The Men Behind The Videos

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So, after watching the new video for Tyga and Rick Ross, “Dope”, directed by Colin Tilley, it occurred to me that I’ve never seen an article about music video directors before. Nobody really knows who the men behind the music videos are, so let me introduce them.


Colin Tilley is currently one of the most in demand directors of the moment, at only twenty four years old, his work and ambition are inspiring. He has worked with everyone from Justin Bieber to Dappy, and thinks the key to dealing with these big names is to adapt to their needs and make everyone feel special (aww). An embodiment of the American dream, he has come from humble beginnings to living the superstar lifestyle with the blacked-out Benz and tattoos to prove it. He is a big believer in following your dreams no matter how big they seem, as not everyone is cut out for a 9-5 job. His career started with him and his friends making videos for fun in his hometown of Berkeley, California; which gave him all the skills he needed to create the videos he does today. As someone constantly evolving his craft to avoid becoming predictable, he is very driven in setting himself goals for each project in order to make it better than the last. He understands the importance of a video in representing the artist and their work. Despite his success (he has already won a BET and MTV video music award plus various nominations) his family and relentless work ethic keep him grounded. The future looks bright for this young star with film projects underway and a long list of high profile clients, so watch this space.


Hype Williams, the hip hop music video director of the 90s, is best known for his distinctive colour schemes and camera effects; which paved the way for many hip hop directors to come. He was born in Queens, New York, to African and Honduran parents and was given the nickname ‘Hype’ due to his hyperactive tendencies as a child. He has worked with all the greats in the hip hop world including Aaliyah, Nas and Kanye West. He directed the last music video Aaliyah ever worked on for “Rock the Boat”, before her untimely death in a plane crash a few hours after they finished filming. His interest in colour came from the graffiti he used to tag all over his neighbourhood as a teen. After education, his big break came from working with Classic Concepts Video Productions where he met the men who gave him an opportunity to start his own video company ‘Filmmakers with Attitude’. Throughout his career he has been awarded many times for his contributions to the music video industry, including being honoured with the MTV Video Vanguard Award. As well as music videos, he has also experimented with films, like directing “Belly” starring rappers Nas and DMX and writing Kanye West’s short film “Runaway”. In 2007 he also shot the Kim Kardashian cover for Playboy Magazine. This veteran director is on every artist’s wish list.

Benny Boom


Benny Boom was born in Philadelphia, where he studied at Temple University School of Radio, Television and Film and joined the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, before serving as the protégé of directors Hype Williams and Director X, formerly known as Little X.  His career in directing music videos began in 2000, revolutionising the stagnant industry with his innovative visuals, and he has since worked on over 150 videos. His clients include big shots like P Diddy, 50 Cent and Nicki Minaj, to name a few. He is also the current director of Gorilla Flix Inc and has directed commercials for successful companies like Honda, Gatorade and Sears, in addition to the controversial political adverts he created against former US President George Bush. His work has earned him the BET Video Director of the Year award in 2009 and a nomination for 2011. Following in the footsteps of director Francis Lawrence, he has also dabbled in films, directing feature film “Next Day Air” starring Mike Epps, Donald Faison and Mos Def in 2009. With the success of his current music video career, expect to see much more of Mr Boom in the future.


Director X was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, and is of Trinidadian and Swiss decent. He later moved to New York to be taken under the wing of big shot Hype Williams. He is known for directing high budget, visually distinctive videos for artists like David Guetta, R Kelly, Usher, Rihanna and Alicia Keys among many others. He finds that music videos are a great platform for narrative storytelling, as the music provides the topic and mood that the video can help to build into something viewers can enjoy. In 2004 XXL Magazine named him the ‘Hugh Hefner of music visuals’, due to all the beautiful women he has featured in his videos and made a name for within the industry. He feels as though his job is to make the artist look the best they can, and the inclusion of beautiful women and expensive luxuries in the video, all adds to the image of the artist and the way they want their music to be perceived. Through his vision for a narrative he can turn soft artists hard, and dirty artists appear innocent, as image can be very powerful. He started interning for Canada’s music station MuchMusic and then in New York at Big Dog Films where he met Hype. He specialised in drawing storyboards, but working at Big Dog Films taught him more about filmmaking and gave him access to Hype’s contacts, who he later worked with. His street name X came from the idea that his work would give a voice to the people and show them the latest dance moves and fashion trends. As well as illustrations, his other interests growing up included graphic design, Tae Kwon-do, dance and driving fast cars (which the local police clearly did not appreciate when he was charged with a reckless driving offence). Instead of limiting himself to music videos, X has also worked in commercials including the successful Smirnoff ‘Tea Party’ viral advert, and also directed Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival Carinanna’s 40th Anniversary Music Festival with BET.


Francis Lawrence was born to American parents in Vienna, Austria. He moved to Los Angeles aged three and went on to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Film Production from Loyola Marymount University Film School. He started as a camera assistant on the feature “Pump Up The Volume” directed by Allan Moyle then became the assistant director to Anton Vassil in 1993 on the feature “Marching Out Of Time”. His move to music videos came when he began co-directing with ex classmate Mike Rosen, his first video for artist Michael Blakely. He eventually joined a major new production company and has since worked with megastars like Beyonce, Britney Spears and Lady Gaga. These collaborations led to a Grammy in 2011 for Lady Gaga’s video “Bad Romance”. He is known for his original and imaginative music video scripts and visual directing style.  He has also directed commercials for clients like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Calvin Klein and Bacardi among other big brand names. But his biggest achievements so far have been in his film directing experiences, with blockbusters like Constantine, I Am Legend and Water For Elephants under his belt, not to mention the fact he has been confirmed as the director for the last two Hunger Games sequels. Clearly the future is bright for Francis Lawrence.

And these, my lovely readers, are the men behind the videos.

Music fans should also check out my interview with rising star Jay Cass.

Visual creativity is their passion, but what is yours? Take a look at my piece on careers.


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