May 20, 2014

Director Tyler T. Williams Gets Deadly with DIY Microbudget Neo-Noir Music Video 'Curtains'

Budgets are rapidly coming down for music videos, but some directors still manage to execute their visions on a budget. Tyler T. Williams is perhaps one of the best at this, always putting together interesting images with great music. With his latest video for "Curtains!?" by Timber Timbre, Tyler displays a growing confidence in storytelling and a welcome throwback to the film noir grunge of the 40s and 50s. Hit the jump to watch the new video and for our interview with the director.

Let's watch the video first:

Tyler T. Williams

NFS: How did the project come together?

Tyler: About two years ago when Timber Timbre released Creep on Creepin On, I wrote them and I sent them the Youth Lagoon "Montana" video that I did and a couple of months later I got a response from Taylor Kirk the lead singer. He wanted to work together, but they were not recording yet, so he said they would keep in touch. Jump forward to 2014, I pitched them this idea. I really wanted to shoot in this prison here and they gave me full creative reign, which was pretty great.

NFS: What were your inspirations?

Tyler: Obviously film from the 40s and 50s, the lighting design and the quality of Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, movies like Kiss Me Deadly -- obviously David Lynch is always an inspiration. A lot of times with my work I'll have inspirations, but it never comes out the way I originally intended it, it just kinda happens. The big inspiration I had was Blue Velvet, it's just a beautiful mix of surreal imagery.

NFS: How did you pull off the vintage noir look?

Tyler: I used the Canon C100, Rockinon Primes and on my lenses I used a Black Pro-Mist 1/2 filter which softens the image a little bit. Lighting was mixed, I had a friend who owns a grip van who had a bunch of old Mole Richardson 2k lights that we used from like CBS Studios in the late 50s early 60s. We used a Lowell kit and ARRI kit for some of the car shots. I had haze in a can for inside the house and inside the AAA sign shop, so I just sprayed a shit-ton into the air to give that diffused look. Especially since back in the day everyone smoked, so it would be full of smoke anyways.

Justinian was our art director, and he was such a huge asset to keeping it pure to the period. He's actually a sign painter at the store we shot at. The daytime car stuff was green screen, I didn't use the Atomos Ninja, so it was kind of a bitch, since the Ninja helps with the macro-blocking for green screen. Luckily since it was black & white it was easy to hide any mistakes.

NFS: What budget were you working with and where did the money go?

Tyler: The budget for this was $3,000, so I'm putting all the money into the video -- all the locations, the crew, the props. We got the prison for a really good price, the house, the car, all the wardrobe we bought authentic shoes that they've been making since the 1800s. The art director Justinian actually owned a lot of some of the authentic stuff. But most of the money is going to the locations and the talent. My thought is: the more money you put into it the better it's gonna be and eventually it's gonna payoff and eventually you're gonna get a video that will pay you.

NFS: What do you think of the current state of the music video in today's fast-moving media world? Is the audience for music videos dwindling or growing?

Tyler: I think there's potential to be a bigger audience, but you have to trust that the audience is gonna seek the videos out, because there isn't a syndicated source to be fed this stuff. There's Vevo, but that stuff is pretty hit or miss because it's mostly pop. Some videos will get tons of views, but not necessarily get me more work. As a freelancer it's such a gamble, I want to make money, but I also want to make the best video I can.

In my past videos I feel like I edit myself too much. I really tried to make it a narrative this time.

NFS: What are labels looking for in a music video director these days?

Tyler: They're looking for directors that can do something that looks like a million dollar budget, but will cost them $3,000-$5,000. For music videos they're looking for new and emerging talent, for someone who resembles the same aesthetic of the band. I haven't really gone into pop music. I try to stay pretty true to music that I like and music that I think my style will suit best. That's the dilemma I'm having lately -- I'm loving doing the music videos, but I'm not seeing much return financially, so eventually you kinda have to take those corporate jobs to make ends meet.

NFS: You've been releasing music videos on the internet for years now. Is it harder to get music videos out there now?

Tyler: I've been thinking about how the first Coma Cinema videos I made, the internet was so much different back then. People were much more generous reposting these things on music blogs, but they're almost dead now. And people have become more harsh critics now too.

NFS: Why do you think that is? Are people more guarded with their online persona these days?

Tyler: I don't know if it's a new generation coming in or because it became too saturated that people stopped doing it. People have become way more frugal about spreading things.

NFS: Well I think it's a great video so hopefully this will help get it out there.

Tyler: It's funny, it's almost like a religious thing, but I check No Film School every day basically for new content.

NFS: We'll have to quote you on that!

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Tyler is one of my favorite music video directors, so you should all head over to his Vimeo and explore his work. What do you guys think about the video and approach? Share below.

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Your Comment

33 Comments

Amazing! I've never seen someone recreate the time period so well. He should win awards for it. Wow!

May 20, 2014 at 9:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Hi guys! I made something like that with a wedding clip, can see it here, https://vimeo.com/94308428, hope you enjoy! thanks

May 20, 2014 at 9:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nice!

May 20, 2014 at 10:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Archie

This is great! The style actually feels like you're watching an old home movie. I loved it.

Also, thank you for replying with some content you've actually created. This site is too full of jerk critics with nothing to back up their words.

May 20, 2014 at 5:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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grantly0711

Tyler is one of the best narrative music video directors in the world imo. He should be playing with 50k budgets minimum, imagine what he could do with that

May 20, 2014 at 11:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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^

May 20, 2014 at 2:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

ABBA videos that Lasse Hallström shot back in the 70's also had a $3,000 budget (OK, it was more in real terms back in the 70's but Lasse had to shoot on film). Of course, those were "performance" type clips that were shot in a small studio without a narrative. As ABBA became superstars, the budgets for their later clips grew commensurately.

May 20, 2014 at 11:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Fantastic! Any info about postproduction (color grading, grain)?

May 20, 2014 at 12:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Laurel

Hey Laurel, I edited in Premiere CC and used FilmConvert for the B&W / grain. I tweaked the settings a little bit and added a little bit of a glow to soften the image a bit. Thanks!

May 21, 2014 at 11:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tylertwilliams

Tyler: It’s funny, it’s almost like a religious thing, but I check No Film School every day basically for new content.

Yeah..welcome to the club or "church". Weird routines go for years and years..and then one day it's all over.

May 20, 2014 at 5:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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sammy

The video was great. But the C100 was the wrong camera for the job IMO, as it's too video-y, even in B&W with any light source other than sunlight. There are some other, even cheaper, cameras that would have done a better job (in bringing a more filmy look on lit scenes).

On the other hand the "$3,000 budget" it pretty ludicrous. With 7 people behind the camera, 4 actors, all the equipment, props, locations, etc, plus all the pre-production, photography and post time required, you must multiply that figure SEVERAL times, otherwise it's a "work for free" project, which ultimately makes no sense. For anybody.

I see more and more, producers, artists and other smart guys taking advantage of this situation, having people working for peanuts or for nothing at all, "just to get exposure".
This is killing the industry.

May 20, 2014 at 6:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Henry

"This is killing the industry"

What is this industry to which you refer. There is no more industry.
How much money you think this band makes from their music ?
Surely the band has day jobs as does everyone involved in the video.
This is true reality of music in the year 2014. If you want money drive Uber.

May 20, 2014 at 7:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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sammy

This is only because we're in a transitional period. People can't sustain themselves on working for peanuts, so eventually they'll have to refuse work... or producers will have to pay them a decent wage to produce more work. It's not in the Label's or Producer's interest to always gamble on the hope new talent looking for exposure.

But... this is exactly what you get when an industry is so entrenched in unionism and nepotism. The only people who get Producing and above-the-line jobs are people with family/friends connections... and the only people who get editing, grip, vfx jobs are kids of former union members... Just how it was in Detroit's auto-industry before the collapse and bail-out. The Producers and Executives end up not knowing what they're really doing (and just copy what others did before them, because it was what they were taught) and the Union workers never want to innovate, because it means potentially killing their jobs. Repeat for a few generations, and it all falls apart.

May 20, 2014 at 7:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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bwhitz

Don't blame shrinking budgets mainly on the unions, dude. That's too easy and simplistic.

May 20, 2014 at 8:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Elias

I'm not blaming shrinking budget on them, I'm blaming the fact that nobody new can get decent jobs in the industry because of them. Unless... one of your family members, or close personal contacts, was in the union already to apprentice you in. If not, you're really SOL. Thus, people outside the industry, who now have access to democratized professional equipment, are trying to break through any way they can... including working for peanuts. It's not JUST the unions... it's many factors (like emerging tech)... but neopotism, unionism, and the production "caste-system" that it creates is a big part of it.

May 21, 2014 at 5:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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bwhitz

It's also too simplistic to believe that unions can keep commanding the fee's and forcing people to work according to "their rules" (which are really just try to over-complicate the process as much as possible to generate more fee's) without consequences. There is some good they provide... but there are also drawbacks and side-effects. We're seeing some of them now.

May 21, 2014 at 5:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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bwhitz

You have absolutely have no idea what you are talking about.

May 20, 2014 at 9:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tre

Well, he's correct about the transitional period.

May 21, 2014 at 12:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Maybe, you just don't want to admit the simple truth and acknowledge simple social dynamics.

May 21, 2014 at 5:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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bwhitz

Dear bwhitz: Your "simple social dynamics" read more as flimsy inventions of a predisposed political posture.

Refusing slave wages (and being able to afford such action given work environment) takes absolute allegiance with ALL your peers or the immorality of these certain producers will become the ruling majority.

And IF change comes from your case-by-case solitary protests, it'll be WAY after that individual's post due mortgage/rent/ meals while squandering the potential of their greatest (and limited) work years.

Ahhh but what do I know anyway? It's clear I'm just in denial of your "simple truth"-- lol :D

May 21, 2014 at 6:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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jaybird

Bwhitz: Umm no. I work in the industry in Los Angeles and what you are saying is just silly and ill informed ranting from someone who has no actual experience. Saying people get jobs as grips because their parents are former union members is just laughable tin foil hat baloney. Stay in school!

May 21, 2014 at 2:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tre

They did a good job of the video for sure. It's sad people are willing to work for so little money, especially someone who has been doing it for a while. I'd rather work a paying job and do my own material than let someone screw me over like that.

3k wouldn't even cover the gear used here.

May 20, 2014 at 9:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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ginser

"And people have become more harsh critics now too"

Well Tyler, if this doesn't shut 'em up then you know they are just sorry a******s and their "critiques" aint worth the characters they're tweeted on.

Had to watch this several times. Pure dynamite. It's so cool when someone can match well crafted images with a expert execution. Dammit- I just love that cigarette rolling across the chess board. Props for having the hindsight to repeat that coolness twice.. bravo, bravo.

May 21, 2014 at 6:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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jaybird

Thanks Jaybird, Really kind words of wisdom you have. I appreciate it!

As for the cigarette shot - It took about 6-7 rough cuts to find the flow of the edit and which shots to help foreshadow the events to come. I thought it added a nice supernatural feeling.

Thanks!

May 21, 2014 at 11:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tylertwilliams

This is incredible job for $3,000
Hope it furthers you to where you want to go...
wherever that might be.

Didn't know whether to laugh or cry when
seeing the Le Cordon Bleu cooking school ads
posted today. Guess it's now the No Film School/Go
To Cooking School site. Forget film and be a Chef.
Hehe...At least the site is making money...

May 21, 2014 at 2:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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sammy

That's likely an automated Google ad you're seeing, which borrows from your search history to offer you suggestions about topics you might be interested in.

May 21, 2014 at 2:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Joe, I think it would be a service to your readers on NFS if you intentionally placed ads for other lines of work. It's definitely what many of the commenters on this site should be looking into.

May 21, 2014 at 2:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Very Cool. If I had seen this on youtube without reading this first I could swear that its scenes from an old detective movie put to music.

May 21, 2014 at 3:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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PayDro

Nice, but boring editing and pacing.

May 21, 2014 at 4:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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kuk

I'd suggest you learn more about film noir because, this "thing" doesn't look like a film noir. They had c100 with 8 bit crap back in the days ? What about these blown highlights !
You indie filmmakers won't have a career.
Try telling a true story in a feature way !

May 21, 2014 at 10:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Jacques

-1

May 22, 2014 at 1:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Not a thing like? Hogwash!

Blown highlights are never present in Film Noir? I think you had better have a look at a few John Alton films.

As a person who times (on film) many of these Noir Classics for a major archive (sometimes from the camera original negative), I'd say he did a damned fine job; maybe a tad high on the dmax and the gamma might be a bit lower than optimal, but then I'm not sure of this monitor's calibration, so I'll reserve judgement on that until I can look on a color profiled monitor.

I'm impressed. Too bad you're not, Jacques.

May 28, 2014 at 5:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Frank

Interesting project. I love the tracking shot at 1 minute. Also think it mimics the idea/look/feel of Film Noir fairly well. It's great that you did this, but if you are doing music videos for 5K you can't expect this to amount to anything more than a hobby. Again great work, but undervaluing yourself and racing to the bottom will only hurt you and your peers in the long run.

May 27, 2014 at 1:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Shayne