I sat down with music video director, film maker, cinematographer, editor, and owner/operator of film production company "Dream.Work.Conquer", Jeff Adair to have some Real Talk about his journey toward living and manifesting his dreams, how he feels about what he's accomplished thus far, and how we can each live our dreams. Jeff's credits include work with UGK's Bun B, Grammy Award Winning music producer Symbolyc One, Nipsey Hussle, Slim Thug, Golden Globe winning music producer Slikk Muzik, up and coming artist Imaj, MOE3, and many more. His work has been seen on BET's 106 & Park, MTV Jams, World Star Hip Hop, and other places.
I actually had the opportunity to meet Jeff at the Denton Black Film Festival this year at the final screening of his first full length documentary "Miracles & Muzik". He presented himself as an extremely humble guy who is passionate about his craft and who pays extreme attention to detail. Needless to say, I was super excited to be able to talk to him about life as a director.
Prior to talking to Jeff Adair I did my homework on him (of course I did, because I clearly wasn't going to go into the interview without any knowledge of his background). What I learned was that in 2008 he started working in the film industry specializing in music videos, short films, and commercials. He started with DallasiMedia (no longer operating) which is where he got his first paid production opportunity.
Question: What were you doing to work toward your dreams prior to your first break in 2008?
Answer: Before 2008 I was a skater guy ... so I'd video my friends and I skating and doing tricks in the skate park. At 20 years old, I got my first personal pc that had movie maker on it, and I had all these types of footage you know from all the skateboarding tapes that I started just playing around with so I kinda taught myself how to self edit when I was 20 in 2004-2005 ... And I made some dvd's and me and my friends would watch it ... and I had this aha moment when one of my friends was like "man you should go to school for this", at the time I was just going to community college and not really knowing what to do, cause I was really a skateboarder kind of guy and we were kind of rebellious ... so it wasn't like oh I'm going over here to get my Master's Degree lol. So when my friend said "you need to go to school" I was like yea that's what I need to do because this is a passion of mine.
So I moved to Dallas in 06' to go to the Art Institute of Dallas and I graduated in two years with best portfolio there, with an Associate Degree. And before I'd even finished school I'd gotten a job at "DallasiMedia" which was a public access channel, and I worked at "Complete Music and Video" which is a wedding company, so I would shoot weddings. So before I even graduated I was dabbling in the video money making industry which was my dream.
So I graduated from the Art Institute in 08 and I formed this company "Dream.Work.Conquer", because that was like my motto ... I started doing stuff on the side .. back then, I'd get on Craig's List and work any sorta free lance job. At the same time I got my first non-salary video gig at "Thomas R Graphics" .. they'd just opened a division called "Blue Whisper Studios". I'd worked there for two years and I was slowly doing stuff on the side when one day an associate of mine, I'd even call him my mentor ... an older guy I met through one of my freelance jobs ... he was like "hey man, me and three other dudes are going to move into a studio where the rent will be cheap and we will just live out of the production studio and we would just get it in" ... so at that time I made the choice to quit my full time, good salary, health benefits job to just do the music video thing.
I was going to make a name for myself, and I'd be able to cut my prices down because my bills would be cheap. So I made that leap and in 2010 I started doing nothing but music videos. People would hit me up to do weddings and events and I wouldn't even do em, because whatever you do you end up doing. So if I would've spent time doing weddings I'd still be doing them (nothing against weddings). I just want to do music video's, documentaries, and one day films.
I actually told Jeff when I met him that I'd quit my full time job to pursue my dreams and my dad is having a fit. In which he could definitely relate because he had the same conversation with his dad. We don't count what we do as work because it's a passion. Jeff can't even remember the last time he dreaded waking up on a Monday because he's doing what he loves to do. Versus waking up on a Monday like "ugh I have to go to work today". He looks forward to waking up on Monday's to work toward his dreams.
Question: So, you mentioned "Blue Whisper Studio's", and I actually watched your short "Blue Whisper" ... I pulled it up on YouTube and watched it. My first impression of the storyline (I try to figure out what things are about before I actually know what they are about) so my first thought was that it was about abortion, then I cancelled that idea and thought her son was kidnapped so ... was he kidnapped?
Answer: No, he was in an accident. You kind of mimic what you like. All of my favorite films are real weird abstract dark kind of stuff that kind of have a positive meaning but from a dark place. So making Blue Whisper, that was kind of like just an experimental abstract short film. That I was really just worried about making it visually cool, so definitely story line wise it was kind of vague and loose, however I just wanted to have an abstract short film and it's almost suppose to have you questioning what it's about. It has different meanings to different people ... I think that makes you want to watch it again ... I just wanted to make it kind of artsy and abstract.
My Response: I could tell you paid a lot of attention to the visual aspect from when she was like walking to open the door, and like you could see the muscles in her feet tightening and see the anxiety in her feet almost before she opened the door.
Question: What inspired you exactly to write that, what was your process of writing it?
Answer: Well anytime I write a movie, I fall in love with an idea ... I fall in love with two aspects of an idea, story, visual, whatever. Then I'll start piecing them together just by creatively coming up with solutions to go from a to z. So I think the first thing I saw in that was I definitely wanted a visual that had a lot of blue in it. And I think I just saw that ending shot with a blue tear coming, and I just worked backwards from that and came up with the story line based on that.
Question: I know you like to stay away from weddings and things like that, you like movies you like short films, you like documentaries ... which your first documentary "Miracles & Muzik" was really good. I actually wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was ... when I went to the Denton Black Film Festival, I didn't know what to expect but I think it was great. So what is your favorite aspect of directing?
Answer: I guess what I like to do is, I like to hold the camera. So I like the cinematography aspect mixed with bringing an idea to life all the way, because I edit the pieces to. I'm one of those directors that likes the overall process, I'm not a guy that's going to sit back and let everyone else do everything. I like to be really hands on, so that would probably be my favorite thing which is to be really overseeing the entire piece, you know like getting the right angles and getting the emotion out of the actor. I'll take some times 4-5 takes every shot because I'm not one of those guys who are like "oh we got it" in one or two takes. I'm like how can we make it better? So I'm definitely a hands on and let's get it right kind of guy.
Question: So would you say you're a perfectionist?
Answer: Well, I would say that but I don't like the idea of perfectionism. Because, sometimes people are perfectionist to the point where they slow it all down and they can't even get it out. So I'm kind of in the middle. Like I definitely am not one of those guys that's like "oh we got it in one take" and I'm definitely not one of those dudes who are like " ugh I can't put it out yet".
My Response: So you want it to be right but you don't let it being right hinder you from producing what you want to produce. Which resonates with my soul because I've been trying to figure out what I want to write on my blog and I've been letting that hinder me.
Question: Now that you've directed and had a few screenings of your first full length documentary, how do you feel?
Answer: That's definitely something that was on the list of a filmmaker to check off. And it feels good, to have that accomplished because a lot of times it takes that one project to really get the ball rolling for you to continue to do what you do. For example, the blog you have, now that you have a story to put out, boom, they're probably going to start coming ... because it's that anticipation that anxiety of, you know you can't flop that kind of hinders people that are right there on the cusp of doing there first thing to keep prolonging and procrastinating it. So it really feels good to get the film out there, cause I feel that's going to start the ball rolling ... now I just have to consistently put out bigger projects until I get to the point of shooting my first feature.
Question: So you've been in the game 8 years ... now that you have 8 solid years under your belt .. what advice would you give your younger self based off of mistakes, mishaps, maybe severed relationships with people who possibly didn't support you or threw negative vibes your way ... whatever the case ... what advice would you give your younger self?
Answer: The one advice I'd give my younger self, because the game has changed since I went to school ... and nowadays if you're a video guy you can almost skip the school process and do an internship with a production company and learn so much from them, that gives you the ground floor to go and do it for yourself and build your empire and build your brand. I don't discredit the Art Institute at all because they gave me a whole new look on working and they gave me a great ground floor as far as the industry goes ... but it was so expensive that you gotta at least think about maybe what you could've done different ... and nowadays with YouTube and self training online and getting an internship where you can learn hands on ... cause you don't learn anything better than hands on experience ... you could start this thing by going that route. And that would save you a lot of money, cause I think I paid like $40,000 for the associate degree.
Everything else you mentioned was good to mention, but I think you learn a lot from the stumbles across the road, like you kinda need that to add sauce to your game. So any of the negative stuff I went through, I don't have any ill will or bad blood because it all made me exactly who I am today and I have no shame ... I like who I am ... I think its just staying strong ... never let stuff get you down. That's always been my thing ... I've stumbled a lot, you just gotta keep going ... you gotta have the belief and faith in yourself to keep going ... nothing's going to come to you sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself.
My Response: I call that tunnel vision, like I'll go through things ... Over the course of two years, my life has changed a lot ... I've severed relationships with people for the betterment of myself but at the end of the day ... I wouldn't change a thing, I wouldn't trade thing.
Question: Now I know it's pretty self explanatory ... but how can creatives live your motto?
Answer: I think it starts with the mindset ... I kinda cheated and grew up a little without, in the country ... so I kind of have this workhorse engrained in me ... so it's easy for me. Whereas I went to school with some people who maybe hard work wasn't engrained in them, so it's kinda hard for them to grasp it now that they're on their own and they have issues popping up ... maybe they don't have tunnel vision like you said. So I would say it's really a mindset. If you're trying to go for your goals you really have to be relentless and be a ... I don't want to say savage ... but you really have to be greedy with your dreams ... There has been so much stuff that has tried to stop me from getting where I am ... and I'm not saying I am at the top or where I want to be ultimately at all ... You have to have a new mindset that you're not too good for anything and you're just going to work really really hard to get whatever goal you want. Everyone has room to dream or conquer. No matter where you come from or where you're at.
My Response: You can be a savage lol!
Question: Real quick, what are your top 3 Netflix suggestions?
Answer: Black Mirror, Ozark, & The Walking Dead. The Office I can do once a year as an honorable mention.
My Response to that was that I'd give Ozark a try (so be looking for a review in the entertainment category) and that I am a "Walking Dead" fan til the death of me thanks to my dad. Also I've heard tons of stuff about "The Office" but haven't watched it yet so I'll add it to my list.
I really enjoyed this Real Talk Session with Jeff. I came away from the conversation with soooo many keys and gems on how to work toward my goals as a creative. It's always really refreshing to gain knowledge from someone who is really out here working for themselves, for their dreams, and who is making significant strides to get to where they want to be. We should all live to "Dream.Work.Conquer"
As always Peace & Blessings