1. Director Jason Ano

  2. Jason in a music video he directed being projected on the Skrillex Cell live stage production during the Mothership Tour.

Sound Directions: Jason Ano

Music video director talks about his "hybrid" style

ADC Member Ricardo Galbis is the founder of Subdrive, an electronic music label and creative collective based in New York. In pursuit of even more knowledge on this month’s theme of Musical Communication, Ricardo talked with his good friend and director Jason Ano about a medium that’s changed almost as much as the industry itself in recent years: the music video.

Having worked with the likes of Skrillex, A$AP Rocky, Zedd, Porter Robinson, and Seven Lions as well as collaborated with brands such as VICE and Red Bull, Jason has a unique perspective on the creative process of making a music video and a few tips for turning mistakes and setbacks into your best work yet.

Ricardo: What are you up to right now?

Jason: I just moved into a new office/studio space in Bushwick. I’m getting ready to debut a new evolution of my video production, where I specialize in story telling/branded content in the electronic music scene.

Ricardo: Can you tell us about your process for working with brands and aligning them to music?

Jason: When I get asked to direct videos for clients wanting to get in on the electronic dance music scene I always run into the same predicament: we have a product, we have DJs and we have this amazing venue, but how do we tell this story? I’ve been involved in the EDM (electronic dance music) explosion from the start, so I’m very aware of the culture surrounding it. Working alongside the biggest names has given me an incredible insight into the narrative of EDM. I’ve combined aspects of the music video, commercial and documentary directing to create a new formula of story telling. It’s a new format that’s a hybrid of all three, focusing on enrichment of sounds with visuals and telling an authentic narrative.

“I’ve combined aspects of the music video, commercial and documentary directing to create a new formula of story telling.”

Ricardo: Tell us about the first time you went on tour with Skrillex to film his exploits. How did it help prepare you for future projects and affect the way you filmed?

Jason: The first time I went on tour with Skrillex was actually the first time I dabbled with video. I wasn’t totally clueless because I had done photography for many years prior, but it was one big learning experience for me. I was truly surprised by the feedback I was getting that year. My first music video, Skrillex – Rock N Roll, shot to the millions in a short time and I remember thinking, ‘Wait is this normal?’ All the press and views I was getting just motivated me to put full concentration and discipline on learning the craft and I was very lucky to surround myself with talented people and mentors. For example, being on set for filming Re:Generation with Skrillex and The Doors was like film school boot camp for me. Since then, I’ve been mentored by many producers and directors who gave me incredible insights into the world of production. You can say that I got extremely lucky jumping into this, but I took full advantage of that and pivoted it to help me grow as a filmmaker.

Ricardo: What helps you craft music into a visual experience that will have an impact on people as if they were at the show?

Jason: It’s all about the vibes. That was something I did naturally for “Rock N Roll,” because I was new to the scene so I approached it with a child-like imagination, focusing on cameos, genuine moments, good times, etc., rather than looking at it like, “Damn, what can I do with DJ decks?” Instead of focusing on the live performance, I put more thought into everything except that, like backstage moments, fan reactions, abstract framing, etc. Skrillex was always a big supporter of this format and he pushed me to always think differently. He’s the one who really got me to always focus on the vibes.

Since then, I’ve noticed that all the big players wanted the same format as Rock N Roll. Get more artist moments rather than live performance. That video was very influential to all major media outlets today.

Ricardo: Your second video was A$AP Rocky’s “Purple Swag,” which has a totally different vibe than Skrillex’s music. How did you approach this project and visually articulate the music?

Jason: Purple Swag was my first real “abstract” music video and the first time I did anything in hip-hop. I actually shot this video on a whim, during a day off in between tour dates filming for Skrillex. Just like with “Rock N Roll,” I wanted the video to have a certain vibe to it and more importantly, to have cultural value. There actually was a treatment for the video already prepared, but that fell through due to key people not showing up on the day of shooting the video, so everything had to be improvised. Rocky had this idea of getting people to wear gold grills, so we rolled with that idea. After a few hours with the A$AP Mob, I decided that I wanted the underlying theme of this video to be, “It’s ok to be weird.”

“Anybody can be a filmmaker for little to no money these days, but you can’t put a price on quality.”

I’ve never seen a hip-hop act like the Mob and it was all so new and fresh, so I wanted to do a completely new vision of what a hip-hop video should be. In the video you’ll see a white girl with grills and high-end Jeremy Scott shoes biking around in Harlem and a very trippy 3D effect that I came up with, which has inspired many other videos since. I wanted the video to be somewhere along the lines of what Larry Clark would do in 2011.

“There are so many people lamenting over free work, but the truth is, I have made more money and connections by doing free work than paid gigs.”

Ricardo: What advice can you give to aspiring creatives?

Jason: 1. Always give value. Don’t create anything unless you have something to say, otherwise you will fall in line with anybody who simply picks up a camera. Anybody can be a filmmaker for little to no money these days, but you can’t put a price on quality.

2. Never turn down opportunities. There are so many people lamenting over free work, but the truth is, I have made more money and connections by doing free work than paid gigs. It’s not “free” if you are gaining valuable experience and connections. Here’s a bomb that I’m going to reveal: I did “Rock N Roll” for free (due to legality with venue clearance, I could not get paid for this) and I did “Purple Swag” for free. But you know what? I’ve earned 50x fold because of those two videos.

3. Turn obstacles into strengths. A lot of people complain about over-saturation in the market. Everybody has a video camera and everybody is filming live performances. So what? It’s actually easier than ever now to be creative. Just do the opposite of what everybody else is doing. Look at my career: everybody was filming on video cameras, so I started filming on DSLRs (I’m the first person to do this for music). Everybody wanted to film the DJ spinning, so I filmed him hanging out. Everybody wanted to see a gangster hip-hop video, so I made the most abstract, trippy video I could instead.

Follow Jason and Ricardo on Twitter @jayrocko and @galbis.