To The Victor, Go The Spoils
Gerard Victor on breaking through, directing your favorite music videos and plans to take over the big screen
It took years of hard work for @directorgerardvictor to become one of the go-to visionaries directing videos for the likes of Fabolous, Lil Baby, Yo Gotti, Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa, French Montana, A-Boogie, and many more. Yesterday, I called Gerard to hear about the creative process, his start in the video world and whats next.
J.E.: Tell us about your journey.
G.V.: I was born in the Philippines. My father brought me over when I was 2 years old to Michigan. When I was in school, I always was creative. I knew how to draw. I would watch TV and hear advertisements, jingles, and watch music videos. I fell in love with marketing in high school. I always had an affinity for hip hop and R&B. I went to college at Wayne State and started working as a graphic designer for a real estate company. My buddies in music were asking me to do their mixtape and album artwork. I did it all with no hesitation. Whenever artists sent me photos of their artwork, I used to say, “I can do better.”
G.V.: Around Thanksgiving 2007, my Father bought me a Canon Rebel 400D - this was before they had video. I took it upon myself to take photos for my friends. Everyone started asking, “Who took these photos”? I started getting booked as a photographer. I used to go to Hip-Hop shows and take photos of artists like Black Milk, Danny Brown, AML and OneBeeLo at venues like St. Andrews and the Blind Pig. A year later, my younger brother got a camcorder. I had the bright idea of “borrowing” his camcorder. I thought I could translate my photos into videos.
G.V.: I asked one of my buddies in music if I could shoot his music video. I shot it on a Canon HV30 on mini-DV tapes. I opened up iMovie in 2008 and didn’t know where to begin. The song was like a minute and a half, but it took 12 hours to piece it together. At the time, Rick Cordero was a big music video director in New York City. He was Filipino and had similar lineage to me. I thought, “if he could do it, maybe I could too”.
G.V.: Once my first video came out in December 2008, I was still at my real estate job and started getting hit up. “Do you mind shooting my music video? I got $600 bucks.” That was a lot of money back in the day for me. After I did a couple more, I started getting offered $1500 - $3500. My name started buzzing around the city. The following year, I got the chance to work with Black Milk after he saw what I did with Elzhi for his Deep video. I got my first music video with MTV Jams, ‘Deadly Medley’ by Black Milk feat. Royce Da 5”9 and Elzhi from Slum Village.
G.V.: Everything just spiraled from there. I was doing everyone’s music videos in Detroit and started making more videos for MTV and BET. When I moved to New York, I was known as the music video director guy. Next thing I know, Obie Trice hit me up and we did a handful of videos. I got to the point where I could hire a DP. I realized there was more to the production side to make videos. I realized it’s a team. Once I realized it’s more than me and a camera, I started branching out.
G.V.: Because of who I was in the city, people wanted to help me. People helped me understand there was a production aspect. I shot a video for this artist, Dusto, in Toledo, Ohio. My life changed when Mally “The Martian” Brandon hit me up in 2013, he wanted me to shoot something for Fabolous for Soul Tape 3 which he was exec producing. I had an affinity for Fab since high school. I went out to New Jersey to shoot my first music video with Fab. After that, I think Fab took a liking to me. Fab was surprised with how quick I worked and edited. Then, we went to Dubai and London the same year and eventually Columbia, Japan, Cape Verde and all around the world throughout our run.
G.V.: Sidebar - One thing up and coming guys need to realize, if you have a relationship with an artist, as your artist grows, you have to grow technically as they’re progressing. I went through hundreds of videos before I got to Fab. So, when we were doing mixtape videos, I was ready. Then when he was doing budgeted projects, I was ready. So, it’s about respect. He took a chance and he stuck with me from Soul Tape 3 to now. We’ve done 23 videos together. I’m grateful for that.
G.V.: Back to the story.. That year, I bought a condo in Michigan, and I realized I was in New Jersey eight months a year. That’s when I realized I should move to New York. At that point, I quit my job and dropped out of school. Everyone figured if you don’t have a degree you won’t be anybody. I had a dream and I felt it was attainable. Fab kind of opened me up to the New York portion of everything. Everything that happened in Detroit ended up happening in New York. One of my buddies I worked with, Redd, introduced me to Kareem Johnson, an OG video commissioner responsible for some of the most iconic music videos of the past 30 years.
G.V.: I realized video commissioners are the gateway to artists and everything else. Once I shot the Wiz Khalifa Promises video, I turned it around the next day. Nobody had any revisions. They were blown away. We eventually did other videos and a movie. Through Wiz, Fab, and everyone in between, it made me realize this is what I wanted to do. I dove into the craft and learned more and more about production. I mixed knowledge with hard work. That’s how success happened for me. I was perseverant.
J.E.: What was the transition to label work like?
G.V.: Mally helped me manage everything. I wanted to be on the level of the other directors I aspired to be like: Hype, Benny, X, Dave Myers, Anthony Mandler and Joseph Khan. I was chasing a hit single, like a big song, to make it to the next level of where I wanted to be as a director. So, fast forward five years later to 2018, I was in Dubai with Fab, and got an offer from RocNation to do a Yo Gotti ft. Lil Baby video, “Put a Date On It”. I thought it would be turnkey. But that’s not the case. You always have an idea of the next level, but it’s just perseverance. How I was taught, you can’t be shooting videos by yourself, you need a crew. That’s what I learned when I started doing label videos. It’s a big transition from ‘run and gun’ to label videos. The best videos are the ones where you have a relationship with the artist. Sometimes a concept gets approved through the management and label. It’s part of the game.
G.V.: You have to realize that when you go from getting money quickly to when you’re getting label stuff.. when you start doing bigger jobs - more money, more problems. You do $100K, you get 70% up front, and you still have to be accountable for that other $30K. People have to realize, I talk to some of the younger guys, you have to be comfortable with waiting 30-60 days. You might not see your money for a month or even longer. I shot this video for one artist, and I got a check months later. You have to be responsible enough to manage your finances once you get in other leagues.
J.E.: How did the pandemic change your business?
G.V.: I was questioning my whole career, but Mally helped me through it. The pandemic was clearly creating demand for video content, albeit with simpler production given all the complexities of the situation. The industry reverted back to simple ‘run and gun’ videos with a camera and a light. Those videos were doing numbers. Mally started cultivating relationships with labels explaining they don’t need a big budget to work with me. That’s what brought me back into it.
J.E.: What’s next for you?
G.V.: I want more. I want to do long form stuff. I started looking for a writer to help write a good story to help me create a vision. God blessed me with a phone call with this guy named Sam, who brought to my attention that over the past 20 years, there’s been less than 10 hip-hop movies. Hollywood has been afraid to touch hip-hop movies. There’s so many artists that haven’t gotten the chance to tell their story. We’re so in tune with the culture. After doing 400+ music videos, I want to leave an even longer legacy for my family, and I feel my storytelling, the look, the style, the feel, is something I could bring into the long-form portion of stuff. What’s expected of me these upcoming years is TV shows and movies, sprinkled with music videos. It’s one of those things where you realize, “If God gives you a gift, you share it with the world.”
J.E.: And you have your own company, Shot Selection.
G.V.: We created Shot Selection not only as a production company, but as a hub for other handpicked creators to help them maneuver and transition with the aspirations to get to where I got, since there’s no clear cut path to this destination. I share my knowledge and shortcomings to help guide the future directors. Since so many videographers get stuck and don’t know how to get to the next level.
J.E.: Having worked with you, I know what a great resource you can be to an up and coming director.. just in terms of problem solving in the field. You know what I mean.
G.V.: Always. Recently, we were shooting a video for Yo Gotti in Atlanta and found ourselves waiting for 42 Dugg.. he was at a hotel in Houston! Gotti had another thing to do and had a private jet waiting, it had been parked since morning. The jet was supposed to take off 5 hours earlier. They finally got Dugg on a private jet. The beauty of me coming from ‘run and gun’ videos, is you have to be very adaptable. So, for me, I am a problem solver. I thought, “This is how we structure the day.” Since Dugg is in the middle of the song, we’ll flip one of his scenes, we’ll shoot interior, but we’ll light it for daytime. Dugg eventually showed up. We banged out his scene.
J.E.: Any other work you would like to put out?
G.V.: My love and passion is R&B, but I got pulled into rap very early. I still want to do a video for Dru Hill. Joseph Boyd and I are huge Dru Hill fans. When I listened to music as a kid, I thought it would be so cool. I was supposed to do a video for one of the group members, but it never came together due to scheduling logistics. I would also love to work with Kanye West and Drake. Their videos are so different, I would love to just understand the thought process. The beauty of the best visuals is when you collaborate with the artist.
G.V.: Lastly I’m doing this to create a legacy for my family, that you can do anything you want if you work hard and never give up. I want to Thank GOD, my parents for instilling in me hard work, perseverance and support in my non-traditional career path. My brother for indirectly starting my career by letting me “borrow” your camcorder. Terrance for putting me around all these rappers to show them what I could do. Octane (Ro Spit) and Illite for being my first real passion project that let me get seen by the Detroit scene. Jae Barber for being my first mentor/manager in this video production game. My guys Joel, Tom, Carl, Cort for really teaching me the production aspect of it, bring me around sets, cameras, lighting and helping me know that this is a team sport.
G.V.: Thank you to every artist in Detroit that I had the pleasure to work with in the begging of my career that help mold me into who I am. Thank you to everyone who has lent a hand from my Run and Gun days and to every PA that has worked on any of my productions. Thank you Mally for seeing what others saw in Detroit and bringing my talents to Fab and then eventually being my business partner/manager.
G.V.: Thank you Fabolous for taking a chance on this kid from the Midwest and bringing him around the world with his camera. Thank you Redd for pressing Kareem in Atlanta to give this guy from Detroit a shot at label videos. There’s countless artists that I could name which would be forever, since there are so many people that crossed my path and lens. I just want to say thanks to all the people that believed in me. I wouldn’t be here without any of YOU. Special thanks to my Shot Selection Team for helping grow and share the vision for future creatives! Sam I can’t wait to show them what we can do in the long form space!