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28th January 2013
Lamar + Nik
Title of film: Samantha Crain - Never Going Back
Director: Lamar & Nik
Graduating this semester, these Oklahoma students' hand-crafted videos are beginning to win budgets from record labels

You’ve been directing together for a couple of years now and have produced three ingenious videos on miniscule budgets, each one completely crafted differently from the last. How does your process work? Do you brainstorm techniques to suit the lyrics or do you have a hard-drive stacked with ideas you’d like to build?

We’ve known each other for a while now, but have only been professionally working with each other for almost three years now. Our process is really simple. We both have these books that we organize our thoughts into and reach for them when we need inspiration for a project. We don’t use them all the time, but if we need a little boost to get the idea started that’s pretty much our go to. After we get a base idea we build off each other’s thoughts until we have a polished idea. We do however try to tailor our videos to the artist, commercial, or whatever it is we are doing. In the end it all seems to come together and fit.

Tell us please about the process for making your latest video for Samantha Crain’s No Going Back.

We were contacted by Samantha’s label literally the day we released “Magnolia” in early November and were offered a job to make a promo for the lead single of her new album “Kid Face”. We gladly accepted and began working away on it.

Holidays became a problem scheduling her for the initial shoot against the white backdrop. We wound up not being able to start fully until early January. So we made the video roughly within three weeks. After we shot her on the white backdrop we edited the footage and exported all the video frames into photos. After converting the photos into PDF’s we had them printed off.

In the two days after the photos were printed we hand cut and animated all 3,800+ frames of video. Once we were ready to shoot we set up the spiral formation used to achieve one shot. We wanted to go in a straight line but we couldn’t find a space half a mile long. While we set up the spiral for 13 hours straight our DP [Spenser Sakurai] made the custom rig to house the camera and knock down the stills. The next day, after we had it all set up, we just mowed over the frames super slow and then sped it up later to match the song.

And Lushlife’s Magnolia looks crazy complicated to make too? (See Related Content)

We knew right away when Raj [Lushlife] approached us for a video that we wanted to play on the lyrics because his style of hip-hop is a lot more unique than most. So we set out on the task of making cardboard heads for every single word in his song. We’d basically go behind a grocery store and grab all their discarded cardboard boxes, use stencils of the alphabet we had made for the font we created, mark the cardboard, cut the cardboard, and finally put all the pieces together. It took a while for each word, so it was definitely a labor of love.

Besides that we went out and got random people to participate in the video for us at locations that seemed to fit the lyrics that were being said. Of course it was all meticulously planned, but the end result ended up looking DIY like most of our projects do.

And what was involved making the beautiful Reds for the band Houses?

We approached Houses to do the video for “Reds”. It was the first video we had ever created and were really grateful Dexter was willing to give us a shot to make something.

We handmade the clay moulds to house the water so that we could freeze our buildings’ shapes. We’d later pop them out and use soldering irons to put details in them. It was all set up in a two-car garage, so space was cramped. All the TV’s in the video we found for free and the christmas lights were on sale at the time we bought them. We had a bunch of issues with ice breaking, melting, falling over, etc. In the end, though, we made it work and made something we could be proud of.

So when you say tiny budgets – what amounts are we really talking about?

Well the first two videos we did [“Reds” and “Magnolia”] we did for free because we were trying to build up a reel. We were still heavily in college at that time and are now just about to graduate. So when we say tiny budget I guess it doesn’t get lower than $0 [from the record label at least].

We spent our own money (“Reds” was just under $200 and “Magnolia” was right at $80) to make those first two and it was actually kind of irritating when people would doubt that we only spent that much. We don’t have that much money hahaha. So you can be rest assured that what we say we spent is definitely what we spent on that video.

Nik had been saving up for about three years to acquire a RED scarlet and some people believe that we had money to rent cameras, equipment, etc. Really he just saved up and now we both have a wonderful tool at our disposal that eliminates that cost of renting for us in the future. Thankfully our days of free video are over though! We are now at a place in our careers that we’ve proven ourselves with tiny budgets that people are willing to pay us to make something for them.

How would working with bigger budgets effect your work and style?

On the Samantha Crain’s video we just did, it just helped a lot to be able to buy what we needed to get it done. We didn’t have to do some other time consuming task because of the cost of materials or something. For instance, printing off all the images on card stock was about $500. There is no way we would have been able to do that on our own right now, but since we had a budget we could just go get it taken care of and not think twice about it. Just little things like that are liberating. It gives us more time to focus on the idea and our visions as opposed to cost restraints. Other than that though it wouldn’t affect the way we go about making a video, it would enhance the possibilities.

Are these projects hugely time-consuming? Do you have a band of helpers?

As we said earlier we did the Samantha Crain promo relatively quick, but for the other two videos it was a 2-3 month process. We usually work alone and have just now started working with our DP, Spenser Sakurai, extensively. There is always people at our school that want to help on our next project and we’re slowly letting some people help as we’re now getting projects with budgets.

How did you meet and decide to work together. Do you have separate roles, how does the collaboration work please?

We’ve known each other for a while through skateboarding. We used to make skate montages with our friends and would basically compete with our videos in a way. We both started taking a different approach to how we filmed and when we got to college it only seemed natural to work together. We both pretty much have the same mindset when it comes to making a promo, but we both come up with different ways of viewing things that ends up being beneficial for both of us. It’s a back and forth when any project starts. One of us will say something that sparks the other to think of something else to add to the project.

When you’re working on a project do you work set hours during the week – what’s your routine like?

Pretty much any of our free time is committed to the project. For the Samantha Crain video we did about five consecutive 14-hour days to get it done a week before the deadline. We’re pretty serious about our projects and in a way become obsessed with getting them done once they are set into motion.

What are you working on now?

We have a commercial for a large organization we are still planning out and of course a new promo already in the works!


Lamar + Nik