I caught with one of the young guns in music video directing, SMKA affiliated Dustin Chambers, and all around top notch dude. One of the guys that I’m expecting to see a lot from this guy in the future so good to drop into Dustin Chambers & The SMKA Experience.
Was directing always where you felt you wanted to be?
Yes and no. When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a director, then in college I wanted to be a documentary photographer, and at this point I do about 50% video and 50% photojournalism. They’re two very different types of storytelling, though I find that my documentary photo style seeps into my music videos quite often. I’ve always connected less with directing narratives and more about creating rhythmic visuals.
Where are you originally from?
Has your hometown/how you grew up affected your outlook on filmmaking at all?
I grew up in a very visually literate family; my mom is a painter and my dad is an advertising photographer, so I was always around it. As I got older we would pick apart commercials and photos as we saw them in passing, so I really learned what a successful visual was, what an unsuccessful visual was, and most importantly, what elements made them each that way.
Who inspired you to get into the field?
It’s hard to say. I of course have my favorite directors, but in terms of music video, I really got into it when I got iMovie in Junior High or maybe even earlier. My first video was some stuff I filmed at a July 4 parade in a friend’s neighborhood; I cut it to Born In The U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen, and it was really magical to discover the power of making a cut as a beat in the song hit. Great editing is still the most important thing to me. Also, a huge inspiration in music video editing is a little movie called Interstella 5555, an anime set to Daft Punk’s album Discovery. It’s unbelievable. Every single movement, flash, cut, blink, etc. syncs with the beats of the album.
What has been your greatest tragedy and triumph in the business thus far?
Hmm, tragedy? I generally avoid tragedy at all cost. I guess as I still feel like I’m starting out, budgets are very low, and there’s no money to rent lighting equipment. This is fine, fortunately cameras these days allow to shoot in very low light while still looking pretty damn great, but it’s definitely a crutch. Directors, including myself, aren’t learning to light their scenes, and I feel that’s really crucial to the next level. So. That’s relative tragedy.
Triumph. I guess being lucky enough to be affiliated with and respected by SMKA. They’ve definitely got a huge movement going on in Atlanta and I wouldn’t be anywhere near it without them. If you’re trying to learn how to come up in the game as an artist, producer, or manager, watch them, they’re smart and tasteful.
I’m also very thankful that Aleon Craft was the first artist I got to work with extensively. It meant a lot to fall in with someone who was willing to have fun, be weird, and try stuff that most rappers wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Craft has got swag, but he’s not afraid to let his guard down and be human. I’m tired of rappers trying to fit into that tired old bling mold. It’s not about that anymore.
Favorite 5 movies & why?
This is always tough. Excuse most of these answers being based on the visual aspect of movies:
City of God – For all reasons good movies are good. Cinematography is gorgeous, but the kicker is the editing. Just watching the opening scene, from the sharpening of the knife to chasing the chicken in the alley, it’s all perfectly executed.
Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark – Childhood favorite. Like all older Spielberg, the cinematography is epic and unlike most movies today, it’s all real! No shitty green screen and CGI backdrops.
Barton Fink – I’m a Coen Brother fanatic. This is a weirder one, but all the performances are great.
Chicago – What? A musical? Yes, a musical. I love this every time I see it. Great actors, great music, great choreography. I like most anything that feels like a really long music video.
Spirited Away – Hayao Miyazaki is in another world.
Favorite 5 albums/songs & why?
“Babylon” – OutKast – Ultimately my favorite OutKast song. The humming on the beat. Big Boi’s coming-of-age verse. Incredibly relaxing.
Grizzly Bear – Yellow House – A great album to put on and tune out. One summer I listened to this and played Earthbound, my favorite SNES game as a child, a whole lot. Now when I hear it I see little flashes of the 16-bit characters walking about. Maybe that’s bad?
Pixies – Doolittle – Nonstop jams.
The Roots – Phrenology – This was my first Roots album, lots of high school memories attached to it.
The Beatles – Rubber Soul – My childhood jam. I listened to a lot of Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and Beatles when I was little thanks to my pops.
Where do you believe your strengths are in this game?
My strengths…I’d say my strengths in terms of video is editing. I can polish a turd pretty well. In terms of “the game”, probably just practicing good business. Communicating well with others.
To up and coming directors what advice can you give them about focus, how to get into the industry, etc?
I’d say practice like hell. I know I keep going back to the editing bit, but it’s so important. Filmmaking is relatively very very cheap these days; you can be a one-man studio. It’s what I do. To be able to edit in Final Cut efficiently, so you can translate what you have in your head to your sequence as easily as possible, is imperative. This will also teach what works in terms of flow and what doesn’t. Find people to make free videos for so you can keep practicing. Setup a website with WordPress or whatever you want that showcases only your content. Be a nice guy, people like nice people. Call people back, respond to emails quickly. Reach out to people you want to work with, more likely than not, they’ll be down for at least a beer.
What are the craziest moments you’ve had on set?
I can’t say there have been really crazy moments on set. Shooting Aleon Craft’s video for “Sunday” was just a crazy two days of driving around in a Bronco. We would find ourselves in someone’s neighborhood, pick them up, drive around for a take or two, then move on. It was a blast. There was a moment when I was like, wait, is this my career I’m carrying out right now?
Where do you see your future leading you? What is the endgame for Dustin Chambers?
I honestly have no idea. I have a lot of very different things going on. I’ve come to the realization that I’ll eventually have to choose a path and stick with it, but for now I’m just working really hard and having a lot of fun.
You’ve had a diverse clientele (Nat Geo, Adult Swim, @SMKA, etc) what do each of them bring to the table for you which made them appealing and vice versa?
I mean, they’re all really great companies. Most importantly they bring new experience from which I learn a whole lot. I feel like I’m generally winging it and hoping for the best.
You’ve done a lot of work with SMKA, how’d that relationship come together?
I was in high school with all three original member of SMKA(shout out to Paideia), though they were all a couple years older than me, so I never really knew them well. When they dropped SMKA Experiment Vol. 1 during my senior year of college, I was amazed by it. I couldn’t believe I semi-knew the people involved with it. I decided they’d be great to work with once I got out of school, so I shot Mike an email saying that I’d like to do photo or video with them and nearly a year later he called about doing the first Aleon Craft viral, “Strange“. It’s been love ever since.
How would you describe your style?
My video style is colorful and clean I think. A little heavy handed on the editing. They look like they were made on the spot, but are executed well. I’ve found myself using whip cutaways a lot, you can see a lot of them in Kyle Lucas’ Funeral video. Something about handholding the 5D makes it such an easy and effective camera move, especially when you do it at the right time.
What’s the equipment you most cherish?
I gotta say the Canon 5D Mark II. I just wouldn’t be able to make anything without it. No photos, no videos. It’s an expensive little box that my career depends on.