10 Questions with Court Dunn - music video director and filmmaker!
Court Dunn is quickly becoming your favorite music video directors favorite music video director having worked with artists from Common, Jessie J, B.o.B, Talib Kweli to the much buzzed about Theophilus London.
Besides being a Dunkin’ Donuts and whiskey connoisseur, this Boston cat is a foreign and independent cinema fanatic whose sensibility can be seen throughout his music videos. He will soon be returning to his first love film by writing and directing a feature film. Here Court Dunn breaks down his life in the Hip Hop video world in our ‘Ten Questions With…’
TSoF: “Have you ever gone to great lengths to write a hot treatment for a music video - where you’re thinkin’ “oh shit, this is like, the ‘Citizen Kane’ of music videos” and some rapper starts interjecting his own stupid ideas? What do you do? Do you ever go to his studio and start giving him ideas for songs? See if they like it?”
Court: LMAO! Luckily I don’t really run into that situation because I’m usually workin’ with either artists who are hiring me for my particular style/vision, or artists who I already know. It’s all about trust, because at the end of the day MCs are artists too and they should absolutely have a say in their visuals and branding. The treatment process for me works more like: my manager sends me the record and what the artist has in mind, then I flip it or combine it with a concept I’ve had in the pocket. Just as often, I have complete control over the concept from jump, and sometimes I’m even in a situation where I only have a few minutes with an artist - in which case I have to come up with something on the fly or shoot as much as possible and conceptualize it in post”.
TSoF: Who influences you when you approach a music video? I remember talking with Dr Teef down in Houston, TX and he was telling me how he brought a Gordon Parks vibe to one video and a Spike Lee vibe to another.
Court: “Well on an overall level, everything I do is inspired by art house cinema. I really got into foreign film and minimalism in college (Wong Kar-wai, Jean-Luc Godard, etc), and ever since working in hip hop I’ve been trying to bring those kinds of artistic and experimental sensibilities to hip hop videos. That’s not to say that there weren’t any artistic videos before, take The Pharcyde ‘Drop’ by Spike Jonze from the 90s. But it’s a fact that a lot of hip hop videos all look the same. Often, newer artists want music videos that LOOK like traditional music videos - I can totally understand that, and I’m no stranger to shooting traditional, performance style videos every now and then myself. But overall, especially as I continue to grow and establish myself, I try to make videos that are unique and stand out from the norm. With regard to video-specific influences, that depends on what the record brings to mind. For instance, if I hear something that gives me a Hype Williams/Busta Rhymes/Fisheye kind of vibe, then sure I’ll use that as a reference point. At the end of the day though everything’s been done - even if you don’t do it consciously you’ll always be indirectly paying homage to filmmakers before you”.
TSoF: 5 things you can not live without…
Court: “I’m combining some stuff here, but this pretty much sums me up: Friends/Family, Camera/Editing Equipment, Music, Dunkin’ Donuts, Ramyun/Egg”
TSoF: Who should we be looking out for coming out of the Empire State?
Court: “Empire State specifically, definitely Emilio Rojas hands down. Not just because he’s the homie, the kid is nice. Check out his music and see for yourself”.
TSoF: Ever taken anything home from a set? Jewelry? Clothing? A doggy bag? 18 year old?
Court: “We had a brand new black leather couch on set years back that no one wanted, so yeah I couldn’t turn that down. In a related story, my roommate’s cat destroyed that shit”.
TSoF: Be honest- Have you ever been on set with an MC and thought his homies were assholes?”
Court: “I can’t remember thinking that specifically - immature maybe? Every artist goes through a phase early on where they want all their homies on set so it “feels” like a music video. I can’t blame them, but eventually with time they realize that what happens behind the camera doesn’t mean shit - it’s what’s captured through the lens that matters. That’s why I’ve never really cared about sets looking flashy or “dressing like a director”. I mean who gives a fuck what I look like behind the scenes? Veteran filmmakers wear t-shirts on set because they don’t have a dress code and don’t give a fuck. It’s the same with MCs over time, they learn to drop the whole behind the scenes BS and focus on the process”.
TSoF: Is there a Song in the history of music that you would’ve loved to have done the video for?
Court: “In the history of music? Maybe something for Nina Simone or Sam Cooke. For hip hop, I’m going to say Reflection Eternal ft. Res “Too Late”. I don’t think that has a visual, and it’s one of my favorite records of all time”.
TSoF: Have you ever been on set and wanted to put on weight, a big ass chain and get in on the video, grab some champagne and do the ‘Damon Dash’?
Court: “Haha! Nah, but I was on set with Dame Dash once. This was a few years ago, when I was just filming a behind the scenes featurette for the Jim Jones & Webstar “Dancing On Me” music video. That was the first time I ever stepped on a bigger budget set, so it was pretty inspiring”.
TSoF: Who should make a comeback?
Court: “I’m going to have to say DMX. I mean full-on comeback. I’m a fan of his music, and I distinctively remember watching the premiere of “Rough Riders Anthem” on TV back in the day, as well as my homie rapping it in homeroom, hahaha”
TSoF: What’s next for you?
Court: “I still have more content from Common dropping over the next couple weeks, as well as visuals for Immortal Technique and of course Emilio Rojas and J The S. And there’s always bigger stuff in the works, so stay tuned for that.. Until then, thanks for the opportunity!”
Ya can follow Court at: http://twitter.com/restlessfilms and view his work over at:
Everyone should go follow my best friend heyimandy because he’s incredibly talented and posts some really fantastic stuff.