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Read about what inspires PRETTYBIRD's own emerging Calmatic, a member of Saatchi's New Creator Class of 2019, and what’s next as he continues to push his curiosity and passion forward. 

How did you get your start in directing? Did you come from another artistic discipline?

I always say curiosity led me here. From a young age I was always curious about how things worked. So I would view the world from a BTS perspective. When I watched Toy Story, more than anything I was thinking “how did they do all this?” That curiosity led me to being a computer nerd at a young age. My next curiosity was hip hop music, which led to me becoming a producer. 

Sometimes, I’ll just play music and scroll through the images like a rapid fire slideshow and if a certain image stands out, I’ll start to analyze and keep digging deeper in the image until something pops-up. 

The next creative step in music that intrigued me was the marketing side. So I went online and bought a camera for the photography and graphic design needs my music career warranted. The camera just happened to have a video option so again, I became curious. I watched a million tutorials, bootlegged high end software and sat in a room and taught myself everything from lighting to color correction to editing. Music has definitely led the way to where I am now. But film is my preference since it is the sum of all the arts.


How do you describe your approach to directing - what’s your style?

It’s hard for me to pinpoint my style, but if I had to compare it to anything or anyone it would be a mix of the two Spikes- Spike Lee and Spike Jonze. Mr. Lee because he makes the grounded feel surreal and Mr. Jonze because he makes the surreal feel grounded. Depending on the day I could take the form of either Spike but my cup of tea is adding unexpectedness to “everyday situations.” When everything feels normal in the world but then a cowboy from the past falls out the sky onto your front yard. I love that kind of stuff.

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Beastie Boys – Sabotage

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Miller – Miller: Bear

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NBA – The Disappearing Act

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Fatboy Slim – Praise You

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MedMen – The New Normal

Above: A selection of promos and commercials from Spike Lee and Spike Jonze.


Where do you search for inspiration when you start working on a new project?

I’m heavy-heavy on references. I have a folder on my computer just loaded with images that I draw inspiration from. Personal family photos, photos I’ve taken myself, jazz album covers, random images from Tumblr, etc. Sometimes, I’ll just play music and scroll through the images like a rapid fire slideshow and if a certain image stands out, I’ll start to analyze and keep digging deeper in the image until something pops-up. 

It’s hard for me to pinpoint my style, but if I had to compare it to anything or anyone it would be a mix of the two Spikes- Spike Lee and Spike Jonze.

For example, if it’s an image of a kid on his porch cleaning his shoes, I then analyze and ask what is he cleaning his shoes with? Oh a toothbrush...Why is he gripping the toothbrush so tightly? What if that toothbrush came alive and screamed? What if we made a commercial where all the toiletries in the bathroom come alive and talk about how bad the owner of the house treats them? That could be funny or a horrendous commercial idea, but that's just how my train of thought works for these things. One image sparks the journey down a rabbit hole to who-knows-where.


What was it like creating a music video with another young, Black artist like Lil Nas X? 

It was great working with him. It was like working with a younger version of myself. Like myself, I can tell that Nas got to where he is now based off following his curiosity. The best thing about that approach is that you pick up on so much valuable information along the way. 

Having everything locked in all the way down to the storyboards ahead of time so that when you’re on set, it’s just like we’ve seen it a million times. 

Nas was very knowledgeable about this generation's approach to comedy and ultimately what makes Generation Z activate. He knew it down to a science, which led to a one of a kind approach to visual storytelling. I brought in the experience I knew that this could be one of the biggest songs ever so we need to make sure it has those classic pop video moments that are needed to become embedded into the culture. So together, with our powers combined, we ultimately created something for every person in the world.

Lil Nas X – Lil Nas X - Old Town Road (Official Movie) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus

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Above: Calmatic directed Old Town Road.


You won a Grammy for Old Town Road, how did that impact you? 

As a filmmaker, those Grammys don’t carry the importance that they do for musicians. I’ve never heard of someone proclaiming to be a Grammy-Award-winning director. I just think it’s a cool thing to have. To have a piece of such a prestigious award is super cool for the music fan in me. Each year I’m tuned into the Grammys like it’s the Super Bowl.

One image sparks the journey down a rabbit hole to who-knows-where.

I have predictions and theories of why certain people are going to win over others, etc. I do the whole thing. So to be on the other side of it was a dream come true. 


You landed a Super Bowl ad this year as one of the newest directors with a piece showing during the big game. What was that process like? 

To be honest the process wasn’t any different than any other commercial I had done before, it's just in the back of your head you know EVERYONE is going to see this so that adds a bit of pressure. Maybe we would analyze takes a bit more to be quadruple-sure we got what we needed, but there would be times when I would arrive on set or just sitting and thinking in-between takes and my inner voice would shout, “I’M SHOOTING A SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL, WHAT THE FUCK! Me. A young black man from South Central Los Angeles is directing one of the biggest commercials of the year!”  

Life is crazy. So if anything, doing such a big spot made me more appreciative of the opportunities and even more grateful for the rocky journey I’ve been on to get here. 


Both of your big spots over the last year have a sense of humor to them, is that tongue-in-cheek sensibility important? 

You know, I’m just drawn to relatable, real-life situations, and every situation depending on how you tilt your head has a little bit of comedy in it. I look to pry the awkward, weird, and unbelievably funny out of a situation and then put a huge magnifying glass over it. Bringing a fun, unexpected approach or perspective to a mundane situation is my formula for an unforgettable spot. I definitely want to provide some tear jerking moments for the world to see, but for now I think humor is what the world needs more than ever.  

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TurboTax – All People Are Tax People Remix Extended

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Vince Staples – Fun

Above: Turbo Tax's Super Bowl 2020 spot and Vince Staples Fun from 2019. 


What have you learned over the past year of work? 

I’ve learned that preparation is the key to proper execution. Commercials are all about prep and there’s an approved shot list and script that we have to stick to and music videos have less structure and are usually made up on the spot. 

Life is crazy. So if anything, doing such a big spot made me more appreciative of the opportunities and even more grateful for the rocky journey I’ve been on to get here. 

With experience in both those worlds, I’ve developed a process that includes heavy preparation. Having everything locked in all the way down to the storyboards ahead of time so that when you’re on set, it’s just like we’ve seen it a million times. Which also leads to working faster and having more time to experiment like you would with a music video. 


What’s next for you? 

In a couple of months I’m starting production on my first feature film. I’m directing the House Party remake with Warner Brothers, New Line Cinema and Spring Hill Ent. The script was written by Stephen Glover and Jamal Olori, the guys behind Atlanta on FX. So I’m super excited to elevate my storytelling to a new platform and carry on the legacy of such a culturally embedded film. 

I’m also in the beginning stages of starting a creative agency. Me and a couple of my childhood friends who are rockstars in their respective fields of marketing and design are going to team up and hopefully create something special that can make an impact on the world.

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