music video directors toronto

The top 10 music video directors to watch in Toronto

The top up and coming music video directors in Toronto are already used to working in the background. Though Toronto has been known for pumping out classic albums in virtually every genre, it's often the people working behind the artists that have the power to make or break them.

Just like an album cover, a music video is an essential visual accompaniment for a band's latest single. On the day of the 2015 Prism Prize - a rare chance for the spotlight to shine on music video artists - we take a look at some of Toronto's rising talents (including one nominee).

Here are my picks for the top up and coming music video directors from Toronto. 

Amanda Fotes
Music photographer and filmmaker Amanda Fotes cut her teeth in Toronto's music scene by shooting everyone from hardcore legends Fucked Up to PUP to Arcade Fire. As a director, Fotes uses minimalist set design, rhythmic cuts, and time-lapse shots to capture the raw energy emitted by Toronto's Greys for recent singles "Guy Picciotto," "Use Your Delusion," and "Adderall". Highlights include a Marshall cab being thrown off a roof in slow-motion.

Common Good
Equipped with a staff of directors and an animation studio just north of Trinity Bellwoods, Common Good is creating driving visuals whether creating monochromatic optical illusions or low-lit parties for OVO-affiliated electronic R&B duo Majid Jordan, watercoloured 2D animation for food manufacturer Pogo, or the action-packed, MMVA-winning video for Thugli's "Run This." From commercial to creative, Common Good creates beautiful art no matter the medium.

ZOJO
Equal parts Zosia Mackenzie and John O'Regan, the Roncesvalles Village based duo ZOJO come from different pasts. Mackenzie worked as a production designer, while O'Regan started as a musician (you'll know him as Diamond Rings). ZOJO's portfolio this far is limited, but promising. Their focus on contrasting effects in Hamilton rapper Motem's "Inner Sense" suits the vibe splendidly.

Liam MacRae
Sometimes, you can have the best of both worlds. Liam MacRae has both high-quality cinema and pixelated lo-fi ambiance down to a tee. After directing the aesthetically-pleasing debut video singles for PARTYNEXTDOOR and Daniel Caesar ("Break from Toronto" and "Violet", respectively), MacRae was recruited a second time by PARTYNEXTDOOR for last summer's Drake-assisted anthem "Recognize." Because what's a Toronto come-up without Drake?

Paul Duck
Much like the GTA punk scene itself, Brampton, ON-native Paul Duck has been working his fingers to the bone but has yet to receive the credit he deserves. Duck is versatile and personal, focusing on building local acts from the ground up, whether he's directing pop-punk heartthrobs Like Pacific, metalcore legends Liferuiner, or r&b artist SEX TAPE.

JTrue
Hamilton's own JTrue (Jesse Truman) started filming hip-hop music videos for his friends at Westdale Secondary School. JTrue's stayed true to his hip-hop roots, shooting everyone from the up-and-coming Tre Mission, T.Y., and OB O'Brien to hip-hop legend Saukrates. With a good head on his shoulders and a hell of an eye, it's no wonder JTrue was enlisted as the new media manager for arts collective Culvert Music.

Colin Medley
Remember the 90s? Director/photographer Colin Medley signature use of soft lenses, thrift store camcorder noise, and wavy textures are a perfect match with acts like indie sweethearts Alvvays, Ben Cook's campy pop project Yacht Club, and previously mentioned Diamond Rings. But don't let the vibe fool you; Medley excels just as much using modern equipment, as demonstrated in his videos for Bry Webb's "Prove Me Wrong" and Spencer Burton's "Death of Gold."

Tristan C-M
Though his catalogue is small, Tristan C-M shows a lot of promise. Slowed movements and "Ken Burns"-style zooms are the pinnacle of his craft, and highlight the attentive colour correction and contrast in rapper Drew Howard's "Uncle Tona" and Clairmont the Second's "Flame Princess." Highlights include Nintendo 64 in the middle of a melted hockey rink and rolling down a one-way street in an EcoCab.

Chandler Levack
If I had to choose just one word to describe Chandler Levack's work, I wouldn't be able to pick between "innovative" and "impeccable." Minimalist titling, moody lighting, and projections interact with Valery Gore in her video for "With The Future." Her co-direction of PUP's "Guilt Trip" (nominated for this year's Prism Prize for Best Canadian Music Video) with fellow Toronto director Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux feels like an episode of Lost mixed with Stand By Me. They don't call us Hollywood North for nothing and Chandler Levack is holding the torch.

Lee Skinner
Hamilton's Lee Skinner loves Steel City. His edits feel undersaturated and seedy; surreal and rhythmic. His dedication to Hamilton aesthetic is evident in his portfolio, opting towork with acts from within the city limits like The Dirty Nil and Canadian Winter. His most moving piece of work is r&b artist Jessy Lanza's "Kathy Lee," which features the iconic Hamilton "dancing guy" Jed Lifeson in his natural habitat.

Who did I miss? Shout out to rising talents of Toronto music video directors in the comments.

Writing by L-SPEX

Lead image from Jessy Lanza - "Kathy Lee" (Lee Skinner)


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