in a few bands myself so it’s nice to contribute back to the scenes I’ve been a part of musically as well.
Speaking of musicians/bands in particular, what're the things you wish people were better at when it comes to making videos?
I think an issue I’ve experienced that a lot of artists need to think about what their budget is first before approaching people about videos and just understand what you are paying your filmmaker for unless a large music label is involved, a lot of the time it is not nearly enough for the time and skill involved. (like most creative professions) Sadly this happens a lot in the industry too especially with music videos. We Direct Music Videos are an establishment helping to change this. Check it out: https://www.wedirectmusicvideos.com
Another issue can be references. Many people don’t provide adequate or enough references for their films so it can be quite hard to imagine what they’re after. Sometimes I don’t even get a track sent to me straight away either so overall it can be hard to gauge my interest in the project.
Something else that I think the industry could be better at is tagging the creative team involved on social media and so people know you were a big part of the process.
Is there anything you really want to do in a video that no band/artist has come to you with yet? Like a visual effect or a story arc?
I’ve got an archive of treatments that I’ve written actually, ones that probably require big budgets and I’m just waiting for the right moment to utilise them in my career with the correct artists/brands. You’ll see! Overall though I’m really keen on avoiding the classic performance format and want to explore new ideas in music videos, I want to see artists taking more risks in how they approach their videos and not just following the conventional methods of storytelling. I think this can open up new perspectives which film is all about! I’d like to explore mental health further as I think some new perspectives could be really eye opening in film and music videos.
Do you ever work with your clients on a more creative director level, or is it usually the clients that lead the charge with the creative vision behind the piece?
I’m currently working on a music video/short film with a hiphop artist named TUNTU. He is yet to release any music but I’m very confident in what I have heard from his tracks. We’ve been working together really closely in the pre production process writing a treatment, he came to me with a rough idea and theme which I have translated into writing and visuals for him. Were going into production shortly with it. Overall though I like to have a strong part of the creative process on most videos and be the director and lead creative, but I love collaborating with the artists in the process because collaboration is what makes good art.
One thing that has stuck with me from my days of being in my band is the importance of brand consistency. Keeping a visual aesthetic a constant at least over the stretch of an album/single campaign. Do you think this is an area where some modern artists/bands fall short with these days?
I actually think that a lot of solo artists are really engaged with this side of music now, a lot of people want to direct their own music videos, art direct and spend a lot of time making content for social media and really put thought into their identities. I do honestly think that more bands need to consider their art direction more because it really does make artists stand out. I’d love to see some heavier bands doing crazy videos and exploring different concepts more, that’s why I loved directing and editing ‘Make with it’ for Grove Street Families, just a laugh born from a silly idea, the kerrang FB premiere went off for that one, I was mind-blown!
What would be your advice to a new/young band who're looking to hire someone to make a video with them for their first single/EP/album?
I’d probably say if your budgets are really low ask a friend to help you out, they’re more inclined than anyone else to do it for free or give you a great deal, they will need you as much as you need them. Don’t be afraid to ask filmmakers even if you think you can’t afford them, if you’re open to their creative input or already have a strong idea with a good track, they might just say yes even if the payment is low. No one worth working with should ever respond to your query like a dick either. Do your research when choosing a filmmaker, tell them what you like about their work. Remember though, forking out a load of money for a filmmaker means nothing if your creative vision is weak for the video. Get talking and be clear about what you actually need from your filmmaker and make sure they understand your vision or you are understanding theirs. There are many roles in film from make-up, to set design and styling, so consider collaborating with creatives at a similar scale to yourself to add to the production value.
What are some of the key things for a band in that position to look out for/remember/keep in mind whilst they're in that process?
If you’re an entirely new band, your first music video might not pop when you release it. Most likely because you probably haven’t grown your reach much yet. The amount of times I’ve seen artist’s good music videos/tracks go to waste because they just didn’t think about how to promote it. Try to make people care enough to click on the link, make people not want to miss it. Fun ideas are always appealing to the eye so discuss this in the early stages with your filmmaker and get creative with how you can grab people's attention and maybe even think about making a social media strategy. Another thing to bear in mind that in early stages of music video post production that you’re clear about what you do and don’t like about the versions on the video you’re sent by the editor/filmmaker, the editing process is about trying new things so don’t get disappointed if your first edit isn’t how you imagined it. It will likely have no colour treatment or any FX and the editor will try numerous things to bring the concept to life and it will look very different once completed. (Much more like the references you sent the filmmaker in the first place when you discussed your ideas, hopefully!)
How can bands reach you on the internet/social media?
I’m just going to chuck all my stuff below, but email is best for any queries you may have regarding videos!
Ig @kieferpassey You should also check out some other great people doing LOFI videos: Jordan Noon, Billy Gadd, Jake Martinelli and Louis Paillier.
Thanks for doing this dude! Keep crushing it out there man. Thank you for having me mate! You keep crushing it too and we’ll record some gnarly riffs soon and have a skate \m/
Photographs by Jordan Noon.