It’s not every day a man gets to help a gorgeous woman throw a dramatic temper tantrum in a beautiful way. But when you direct music videos, your life is made of some enviable moments that ordinary mortals just don’t get to have.
So, go ahead and start envying Brandon Mason (aka B. Mason).
Mason directed Nashville-based artist Shae Williams’ music video for her song, “Eff Love.” He also happens to be one Corduroy Media’s favorite freelance team members. He plays a bazillion roles around here: camera op, key grip, gaffer, A.C., and A.D. In fact, we call him the “Swiss Army Knife of production.”
Yeah. We kinda like B. Mason. He’s a good guy to have around.
If you know anything about us, you know that one thing we love almost as much as being neck-deep in the creative process, it’s talking about the creative process. So, we pried Mason for details about the 15-hour video shoot that took place right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. And other stuff, too.
Let’s start by talking a little bit about how you got started in video production.
I originally went to school for physical therapy and athletic training. But I was in class one day during my first semester and my instructor said, “You have to love what you’re doing, because this is what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life.” I went back to my dorm room and I was like “I don’t think I really want to be an athletic trainer for the rest of my life.” So I left that school and went to the University of Alabama at Birmingham where I majored in Broadcasting & Communication Management.
I came from a market that wasn’t very big. Anything that had to do with making movies, I kind of had to teach myself and hit the ground running. That was before the Internet was booming. You couldn’t log on to Google and ask, “How do I shoot this?” or “Tell me about 24 frames per second.” So I just started going to Atlanta and hopping on people’s sets and hustling my way into the knowledge. Once I knew I had the basics, I started promoting myself as a director and started shooting stuff and doing music videos. Those videos became training for me to get better, and then things kind of exploded to the point where I started doing a ton of independent music videos and it just didn’t stop.
Once I graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham I started working as a creative service producer at the CW network. I was making promos for One Tree Hill and America’s Next Top Model, but I was making commercials and music videos on the side. Then I dropped everything and moved to California on a whim. I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t have a job; it was a wild time.
What brought you to Corduroy Media?
When I got to the Bay Area I immediately went back to school to get my master’s degree. I realized I needed to find other filmmakers and get out there and meet people. I had only been in town for about three weeks when I went to the East Bay Filmmakers Meetup organized by Carl Brown and Michael Coleman. I brought one of my latest music videos and showed it and it got good reception. When it was over I was walking out the door and I ended up talking to Carl [our Executive Creative Director] a little while longer. He couldn’t believe that little old me from Alabama had all these music videos. We traded information and met up for lunch and everything blossomed from there. We did one job together, and another job turned into something else. I’ve been freelancing off and on with Corduroy Media for almost five years now.
Ok, so talk us through the creative process for Shae Williams’ “Eff Love” video. What was your vision?
The song is about her catching her man cheating with a younger woman. She talks about all of this stuff that she would have done, but didn’t do. I immediately thought about the movie Waiting to Exhale, and there was this scene where the main character [Angela Bassett as Bernadine Harris] finds out her husband leaves her for another woman. She goes in his closet and starts tearing up and bleaching his clothes. She takes everything that reminders her of him and throws it in his car, which she drives out to the driveway and sets on fire. And I told Shae, “We’re going to reenact that scene within our budget.” So we used that one scene to tell the whole story in the music video.
Were there any particular challenges in pulling it all together?
Where can I start? We had a small crew, which is not uncommon on a music video. Luckily the crew was people I normally work with at Corduroy. Sean is a partner at Corduroy and he was the director of photography, so we already had common ground. The grip and gaffer are also freelancers at Corduroy, so we had all worked together before. But we were understaffed, so I kind of pulled everyone together and let them know I was going to be more than just a director that day, and that I was prepared to pull extra weight and do whatever it took to get it done. We’re going to be a small army that packed a big punch.
As soon as we got there, the artist, who didn’t know San Francisco traffic, was 45 minutes late to the set. And 45 minutes is a lot of time to make up when you’re on a packed schedule. So, we were off schedule right off the bat. We were a little nervous but we pulled it together. Luckily, I had to do a lot less directing than I thought I would, because Shae is a talented artist. We had to cut one scene to make up for lost time, but we got back on track.
So, how do you think it turned out?
I think it’s one of my favorite videos that I’ve done. When you see it, it doesn’t say “independent artist,” which means a lot to me. It looks like it says, “I have a major label behind me.” It comes on like a movie and that gets me excited.
Anything else you want to add?
When I was a freshman at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, I told my instructor in my TV class that I wanted to be a music video director – and now I’m a music video director. So I have to pose a new question to myself. Like, “Brandon, what do you want to be?” I want to be a film director. That’s my main goal that I’m working on now.