How would you sum up your development as a director since we spotted you two years ago? (See earlier interview here).
Firstly thank you so much! It is so lovely to do this again with you. This may be hard to answer. I have learnt so much in ways I didn’t know I had to learn. Maybe I am a bit less confident but way more competent. And I am ready to explode.
It is a good place to be.
What were the initial conversations like between Rodney and you when planning To The Money?
We started having conversations all the way last year, back when we were working on the visuals for another song that had nothing to do with the Ghetto Popstar cinematic universe.
Our initial conversations were always that we wanted to create something visually refreshing and just impressive. I remember Rodney saying he wanted to make a video that other people would put in their pitch decks.
So even though the song changed, we still kept striving for those ideals.
Did you both write the narrative together and how did the story evolve? The top and tailing of the fairytale is brilliant.
Rodney really trusted me with building the world, which I am incredibly grateful for. It started with what does a Rodney Chrome come-up story look like? It needed to be camp, fantastical, sexy, powerful, and give Rodney the space to perform. So many of the ideas came to life in the conversations I had with people from our team such as with the cinematographer Shane Bagwell and production designer Katie Balun.
As for the bedtime story, Rodney loved the idea of a fairytale narration, and we both adored how epic the voice-over felt in Richard Quinn’s A/W21 video and built on the feelings of that. It was something we nearly cut but fought hard to keep. Also, Rodney made me write the opening narration, he found it amusing watching me try to rhyme.
The film’s techniques feel a lot more sophisticated than your earlier work. Have you been learning new tricks at NYU or is this through personal experimentation?
NYU brings a lot of amazing people together. I have learned a lot from those people and the art we watch together.
Tell us about the edit and post please – as well as the hilarious graphics ….
Shane and I really shot this for the edit so there was not much moving around to do.The only scene that was hard to get right was the bedtime story. Finding the right pacing so it could build energy and catapult the audience into the song was tricky. I didn’t want the opening to affect the rewatch value, so it had to feel rhythmic and move fast. Originally there was a punchline, but we got rid of it and made sure the energy was right above everything else.
Also, those titles were designed by Ariel Kader (@plaster_boi). He has worked on nearly all my videos, including the original Rodney ones. Ariel’s understanding of design plus the creative freedom he affords himself, allows him to create such fresh work. We originally imagined the freeze-frame text to be more classical, something out of a Scorcese movie, but Ariel, of course, took it to a better place. He really knows how to take themes and feelings and imbue them into his designs.
We looove Rodney’s style. Was there a mega-wardrobe budget?
Thank you, me too! All credit needs to go to both Rodney himself and stylist Yachi Gault (@neko_babooshka). One thing we wanted to do was include as many fits as possible…as a power play. So the workload was split up between them evenly. Both Rodney and Yachi were extremely resourceful. Also, our Pinterest board game is so strong.
Nothing feels restricted, even though it must have been tight working on a student budget. What were the main challenges of the production?
Locations. It was a lot of scouting and a lot of begging and negotiating. Zipcar is a game changer in NYC.
Although, despite challenges, we wanted this to be our final hooray as students. We could shoot for extra days and express full creative control and flexibility. We just had to lean into our strengths and rely on the amazing crew supporting us.
How was the shoot in New York?
The weather was cold. Production cars were crashed. Subways ran late. We love it.
When do you leave NYU and what are your plans?
I have officially left, forever. I am looking to continue to stay in the music video world and keep doing bigger things. I am looking to get representation, and I am looking to get my artist visa. Just the simple things in life 🙂
Now that Rodney and you have graduated from NYU will you continue to work together on some projects?
Of course. Ghetto Popstar is a cinematic universe. We can’t stop here.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
One thing I learned is how important it is to trust your instincts. I feel a lot of time was wasted not doing that, from both Rodney and me. Even if people disagree, and even if your instincts do not work out in the end, those choices are what make up your creative voice. That’s one thing that stuck with me from this shoot.
Go stream Ghetto Popstar Vol. 1
Zachary Wiesel website
Director: Zac Dov Wiesel / @zacharywiesel
Producer: Henry Wolf / @henryjwolf
Line-Producer: Isabella Nicdao / @isabellanicdao
AD: Cesar Llanos / @mellamollanos, Aidan Hamell / @aidanhamell
DP: Shane Bagwell / @shanebagwelldp
1st AC 1: Frank Yu / @frankyu109, Tom Ingwersen / @tomingwersen
2nd AC 3: Sunny Wang
Gaffers: Avi Bhaya / @_avibhaya, Matt Iacono / @mattiaconodp, Josh Sheehan / @sheehan.josh, Jason Wang / @jasonwanggga,
Key Grip: Ethan Wen / @_ethanwen_
Grip: Kyle Farscht / @kylefarscht, Oran Lazar / @oran.lazar
Production Designer: Katie Balun / @katiebalun
Art Assistant: CJ Gainer / @bawdybag
Art PA: Sarah Mutton
Sound Mixer: Rhea Li / @rhealiii
Drivers: Stephanie Sui, Grace Winters / @grace.winters
Fairy Tale and Paparazzi:
DP: Violet Smith / @viobensmith
Gaffer: Matt Liang /@mattliang_
1st Ac: Jem Margen / @jemmargen
Steadicam: George Du / @steadid
Casting Director: Wylie Soltes / @wylie_ots
Stylist: Yachi Gault / @neko_babooshka
Hair: Lurissa Ingrid / @lurissaingridhair
Choreographer: Rodney Chrome
VFX: Shea Oracheski /@soracheski
Colorist: Sam Gilling @sgllng
Titles: Ariel Kader / @plaster_boi